Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mr. Meaner's crime watch

29206: If you see anyone with a blue and white motorcycle that has a USC parking decal on the rear fender, they may be riding a hot bike. As in, stolen. A woman reported one worth $4000 missing from the front of her house on June 1. Brennen Road

29205: A woman confronted her husband for staying out all night, but instead of apologizing to her, he decided to punch her in the mouth. He was found later by police and it turned out that there was a warrant out for his arrest in another county. A criminal and a wife beater? Ladies, I think we’ve found the next Bachelor! (6/2/2011) 1004 Pine St 29205

29203: Police happened upon several suspicious subjects loitering and engaging in an apparent drug deal. When police approached, the subjects fled. And when the police yelled, “Stop this is the police,” they didn’t stop. Were the police really expecting them to? One young fellow was detained and arrested for loitering and failure to stop on police command. CPD protects our freedoms! (6/2/2011) 1100 Dorrah Street 29203

29203: A woman complained to police after someone entered her home through a rear bedroom window. The house was ransacked and the burglar made off with a stereo system worth $75, three DVD players worth a total of $145, one set of pots and pans and dinnerware valued at $150, and assorted canned goods and meats valued at $526. We think you should reevaluate your life when the most valuable possessions in your house are canned goods. (5/5/2011) 1802 Bailey Street

29203: An officer found a 30-year-old man sleeping in an unoccupied apartment in the Ames Manor Apartment complex. Apparently, he was sleeping there to get away from his roommate after they had a fight. He had also damaged a light fixture in the building because he was so upset. So, if anyone is looking for a new roommate who may be emotionally disturbed, you know where to look. (6/2/2011) 5779 Ames Rd Apt 7-A 29203

29203: A woman told police that her neighbor called “Nay Nay” arrived at her home intoxicated and started banging on the door and yelling to be let inside. When the woman understandably declined to open the door to her deranged neighbor, Nay Nay went to the back door and kicked it in. She returned to her own apartment and may still be on the loose. Hopefully, Nay Nay won’t strike again. (6/2/2011) 1403 Bailey Street 29203

29205: When a young woman met another girl on Facebook, she decided to split a trip to Miami with her. No surprise, the girl turned out to be a psycho, and when she started to act erratically, even stealing money from her companion, the woman decided to cut her losses and leave early. The girl started texting and calling her, saying she had put a “hit” on her and her family. The girl’s boyfriend, Lamar, who is apparently wanted for murder, called her as well and threatened to kill her. Maybe she should stay off of Facebook for a while.(06/01/2011) Woodrow St 29205

29203: A patrol officer found a man in dark clothing lurking around the area of a recent burglary. He asked the man if he had any weapons or illegal items on his person, and the man admitted to having one bag of marijuana. Well, at least he’s honest.

Probable cause now includes “dark clothing” in the Columbia, S.C. legal system. (6/1/2011) 5901 Fairfield Road 29203

29204: A woman was fighting with her intoxicated husband when he took the keys to her rental car and drove away without her permission. When will he learn not to walk away from her when she’s talking to him?! (06/2/2011) 4309 Pine Forest Drive

29201: A police officer was advising the owner of a local Hookah lounge that the music was too loud when he found an 18-year-old blonde girl drinking liquor. The owner got a citation and the girl got a ride all the way to the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center. It looks like blondes really do have more fun! (6/1/2011) 919 Sumter Street.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Second Thoughts on Sex and Politics

by Stephen Engelberg ProPublica

The resignation of Rep. David Wu [1] may seem like little more than a blip in the year's cavalcade of sexual misconduct by elected officials, from all-male tickle parties and crotch sexting to craigslist trawling. And the swift departure of this Oregon congressman, who said a recent sexual encounter with a friend's teenage daughter was "consensual," assures his name will fade as quickly as last week's debt reduction plan.

But the Wu story, which has been followed closely by few outside the Northwest, deserves more attention. In fact, it is among the most compelling arguments for why news organizations should aggressively pursue allegations of sexual misconduct, even when they seem like ancient history.

I am a reluctant convert to the value of sex as an investigative subject. In the late 1980s, shortly after Gary Hart's infamous invitation to "follow me," led to revelations about his extra-marital canoodling aboard the good ship Monkey Business, I was asked by an editor in the New York Times Washington bureau to look into a rumor that Vice President George H. W. Bush had fathered a child out of wedlock. I refused, telling my boss that "I didn't become a journalist to peer into people's bedrooms."

A few years later, a thinly sourced version of the story surfaced in the New York Post. Bush, by then president, brushed it off. "I'm not going to take any sleazy questions like that," he bristled. "I'm not going to respond other than to say it's a lie."

Quaintly, a denial from the president put the story to rest.

A few years later, I was in Arkansas for the New York Times to interview Judge David Hale, a peripheral figure in the Clintons' Whitewater land dealings. Jeff Gerth and I repeatedly pressed Hale for details on the couple's feckless attempt to create a vacation wonderland in the Ozarks. Mystified, Hale asked Gerth, who is now a ProPublica reporter, why we weren't more interested in Clinton's sex life. Jeff explained that we were from the New York Times and didn't do sex investigations.

Fast forward to Bill Clinton's second term, and we were all galloping after the Monica Lewinsky story which, typically, had been broken by our competitors. One weekend I went to visit my brother, a lawyer who respected the sober journalism practiced by the Times. We stopped in a supermarket and I bought a copy of the National Enquirer. "You read this?” he asked incredulously. "Yes, ‘' I replied. "They've had a lot of stuff first on Monica." Thumbing through the issue, I pointed to an article about a stained blue dress. "Who knows?” I said. "This might even be true."

In 2002, I joined the Oregonian in Portland, Ore., as a managing editor. Within a year, I was part of the management team that bungled one of the most significant sex scandals one could imagine: the story of how a former governor and Carter-administration Cabinet secretary had preyed on a teenage girl and covered up his misconduct. Neil Goldschmidt was the golden boy of Oregon politics, a kingmaker with the darkest secret imaginable. We had a plausible tip on the story but failed to follow up, allowing a competitor, Willamette Week, to break the story and win a Pulitzer Prize.

It marked the second time in modern history that the Oregonian had failed on a big sex story. Earlier, the paper had known about and failed to fully investigate on Sen. Robert Packwood's habit of making unwanted sexual advances. One of his victims had been a reporter in the Oregonian's Washington bureau. The story appeared first in the Washington Post, embarrassing the hometown paper.

In the wake of the Goldschmidt story, I pushed the Oregonian's reporters and editors to run to ground every tip relating to sexual misconduct by a public official.

Our attention quickly turned to David Wu, who was running for re-election in 2004. Wu, a Taiwanese immigrant and lawyer, was an awkward man. Years earlier, the paper had been tipped that he had sexually accosted his ex-girlfriend while a student at Stanford in the mid-‘70s. Efforts to confirm the story had been unsuccessful.

We assigned three reporters to try again. The woman at the center of the case politely but adamantly refused to cooperate, saying she had long ago made her peace with whatever had happened. No charges had ever been filed. There was no paper trail of any kind.

But over several months, reporters Laura Gunderson, Dave Hogan and Jeff Kosseff improbably tracked down witnesses who were willing to go on the record. They found Leah Kaplan, an 82-year-old former therapist at Stanford who had counseled the woman and was suffering from a fatal illness. Kaplan, still angered by the incident, breached patient confidentiality and said that she had pressed Stanford officials to take disciplinary action against Wu. She said they declined to ruin the record of a promising young man who, at the time, was hoping to attend medical school.

Kaplan's statements were intriguing, but not sufficient. We pressed the reporters to find the campus security officers who responded to complaints of a woman screaming in 1976. Find the cop. He'll remember.

And so they did. Raoul K. Niemeyer, then a patrol commander at Stanford, remembered that Wu had scratches on his face and neck. He said Wu claimed that what had happened was "consensual."

Just a few weeks before the election, we had a story ready for publication. Wu hired a lawyer who ferociously counter-attacked, threatening to sue the Oregonian if any story were published. Neither Wu nor the lawyer would answer questions about the incident, but they contacted Kaplan's family and made it clear they were prepared to hold the dying woman legally accountable for her conduct. Wu's campaign manager said the candidate would never respond to "unsubstantiated allegations."

Top editors at the paper were divided about what to do. It was late in the campaign. The incident was decades old. Could one reasonably call it a "youthful" mistake? Was it fair to put someone's college years under a microscope? The victim was unwilling to come forward. Shouldn't that weigh? And what about the threats from Wu's lawyer?

Ultimately, we decided to publish. We concluded that at least some voters would want to know their congressman had this incident in his past. The morning the story appeared, Wu issued a statement saying: "As a 21-year old, I hurt someone I cared very much about. I take full responsibility for my actions and I am sorry. This single event forever changed my life and the person that I have become."

Wu's opponent hammered away at his character—to no effect. More than 350 readers wrote to criticize the story, and even the paper's ombudsman attacked it, questioning its relevance and reliance on second-hand sources.

Wu went up in the polls, winning re-election easily.

Over the next few months, we heard other stories from other women. None was willing to go on the record. It appeared to us that Wu's aggressive conduct with women may have continued deep into his adulthood. But we were unable to prove it.

The Wu story revived during the 2010 election cycle, when most of his aides quit just after the campaign. Several said his behavior was bizarre. Someone leaked a photo of the congressman in a tiger suit that he had sent aides.

Following the story from New York as an editor at ProPublica, I shrugged. And then came the bombshell disclosure that an 18-year-old woman, daughter of a political supporter, had called Wu's offices and left a voice mail stating that she had been the victim of a coercive sexual encounter with him the previous Thanksgiving.

Oregonian reporters Charles Pope, Janie Har and Beth Slovic broke the story. Once again, Wu initially refused to respond to questions. Once again, the victim declined to participate in the story. Once again, Wu said it was "consensual."

After a few more days of hanging tough, Wu took the advice of Democratic leaders and said he would resign after the debt ceiling debate is resolved. ""The well-being of my children must come before anything else," he said in a statement.

I apologize to the teenager whose distraught call is said to describe a traumatic experience at the hands of a 56-year-old member of Congress. Despite our best efforts, we failed you. Sadly, I have come to the conclusion that sex can be a legitimate arena for investigative reporting. It certainly was in the case of David Wu.

Savage Love

When I was 14, my parents informed me that I had a half brother. He was my father's son by another woman. My parents were already married when my brother was born, but I hadn't come along yet. It was a huge scandal when it happened. My half brother came to live with us after his mother died. He was 16. My half brother got me pregnant. He didn't rape me; I wanted to have sex with him. Everyone in the family found out—huge scandal number two—and it took me years to get over it and stop blaming myself.

Now I'm 26 and engaged. What do I tell my fiancé? My parents wound up divorcing—my mother called the police on my half brother and tried to physically prevent me from getting an abortion—and I don't speak to her anymore. But my father and brother are still in my life.

I get panic attacks when I think about having to tell my fiancé about any of this, Dan, because I don't want him to see me as sick. But if I don't tell him, he'll hear about it from someone else. What do I do?

The Sister Act

"This could happen to anyone," says Debra Lieberman, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Miami.

A quick clarification: Lieberman means this could happen to anyone who meets a sibling under similar circumstances.

Coresidence throughout childhood—particularly early childhood—creates sexual aversion in adulthood, explains Lieberman, who has studied "sibling incest avoidance" extensively. It's a phenomenon called the "Westermarck effect," and it doesn't just affect biological siblings; adults who grew up in the same home experience the same feelings of sexual revulsion.

"TSA and her half brother were not raised throughout childhood together and neither observed his or her mother caring for the other as an infant," explains Lieberman. "These are the two cues that have been shown to lead to the categorization of another as a sibling. When these cues are present, strong sexual aversions tend to develop. Without these cues, no natural sexual aversion will develop."

(What this means, of course, is that everybody who read TSA's letter and thought, "What a sicko! I would never fuck any of my siblings!" needs to back the fuck off. If your parents had surprised you with a long-lost sibling when you were 14, dear readers, you, too, could be facing an extremely awkward conversation with your fiancé. There but for the grace of God, etc.)

So what, if anything, should you tell the man you're about to marry, TSA?

"If it were me," says Lieberman, "I would probably say something. I would explain the situation and the science. Unfortunately, this might gross out her fiancé, especially if he has sisters. But living with this stress"—the fear that he'll find out at some point—"does not seem like a happy life."

I agree with Lieberman: Tell your fiancé what happened, TSA. Emphasize that you were young, confused, and Westermarck-effect-deprived. You can also refer him to Lieberman's website—www.debralieberman .com—where he can peruse the research.

Good luck, TSA.

I'm a 23-year-old female in a monogamish relationship—thank you for that word!—with my wonderful boyfriend of two years. I moved away last year to attend graduate school, and we agreed it was okay to sleep with other people while we're apart. The last person I slept with was an acquaintance who knew both of us and understood what the deal was with our relationship. My question is, if I'm just looking for casual sex or a one-night stand, should I make it clear that we're just going to have sex and I'm not interested in dating? How much should I tell the person I'm trying to pick up about a significant other they won't ever meet?

Full Disclosure Necessary, Yathink?

If you meet a guy in a bar, exchange four words with him (and two of them are "Open up!" right before he spits a Jäger shot into your mouth), and you wind up back at your place, FDNY, the person you're about to fuck can reasonably make two assumptions: (1) you're a slut (in the sex-positive, reclaiming-that-word, sisterhood-is-powerful, drink-Jäger-out-of-a-hot-guy's-mouth sense of the term), and (2) he's unlikely to see you again. Under circumstances like these, FDNY, you are not obligated to disclose your relationship status. The only things you're obligated to disclose are the precise kind of clitoral stimulation you require and the exact time you'll need him out of your apartment...

But if a nice boy asks you out on something that your parents and steampunks call a "date," and he explains that you're really, really special, and he refrains from spitting Jäger shots into your mouth, you are obligated to disclose your relationship status to him, lest he make the entirely reasonable assumption that you're single and interested in him, too.

I am in love with an intelligent woman. She is exactly what I've always wanted: smart, articulate, independent, and friggin' beautiful. The thing is, we fight constantly. Everything is going well, and then I say the wrong thing or use the wrong tone, and she blows up. In these fights, I am required to remain calm, but she can yell, scream, mock, or ridicule. These fights sometimes end in physical confrontations that she instigates. The therapist we're seeing takes my side, but still nothing gets better. Her feelings are the only ones that matter. I'm afraid to read the advice you're going to give me.

Confused, Pissed, and Sad

You don't mention your own looks, CPAS, but I'm guessing there's a big looks gap in this relationship, i.e., your girlfriend is objectively hot, while you fall somewhere between "Ron Jeremy" and "unconventionally attractive" on the male beauty spectrum. And that's not an accident: She knows that you think you're unlikely to do better than her, looks-wise, and that allows her to be just as psycho as she wants to be. Because she knows you're not going anywhere.

Here's the advice you were afraid of, CPAS: Go somewhere, anywhere, that she isn't. You wouldn't be putting up with this shit if this woman's outsides were as ugly as her insides.


What happened to your column? I remember back when your columns involved wonderful details about things like proper dildo protocol, indulging odd fetishes, and funny sex adventures. Now it's all about the philosophy of what loving relationships should truly entail. I miss the old Dan who would coach readers on how to put large things inside themselves and recount funny/titillating anecdotes.

Where's My Dirt?

Google happened to my column.

Back in the getting-large-things-inside-my-readers days, WMD, people would write me and ask, "How do I get this large thing inside of me?" Now people with large things can turn to Google for information about how to get their large things inside themselves. Another question I used to get all the time: "What's a cock ring?" Now cock rings have their own Wiki page.

There's just so much good, basic info about sex online—including basic how-to info—that people don't have to ask me for basic information about fetishes or kinks or dildo protocols anymore. So most of the questions I get nowadays, and most of the ones I answer, are about relationships. Don't blame me, WMD, blame Google's algorithms.

It has been a long time since I filled a column or two with titillating sex anecdotes. I'm on vacation right now, so... wow me with your best/kinkiest/craziest vacation-sex stories, dear readers, and I'll fill next week's column with 'em.

Malcom Lacey of Arrange

Interview by Fr. Jones

City Paper shoots the breeze with Malcom Lacey of Arrange about self-exploration, the relevance of Bandcamp, and the secrets of his mysterious debut LP-Plantation.

FR: I've listened to Plantation several times and the best way I can describe it is "Ambient Audio-Cinematic". It's a very precise album. What was the recording process like? How long did it take?

ML: The recording process was very fluid. I always begin tracks as instrumentals then mold vocals through the track after they're mostly completed. As far as how long it took, it was recorded fairly quickly. Not even days had passed after releasing the Quiet State EP had I completed "Turnpike." All in all it took about 3 and half months.

FR: In my review, I mentioned the M83 comparison several times. Plantation also reminds me of Atlas Sound- the solo work of Deerhunter's Bradford Cox. Are you a member of any other projects in addition to Arrange?

ML: Arrange is my main musical output. I'm always seeking out and collaborating with other artists. Back in January I recorded two songs with Tony of Memoire D'amour under the Medic Hands moniker. They're very different than my Arrange material and I like it that way. It gives me a chance to play around in landscapes of a different sound. You can find those tracks here:
FR: Do you have plans for any live performances of Plantation?

ML: I'm currently in the process of nailing down a live show. It's a slow process, but something I'm very interesting in moving forward with.

FR: The album artwork is appropriately quaint and dour. Can you tell me a little more about that?

ML: I had originally contacted Australian artist Kim Denson back in February to commission some artwork for the digital release of Plantation. She took a listen to a few key tracks from the record and came up with the beautiful collage piece you see on your downloads. It's beautiful, really and really works well as a visual interpretation of "Tearing Up Old Asphalt."

FR: Plantation seems both its own entity and heavily influenced- there is a dash of post rock here, a sprinkle of ambient electronica there. Who are your main influences as an artist?

ML: Well thank you! I'm a huge fan of ambient, noise, and classical music. I wouldn't say I was channeling anyone in particular, but some of my favorites are Jefre Cantu-Ledesme, Brian Eno, Richard Skelton, and Infinite Body.

FR: In your opinion, who is the greatest artist that not enough people have heard of? 

ML: Oh man there are so many. The thing about being an internet based artist is that you come in contact with so many supremely talented individuals. Ones that while I've never met in person, you feel a pretty close bond to musically. Of which I'll mention Sam Ray who makes music under the Ricky Eat Acid moniker. Just brilliant. He's currently based out of Baltimore and makes some of the most beautiful music on the east coast. Sam just released this track entitled "Blinded" that really is just full on audible bliss.

FR: Is there a song on the album you favor more than others?

ML: Hmm. It'd have to be a toss up between "When'd You Find Me?" and "Medicine Man."

FR: If you can sum it up in several words- what is Plantation about?

ML: I guess in a nutshell you could say Plantation is about purging and self-exploration.

FR: Will that be a recurring theme in upcoming works by Arrange?

ML: I'd definitely say as I continue to grow physically and musically that those two themes will definitely expand themselves over the next few releases.

FR: Your bonus track "Sore" uses several samples- most notably a looped Johnny Cash. Can you tell us what other samples were used? FYI- I usually am not a fan of bonus tracks. But this one was great. It reminded me of "The Wizard of Oz" for some reason.

ML: Oh "Sore" was fun. I was going through all of these old records I received from a friend and came across an old Engelbert Humperdinck LP. I took the beginning of "Two Different Worlds" as the base and chopped up Mos Def's "Ms. Fat Booty" to place as the drum beat. Then added some Johnny Cash and Common (song and original sample escape me at the moment).

FR: How important do you feel a site like Bandcamp is towards creating exposure? Do you believe in the "good ol days" of hard copy CDs only- or is your mentality "Full speed ahead.. bring it on, future!" ?

ML: Bandcamp is without a doubt one of the most important tools I've used during the time I've been making music. While there is still a diminishing market for hard copy CDs, I feel like digital is where it's at and I don't see it going anywhere else any time soon. Not so say I don't like physical formats, because I love having a 12" vinyl in my hand. The blowup artwork, the grain, the dust. Everything about it is so appealing. But when you can torrent nearly every single record, it's easy to see why physical album sales haven't been doing all to well.

FR: Any advice to up-and-coming artists struggling to make it in the 21st century music industry?

ML: I guess I'd say keep working, writing, and creating. To quote prof. Gail Sher, "If writing is your practice, then the only way to fail is not to write."

Be sure to check out Plantation- currently available to download at

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dog and pony show

Opinion by Samantha Norton

Two events happened recently that highlight a problem in our community
and an inept attempt by government officials to correct that problem.

Event 1

Carter Strange was running home through Five Points when he was
savagely beaten by a group of men/boys ranging in age from 13 to 19.
Mr. Strange had to undergo both emergency brain surgery and facial
reconstructive surgery from the beating he suffered. Mr. Strange
managed to escape and was found TWO hours later by a passerby.
It has also been revealed that prior to the beating of Mr. Strange,
the group of men/boys tried to attack others people, but those people
escaped unharmed.

Event 2

The City of Columbia enacted an emergency ordinance imposing a
juvenile curfew covering the Five Points area for the next 61 days.
The curfew basically extends (there are a number of odd carve outs and
inclusions along the border) from Gervais Street to Blossom Street and
Heidt Street to Gregg Street with a spur that incorporates Maxcy Gregg
Park. Additionally the city has enacted a 2 a.m. bar closing which
will go into effect later this summer and some other measly steps have
been taken that I don't have room to address.

The issue here is how are these measures going to be effective in
preventing the type of savage beating that happened to Mr. Strange in
Five Points. I say they won't be and the incident itself points to why.
There has been a pattern for many months now of groups of teenagers
causing general problems and even criminal acts in Five Points. Yet,
after midnight (albeit on a Monday) a group of teenagers in Five
Points had the chance to not only threaten and attempt to attack
several individuals, but eventually became emboldened enough to
savagely beat an individual. And where were police patrols during all
that time? The teens had the time to try and attack multiple people,
yet it seems that the police were never aware of a potential problem
until Mr. Strange was found TWO hours after the attack. And he wasn’t
found by a police officer walking his beat or slowly making his rounds
in a squad car. He was found by normal citizens TWO hours later.

That is what is inexcusable in this situation; the police in Columbia
are so ineffective at their jobs that they can’t even adequately
patrol a high profile area where a specific demographic - male teens -
are responsible for an increase in crime. How is this inadequacy going
to change with the implementation of the curfew? The police still
won’t be able to properly patrol the same area; they will just have
broader powers to arrest people under the age of 17 (at least one
suspect in the Strange beating was over 17 and would not be subject to
the curfew). And later in the summer when another abridgment of
citizens' rights occurs - people's ability to freely associate and
consume alcoholic beverages in private establishments for as long as
they want - will the Columbia police be any more able to patrol the
Five Points area?

That perhaps is an even more important question with regard to Five
Points crime seeing how drinking after 2am will simply move from a
centralized bar district where they couldn’t prevent criminal acts to
a decentralized series of house parties. In my opinion that will
actually give teens contemplating a crime even better opportunities to
commit one.

So to sum it all response to the inadequacy of our police
department, the worthless city council, needing a dog and pony show to
validate their existence and paychecks has passed a series of
attention grabbing ordinances and in no way addressed the underlying

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Washed Out review

By Fr. Jones

In hindsight, we should have probably seen this coming.  After the successive release of some highly impressive EPs (2009’s Life of Leisure and High Times), post-shoegaze-chillwaver Washed Out, aka USC's very own Ernest Greene, blesses us with Within and Without, his first full-length endeavor.  Despite all the fuss surrounding the bloated chillwave genre and its imminent overexposure, Greene makes no apologies with this debut LP.  Here he not only fits comfortably within the exalted heights of this smoky bedroom dreampop - but he offers the listener one of the lushest examples of ambient soundscape in recent memory.  If the sprawling rebellious nature of Toro Y Moi is The Godfather of chillwave, then Washed Out, with it’s kinetic energy and fierce genre commitment, is undoubtedly Goodfellas.

Within and Without lacks a centralized signature tune like Life of Leisure’s infectious “Feel It All Around”- which acted as that EP’s undisputed anchor.  This time, Greene opts for a more cohesive model.  While the tracks here do not necessarily flow together unbroken, each song builds into the next forming what feels like an all-encompassing wall of sound.  This yields a collection of music that grows and matures with the listener during it’s running time.  One of the album’s biggest rewards though is how its confidence works alongside its ambition. Countless amateur artists attempt and subsequently fail at creating a work as genuinely personal and respectfully distant as Within and Without.  Also, It doesn’t hurt that Ernest Greene is one hell of a songwriter.  The synths on opening tracks “Eyes Be Closed” and “Echoes” comfortably guide us along a soundscape both recognizable and fresh.  Other songs like “Far Away” and “Before” are masterworks of lucid subtlety.  Featuring an intoxicating sound oddly reminiscent of early 90s Duran Duran with a dash of Cut Copy via bong resin, Washed Out deserves all the praise it warrants for this debut.  But as mentioned before, we should have probably seen this coming.


Friday, July 22, 2011


By KingPin

Greetings Carolina!!! Summer keeps rolling along with a heat wave that’s extremely oppressive, the new school year is looming ever closer, and of course the music keeps getting better.  In this edition of The Vocal Booth, we sat down with an artist who is sincere in advancing the sound of South Carolina.  Trublklef (pronounced Treble Clef) has been heading towards stardom since his first encounters with music.  Performing at many of the Midland’s area venues (The House, New Brookland Tavern, Art Bar, etc.); Trublklef has not only a distinctive sound, but a style to match.  Be sure to “Friend/Like” Trublklef on Facebook and catch him out and about in your town.  Much success to you man.  Let’s get it!!!!!

 TRUBLKLEF Interview

For those who may be unfamiliar with you & your work, who are you and how would you describe your style?

Government name, Roger Dale Hawkins Jr., as an MC/vocalist or any other artistic endeavor I'm known as Trublklef. I would describe my style as progressive Hip Hop.

Music has truly emphasized the concept of staying original and being your own light, but truly successful musicians are very limited.  In your opinion, why is it important for people to support local artists? 

I love the phrase “being your own light.” In my opinion, we support local artists for the same reasons we support any other local commerce. We put food on the tables of our neighbors…the people we stand behind in the grocery store. Beyond that, it can serve as a means to an end for our own personal projects. One hand washes the other, ya' dig?

Are there more opportunities for artists to succeed?

 Definitely, when I started playing music to the public I was limited in my ability to record, mix, master, produce, promote, an' distribute. Now, with the advantages the web offers combined with varied technology, as artists we are able to do all of these things easily and succeed with the little funding most of us are working' with.

Describe your history as a musician?

I believe I was born to create. My musical tastes and desire to use that medium began as a child, like most. I was raised in church singing' solos in the choir and hymns in the pews. My mother and I sang two part harmonies in the car, oldies and what not. My older brother and sister had very different eclectic tastes in music and I was exposed to popular genres and the classics alike. I began writing around the age of 5, and was playing' bass in a band, recording and playing' shows by 16. My abilities and styles have been broad and all contributed to who I am as an artist.

  What pushed you to become an MC?

Being an MC allows me to say a lot in a short amount of time. I'm a poet and I love putting' my poetry to music. It's that simple. To be perfectly honest, I only refer to myself as an MC when I have to describe specifically what I do to someone who has never heard what I do.

Describe some things that all aspiring artists need to know before they touch a microphone?

First it is to tell the truth. If it ain't the truth, it's simply a story. If you're telling a story, don't pretend it's yours. To not front or bite is the highest law of being an MC, I believe. Second it is delivery. Sync to the beat, develop a cadence, and speak up. Thirdly, being on time is crucial. I've worked with some MC's who had to do 15 takes on a verse because they were early or late. If that's happening to you and you don't know why, you may be using the wrong medium to express yourself. Create an inner beat with your words. Your words have to bounce just like the beat. If we take away the beat, are you still interesting? That's cadence. Fourthly, cupping the mic is a no-no in most places but you can develop a technique that allows you to be heard without blowing' speakers and deafening people. Fifth and lastly, confidence matters. Don't bother if you don't have any, It has to be natural.

Hip Hop has birthed some of the greatest musicians and writers that this world could possibly offer, if there is one DJ or MC that could be considered a direct link to your style of flava, who would it be and why?

I couldn't agree more. This art-form has really proven to stand alone. Man, I hate that If I say only one, I'll see this later and regret it.  First three that comes to mind?  Rakim (post Eric B), Black Thought (The Roots), and Eligh (Living Legends). I do not have much to say 'bout DJ's. If it's funky and they utilize the tools and techniques of Hip Hop, I'm in. I'm fond of a few locals- DJ M80 (Greene Street Productions). Love his versatility and skills on the cut, DJ Peoples (Luis Skye & Cut Fresh Crew); my man has great taste and isn't afraid to play a classic or an underground favorite.

Even before the passing of Pimp C, the South has had an extreme stronghold on the direction of popular music of the day.  Understanding this, South Carolina has been, as some say 'overlooked' in regards to the music scene. Could it be lack of industry knowledge, money, or even organization, your thoughts? 

It was Southern Hip Hop that took the genre to a new level worldwide. From Outkast’s Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik to Lil Wayne, artists from our region have paved the way for new and experimental sounds that break the monotony of sampling and braggadocio rhyming and they've seen Billboard success with it! I love that stuff too, but change is good. Now, if I had to guess why our state has received little attention from the mainstream ('cause I'm no expert) I'd say that many artists put the cart before the horse, plain and simple.  Labels that fund the work, promoting and distributing mainstream Hip Hop want to see you sell 1000 copies on your own before they'll talk to you. Independent labels work a little differently, but we don't have any of those that really stand out like Rhymesayers or Def Jux. Preach is doing' his thing with Sounds Familiar an' I'm stoked about the names him and NSHHL (Non Stop Hip Hop Live) have brought to these parts. Artists and heads alike owe those dudes a debt of gratitude. So, I'd say a combination of all those things and more. We can't wait on “them” to come to us.

 What are some of the projects you have on the agenda for 2011 and beyond?

I plan to record another LP's worth of music. Also, I'm looking to build with other MC's and artists across the board. I'd love to front a full band at some point before the year is out. I'm making a second appearance at a festival in the Florida Keys in November but nothing solid beyond that. I will be working' on getting' more bookings outside of Columbia for sure. There are other local artists talking' about forming a collective, so time will tell.

The songs of artists should be made up of the thoughts they have and the experiences they encounter. Explain the significance behind the bond between you, your music, and your experiences. 

My music is inspired solely by my experiences in life. I will sometimes comment on the current state of Hip Hop (as we call it) or social stuff, but for the most part I like to reflect on my past and how I've grown as a person and an artist. As far as I'm concerned it is mostly about that bond. I'm not much of a story-teller unless I lived it.

Speak a little bit about your current projects

Currently, I have an abundance of material that was more or less written and recorded last summer with Miles Franco. It's all available for free download at . We've released three new tracks this summer and have more on the way.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the world of music; why would the average person be interested in coming out to one of your performances?

It has always been a focus of mine to entertain with more than just sounds. The combining of mediums and inspiring an atmosphere of creativity is not just standing on stage with a microphone and some beats. DJ's, visual artists, breakers, and giving an opportunity for attendees to participate in some way has always been a focus of mine. Not to alienate anyone, it's all a matter of taste. But, average isn't really my thing. 

If there is one album or song that has greatly influenced you and your work; what would it be and why?

Again, this is incredibly hard to narrow down.  I can say that there is one song from one album from one artist that I remember being inspired by way back when and that I could never grow tired of. It raises the hairs on my arms and neck to this day. “Flow Forever” on The Master by Rakim. “When I Be on the Mic” is a close second (also by Rakim). Those are gospels for me.

Any last words?

Sure. Much love to you Kingpin for what you do. It's unique and much needed. Respect. Also, anyone that wants to build with Trublklef, get at me. I don't pay for beats and I don't front about getting things done. I'm down to vibe and create music with whoever, whenever, however.

Before we wrap up, the number of classic Hip Hop albums is too many to list here, but if there is one album you would consider your favorite, what would it be and why?

You're killing' me Besides the one above, there are many throughout my life that has made an impression. There is one that sticks out. “Do You Want More” by The Roots (1994), but I really feel so wrong for narrowing it down. Peace.

In hindsight, we should have probably seen this coming.  After the successive release of some highly impressive EPs (2009’s Life of Leisure and High Times), post-shoegaze-chillwaver Washed Out, aka USC's very own Ernest Greene, blesses us with Within and Without, his first full-length endeavor.  Despite all the fuss surrounding the bloated chillwave genre and its imminent overexposure, Greene makes no apologies with this debut LP.  Here he not only fits comfortably within the exalted heights of this smoky bedroom dreampop - but he offers the listener one of the lushest examples of ambient soundscape in recent memory.  If the sprawling rebellious nature of Toro Y Moi is The Godfather of chillwave, then Washed Out, with it’s kinetic energy and fierce genre commitment, is undoubtedly Goodfellas. 
Within and Without lacks a centralized signature tune like Life of Leisure’s infectious “Feel It All Around”- which acted as that EP’s undisputed anchor.  This time, Greene opts for a more cohesive model.  While the tracks here do not necessarily flow together unbroken, each song builds into the next forming what feels like an all-encompassing wall of sound.  This yields a collection of music that grows and matures with the listener during it’s running time.  One of the album’s biggest rewards though is how its confidence works alongside its ambition. Countless amateur artists attempt and subsequently fail at creating a work as genuinely personal and respectfully distant as Within and Without.  Also, It doesn’t hurt that Ernest Greene is one hell of a songwriter.  The synths on opening tracks “Eyes Be Closed” and “Echoes” comfortably guide us along a soundscape both recognizable and fresh.  Other songs like “Far Away” and “Before” are masterworks of lucid subtlety.  Featuring an intoxicating sound oddly reminiscent of early 90s Duran Duran with a dash of Cut Copy via bong resin, Washed Out deserves all the praise it warrants for this debut.  But as mentioned before, we should have probably seen this coming. 

Judge Says Feds Have ‘Misled the Public’ on Controversial Immigration Program

by Marian Wang ProPublica,

Federal immigration authorities must hand over potentially embarrassing documents related to the implementation of a controversial immigration program, a federal judge in the Southern District of New York ordered this week [1].

According to Judge Shira Scheindlin, federal immigration authorities seem to “have gone out of their way to mislead the public” about the program known as Secure Communities, and they’ve issued mixed messages about whether the program is optional or not.

Secure Communities allows state and local law enforcement to share the fingerprints of their arrestees with the FBI [2] and Homeland Security for the purpose of targeting for deportation immigrants who’ve committed serious crimes. Immigration advocates say that the three-year-old program nets individuals accused of minor offenses and also undermines trust between communities and law enforcement [3].

New York [4], Massachusetts [5] and Illinois [6] have already announced they intend to opt out of the program, leaving local authorities free to decide whether their counties should participate. California is considering doing the same [7].

But as the judge’s latest ruling indicates, it’s long been unclear whether these states will actually be able to opt out. Documents released earlier this year showed that the program—once widely believed to be voluntary [8]—may not have been so voluntary after all, as the Associated Press reported in February [9]:

A voluntary program to run all criminal suspects' fingerprints through an immigration database was only voluntary until cities refused to participate, recently released documents show. The Obama administration then tightened the rules so that cities had no choice but to have the fingerprints checked.

In April, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano acknowledged that the program was never voluntary. She added that the “whole opt-in, out-out thing was a misunderstanding from the get-go [1].” Napolitano had previously written a letter [8] to Congress that laid out instructions for any law enforcement agency "that does not wish to participate in the Secure Communities deployment plan."

On its website, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that fingerprints submitted to the FBI are automatically shared with federal immigration authorities who can then take enforcement action regardless of what local and state officials decide about the program. The agency acknowleges that past statements have led to confusion but now states unequivocally [10], "FACT: State and local jurisdictions cannot opt out of Secure Communities."

Siding with civil rights groups and immigrant advocates [11] who brought the suit [PDF], the judge ruled that federal immigration agencies needed to be more transparent about their inconsistencies. In response to a public records request, the agencies had redacted what amounted to embarrassing details about how they switched their positions, and the judge ruled that those redactions were “haphazard” and the details had to be made public.

The confusion of state and local governments over the Secure Communities program is yet another piece of the continuing struggle between states and the federal government over who has the power to act on illegal immigration. As we’ve noted, several states have recently enacted controversial laws that have been challenged in court [12] and curbed by federal judges across the country.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Lawmakers Attempt to Roll Back Expanded Oversight of Offshore Drilling

by Marian Wang ProPublica,

After millions of gallons of crude gushed into the Gulf during last year’s oil spill, the disaster triggered a continuing blame game [1] between BP and its many contractors. It also got regulators pondering the need for expanding oversight to such contractors [2]. Currently, operators of off-shore rigs are subject to safety regulations, but regulators don't have direct oversight of the contractors that work for those operators.

In recent months, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management signaled that this could change [3]. As we reported in April, the agency's head, Michael Bromwich, said that the limited oversight of contractors made “absolutely no sense." He suggested that the agency could move to bring major offshore oil contractors—like Transocean and Halliburton [4]—under the agency’s enforcement reach and impose penalties if warranted.

But the Republican-led House Appropriations committee is having nothing of it. The committee passed a bill today [5] that—in addition to stripping billions in funding [6] from the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency—seeks to limit the offshore drilling agency’s ability to oversee contractors.

Here’s the language from the committee’s report accompanying the bill, first noted by the Hill [7]:

The Committee is concerned with the Bureau’s stated intentions for the expansion of regulatory authority over non-lease holders under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA). The authority and need for this action has not been explained or justified to the Committee, nor how this diversion of limited resources would impact the Bureau’s current mission and objectives identified in the fiscal year 2012 request. The agency is directed to use all the resources provided toward the regulatory efforts presented in the fiscal year 2012 request and that no funds be expended for other purposes until the agency has fully explained its authority, intentions and objectives to the Committee and the public.

The beleaguered drilling agency underwent a major overhaul after the spill. But there are still questions [2] about whether its inspectors have been adequately trained and are knowledgeable enough to handle their existing responsibilities—let alone take on new ones.

With a potential 2012 budget cut on the horizon, prospects are looking even more doubtful for expanded authority. Nonetheless, the agency is still recruiting and hiring [8] new inspectors and this week announced it would start using teams of inspectors [9]—as opposed to individuals—to conduct safety reviews.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Plantation review

By Fr. Jones

In 2008, M83 released their fifth studio album, the Brat Pack electro-love letter, Saturdays=Youth. Before my first listen, I had already gotten wind that Saturdays was a departure for Gonzalez and co.- there were rumors that the record was an organic sounding homage to John Hughes-esque memories and ideologies. It all sounded very conceptual and cinematic- even for M83. My endless anticipation seemed like a recipe for an immense letdown; and of course, that’s exactly what happened.

The moderate disappointment I felt towards Saturdays has dissipated thanks to repeated listening- though I still have the same issues with the album. Most notably, it doesn’t flow as well as it should, the transitions from Reagan-era teenybopper to hardcore synth-based stuff is overly jarring, large stretches of it wander around for tracks at a time- but I have grown to accept these flaws because I have had time to separate my expectations from reality. Needless to say, the debut album Plantation from Arrange is everything I was hoping for in Saturdays=Youth. And perhaps a little bit more.

A self-released solo affair from artist Malcom Lacey, Plantation, is truly an album of vivid, heartbreak- quite possibly one of the most beautifully tragic albums since The Antlers’ Hospice. Instrumentals flow into post-rock chord progressions that give way to tasteful ambient crescendos. A large portion of Plantation sounds like post-modern Explosions in the Sky, albeit with painful, whispery M83-esque vocals. Similar to Hospice, Arrange sets up the listener with a couple of vague, meandering tracks before suddenly dropping on us a gutpuncher of emotional clarity.

Here it is called “When’d You Find Me”, a song that begins as slow as molasses and somehow seems to get slower- before finally giving way to a tight riff and subtle, uptempo synth beat. From this point forward, the listener is guided on a relentless trip of warmth and perspective. Obviously this was a personal work for Malcolm Lacey (let’s hope it is- if not, the world may not be ready for someone so casually sensitive). But the major difference between this album and other works of artistic intimacy is the level of precision brought to the table. While the listener is invested in the experience from the start, Plantation never overplays its hand. Lacey avoids abusing their trust even during the album’s most memorable moments- the grandiose “Tearing Up Old Asphalt” and the upbeat “Blinds With You”. We want to dig into the album deeper, perhaps find the cause of it’s suffering. But Lacey keeps things tastefully distant and restrained. It’s to the credit of Arrange that Plantation is frequently cathartic, but never overwrought- a delicate balance that is harder to achieve than most would believe.

Gov’t Watchdog Criticizes Pentagon Center for PTSD, Brain Injuries

by T. Christian Miller & Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica, & Daniel Zwerdling, NPR

If you want more explanation about the military’s troubles in treating troops with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress, read no further than two recent but largely unnoticed reports from the Government Accountability Office.

It turns out the Pentagon’s solution to the problems is an organization plagued by weak leadership, uncertain priorities and a money trail so tangled that even the GAO’s investigators couldn’t sort it out. The GAO findings on the Pentagon’s Defense Centers of Excellence (DCOE) echo our own series [1] on the military’s difficulty in handling the so-called invisible wounds of war.

“We have an organization that exists, but we have considerable concern about what it is that it’s actually accomplishing,” said Denise Fantone, a GAO director who supervised research on one of the reports. She added: “I can’t say with any certainty that I know what DCOE does, and I think that’s a concern.”

First, some background. After the 2007 scandal over poor care delivered to soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Congress ordered the Pentagon to do a better job treating soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. The Pentagon’s answer was to create DCOE [2]. The new organization was supposed to be a clearinghouse to foster cutting-edge research in treatments.

DCOE was rushed into existence in late 2007. Since then, it has churned through three leaders, including one let go after alleged sexual harassment of subordinates [3]. It takes more than five months to hire each employee because of the federal government’s glacial process. As a result, private contractors make up much of the center’s staff.

“DCOE’s development has been challenged by a mission that lacks clarity and by time-consuming hiring processes,” according to the first report in the GAO series [4], focusing on “management weakness” at DCOE.

Just as concerning, the GAO says that it can’t quite figure out how much money DCOE has received or where it has all gone. DCOE has never submitted a budget document that fully conformed to typical federal standards, according to a GAO report released last month [5]. In one year, the center simply turned in a spreadsheet without detailed explanations.

The Defense Department says that DCOE got $168 million beginning in fiscal year 2010—but the GAO isn’t buying that number: “Because of unresolved concerns with the reliability of funding and obligations data provided by DOD (Department of Defense), we cannot confirm the accuracy of figures related to DCOE.” The GAO report reproduces this disclaimer no fewer than five times.

DCOE concurred with the bulk of the GAO’s findings and promised to fix its accounting errors and prevent them from happening again.

In its defense, DCOE has never had an easy job. It was created on the fly and tasked to deal with some of the most complicated mental-health issues in the military’s history. In addition, it has faced stiff bureaucratic resistance, with some Pentagon officials questioning its usefulness..

The Pentagon said that DCOE was conducting a “comprehensive review” to improve its operations.

“There is still substantial work to be done,” said Cynthia O. Smith, a Pentagon spokeswoman. “We must ensure we are properly allocating resources and establishing priorities to take care of our service members.”

One telling GAO footnote suggests the extent of the obstacles the organization has faced. In Pentagon war games, the enemy is generally represented by the color red. When Congress ordered up its improvements in 2007, the Pentagon created a special committee to push through reforms that led to DCOE’s creation.

The special committee decided to call itself the “Red Cell.” Why? “The daunting task facing this team would likely make them the enemy of everyone else in the bureaucracy they sought to change,” the GAO says.

A Discreet Nonprofit Brings Together Politicians and Corporations to Write ‘Model Bills’

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Calling the EPA's attempts to regulate greenhouse gasses a 'trainwreck,' ALEC crafted a model resolution for states that was later the basis of legislation in at least 13 states, according to a press release on its website. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)"][/caption]

by Lois Beckett

This week, both the Los Angeles Times [1] and The Nation [2] put the spotlight on a little-known but influential conservative nonprofit that creates "model" state legislation that often make its way into law. The organization has helped craft some of the most controversial—and industry-friendly—legislation of recent years.

The American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC [3], crafted a model resolution for states calling the EPA's attempts to regulate greenhouse gasses a "trainwreck" [4] and asking Congress to slow or stop the regulations, the Times reported [1]. A press release on ALEC's site says that at least 13 other states [4] have passed resolutions based on their model language.

ALEC was also involved [5] in the writing of Arizona's new immigration law [6], which gave police officers broad powers to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.

Brought into being by a legendary conservative [7] who also founded the well-known Heritage Foundation [8], ALEC has been around since the early 1970s. It calls itself [9] a "policy making program that unites members of the public and private sectors in a dynamic partnership" based on "Jeffersonian principles." Critics say it has devolved into a pay-for-play operation [10], where state legislators and their families get to go on industry-funded junkets [11] and major corporations get to ghostwrite [12] model laws and pass them on to receptive politicians.

In a multipart report this week, the Nation profiled [2] ALEC's influence on state legislation related to privatization and anti-union efforts, [13] fighting Obama's health care reform [14], privatizing public education [15] and enacting voter ID laws [16], which critics say are designed to disenfranchise voters [17] who are more likely to vote Democratic. The Nation also provides a deeper look at the financial and ideological links [18] between the Koch brothers [19] and ALEC.

ALEC representatives tell reporters that its mission is fundamentally "educational." [11] ALEC spokeswoman Raegan Weber told the LA Times [1], "Legislators should hear from those the government intends to regulate."

"ALEC allows a place for everyone at the table to come and debate and discuss," another ALEC official, Michael Bowman, told NPR [11] last year. "You have legislators who will ask questions much more freely at our meetings because they are not under the eyes of the press, the eyes of the voters. They're just trying to learn a policy and understand it." Neither Weber nor Bowman immediately responded to our requests for further comment.

Corporations pay hefty fees [11] for the opportunity to discuss policy with legislators at ALEC's conferences, and they also host banquets, open-bar parties and baseball games. Legislators, on the other hand, pay a nominal membership fee, and can be eligible for "scholarships" that pay for their conference attendance. When the legislators bring the model bills back to their state capitals, the role played by ALEC—or by the corporations—seems to be rarely, if ever, disclosed.

Crucially, ALEC says it is not a lobbying organization, and thus because of its nonprofit status, it does not have to disclose its donors or the amount of their donations. (The Times [1] says Common Cause [20] is trying to challenge ALEC's nonprofit status [10].)

Perhaps the most striking example of this process is the involvement of officials from the Corrections Corporation of America [21], the nation's largest private prison company [22], in the creation of Arizona's immigration law.

As NPR reported last year, officials from Corrections Corporation were in the room [5] when Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce discussed his ideas about immigration at a 2009 ALEC conference.

Reports from Corrections Corporation reviewed by NPR indicated that their executives saw immigrant detention as their next big market [5], and that the company expected to bring in a "significant portion" of their revenue from Immigrations and Custom Enforcement.

What role the corporate officials played in the ALEC discussion is not known, but the "model legislation" that emerged from that session soon became the bill itself—"almost word for word," [5] according to NPR. The influence the private prison industry [23] may have had on the law was not widely reported or discussed during the heated nationwide debate over the bill. (An "In These Times" reporter, whose early findings on the ALEC-Arizona connection were consistent with NPR's later reporting, recently provided a more detailed look [24] at the ALEC scholarships provided to Arizona legislators.)

Portions of the Arizona law are being challenged in federal court [25] and have never been implemented. But, as NPR reported last year, similar bills were later introduced in eight other states [11].

ALEC has been in the media spotlight this week because the Center for Media and Democracy [26] obtained and released [27] an archive of more than 800 of ALEC's model bills and resolutions. Their wiki site, ALEC Exposed [28], encourages readers to browse ALEC's model bills by topic and share their findings about the documents using the hashtag #ALECexposed [29].

ProPublica intern Nicholas Kusnetz contributed to this report.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bayside @ NBT July 22

The first blow job I ever gave was to a guy from Bayside.

Now that is an inspiring story for a band name! However this bunch call themselves Bayside because they on their way to a New Found Glory show in Long Island, with the intention of giving New Found Glory a demo CD, they were trying to think of a name to write and passed the Bayside train station and wrote “Bayside” on it.

The good news is that their music isn’t as uncreative as the band name, and it also doesn’t blow.

Their most recent album, Killing Time, was released this past February 22.

The first song off the album, “Already Gone”, was put up for streaming exclusively on

Personally, I wouldn’t classify them as punk band, but more as a traditional indie band.

I guess in great music there is always some crossover, much like a good blow job requires some testicular attention. If you miss this show then you’ll miss me getting on my knees for Sean Rayford on the NBT patio.

-Samantha Norton


Friday, July 8, 2011

The Republican Pathology

[caption id="attachment_866" align="alignleft" width="169" caption="By Will Moredock"][/caption]

Let's leave it in Horry County where it belongs

I ran into an old name out of my past recently. I never actually met Blaine Liljenquist, but he made a cameo appearance in my 2003 book, Banana Republic: A Year in the Heart of Myrtle Beach.

Banana Republic was my expose of what happens when you dump 14 million tourists and billions of dollars a year into what is still basically a small Baptist beach town. The political corruption and environmental devastation are epic and the Myrtle Beach culture attracts a menagerie of snakes, jackals, vultures, and parasites. Hence, Blaine Liljenquist.

I had not thought of Liljenquist in years. Like Banana Republic, he was part of my past. Then, on July 1, I opened my Post and Courier to the editorial page and there it was – a letter from the scourge or Horry County. Liljenquist is a former chairman of the Horry County GOP and for reasons he did not reveal, he was writing from Surfside Beach to share with us his thoughts on the state of the Republic.

Among other things, he called for doing away with all state, county and municipal taxes and all sales taxes. He suggested nothing to replace them. He supported voter ID, “even if this prevents every corpse, illegal alien and persons who cast multiple ballots from voting for Democratic Party candidates.” Of course, he gave no evidence that any such behavior had ever occurred.

And he offered this: “There is no difference between treason that is committed by an American who passes military secrets to foreign governments and the treason committed by the Congress resulting in the economic destruction of the United States.” I did not ask, but I think I can guess which party is committing this “treason” in Congress.

As county GOP chairman, Liljenquist created the Business Round Table and, in 1996, he explained to the Myrtle Beach Sun News how it worked. Businessmen would pay $1,200 for the privilege of meeting monthly with the county's top Republican officials over heavy hors d'oeuvres and an open bar to discuss their problems and concerns. The money would go to the county Republican Party to finance future campaigns.

“The business owners who join would certainly have better access to the politicians,” he told the Sun News matter-of-factly. “They can sit down and talk to them on a one-to-one basis.”

Actually, Liljenquist was one of those business owners and six months after this interview, he gave a practical demonstration in how influence works in Horry County.

Liljenquist was a condo developer in a county where developers have a worse reputation than used car dealers. The county building code required that each bedroom in new residences have at least one window. According to the Sun News, Liljenquist was selling condos as two-bedroom units, though they had only one bedroom, under county building code. The county fire marshal ordered him to install sprinklers in the substandard condos, but he refused for two years.

Three of Liljenquist's GOP buddies on county council – including chairman Joey McNutt and Terry Chambers – moved quietly behind the scenes to retroactively amend the building code, exempting Liljenquist from installing sprinklers. Chambers even nominated Liljenquist to chair the building inspection board of adjustments and appeals, a position that would have allowed Liljenquist to exempt himself.

The scheme came unraveled when the Sun News brought it to light. Lois Eargle, the county auditor and chairman of the county Christian Coalition defended Liljenquist: “What I don't understand is why people are so concerned about this and people will allow abortions to be done and kill babies.”

In 1994, Horry County was involved in dubious negotiations with businessman Ken Pippin, who wanted to buy the county railroad. It took the Sun News to reveal that Pippin was a close personal friend of Terry Chambers and the landlord of Joey McNutt's real estate appraisal business. But McNutt's downfall was his failure to file state income taxes three years in a row. Under indictment for tax evasion, he was suspended from office in 1997.

As for Councilman Chambers, he mysteriously disappeared in early 1998, without notifying constituents or council colleagues. After missing three council meetings, he faxed a crudely scrawled note from the Cayman Islands where he had moved to sell timeshares: “I Terry Chambers do hereby resign in my position as county council member representing district six of Horry county (sic), effective this 28th day of February, 1998.” End of missive. End of term.

Now Blaine Liljenquist wants to give us advice on how to do things in Charleston County. Here's my advice to the editors of the P&C: We have enough screwballs and sleazeballs right here in the Lowcountry. You don't need to go to Horry County to find them and print their delusional letters on your editorial page.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Toro Y Moi

Fr. Jones shoots the breeze with Columbia’s very own Chazwick Bundick, the man behind worldwide chillwave sensation Toro Y Moi, about inspiration versus motivation, touring overseas, live hardware, and the inevitability of musical experimentation.


FR: Instead of a chillwave question, let’s talk heatwave. It was 105 degrees on consecutive days this past week in your hometown of Columbia, South Carolina. Do you care to say anything about that?


CB: How many days? That sucks. That’s too hot but I’ve seen that before. I like that feeling though- the humidity and hot weather. Feels like I’m at home.


FR: Currently, you are neck deep in touring. Just glancing over the past dates you’ve performed on this year, and the shows coming up- it’s a little intimidating. How do you plan to approach this second half of the live circuit?


CB: Well, we’re going to change the live set a lot and make it longer for one- our set was too short. When I got the band together, we were already low on time to learn songs. We pretty much did as much as we could, learned as much as we could, and tried to do the best show with that. But other than that, we just really want a longer show.


FR: You spent this past May touring overseas. From Warsaw to Glasgow and all points in between, where was your favorite place to play? Did your journey bring you across anything that inspired you as an artist?


CB: Yeah. One of my favorite places is Poland. I love playing there in general. It has a really cool vibe. The crowds there are really enthusiastic. They like to show how much they are into it. Music doesn’t make it out there as often as the UK, y’know? They’re really enthusiastic. But also- the big cities, like Rome and Paris. Those are always treats too.


FR: Can you tell us a little about your experience at South by Southwest earlier this year?


CB: It was cool. This was my second year. It was pretty much like starting over again because this was the first time I did it with a band. It’s just a totally different experience. We had to carry all of our equipment everywhere and there was this extra stress. It was cool, man- but it’s a lot of work. We tend to do more work than we need to. We did like nine shows in three or four days. So it was a brutal week.


FR: Speaking of South by Southwest- in your opinion, who is the best act that no one has heard of?


CB: We saw this one band called Ava Luna. They’re from New York and there are like seven of them. They make this really great Motown/pop music with a contemporary spin. Very energetic, really cool. They invited me to their show and I was like, “Yeah, sure. I’ll go.” And I liked them so much, I asked them to go on tour with me in October.


FR: Your music stands as some of the best fusions of experimentalist production with pop songwriting out there today. Yet for the past decade, it seems that experimentation and avante-garde sounds have been a hallmark of independent music to the point of being almost required. Do you think that pushing sonic boundaries remains important, or has experimentation become passe? How do you see your music in this context?


CB: I’m not sure about passe’. Music is always constantly evolving naturally. I think the whole experimentation part… I guess that’s just natural too. What I do when I make music is that I like to put my spin on songs from different artists but because I’m a totally different person with a totally different mind, it’s not going to sound exactly the same so that’s naturally going to be my sound sort of thing, y’know? That’s what I mean by my spin on things. I can’t sing like Paul McCartney, but I can sing how I think I can sing or how I feel comfortable singing. And then in turn it changes into it’s own thing. It’s like a cycle. When it comes to my music… I’m into all types of music from shitty rap to avant garde whatever. I appreciate it all for what it is. When I listen to Soulja Boy, I’m not taking him serious. I know that it’s just ridiculous. You’re not supposed to take it seriously. It’s supposed to be fun. When it comes to my music, I just think about all these things. Yea, it can be ridiculous but it would be fun to do this because we’re going to be doing it live.


FR: Today, people listen to music on just about every format available - vinyl, ipods, laptop speakers, even cassette tapes are coming back into the fold. Do have a preferred format? Do you think your work lends itself to a particular listening medium? What do these various listening methods mean to the music scene in general?


CB: I’ve always liked the MP3s. But they all have their plus sides. I guess my favorite would have to be vinyl. It just sounds amazing. You can actually feel the soundwave on the violin. That’s just an amazing thing. But I think cassettes sound great too. It’s cool to know that audio files all over the world are keeping everything alive really.


FR: On that note- how do you see the music industry developing throughout your career? Does it feel like something you are constantly competing with?


CB: It’s a job- so it’s going to be competitive. But it’s not like the labels run everything. It used to be that the labels throw big money into bands and that would be that- making money, whatever. But now I think it’s more like bands have the tools and the power they need to do whatever they want at home. They can put it online and showcase whatever and then they can choose who they want to go to when the labels come to them. So that part is totally different. But the industry is changing. I wouldn’t say that it’s not as powerful anymore. But it’s just starting to adjust to the internet influence of finding music and how music is free now. I like the direction of the industry. It’s more interactive with the actual audience. People can witness a band’s growth and progression. It’s better than wondering where these bands came from.


FR: On Underneath the Pine, your sound took at turn for more band-oriented arrangements, as opposed to the synths-and-laptops approach on Causers of This. Is this a sound that you are more comfortable with and plan on sticking with? Or can we expect the unexpected on your next major project?


CB: I don’t know. I don’t really think about that. When it came to this album, I really wanted the live show to be taken up a notch. For this album, I was thinking about what was going on live, who was going to be playing what. I just wanted a better live show. As far as the next album, I try not to think about that. That’s not usually how I approach things. I know that it’s always important to keep changing. So if I do an album that is live-based, I’m probably not going to do it again right after.


FR: Do you have a favorite piece of gear either for production or on tour?


CB: I like all my keyboards probably the most. My JX3P, my Roland. And I have a Noric, which I just got, it’s awesome. I like hardware a lot. It makes sense to have a lot of gear onstage especially when you can make it happen that it’s not a burden to have a bunch of stuff with you. I think it’s good to eliminate the laptop as much as you can when playing live because it’s more interesting to see.


FR: On a more personal level, what is your perspective on where your song ideas come from? Are your methods for writing new material hampered by your busy 2011 on the road?


CB: I just like to make music whenever I have time to make music. It’s hard because my inspiration and motivation are kinda the same thing. It’s like something in the back of my head, the first thing I think about is making music. I don’t really feel inspired. It’s more like a drive. I don’t know, I just always want to make music.


FR: Any advice to up-and-coming artists struggling to make it in the 21st century music industry?


CB: Yeah. Don’t be afraid to try anything. Be honest with people and yourself. I think it’s pretty understood that if you want things to happen, you have to do it. You can’t just sit around and wait for it to happen. If you want to release something, say “Look, I’m releasing this.” Surrounding yourself with positive people, you’re going to get positive results. It’s pretty understood I guess. I’m pretty shocked still about how I got to where I am now. It just happened really fast and it’s not really a familiar career path. The way I got here is the most common way, through the internet. And that is still weird to me.


As it just so happens, Chaz will be making a pitstop in Columbia before venturing back onto the live circuit.  Don’t miss Toro Y Moi with Coma Cinema at New Brookland Tavern, July 14th.  Doors open at 8.

- Fr. Jones

Regional briefs


Shooting leaves three dead in Wegener

Police are searching for a man they consider “armed and dangerous” after finding three bodies on Daytona Road, according to the Aiken Standard.

Police are treating the case as a homicide and are on the lookout for 46-year-old Kenneth Meyers, who may be driving a white van with ladders on the top. He could be headed for Alabama, and anyone with information about this crime or Meyers’ whereabouts should contact the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office at (800) 922-9709.

Because it is an ongoing investigation, the sheriff’s office withheld many details of the case, including the identities of the victims until each next of kin is notified.


Store agrees to pay firefighters’ families $2 mil

A Charleston furniture store has agreed to pay the families of nine firefighters nearly $2 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit four years after a blaze resulted in the largest loss of firefighters since 9/11.

The $1.9 from the Sofa Super Store has been split among the families, along with millions from lawsuits against furniture companies and a roofing company, attorney Kevin Dean told the Times and Democrat. They also received at least $640,000 each from workers’ compensation funds.

“For the families, it’s been a tremendous emotional undertaking that they can now bring closure to and feel like that they’ve brought public awareness to the issue of avoiding these fires and deaths in the future as well as adequately taking care of the families and the over 13 children who lost their fathers,” Dean said. “It’s been a long four years.”

The fire is thought to have been started by discarded cigarettes at the store’s loading dock area, and a 2008 report filed by the city determined that outdated tactics, inadequate training and old equipment contributed to the nine firefighters’ deaths. Furthermore, sprinklers on the loading docks could have contained the fire.

The families accused the building’s owners of violating national fire and electrical codes, but the store owners blamed the city and its fire commanders for the deaths.


Weight-loss success wins Miss South Carolina Pageant

Bree Boyce, who once weighed 230 pounds, was crowned Miss South Carolina at the Township Auditorium July 2.

Boyce, Miss Capital City 2011, shed 110 pounds before winning a preliminary swimsuit competition at the pageant. She chronicled her weight-loss journey through her Facebook page “Bree Boyce – Eating Healthy and Fighting Obesity.” Fans congratulated her on the victory by posting messages on her wall.

“I am so proud of you,” said Terry Harper. “I know how hard you have worked to get here. You are already an excellent role model; I can’t wait to watch you on your journey to Miss America!”

Others just said, “Congratulations,” but many told her that she is an inspiration.

Boyce is also the winner of the Lifestyle Change Award from the American Heart Association and says she hopes to motivate others to become healthier through good eating habits, exercising and believing in themselves.

Myrtle Beach

Man dressed as SpongeBob sells ice cream from his moped

Jay Shoop, wearing an ice cream hat and a cartoon costume, cruises the streets and neighborhoods of Myrtle Beach selling ice cream and beverages to families and businessmen alike.

According to the Sun News, Shoop has built a following among the residents of Myrtle Beach, with some buying from him every time he rides by their homes.

Others just stop to wave or talk to the friendly man while waiting at lights or while passing him on the street. Shoop will even jump off his moped and pose to the delight of people sitting in their cars.

Shoop said he loses a few pounds a day because of his heavy costume.

HBO series to film on boardwalk

Myrtle Beach City Council members voted unanimously to approve a special events permit for the popular comedy series “Eastbound & Down” to film on the boardwalk between July 5 and 9, according to the Post and Courier.

Creater Danny McBride stars as Kenny Powers, a once-great professional baseball player whose abrasive personality and career failures force him to accept a job as a substitute P.E. teacher at his former middle school. In the new season, Powers will be playing for the Myrtle Beach minor league baseball team.

A production assistant with HBO, Scott Clackum, said filming will take place at the boardwalk on Ocean Boulevard, on the beach, and at BB&T Coastal field, but the show will return in August to film aerial shots of the boardwalk and beach.

“We are thankful you’ve chosen Myrtle Beach,” Mayor Rhodes told Clackum. “This will be great publicity for us.”

 Other stars tied with the show include Will Farrell, a producer, and guest star Matthew McConaughey, who will be in town to film.


Ladies start their own shooting league

Newberry County started a ladies-only shooting league to help women with confidence, as well as improve their shooting skills.

Women tend to feel intimidated when they are surrounded by men with guns, organizer Angie Wofford explained to the Newberry Observer.

The small group of women will learn about guns, gun safety and self defense from Earl “Tex” Wicker, Cindia Deith, Barry Heffner and John Harvey, who are all experienced members of the Newberry Pistol Club.

The coaches encourage women to learn how to protect themselves, but say that owning a gun isn’t necessary. Instead, they recommend a gun-cleaning kit which can be bought at Wal-Mart.

Ladies who are interested in joining the league can attend the next meeting on Thursday July 14, at 7 p.m. at the Newberry Pistol Club.


Lighting strike causing smoky conditions weeks later

An unreachable fire continues to burn in the Pocalla and Pocotaglio swamps after lightning struck a tree in the area on June 15.

State Forestry Commission officials are warning drivers to take caution on smoky roads in nearby southern Sumter County until the next rain. Drivers are experiencing the dangerous conditions between Tidal Road and U.S. 521 toward Manning in the morning and late afternoon, according to the Sumter Item.