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Susan Clary Simmons
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Graham Williams
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2013 Lowcountry Rocks
try20...
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TOWN
COMPLIMENTARY COPY
T O ...
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Myrtle Beach Herald
Myrtle Beach:
A Retrospectiv...
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SEPTEMBER 27, ...
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Horizons 2013
The Clinton Chronicle’...
SPORTS SPECIAL EDITION
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THIRD PLACE:
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The Greatest
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THE GREATEST SEA...
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of Blythewood and Fairfield Count...
SPORTS SPECIAL EDITION
OR SECTION
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Union County News
UCHS Football:
A work of art
UCHS FOOT...
REVIEW PORTFOLIO
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THIRD PLACE:
The News-Era
Joseph Garris Jr.
By Joseph Garris Jr
Entertainment Editor
O...
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The Greer Citizen
William Buchheit
Rating: 7 out of 10
W
hen it comes to...
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Free Times
August Krickel
film clips of New York to wigs that perfectly
c...
GOVERNMENT REPORTING
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Free Times
CoreyH utchins
door neighbors described.
Scott’s resignati...
2013 SCPA Weekly Newspaper Awards Winners
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2013 SCPA Weekly Newspaper Awards Winners

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See the winning photos, stories, designs and online entries from SCPA's 2014 Annual Meeting. Here are the Weekly Newspaper award winners from the 2013 S.C. Press Association News Contest

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2013 SCPA Weekly Newspaper Awards Winners

  1. 1. Welcome!
  2. 2. Bronze Sponsors MICHAEL S. SMITH AUTHOR
  3. 3. John Miller 1744-1807 Hall of Fame South Carolina Press Association
  4. 4. Lee Bandy Rusty Boggs William Bradford, Jr. Sara Bruner Barry Byers Andy Cole Corny Cornwell Mary Davis Wilbert T. Fields Jane Green Bob Chatham Harris Carl Kilgus Jane Lareau Vii Leinfelder Buddy McCarter Johnny McCracken John Lewis McDonald Steve Porter William Rickenbaker Bud Shealy Ruth Ragsdale Sitton Mac Thrower William Young Warren Ripley Remembering Those We’ve Lost... See Page 8 for full necrology
  5. 5. Enjoy Lunch!
  6. 6. There’s still time to enter the iPad Mini raf e! South Carolina Newspaper Network iPads donated by: $5 each or $20 for 5 tickets. Cash, credit & checks are accepted. Tickets will be sold until the awards presentation starts. See any SCPA staffer to support the Foundation! Winner will be drawn at the end of the presentation!
  7. 7. SERIES OF SPORTS ARTICLES Open Division FIRST PLACE: Fort Mill Times Mac Banks “Charlotte Knights Baseball” This is Part I of a series look- ing back at Knights Stadium during the final month of the team’s existence in Fort Mill. By Mac Banks mbanks@comporium.net FORT MILL — The Charlotte Knights have a rich history in Fort Mill, and Beverly Burnette has been there for every pitch. Burnette, who works in guest s e r v i c e s, h a s been with the Knights since day one. Scratch that. Burnette hasbeenwiththe Charlotte O’s since day one when the club started in 1976. She seen the resurgence of mi- nor league baseball in the Queen City and she was there when it left to come across the border to Fort Mill. And God willing, she will be there when the moving vans load the last item up and take the Knights back to Char- lotte after this season. “I have outlasted every gener- al manager we have ever had,” Burnette joked. Burnette has always worked intheguestservicesdepartment. ShegotstartedwiththeO’sbyac- cident; she was going to try it out for a summer and ended up stay- ing for 37 seasons. “My sister and I were going to the Olympics that year and I was going to be gone half the sum- mer, and Frances [Crockett, for- mer O’s general manager/own- er]said‘Tryitandseeifyoulikeit and you will know,’” she said. On a typical work day for Bur- nette, she guides people through Knights Stadium, telling them where the bathrooms are, where they can get a program, where to buy peanuts and things like that. The guest services window is located on the main concourse, so Burnette gets to see some ac- tion in left field, unless a vendor sets up in front of her. “Idon’tgettoseeawholelotof thegame,”shesaid.“Iftheyputa cart there, I don’t have a clue.” A retired art teacher from Cen- tral Cabarrus High School in North Carolina, Burnette has seen thousands of minor-league players pass through Charlotte Please see KNIGHTS 2B Beverly Burnette After the Knights Burnette has been the one constant This is part II of a series look- ing back at Knights Stadium during the final months of the team’s existence in Fort Mill. By Mac Banks mbanks@comporium.net FORTMILL—Knightsplayers have come and Knights players have gone, and through it all have been Gene Fortner and John Ansell. Die-hard Charlotte Knights fans, both were season ticket holders before the team arrived in Fort Mill in 1989, back when when the team was still called the Charlotte O’s. Fortner has beenaseasonticketholdersince 1978 and Ansell since 1986. And nothing will change next yearwhentheKnightsmoveinto a new, 10,000-seat, $54 million stadium in uptown Charlotte. When the Knights, the Tri- ple-A farm club of the Chicago White Sox, move, so will Fortner and Ansell. They have secured seats next to each other, just like they currently have at Knights’ home games in Fort Mill – right along the first base dugout in the front row. Thetwo arenotjustfans, they are Knights loyalists. So much so, that by the end of the season, Fortner will have seen his 1,620th Knights game. “I was in the hospital two weeks (in 1995), my father-in- law died, and I missed one game because it was the last game the Charlotte Checkers played in the old Coliseum,” he said. “Other than that, I have seen every game.” 1,620 games later ... Please see KNIGHTS 2B MAC BANKS - SPECIAL TO THE FORT MILL TIMES Gene Fortner (left) and John Ansell take in one of many Charlotte Knights games together. Long-time Knights fans reflect on team’s time in Fort Mill Part III of a series looking back at Knights Stadium dur- ing the final months of the team’s existence in Fort Mill. By Mac Banks mbanks@comporium.net FORT MILL T he second time around, the Charlotte Knights are hoping the saying, “if you build it, they will come” lives up to its meaning. Because the first time around, that didn’t happen. And one thing that has hurt the Knights’ chances of stay- ing in Fort Mill has been attendance, which in turn has hurt the bottom line of the team for years. According to final attendance reports from the Internation- al League website, the Knights finished either second to last or last in attendance in the 14-team International League every year since 2002. Since the Knights joined the International League in 1993, they have always finished in the lower third of attendance. In their first year in the league, even when they won the In- ternational League championship, they finished seventh out of 10 teams in attendance. They did the same in 1994 and they dropped from there. In 1999 after the expansion of the league to 14 teams, and after claiming their second International League championship, attendance did rise slightly, up to 12th. This year, the Knights are on course to finish last in the International League in attendance, having drawn 218,821 fans through 61 of 68 potential home games. Their average attendance this season is 3,587 people per game. They have six more scheduled home games left from Aug. 28-Sept. 2. However, the attendance woes should change for them next year as they move into the brand new $54 million BB&T Ballpark in Uptown Charlotte. The 10,000-seat stadium is expected to help not only in attendance, but make up for the financial struggles the Knights have had in Fort Mill. “You look at the demographics of it,” said Knights’ Execu- tive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Dan Rajkow- ski. “You got a city with over 80,000 people working in the center city. I think there are over 20,000 that live in the cen- ter city. The difference in our business is that Monday through Wednesday night here in Fort Mill we may draw 1,500 to 2,000 people here. There you will be able to draw 4,000 to 7,000 people, depending on the weather. And that is the ability to make money or not make money. It still cost the MAC BANKS - SPECIAL TO THE FORT MILL TIMES A sparse crowd of 3,711 watches the Charlotte Knights in the first game of a doubleheader Sunday against the Durham Bulls at Knights Stadium. Low attendance key factor in relocation DEEP-SEATED PROBLEM: Knights Stadium Please see KNIGHTS 2B This is the final installment of a four-part series looking back at Knights Stadium during the final months of the Charlotte Knights’ existence in Fort Mill. By Mac Banks mbanks@comporium.net FORT MILL — Call it fate, call it what you will, but sometimes when a relationship starts, things just aren’t meant to be in the long run. That can be a summation of how the relationship between the Charlotte Knights and York County unfolded over the past decade. The relationship wasn’t bad, according to both Knights’ executive vice president and chief operat- ing officer Dan Rajkowski and former York County Manager Jim Baker, who now works in Virginia as City Manager for the City of Chesapeake. However, it was a relationship where the Knights, the Triple-A farm club of the Chicago White Sox, knew where they wanted to be in the future and York County didn’t stop them from trying to get there. “My relationship with Jim Baker and council members was a positive relationship,” Rajkowski said. “We did have an extension and put some money into the ball park and enhanced it for the fans. Our relationship wasn’t negative. I think from our pro- spective, I kind of looked at it as what is best for this franchise. And what I think our organization and our ownership looked at it, what was the long term viability of the team in Fort Mill under the current circumstances and lease.” Rajkowski said it came to down to making a decision in the team’s economic survival. “What we did, was look at it from a financial perspective and can we survive the way things are and the answer is no,” he said. “At that time, we had some conversations with elected officials about what the future was; that this franchise needed enhancements, some incentives to The BB&T Ballpark, under construction, will be ready for opening day next year. Queen City too much to resist KNIGHTS MOVE: Fort Mill couldn’t compete Charlotte Knights Executive Vice President Dan Rajkowski: ‘Development didn’t happen around [the Fort Mill] facility like many had anticipated.’ Share your thoughts, memories What will you remember most about the Knights? Do you plan to see the team play in Charlotte? Stop by our website or Facebook/FortMillTimes, or email ballpark photos to news@fortmilltimes.com. All submissions become the property of the Fort Mill Times and can be reproduced in any format. .com Please see KNIGHTS 2B PHOTOS BY DIEDRA LAIRD - dlaird@charlotteobserver.com
  8. 8. ILLUSTRATION Open Division THIRD PLACE: Charleston City Paper Scott Suchy “Doomsday kit”
  9. 9. ILLUSTRATION Open Division FIRST PLACE: Free Times Jason Crosby “Our Dumb State. Vol. 9”
  10. 10. EVENT MARKETING Associate/Individual Division FIRST PLACE: Charleston Regional Business Journal Jane Mattingly Influential Women in Business
  11. 11. PUBLIC RELATIONS PROGRAM Associate/Individual Division SECOND PLACE: S.C. Farm Bureau Bill Johns Member Benefits Campaign
  12. 12. PUBLIC RELATIONS PROGRAM Associate/Individual Division FIRST PLACE: S.C. Farm Bureau Bill Johns Member Recruitment Campaign
  13. 13. E-NEWSLETTER/PUBLICATION Associate/Individual Division FIRST PLACE: Charleston Regional Business Journal Daily Journal
  14. 14. EDITORIAL/COLUMN IN SUPPORT OF FOIA AllWeekly Division HONORABLE MENTION: Greenville Journal Susan Clary Simmons FROM THE EDITORIAL DESK Call out the hypocrites A bill intended to make citizen access to public records easier and less costly is once again headed to a vote in the S.C. House, where it is expected to pass as handily as it did last year. The question is whether the state Senate will balk – as it did last year – at Rep. Rick Quinn’s last-ditch amendment to make the law apply as equally to the law- writers as it would to the rest of government. A similar version of H. 3163, which aims to strengthen the state’s notoriously weak Freedom of Information Act, was derailed last year in the Senate – in re- taliation for the self-same “poison pill” amendment that seeks to open legisla- tive email and internal correspondence (now exempt from the FOIA) to public inspection. “Poison pill” is not Quinn’s choice of adjectives. His point is fair play. He said then, as now, that legislators are hypocrites to demand transparency from oth- ers and shield themselves. No other state in the union “has a South Carolina- style ‘special’ exemption for state politicians. It truly is outrageous,” he wrote in a Greenville News guest column. Quinn is correct, of course. What gives the bill’s supporters heartburn is the threat of losing all its other reforms should his wholly justifiable amendment sink the bill again. While legislative transparency is definitely a bonus, the changes this bill envi- sions are tilted toward the secretive and obstructive behaviors common to state bureaucrats, school boards and city and county governments, the far greater of- fenders of open records laws. South Carolina’s FOIA is one of those laws that looks good until you realize how easy it is to circumvent. All H. 3163 would do is edge its provisions from ridiculous to tolerable. The bill proposes to cut from 15 to 10 working days the time allowed govern- ment agencies to say if they will even comply with a request for public records; compel most documents (if the answer is yes) to be turned over within 30 days (currently there is no deadline); reduce the costs public bodies may charge for providing said documents; and establish an Office of Freedom of Information Act Review to hear appeals should records be denied (now the only recourse is to hire a lawyer and go to circuit court). That this is even considered “reform” explains why the Palmetto State ranked 50th in the nation for access to public information in a study released last sum- mer. South Carolina’s failure to provide an appeal process or impose penalties on agencies that violate FOI laws was a prime factor in the high “corruption risk” awarded South Carolina by the State Integrity Investigation, a project of the Cen- ter for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International. That rating played a sizable part in the governor’s decision to create an inde- pendent Ethics Reform Commission chaired by former attorneys general Travis Medlock and Henry McMaster, who, as luck would have it, share Rick Quinn’s view of legislative hypocrisy. Their report recommends that comprehensive eth- ics reform include the deletion of the FOIA exemption for “memoranda, corre- spondence, and working papers in the possession of individual members of the General Assembly or their immediate staffs.” Elected leaders and government bureaucrats forget too easily whom they serve; all this legislation seeks to do is remind them. As Quinn said, lawmakers have had a year to think it over. Only the basest hypocrites will vote “no” this time around.
  15. 15. EDITORIAL/COLUMN IN SUPPORT OF FOIA AllWeekly Division THIRD PLACE: Union County News Graham Williams Had they obeyed the law, Union County's school trustees could have avoided the embarrassing situa- tion they've created for themselves in recent weeks. Two months ago, Columbia attorney David Duff briefed board members about the Freedom of Information Act and how it applies to their meet- ings. He reminded them about what can and cannot be discussed in exec- utive session and told them not to change their agenda during a meet- ing. He also warned them to stick to the issue they are discussing in exec- utive session and avoid “topic drift.” His words apparently fell on deaf ears. Trustees violated the state's Freedom of Information Act at least three times in their attempts to pre- vent Jessica Sherbert from speaking to them in open session about incon- sistent policies. Not only did the school board stifle public discus- sion about district policies, they tried to switch Sherbert's place on the agenda from “public com- ments” to executive session. Even worse, a board member confirmed that they discussed Sherbert's request while they were behind closed doors for an unrelated contractual matter. The board's initial concern about allowing Sherbert to speak was that she might mention some- one's name or that a person could be identified by their title. Then how do they explain the email released by the school district when Chris Booker was pulled from the North-South All Star Game? Since Booker was the only Union County High School athlete chosen to play, the email all but called him by name. When reporters' protests prevented them from having their way, trustees voted to table the issue until their next meeting. Last summer, each trustee was provided a copy of the Freedom of Information Act, courtesy of the S.C. Press Association. Had even one of them taken time to read it, they would have realized that their actions violated the law. Instead, board members acted blindly, like lem- mings following each other over a cliff. As a result, the public is left with the impression that trustees feel like they are above the law. Voters elected these board members with the hope that each one would do what's best for their chil- dren. Disregarding the law is probably not what they had in mind. Graham Williams Trustees’ actions set bad example
  16. 16. EDITORIAL/COLUMN IN SUPPORT OF FOIA AllWeekly Division SECOND PLACE: The News & Reporter Travis Jenkins StopThe folks that make the rules are not exempt from following rules that apply to them. In June, the South Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that amending the meeting agenda of a public body once a meeting has begun does not jibe with the state’s Freedom of Information Act. The court’s ruling stated, in part “To allow an amendment of the agenda regarding substan- tive public matters undercuts the purpose of the notice requirement.” That ruling certainly makes it tougher for government bodies to carry out their business. Some things do come up between the time an agenda is set and a meeting is held. The court touched on that in its ruling, saying matters of convenience and timeliness do not matter where the Freedom of Information Act is concerned. “We recognize our decision may be inconve- nient in some instances, but the purpose of FOIA is best served by prohibiting public bodies governed by FOIA from amending their agendas during meetings.”
  17. 17. EDITORIAL/COLUMN IN SUPPORT OF FOIA AllWeekly Division FIRST PLACE: The Independent Voice of Blythewood and Fairfield County James Denton The Price of SecrecyT h e r e ’ s no substi- tute for disclosure. The more the people know about what their government is doing, how they’re doing it and why, the more perfect is our union. After all, let us not forget that the people are, essentially, the government. That was true in the beginning of this great experiment with Democracy, some 230 years ago, and it remains true now. Those venerated halls of power, from the White House to the County Courthouse, belong to the citizens. So whether it’s something as complex as domestic spying with an army of Orwellian robots or as seemingly simple as emails transmit- ted by a county administrator, all of those things belong to all of us. The circuit board inside a government drone, the computer used to transmit emails, even the internet bandwidth through which those emails were transmitted – all of it, and more, was paid for with your tax dollars. Therefore, you already own all of that information. So there should be no additional cost associated with a citizen getting access to any of that information. Fairfield County, however, appears to have a different point of view; at l h d The Voice Speaks James Denton editor hardline stance with the Columbia TV station is baffling. To attempt to charge anything, let alone the ex- orbitant amount of $29,000, flies in the face of the very spirit of the FOIA. That the County was willing to spend $12,000 in an attempt to obfuscate these records only casts a dark cloud of secrecy over the whole email affair. The Fairfield County School Dis- trict, on the other hand, was hit with a similar FOIA request by a local news outlet not too many years ago. While the District, at the time, was not in its best days of compliance and openness, they did indeed comply, hand-delivering a large cardboard box of paper copies of six months’ worth of Board member emails. And at no charge to the local media. If the School District can handle such a request, what could the Coun- ty’s argument be? When the County first got into this ugly staring contest with the broadcast media last spring, our unsolicited advice to them was simple: Just give them what they’re asking for. If you fight them, you lose; even if you win. The Freedom of Information Act is not just a tool for the news media. It is for everyone. But in reality, it is a law that should be obsolete. Public records are public. You’ve paid for them. You own them outright. Get- h h ld b
  18. 18. MAGAZINE OR SPECIAL PUBLICATION Associate/Individual Division THIRD PLACE: GSA Business Market Facts 2013 2012 Sponsored by MARKET FACTS2013 SPONSORS
  19. 19. MAGAZINE OR SPECIAL PUBLICATION Associate/Individual Division SECOND PLACE: SCBIZ Fall 2013 SCBizNews 1439StuartEngalsBlvd. Suite200 Mt.Pleasant,SC29464 CHANGESERVICEREQUESTED Fall 2013 Economic Development in S.C. | Special Section: Cities Mean Business | S.C. Delivers Brewing industry S. C. beer makers help craft favorable laws Jaime Tenny and husband, David Merritt, co-owners of COAST Brewing in North Charleston.
  20. 20. MAGAZINE OR SPECIAL PUBLICATION Associate/Individual Division FIRST PLACE: Lake Wylie Today Fall 2013, Issue 3 LakeWylie Fall 2013 | Issue 3 The Green IssueReduce your footprint and save money by using tips from our local experts Alpaca Farming A pack of alpacas makes a family farm complete Chamber Spotlight Lake Wylie Chamber of Commerce news and information TODAY
  21. 21. FEATURE SPECIALTY PUBLICATION OR MAGAZINE AllWeekly Division THIRD PLACE: The Press & Standard 2013 Lowcountry Rocks try2013 Taking Flight The Lowcountry Regional Airport isn’t just a blip on the radar for aviators. Rice Festival Revived How Colleton’s premier festival ascended back to prominence. Kickin’ Back with Kevin A conversation with Colleton County’s affable administrator. Old 21 Journey down the road that connects the rural communities in the heart of Colleton County.
  22. 22. FEATURE SPECIALTY PUBLICATION OR MAGAZINE AllWeekly Division SECOND PLACE: Greenville Journal TOWN COMPLIMENTARY COPY T O W N C A R O L I N A . C O M N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 3 CONNECTION IS THE HEART OF COMMUNITY T O W N C A R O L I N A . C O M of Essence Giving The
  23. 23. FEATURE SPECIALTY PUBLICATION OR MAGAZINE AllWeekly Division FIRST PLACE: Myrtle Beach Herald Myrtle Beach: A Retrospective 75th Anniversary of Myrtle Beach $495
  24. 24. NEWS SPECIAL EDITION OR SECTION AllWeekly Division THIRD PLACE: Greenville Journal Upstate Business Journal SEPTEMBER 27, 2013 How the law is shifting the insurance landscape and bringing new players to the field THE BUSINESS OF OBAMACARE
  25. 25. NEWS SPECIAL EDITION OR SECTION AllWeekly Division SECOND PLACE: The Lancaster News Discover Lancaster County
  26. 26. NEWS SPECIAL EDITION OR SECTION AllWeekly Division FIRST PLACE: The Clinton Chronicle Horizons 2013 The Clinton Chronicle’s 2012 Citizen of the Year is Rev. Mims Camm Page 3 Horizons2013A progress edition of The Clinton Chronicle Together Inside 3 :: Rev. Mims Camm, Citizen of the Year 4 :: Adair Rogers 5 :: Amanda Munyan 6 :: Harry Agnew 7 :: Joey Meadors 8 :: Melvin Bailey 9 :: Stephen Taylor 10 :: Erin Frost Advertisers 2 :: PRTC Forest Hill Funeral Home 3 :: Amedisys CNNGA 4 :: Founders FCU 5 :: Laurens County 6 :: Epting Turf & Tractor 7 :: Town of Gray Court The Kennedy Mortuary 8 :: CeramTec 11 :: Aaron Industries Sadler Hughes Apothecary Wilson Tractor 12 :: AT&T Working Signs of Progress. Heavy machinery sits on a tract in Owings between the ZF Transmissions building (background) and the land where Uniscite has broken ground for its Laurens County location. Its proximity to the Greenville-Spartanburg I-85 Cor- ridor is making the Gray Court, Owings, Fountain Inn area of northern Laurens County attractive to investors and to the SC Department of Commerce for sites visits by potential manu- facturing partners. - Photo by Vic MacDonald Harry Agnew Page 6 at Laurens County Chamber of Commerce banquet with Miss SC Ali Rogers
  27. 27. SPORTS SPECIAL EDITION OR SECTION AllWeekly Division THIRD PLACE: The News & Reporter The Greatest Season THE GREATEST SEASON Chester County Football 2013 THE GREATEST SEASON A Special Supplement of NEWS & REPORTER THE
  28. 28. SPORTS SPECIAL EDITION OR SECTION AllWeekly Division SECOND PLACE: The Independent Voice of Blythewood and Fairfield County Fall Sports Preview 2013
  29. 29. SPORTS SPECIAL EDITION OR SECTION AllWeekly Division FIRST PLACE: Union County News UCHS Football: A work of art UCHS FOOTBALL A WORK OF ART Season preview TJ Foster Jordan Spencer Team photo Roster, Schedule &More Jamarcus Henderson Monday, August 26, 2013
  30. 30. REVIEW PORTFOLIO AllWeekly Division THIRD PLACE: The News-Era Joseph Garris Jr. By Joseph Garris Jr Entertainment Editor Olympus Has Fallen hits some good marks here and there but ulti- mately ends up falling apart in the later moments of the movie. Still, it’s probably the film February’s Die Hard should have been. The comparisons to the John McClain action films are unavoid- able. Those movies were always known for placing the main hero in situations where the fate of the coun- try rested squarely on his shoulders. Though McClain is missing and secret service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) doesn’t have nearly the cool catch phrases, it feels a bit famil- iar. Considering A Good Day to Die Hard completely bombed at the the- ater, Olympus might have been the better Die Hard. Olympus opens with an introduc- tion to Banning and several other secret service agents in charge of pro- tecting the President. It is made pret- ty clear that Banning is the cream of the crop when it comes to protection personnel for the headman and not too long into the movie, the audience finds out way. Faced with an emotional situation in which Banning has to choose between saving President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) or First Lady Margaret Asher (Ashley Judd), he makes the right decision – even if it has terrible consequences. He loses the President’s trust and eventually decides to step away from his job. Banning seems pretty comfortable with his new situation until terror strikes the White House at the hands of North Koreans in a heavily planned sneak attack. Feeling obligated to save the President, Banning rushes to assist. The first quarter of the movie is well paced and developed with nice detail. Viewers get the opportunity to learn a little bit about the President and his connection with Banning. Add that to the quality depth given to Banning, and the movie immediately gets a shot of genuine sentiment. But that’s where it stops. There are a couple more characters that slip through the cracks when it comes to providing the audience with an interesting back-story. Morgan Freeman as Speaker of the House Allan Trumbull seemed interesting and the dynamics of assuming the Presidency after the capture of President Asher could have been a worthy exploration. Where Olympus doesn’t live up to the Die Hard comparison is the impact of North Korean villain Kang (Rick Yune). As a bad guy, he only feels mildly menacing and wasn’t able to bring the terror the part needed to balance out Banning’s ultimate action hero persona. In the second half of the movie, much of the bad begins to outweigh the good. There are so many glaring- ly implausible moments that audi- ences will begin to labor through the rest of the movie. As the writing gets clumsier and the script begins loading up on clichés, Olympus doesn’t just fall, it plummets. Easily the worst scene of the movie comes when one of the American hostages begins reciting the Pledge of Allegiance as she’s being dragged from the room. The moment is cringe-worthy and many viewers during this particular showing began to laugh. Unfortunately, comedic relief was not what Director Antoine Fuqua was going for during this moment. Fuqua does a good enough job with the attack sequences and most are fun to watch despite lacking believability. Olympus Has Fallen starts off pretty strong but quickly falls apart faster than a wet tortilla. The few bright spots aren’t nearly enough to justify viewing this movie. The good news is a film based off the exact premise is due out this summer and it stars Channing Tatum. [Cue to the screaming girls] Olympus doesn’t just fall, it plummets Olympus Has Fallen DIRECTOR: Antoine Fuqua CAST: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman RUNNING TIME: 1 hour 59 minutes RATING: R for strong vio- lence and language through- out. GRADE: C- By Joseph Garris Jr Entertainment Editor Gravity is this year’s film to mar- vel just as 2009’s Avatar had people rushing to the theaters to see what the fuss was all about. Technically and visually, the movie s masterful and flawless – truly one of hose once in a lifetime theater experi- ences that you just can’t afford to miss. Director Alfonso Cuaron hits he viewer with stunning imagery and he most realistic and effective tension o reach the big screen maybe ever. Gravity opens with three U.S. astronauts floating around in space, asked with repairing the Hubble Space elescope. We meet Matt Kowalski George Clooney) and Dr. Ryan Stone Sandra Bullock). They make small alk as they do some routine mainte- nance but a sudden warning from NASA quickens their pace. We learn that the Russians have destroyed one of their own satellites and the debris is rushing towards Ryan and Matt at super speeds. The quiet and peaceful existence in space now becomes chaotic and terrifying. The telescope is suddenly destroyed by fast-moving debris and the third astronaut that the audience is never ntroduced to is killed. Ryan becomes detached from her ether and floats away from Matt into open space with diminishing oxygen. Matt rescues her a short time later but he danger is far from over as the two are left to figure out a way back home. Tension is the name of the game with Gravity, which utilizes the tool o carry the audience from one moment to the next. At times, it’s exhausting but so well done that it’s hard to find fault with the over-flowing suspense. It’s troublesome to find a period in the film where breathing happens more than a few consecutive minutes. In fact, Cuaron could probably market the heck out of this movie as the most effective cure for the common hiccup. Gravity is one of those movies that tickle so many fears at once. A viewer can anticipate feelings of claustropho- bia, vertigo, agoraphobia, and mono- phobia in the 90-minute runtime. This isn’t to suggest that these issues are likely to have people rushing for the exits in repulsion. The point is that the movie is so effective in what it wants to accomplish, audiences will be incredibly absorbed into the experi- ences. Dialogue is limited in the film and for good reason. A greater overall appeal can be had when audiences are able to enjoy just seeing and experi- encing the film. Conversation between characters in this movie is about as necessary as it was for Chuck Noland in 2000’s Castaway. It’s all about the situation and try- ing to capture audiences to the extent that they feel like they’re truly going through these experiences right along with the character. Gravity shoots for that and nails it. Bullock and Clooney turn in great performances but as good as Clooney is, his part could have easily been played by anybody else alongside Bullock and it wouldn’t have made the slightest difference. She commands the screen with her greatest individual performance to date, putting her entire collection of talents on full display. You breathe as she breathes, you sweat when she sweats, and the adrenaline that rushes through her body bursts right off that screen into your own body. Cuaron should get a lot of the cred- it for pulling that off but Bullock makes it happen with a truly gripping performance. Gravity isn’t just a film. It’s a cin- ematic experience. You will walk away exhausted and relieved all at once but more importantly than anything, you’ll be completely enthralled by one of the best films in years. Gravity is a cinematic experience not to miss Gravity DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuaron CAST: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney RUNNING TIME: 1 Hr, 31 mins RATING: PG-13 for intense perilous sequences, some dis- turbing images and brief strong language. GRADE: A By Joseph Garris Jr Entertainment Editor Predictable plotline aside, what Prisoners does so effectively is it takes the audience and throws them right into the middle of emotional interactions from the grief stricken parents involved, creating incredible realism. Add to that the ferocious perform- ance of Hugh Jackson and Prisoners truly is a well-crafted psychological thriller that evokes all the targeted emotions it aimed to get from the viewer. The film opens with a Thanksgiving celebration between two families, Keller and Grace Dover (Hugh Jackman, Maria Bello) and Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrence Howard, Viola Davis). It’s a fairly normal day between the two close- knit families but all that changes when their youngest daughters go missing. A big search gets underway for the girls, led by Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) and the first break leads law enforcement to an RV that had been parked nearby. Inside the RV is mentally challenged Alex Jones (Paul Dano). No physical evidence turns up to suggest Alex was involved but Keller has a hard time accepting that. He decides to kidnap and imprison Alex in order to beat any information he can out of him. Along the way, Detective Loki uncovers numerous details through a slue of twists. All the while, Keller is pushed to his breaking point and wonders if he’s making the right decisions. Parents should beware because the level of anxiety created surrounding the idea of a missing child really does work successfully. The reason is, Director Denis Villeneuve and writer Aaron Guzikowski decide to unfold the suspense in a steady and effective manner. The result is panic amongst the parents involved, which is easily felt throughout the film by the view- er. Prisoners has audiences question- ing their own rational. Would you react with the same “whatever it takes” approach as Keller? Would you fall into a dangerous level of depres sion like Grace? It’s tough to get an audience to buy into a story enoug to develop those kinds of thought but Prisoners manages it without an trouble. We’re introduced to the vigilant torture angle midway through th movie and while at first many wil understand Keller’s actions, mor viewers will begin to questio whether Keller has gone too far. It’ an intriguing aspect for a movie t force the audience to question whethe they should continue to pull for th good guy or whether his actions ha gone too far to accept. To make this film stand out abov similar crime stories, it is cast with some of the best actors in the busi ness. Gyllenhaal, Howard, and Davi all turn in powerful performances bu it’s Jackman’s Keller that hits it hard This performance is unlike any thing we have seen out of Jackman Keller is emotionally derailing righ before your eyes. His actions ar extreme and while some would ques tion his decisions, the vast majority of viewers will be able to sympathiz with Keller throughout. The charac ter’s determination will consume th audience and total credit for that has t go to the acting chops of Jackman. Prisoners is gripping and force audiences to go through some interna questioning. The suspense and charac ter development provides good eye candy but the most evident reason t see the movie is to enjoy the excep tional acting of everyone involved. Jackman impresses in well-crafted thriller Prisoners DIRECTOR: Denis Villeneuve CAST: Huge Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard RUNNING TIME: 2 hours 33 minutes RATING: R for disturbing vio- lent content including torture, and language throughout. GRADE: B+
  31. 31. REVIEW PORTFOLIO AllWeekly Division SECOND PLACE: The Greer Citizen William Buchheit Rating: 7 out of 10 W hen it comes to being depend- able, Scott Weiland is about as low on the ladder as Axl Rose, Jim Morrison and Sid Vi- cious. You never know if he’s going to show up to a gig at all, and if he does, it’s anybody’s guess what shape he’ll be in. I remember I bought some tickets to see his band, Stone Temple Pilots, in Simpsonville a few years ago, but it was cancelled due to Weiland’s recur- rent substance abuse problems. Indeed, few singers have battled addiction as long and hard as the 45-year- old STP/Velvet Revolver singer. Though Weiland reportedly gave up her- oin years ago, he is still known for being sloshed during performances and going on drunken rants between songs. For those reasons, his solo club tour with sup- porting band The Wild- abouts has received very mixed reviews. Up until 3 p.m. on Sunday, I was checking the Fillmore’s website to make sure the show wasn’t cancelled. I went to the club that night hoping for the best but fearing the worst, expecting a washed-up grunge star fading into the sunset of his career. I don’t know if he recently cleaned up his act or if we just caught him on a good night, but Weiland was on top of his game Sunday night. Following a spirited set by hard rocking blues band “The Last Internationale,” he came on stage wearing a dark vest, white shirt and black tie. With sun- glasses on and a cigarette dangling from his lips, he had the rock star look down pat. But as he bent forward and blew the crowd a kiss, the jury was still out on what kind of shape he was in. Within a minute of the opening track, “Cracker- man,” however, it was apparent that his voice had the same legendary force and range of two decades ago. His energy was impressive as well, as he danced across stage during songs like he was having the time of his life. Billed as the “Purple to the Core” tour, the concert featured mostly songs from STP’s first two albums, with a few solo tunes and covers thrown in. “Vaseline,” “Unglued” and “Big Empty,” all hits from the “Purple” record, provided the best mo- ments of the night, taking fans on a loud and grungy trip down memory lane. The “Core” songs were also pretty good, although early ‘90’s anthems, “Creep,” “Plush” and “Sex Type Thing” were sorely missed. Weiland’s best solo song of the night was “Paralysis,” a breezy and bittersweet rocker from his 2008 “Happy in Galoshes” album. As for the covers, the band’s renditions of Bow- ie’s “The Jean Genie” and the Doors “Roadhouse Blues” were both first- rate, the latter bringing the packed club to a froth for the encore. The only song of the night that seemed completely out of place was a cover of The Libertines’ 2004 new-wave number “Can’t Stand Me Now,” which featured Wei- land trading vocals with his rhythm guitarist. The backing band, like Weiland, were charismatic and energetic throughout, leaving a pool of sweat behind them when they exited the stage for the final time. What will become of Weiland is anybody’s guess, but Sunday night’s show at the Fillmore proved he still has plenty left in the tank if he can keep his health intact. That may be a big “if,” but I’m grateful I got to see him in top form on this particular night in such an intimate venue. Indeed, he still has the stage presence, charisma and vocal delivery of a liv- ing grunge legend, but all the humility and gratitude of a middle-aged perform- er who still appreciates his fans. “WEST OF MEMPHIS” OFFERS FINAL LOOK AT INFAMOUS CASE Rating: 8 out of 10 The West Memphis Three murder case is one of the most compelling and troubling in modern US history. If you’re not familiar with the crime, here are the essential details: In May, 1993, the bodies of three 8-year-old boys were found near a creek in the Robin Hood Hills section of West Memphis, Ark. The police quickly arrested three teenage outcasts known primarily for dressing in black and listening to heavy metal music. The teens, who quickly became known as the “West Memphis Three,” were found guilty of murder after being subjected to a modern- day witch trial. Prosecu- tors convinced both the jury and public they had tortured and killed the boys as part of some satanic ritual. Two of the defendants, James Bald- win and Jason Miskelley, got life sentences, while a third, Damien Echols, was scheduled to be executed. Three years later, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinof- ski made an HBO docu- mentary called “Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills,” that revealed major discrepan- cies in the case, open- ing a can of worms that would garner widespread media attention. Soon, thousands of people were writing Arkansas lawmakers and demand- ing a retrial, as stars like Eddie Vedder, Patti Smith and Johnny Depp raised money to provide them legal assistance. In August, 2011, follow- ing 18 years behind bars, the West Memphis Three were finally released from prison after issuing an Alford Plea, an absurd legal option that allows a defendant to plead guilty while somehow maintain- ing their innocence. It was an outlandish end to a case that will be writ- ten about for decades to come. Produced by Echols and Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings”) and directed by veteran docu- mentarian Amy Berg (“De- liver Us from Evil”) “West of Memphis” provides a gripping and articulate overview of the case. It should be noted, however, that the film is more a supplement to its three “Paradise Lost” predeces- sors than a substitute. Spanning 15 years and running over eight hours, Berlinger’s and Sinofski’s trilogy had the advan- tage of depicting case events as they happened, showing a vast amount of courtroom footage and personal interviews. In comparison, Berg’s work fails to convey the intensity of paranoia, rage and terror that perme- ated West Memphis in the wake of the triple murder. Yet, while the “Paradise Lost” films did a wonder- ful job introducing and developing all of the case’s relevant players and suspects, they also led the viewer down quite a few dead-end roads. The second one, for instance, pointed to Mark Byars as a likely culprit despite the fact that even the West Memphis Three now proclaim his inno- cence. In “West of Memphis,” Berg convincingly points the finger at another sus- pect, Terry Hobbs. The film spends about half an hour chronicling Hobbs’ history of domestic vio- lence and inability to pro- vide a satisfactory alibi for his whereabouts on the evening in question. Hobbs, the stepfather of one of the murdered boys, was never even interro- gated by police, even after a 2007 DNA test linked him to a hair found at the murder scene. Ironically, he voluntarily opened himself up to question- ing in 2009 when he sued Dixie Chicks singer and West Memphis 3 advocate Natalie Maines for defa- mation of character. The footage of that deposi- tion is featured here and certainly doesn’t do any favors for Hobbs’ cred- ibility. But the sad fact is that Hobbs will likely never endure further question- ing. By pleading guilty via the Alford plea, the West Memphis Three effectively closed the case. That means neither the judge nor the West Memphis PD ever had to admit fault or wrongdoing, and that the real killer (or killers) may never be known. The thing “West of Memphis” does exception- ally well is debunk much of the testimony that swayed jurors in the 1994 trials. As it turns out, some of those witnesses were in trouble with the law themselves, and lied on the stand simply to avoid jail time. Berg even includes a segment on turtle bites in order to disprove some of the original medical testi- mony about the victim’s injuries. There is a lot more to the documentary, howev- er, than a hodgepodge of information. Berg pres- ents everything through a very human scope. She spends a lot of time on Echols, the falsely presumed ringleader and the most articulate of the three defendants. Echols’ relationship with his wife, a pretty and intelligent landscape architect who began writing him when he was on death row, could have made a docu- mentary by itself. At nearly two-and-a-half hours, the film is long but never tedious. It explores many of the failings of our justice system, both in Arkansas and across America. In essence, the trial and imprisonment of the West Memphis Three has become a microcosm of the class warfare that has permeated our courts and prisons for decades. If you are poor and uneducated, guilt and in- nocence don’t always mat- ter. “West of Memphis,” like the three wrongly accused men it depicts, owes its entire existence to the three “Paradise Lost” films that came before it. Without them, there would have been no reviewing the case, no criticism and no grass- roots pursuit of justice. And that’s the most sig- nificant and redemptive lesson of Berg’s docu- mentary – the power of investigative journalism to triumph over prejudice and injustice. Weiland comes correct to Charlotte ENTERTAINMENT REVIEW WILLIAM BUCHHEIT PHOTO | SUBMITTED ‘West of Memphis’is a documentary about a 1993 crime in West Memphis, Ark. I started reading Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” a few weeks ago; a book many people say has changed their outlook on things. The novel and its cult status got me thinking about the books I have read and which ones have taught me the most. The follow- ing, listed chronologically, are the five novels and nonfiction books that I’ve found the most important and educational over the years. FICTION 1. “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886) What it’s about: Lawyer John Utterson learns that his client, Dr. Henry Jekyll, has entered into an acquaintance with a mysterious man named Hyde. The former is a highly esteemed middle-aged doc- tor while the latter is a revolt- ing, sinful and violent fiend. Ultimately, Utterson discovers they are the same person. What it taught me: Steven- son’s timeless novella gives a chilling yet eloquent account of man’s duplicitous nature. It’s influence on Freud and much of 20th Century psychology is inescapable, but the book also serves as a perfect allegory for alcohol- ism and drug addiction. On a surface level, it is a universal morality tale warning against the dangers of surrender- ing to our most primitive impulses. Similar books: Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,”(1892) Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1890) 2. “An American Tragedy” by Theodore Dreiser (1925) What it’s about: Dreiser’s nearly 1,000-page work is in many ways the great American novel. It tells the tragic story of Clyde Griffiths, who is born and raised poor then goes to live with his rich uncle in Chicago. There he must choose between the rich girl he loves and poor girl he’s knocked up. What it taught me: There are a lot of themes to chew on here but the heaviest is the author’s fierce determinism – the belief that a man’s fate is determined primarily by his environment. The novel is also a meditation on the internal struggle between conscience and desire that plagues us all, especially young and impressionable men like its protagonist. Similar books: Richard Wright’s“Native Son”(1940), Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s“Crime and Punishment”(1866) 3. “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925) What it’s about: A young man named Nick Carraway ventures to the Big Apple where he meets up with his cousin Daisy Buchanan, a pretty but flaky socialite. Un- knowingly, he rents a cottage right beside the mansion of Jay Gatsby, a rich and colorful man of the same age who has made his money illegally. Soon, Nick finds himself in the middle of both Daisy’s and Gatsby’s torrid romance and the alcoholic drama of the rich and careless. What it taught me: Ever heard the phrase“Love is blind?” Fitzgerald’s master- piece beautifully depicts the American tendency to idealize what we can’t have. More specifically, it shows our inclination to see people not as they really are, but as what we want them to be. Daisy thus becomes a symbol of the American dream, outwardly beautiful and allur- ing yet ultimately empty and destructive Similar books: Fitzgerald’s “The Beautiful and Damned” (1922), John O’Hara’s“Ap- pointment in Samarra”(1934) 4. “1984”by George Orwell (1949) What it’s about: In this, the ultimate dystopian novel, Orwell creates a London where the government has complete control of its citizens. History books are rewritten and people can be arrested just for thinking anarchic thoughts (thought crimes). Surveillance cameras are everywhere and children will even turn their parents over to the authorities should they say something wrong about Big Brother (the gov- ernment). Our protagonist, Winston Smith, eventually becomes fed up with this way of life and revolts. What it taught me: It’s no coincidence that the novel was published right after WWII, as Orwell’s setting re- sembles the Nazi Germany of the 1940s. The book explores the power of brainwashing and intimidation and warns of the perils that occur when a government becomes too powerful. In this new cen- tury, Orwell’s novel remains relevant as our government uses“the war on terror”to ramp up surveillance and monitoring programs. Similar books: Aldous Huxley’s“Brave New World” (1932) 5. “Deliverance”by James Dickey (1970) What it’s about: Four middle- aged friends from Atlanta head into the wilderness to kayak a river. The trip becomes a life-or-death struggle when hillbillies at- tack them. What it taught me: Much like Joseph Conrad’s“Heart of Darkness”and William Golding’s“Lord of the Flies,” Dickey’s work is a testament to man’s savagery when removed from civilization. Horrific but poetic, grotesque yet beautiful,“Deliverance”is one of the best-written books you’ll ever read. Think of all those movies where the char- acters’vacation turns into a nightmare. It all started with this original, which inspired a pretty terrifying film adapta- tion of its own. Similar books: William Golding’s“Lord of the Flies” (1954), Jack Ketchum’s“Off Season”(1980) NON-FICTION 1.“The Bible” What it taught me: This timeless work has given pur- pose to billions. The history of God’s relationship with mankind is full of valuable lessons and unforgettable characters. Most significant, of course, are the four gos- pels of the New Testament, which lay the foundation for the entire Christian faith and provide dramatic examples of God’s love, power and mercy through Jesus. 2.“The Road Less Traveled” by Dr. M. Scott Peck (1978) What it’s about: Peck’s superb work begins with the sentence,“Life is difficult.” The licensed psychiatrist then instructs the reader how to live a life of fulfillment and meaning. Perhaps the ultimate self-help book, the author provides important lessons about love, faith and discipline. What it taught me: Much like his esteemed predecessor C.S. Lewis, Peck teaches that spiritual growth is necessary to human development. Unfortunately, he also sug- gests that such growth can only come through a certain amount of suffering. In try- ing to avoid that inevitable suffering, humans fail to grow and subject themselves to what he calls“neurotic suf- fering.” Peck further insists that love is not a feeling but an action, and that delayed gratification is fundamental to both mental and spiritual health (which he insists are the same thing, anyways). All in all, a wonderful roadmap to life. 3. “The Devil’s Butcher Shop”by Roger Morris (1983) What it’s about: Ever wonder what hell is like? It’s probably not too different from the events depicted in this book. In 1980, prisoners took over the maximum-security state penitentiary of New Mexico and killed over 30 people in the bloodiest prison riot in American history. What it taught me: Probably the most horrific book I’ve ever read, Morris’work ex- plores man’s capacity for both extreme evil and surpris- ing mercy. The murderous inmates aren’t the only bad guys here, as governmental neglect, severe overcrowding and sadistic guards made the bloodbath all but inevitable. The author uses compelling journalism and chilling prose to depict the atrocities that can result when men are stripped of their humanity. 4.“Fire and Fear: The Inside Story of Mike Tyson”by Jose Torres (1989) What it’s about: Torres’book was the first biography of one of the most exciting and con- troversial athletes of the 20th Century. Published about six months before Tyson’s first loss, Torres’biography brilliantly examines the early life that made his subject the most intimidating and self- destructive fighter of all time. What it taught me: I read this one when I was 13-years-old and had just fallen in love with boxing. As a former light heavyweight champ, Torres certainly knows the ins and outs of the sport. But it is his psychological portrait of the then 22-year-old champ that forms a modern-day argument to the powers of determinism and the irrevers- ible damage created by child- hood neglect. In hindsight, the book could be called “Prelude to a Fall,”as Tyson would lose his title and be convicted of rape in the years that immediately followed its publication. 5.“Great White Shark” by Richard Ellis and John E. Mc- Cosker (1995) What it’s about: A fascinating history and study of one of the world’s oldest and fiercest animals. What it taught me:“Jaws” author Peter Benchley called this work“the most enter- taining and comprehensive book ever written about the world’s most fascinating predator.” Indeed, Ellis’and McCosker’s landmark publica- tion tells you everything you need to know about the great white, covering everything from why the sharks attack to their mating behavior. I’ve been obsessed with this animal since the second grade and have read dozens of books about it. With it’s fabulous illustrations, photography and research, this is the one I always come back to. The 10 books that taught me the most THE BUCK STOPS HERE WILLIAM BUCHHEIT Rating: 7 out of 10 Run time: 133 minutes Rated:‘R’for language, vio- lence and nudity F or the most part, British filmmaker Steve McQueen was an excellent choice to direct “12 Years a Slave.” His nationality will keep the American media from politicizing the work, keeping the focus on what’s really important – the story. And what an amazing one it is. Based on the real-life 1853 memoir by Solo- mon Northup, the movie details the nightmarish plight of a free black man living in New York who is kidnapped and shipped to a slave market in the South. There, he is sold, torn from his family and forced to endure a dozen years of interminable labor and torment. Known for such no- holds-barred character studies as “Hunger” and “Shame,” McQueen has directed his most visually and emotionally arrest- ing film to date. Yes it is brutal and tough to watch at times, but that’s what makes “12 Years a Slave” so moving – its realism. Every detail, from the masters’ clothes to the slaves’ scars rings true. Most significantly, so do the performances. As Northup, Chiwetel Ejiofor is a perfect blend of expression and restraint, while Lupita Nyong’s char- acter, Patsey, illustrates slavery’s psychological toll with remarkable grace. As the villainous slave driver, Michael Fass- bender is also magnetic. He deserved an Oscar nomination for his last McQueen film, “Shame,” and will likely receive one for his performance here. As far as the screenplay goes, “12 Years a Slave” unfolds more like a col- lection of short stories than a complete tale. More than anything, it’s a character study of three people who administered and suffered unspeakable real life horrors. It is also an intriguing look at how man can mold religion to meet his own desires. But apart from being a visceral condemna- tion of slavery and tribute to human will, it’s hard to discern what McQueen’s work is trying to teach us. The scenes of Northup with his fam- ily feel comparatively flimsy, and the end of the film seems more like a Hallmark moment than it should. Also, I found it strange that children are so conspicuously absent from the story. It’s hard to believe they didn’t play a larger role in plantation life. Of course, keeping children out of the mix could have been McQueen’s one act of restraint in this otherwise merciless look at a the darkest chapter of US history. ‘12 Years a Slave’ a rough ride through a dark chapter PHOTO | COURTESY OF FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES ‘12 Years a Slave’ tells the story of a man who has his freedom taken away through kidnapping and slavery. MOVIE REVIEW WILLIAM BUCHHEIT
  32. 32. REVIEW PORTFOLIO AllWeekly Division FIRST PLACE: Free Times August Krickel film clips of New York to wigs that perfectly capture the appropriate vintage look, to natty suits and hats that place the characters right in the middle of the Cotton Club. The musical direction by Walter Graham is superb, and it’s clear that the band is hav- ing a blast. So much fun is going on, in fact, that one easily forgets the segregation that caused Harlem to create its own social and cultural scene until “Black and Blue.” Here the cast members are all seated, as they sing the plaintive lyrics: “I’m so forlorn / Life’s just a thorn / My heart is torn / Why was I born? / What did I do? / To be so black and blue?” The moment just breaks your heart, but then the tempo livens and the fun starts back again.  Ain’t Misbehavin’ undeniably delivers the goods — just as long as you aren’t expecting dialogue, or a plot. The energy and vitality of director Terrance Henderson’s cast is infec- tious. So be forewarned, but then just sit back and enjoy.  Will local audiences tire of musical re- vues and cabaret shows, no matter how well done? As a wise man once observed, “One never knows, do one?” The production runs through July 20 at Trustus Theatre; tion, or visit trustus.org. This is an edited version of a THEATER REVIEW By August Krickel arts&culture Ain’t Misbehavin Delivers the Goods Y ou always have to be careful how you describe a performance. I learned that as I took a break from writing this review and joined some friends for pints and trivia at the Publick House. One asked me about Ain’t Misbehavin’, the musical running at Trustus Theatre. I explained how well done the production was and how much fun I had, but also made sure she realized that the show is essentially a revue of hit songs from Fats Waller. “So there’s not much of a plot?” she asked. “No, there’s no plot, no dialogue — it’s just a cabaret show, like a Vegas-style show,” I clarified. “So it wasn’t that good?” Mortified, I tried to explain that it was re- ally well done — but ultimately, one’s enjoy- ment depends on what one is looking for. Ain’t Misbehavin’ (originally conceived by Richard Maltby Jr. and Murray Horwitz) offers two hours of upbeat jazz, blues and swing, performed by five of Trustus’ finest. The play won three Tony Awards in 1978 for its tribute to the music of the irrepressible composer, pianist and bandleader Thomas “Fats” Waller. As such, it perfectly recreates the vibe of the posh clubs of the Harlem Renaissance, a time when African-American artists were finding both a musical and creative voice, and increasing acceptance and popularity.   Designed by Brandon McIver and Ter- rance Henderson, the set is basic, suggesting the interior of a nightclub. A seven-piece jazz combo, led by Camille Jones on piano, performs from a bandstand in the center, flanked by a sweeping staircase. On either side are a bar and a lounge area. Most songs are performed in front of these, while any performer not in the number carries on naturally in the background, pouring a drink, watching (or ignoring) the singer, or whispering to a girlfriend.  Director and choreographer Hender- son has wisely cast some familiar faces, singers who can really bring out the nuances of each song. Each singer develops a sort of persona that carries through from song to song. Kendrick Marion becomes a smooth, slick, rascally hustler; Samuel McWhite dons the role of the earthier, worldlier man-about- town, and is an occasional surrogate for the impish, extravagant Waller himself, still remembered for his catch phrase, “One never knows, do one?” Devin Anderson finally gets a chance to be beautiful and sexy on stage, having had several other roles requiring drab or tattered clothes. Katrina Blanding represents a forceful and sometimes-comic diva, and Avery Bateman most often seems the sassy youngster within the group.  Each gets one or more solos to showcase their vocal skills, with Anderson probably the best at capturing the sound and feel of the 1920s and ’30s, especially in “Squeeze Me.” McWhite gets to show off his impressive vo- cal range. Bateman is cute and appealing on “Keeping Out of Mischief Now,” while Mar- ion makes a great jazz-age hipster extolling the virtues of some late-night reefer in “The Viper’s Drag.” Blanding hits rich operatic alto notes in a number of songs, and everyone, especially Marion and Bateman, gets to show off dance skills in variations on the Charles- ton, the Big Apple and other dance crazes of the era.  With no real script, director Henderson ensures that everything else serves to en- hance the period feel, from black-and-white A talented cast brings out the nuances of Fats Waller’s hits in Ain’t Misbehavin’. Courtesy photo Epic Ragtime Opens Trustus Season T rustus Theatre kicks off its new season with a production of epic proportions: Ragtime: The Musical, Terrence McNal- ly’s adaptation of the acclaimed 1975 novel by E.L. Doctorow. By squeezing 32 perform- ers onto the tiny Trustus stage, Director Chad Henderson delivers an approximate 1:4 ratio of cast members to audience, and in doing so creates a textbook example of how to create a memorable show with limited resources but unlimited talent.  Set in early 20th century New York, Ragtime follows the intersecting lives of three families: a ragtime piano player from Harlem, his sometime girlfriend and their il- legitimate child; an upper-class white family in suburban New Rochelle; and a Jewish im- migrant and his young daughter. Historical figures are woven in and out of the story. The show is a kaleidoscopic and some- times dizzying tour through themes, characters and settings, so just enjoy the first few panoramic scenes until it becomes clear who the protagonists are, and who is simply background color. The story is told from the perspective of the young son of the white family (Luke Melnyk), but with other performers voicing the lines, in third person, that pertain to their characters. As pianist Coalhouse Walker Jr., Terrance Henderson begins as a smooth-talking, smooth-singing charmer, courting Sarah (Avery Bateman) after she tries to abandon their child. Events turn him into a tragic figure, and Henderson is up to the dramatic challenge. His duets with Bateman inspired the most applause on opening night, and their scenes together are touching. New Rochelle family, G. Scott Wild sports an authentic period mustache, a nice command of the formal speech of the era, and he man- ages to find a sympathetic, human side to a character intended to represent the rigid social structure of the establishment. Kevin Bush uses no more than a goofy grin and a hesitant stammer to clearly depict the fam- ily’s younger brother as an impressionable innocent who finds meaning in the midst of political upheaval. Marybeth Gorman as the unnamed mother joins most of the principals on “New Music,” where ragtime music is used as a metaphor for societal change. Chip Stubbs is also effective as the Jewish immi- grant Tateh, conveying how far a parent will go to protect a child. By my count, at least 16 of the remain- ing 25 cast members have played lead roles locally within the last year or two. Vicky Saye Henderson is particularly impressive as fiery activist and anarchist Emma Goldman, and Elisabeth Baker is adorable as scandalous party girl Evelyn Nesbit, the Lindsay Lohan of her day. Daryl Byrd, as Booker T. Wash- ington, interacts meaningfully with several protagonists in a pivotal scene, while Scott Vaughan, as Houdini, is enjoyable but under- used. A subset of the men’s ensemble, com- prised of Bobby Bloom, George Dinsmore, Mark Zeigler and Jason Kinsey, shows up as scary and menacing racists, then as lovably raucous baseball fans in “What a Game.” Director Henderson’s biggest challenge was how to best showcase all this talent. His set design wisely leaves most of the stage open, with the simplest suggestions of props and locations wheeled in as needed. Random objects (ladders, trombones, a washboard) adorn a rear wall along with images from turn-of-the-century pop culture. The overall effect establishes setting and tone, yet alerts the audience that we have to fill in the blanks via imagination. Music Director Jeremy Pol- ley conducts seven musicians who are largely hidden from view. Costumes by Alexis Doktor and one wig in particular by Cherelle Guyton are well done and appropriate for the time period. Doctorow’s book is often hailed as one of the great American novels; this stage adaptation ran for two years on Broadway and won four Tony Awards. That said, I don’t entirely understand what all the fuss is about. The music is pretty, and the character vignettes are interesting, although surely condensed from the novel (which I’ve never read). Sadly, I didn’t take any particularly uplifting message with me, beyond a vague hope for a better America. Still, I enjoyed the performances of the tremendously talented cast, and was particularly impressed at how skillfully Henderson has managed to scale down a blockbuster for a smaller venue, while sacrificing none of its spectacle or entertain- ment value. Trustus Theatre is at 520 Lady St. Ragtime runs through Oct. 5. Visit trustus.org for showtimes and ticket information. Terrance Henderson and Avery Bateman Courtesy photo by Jonathan Sharpe Tarzan is First-Rate Children’s Theater H e’s from a gang of free spirits who live for the moment. She’s from a structured, repressed society, and is frightened — yet also intrigued — by the wild abandon he displays. That could be the plot of Twilight or High School Musical, but it also describes Tarzan: The Stage Musical, currently running at Town Theatre. Based on the animated film, this Tarzan is more Disney than Edgar Rice Burroughs; the romance between Tarzan and Jane is empha- sized, the action and violence are downplayed, and there are clear messages about cross- cultural acceptance and tolerance. Thanks to rich production values and plenty of stage magic, young audiences are sure to embrace this timeless tale of jungle adventure. The ensemble, including many children, portray apes and other jungle denizens, and are costumed with only the suggestion of ani- mal features: multicolored streamers of fabric hint at fur, while exotic makeup usually found at a rave gives an indication of a nonhuman face. Most of the gorillas look like cavemen playing backup for David Bowie during the Ziggy Stardust era, with subtle and occasional chest-beating or knuckle-dragging. Grace- ful dancers in beautifully patterned leotards represent other animals. Costumer Lori Step and Wig Mistress Cherelle Guyton have done an excellent job at channeling the original production design from Broadway.  Director and choreographer Shannon Willis Scruggs includes other dancers in cha- otic shades of blue to represent choppy ocean waves, and young performers in bright hues of green and yellow spring to life as flowers discovered by budding botanist Jane (Celeste Morris). Danny Harrington’s set becomes an organic part of the story, with every inch a new part of the jungle containing a potential friend or foe. Constantly changing projected patterns enhance the mood and setting, casting shadows as sun peeks through thick foliage, and is reflected back from running water. It’s just about the lushest, most visually appealing set for a children’s production that I’ve ever seen. Tarzan (Parker Byun) swings into this tropical paradise right over the heads of the audience, zooming in on a zip line from the light booth, and keeps that level of vigorous athleticism all the way to curtain call. When hanging with his simian pal Terk (an impish Jackie Rowe) or his adoptive gorilla parents Kala (Laurel Posey) and Kerchak (Scott Stepp), THEATER REVIEW By August Krickel Tarzan speaks in contemporary English, but when encountering humans, they all revert to grunts and hoots. When Jane and Tarzan duet, only the audience is able to understand his thoughts, expressed in English. It’s an os- tensibly complex narrative device that works effectively. Morris bears a resemblance to her cartoon counterpart; she and Byun harmonize well together, as do Jane and her father (Frank Thompson, playing an appropriately hearty and somewhat befuddled professor.)  Lib- erty Broussard and Jadon Stanek show a lot of spunk and energy as the young Terk and Tarzan in “Who Better Than Me,” and have strong, clear voices that rival those of the adult performers. (They alternate in these roles with Caroline Quinn and Luke Melnyk.) The script, by David Henry Hwang (a Tony winner and Pulitzer nominee for more serious fare like M. Butterfly) is full of metaphors that are obvious but not intrusive. When Tarzan sings, “Will someone tell me where I belong?” the character is talking about being a human among gorillas, but the loneliness is universal. The issues he faces with his adop- tive family are those faced by children in any nontraditional family, and when he embraces his identity as human, not ape, we also see a transition from adolescence to adulthood. The singers perform to a recorded track (ensuring that they can be heard, an important factor to consider with lots of young voices on stage) and the sound design by Matt Mills largely flows smoothly. Younger theatergoers will be mesmerized by the spectacle on stage and the kaleidoscop- ic visuals; older children may enjoy the actual stagecraft on display. Teens will likely develop a crush on the attractive Tarzan and/or Jane ... or who knows, perhaps even the slinky Leopard or the devilish Clayton, if they’ve got a thing for bad boys or girls. Tarzan: The Stage Musical isn’t exactly Burroughs, but it’s first-rate children’s theater, done with excellent production values and a talented cast, and you owe it to the child in your life to check it out. Tarzan runs Wed-Sun through July 28 at Town Theatre (1012 Sumter St.). Tickets are $25 for adults; $20 for seniors, military and college students; and $15 for youth 17 and younger. Call 799-2510 to order or visit towntheatre. com for more information.
  33. 33. GOVERNMENT REPORTING AllWeekly Division THIRD PLACE: Free Times CoreyH utchins door neighbors described. Scott’s resignation is effective May 1. He’s been using paid leave, of which he has a bit more saved up, according to city documents. Former Deputy Chief Ruben Santiago, who’s been acting chief during Scott’s leave, will serve as interim chief. Wilson did not know what Santiago’s salary would be. Santiago will be the department’s seventh chief since 2007, counting interim chiefs. Many have left under a cloud. Tandy Carter was removed after he refused to hand over to another agency the investi- gation of a car crash by then-mayor elect Steve Benjamin. Immediately before Scott, interim chief Carl Burke resigned early after it was discovered he wasn’t certified to carry a weapon. Wilson and Columbia Mayor Steve Ben- jamin said the city will perform a nation- wide search for a new chief. Benjamin cited the city’s first-quarter crime statistics, which are lower than those of the first quarter last year, as evidence the city won’t have a hard time attracting a new police chief. “They will show a department on the rise,” Benjamin said. Earlier Monday, though, Councilman Moe Baddourah said he thought the city could have handled Scott’s leave of absence better. Baddourah is running against Benja- min for mayor. “The public is looking for a lot of an- swers,” Baddourah said. “The city could have been better at communicating.” Forecast for Open Solar Market in S.C. This Year: Mostly Cloudy By Corey Hutchins S outh Carolina will likely trail the na- tion in solar power for another year. In a subcommittee hearing last week, state senators asked for more time to review legislation that would allow third- party financing of solar power. South Caro- lina lags behind in sun-generated energy because it’s one of a few states that don’t allow third parties to freely sell electricity to consumers. In this state, it is illegal to buy solar energy from an entity that is not legally deemed a utility. What that means is if a company wants to install a solar panel on the roof of a house or a commercial building and sell electricity to the resident or the business it must be regulated just as if were SCE&G or Duke Energy. Installing solar panels is expensive, which is why not many do it in South Caro- lina under the current conditions. In the April 17 hearing, one speaker indicated that other than the house or a car, installing solar panels could be the most expensive thing for a homeowner in South Carolina, even though they’d save on power bills. But if a third-party company paid for the installa- tion, leased you the panels, and sold you the electricity the panels generated, solar power could be feasible. The company would then benefit from tax incentives and deductions for investment in solar power, while lower- ing your power bills. A bill to create such a model in South Carolina — one of the few states that doesn’t already allow it — died in the House earlier this year. Lawmakers in the lower chamber said they worried about how it would affect big utility companies, though a broad coali- tion of supports spoke in favor of the bill, from ministers to retirees. “The only opponent was a representa- tive of South Carolina’s influential utilities: SCE&G, Duke Energy and Santee Cooper, as well as the state’s electrical cooperatives,” reported The State at the time. Now the fate of solar energy rests in a Senate subcommittee. But legislation must pass out of such committees, get a vote from the full House or Senate, and cross over to the other body by May 1, or it is essentially dead for the year. “Looking at the Senate calendar and the ability to get the bill to the House before crossover is pretty much impossible,” says Hamilton Davis of the Coastal Conservation League, who supports solar leasing in South Carolina. “I don’t see a path for where it could actually get signed into law in 2013.” In the April 17 hearing in the Senate panel, many spoke in favor of third-party financing for solar power in the state. As has been the case in past hearings on the issue, though, one representative speaking on behalf of the state’s big utility companies was enough to block the bill. Mike Couick, CEO of the Electric Coop- eratives of South Carolina, spoke for much of the allotted time against the legislation. He said solar power is coming to the state, and utilities are gearing up for it, but such a bill is not the solution. Davis says he understands why big utili- ties would be concerned. “You’re introducing competition in their territories and they’re fundamentally op- posed to that,” he says. Lee Peterson, a Georgia tax attorney who deals with solar issues, told lawmakers that much of the country allows third-party leasing of solar, except some holdouts in the Southeast. He said lawmakers have been told by the utilities to study the issue more, but it’s not needed. He said the utilities are the problem, not the law being proposed. “You can’t be the holdout,” he said. “You can’t be the problem. You have to be the solution.” After the hearing, subcommittee chair- man Luke Rankin, a Republican from Horry County, said he wanted to hear more from utilities before moving on the bill. In an interview afterwards, he said he hadn’t researched the legislation that much. He said he hoped to have another hearing on it in a couple weeks. “There are questions on both sides of it,” he said. Let us know what you think: Email news@free-times.com. The Curious Case of the Super-Secret House Ethics Reform Bill By Corey Hutchins A mysterious ethics bill introduced last week would actually weaken ethics penalties — and the process by which it came about had those hoping for serious reform shaking their heads in disgust. On April 16, a mysterious bill deal- ing with ethics reform popped up on the schedule for two House committees on the same day. Sponsored by Republican House Speaker Bobby Harrell and other leaders, the bill did not explain what the new laws would do. It was what’s called a “shell bill” — when lawmakers introduce legislation with just a summary, but no full text for public viewing of what’s exactly in the proposal. They’re fairly common, but usually have to do with technical items, often in the bud- get, says John Ruoff, a budget analyst who tracks State House legislation. Not only was the ethics proposal introduced as a shell bill, but leaders put it on the fast track. Lawmakers debated it in a subcommittee hearing, even though members of the public there to watch didn’t know what lawmakers were debating. Of- ficials at the State Ethics Commission were there, but they hadn’t been given a copy of the bill. The lawmakers passed the shell bill on to the full committee the same day. State Ethics Commission officials only got a copy of the bill during that hearing after they begged for it, according to one official. “The secrecy of this bill was concern- ing,” says Tammie Hoy of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina, a group following ethics reform closely. Hashed out in secret in one day without public input, the ethics reform bill will be debated on the House floor this week. “I’ve been over there for 27 sessions and I never saw something like this before,” says John Crangle, director of Common Cause of South Carolina, which focuses on combating corruption in government. “It looked like they were trying to do an end-run around the normal policy-making process by denying the public the opportu- nity to participate in the conversation.” Eventually, lawmakers made the full text of the bill public — after lawmak- ers in both panels voted on it. Greenville Republican Rep. Bruce Bannister explained to The State that the bill was a mix of dif- ferent proposed measures in the House and Senate and had been negotiated behind the scenes with lawmakers in both chambers, as well as with the governor’s office. Once it became public, the bill shocked those who’ve been following ethics reform. The new law, it turned out, would decriminalize many ethics violations, such as public officials using their campaign accounts as personal piggy banks — con- verting them to civil rather than criminal violations, and reducing the associated penalties. It would also dissolve the House and Senate ethics committees, where law- makers police themselves, only to create a new ethics oversight committee appointed by lawmakers. The bill would actually raise the limit of campaign contributions lawmakers could take from an individual or business. Columbia Democratic Rep. James Smith says he isn’t happy about how the process turned out. He blamed it on law- makers waiting too long to deal with ethics reform and trying to cobble together too many different proposals that led to sloppy language. (If legislation doesn’t pass to the Senate by May 1, it is essentially dead for the year.) Smith says there is bipartisan support to fix the parts of the bill that decriminalize some ethics violations and raise campaign contribution limits. Lexington GOP Rep. Rick Quinn said decriminalizing eth- ics violations “was not the intent of the subcommittee,” according to The Nerve, the new media arm of the libertarian South Carolina Policy Council. Last year, state Attorney General Alan Wilson prosecuted ex-Republican Lt. Gov. Ken Ard for converting campaign money to personal use, because it’s against the law. House Speaker Bobby Harrell is currently facing a criminal investigation by state police into whether he broke any laws by reimbursing himself hundreds of thousand of dollars from his campaign account. The Senate Ethics Committee is currently in- vestigating whether Democratic Sen. Rob- ert Ford of Charleston used his campaign money for personal use. “In light of the recent allegations made against Sen. Robert Ford and past allega- tions against Rep. Bobby Harrell, the state of South Carolina needs ethics reform that will make violators accountable for their actions,” said Tammie Hoy of the state League of Women Voters. Lawmakers debated it in a subcommittee hearing, even though members of the public there to watch didn’t know what lawmakers were debating. knock down the building and replace it with a seven-building, 818-bed student housing com- plex. But a city design commission denied that plan, saying it doesn’t fit with the Innovista design guidelines. That decision is currently tied up in several layers of appeals. Group Shines Light on Shadowy Regulatory Commission By Corey Hutchins A group of conservationists is waging a campaign this legislative session to bring public awareness to an obscure process: how one gets a seat on a commission that regulates the state’s big private power companies, among other industries. That commission — called the Public Ser- vice Commission — is a seven-member body chosen by the state Legislature. “They actually have a lot of power over the future of South Carolina,” says Anne Tim- berlake, who runs a group called UPowerSC, about the commission members. The PSC regulates at least six different sectors that include utility companies like SCE&G, private water and sewer companies, the licensing processes of some for-hire trans- portation services, and nuclear rate hikes, among others. “The seven-member PSC functions as a ‘court’ for regulatory and rate cases involv- ing not only the generation of power from electricity and gas, but also water and sewer, oversight of taxis and charter buses and local phone service,” Timberlake wrote in a recent editorial. “The commission is charged with balancing the need for consumers to enjoy reliable services at fair rates with the need for corporate utilities to earn reasonable returns on their investments.” Timberlake’s group, UPowerSC, is shining a spotlight on the PSC with a website and public relations campaign. It’s trying to raise awareness about how South Carolinians end up on the commission, and who can apply. Basically, it goes like this: each candidate for the $102,000 job is elected by the General Assembly to serve four-year terms. Those candidates must come from each of the state’s different congressional districts and must first pass through a screening process. That process is overseen by the Public Utility Re- view Committee — or PURC — a bipartisan 10-member panel comprised of three Sena- tors, three House members and four citizens appointed by House Speaker Bobby Harrell and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Larry Martin, both Republicans. Candidates must also take a written test. Once they make it through certain hoops they can approach lawmakers to try and secure enough votes to win a seat on the PSC. “There’s never been much public limelight or understanding about it,” Timberlake says about the process. That’s true. South Carolina government is peppered with hundreds of boards and com- missions — some positions are paid, some are voluntary — and how people end up on them happens largely out of the public eye even if it’s within the state’s public information laws. Orangeburg Democratic Sen. Brad Hutto, who sits on the PURC, made that clear in past minutes of the panel’s public meetings. “There’s no audience out there, but I think for the record we need to let everybody know that this is the PSC Screening Subcommit- tee Public Hearing and that this is a hearing to screen candidates for [the] Public Service Commission,” he said during a March 2010 hearing, the last time candidates were up for election. This time around, Timberlake and her group want the public engaged in the election process. Already she says there were at least 23 candidates who applied for positions on the commission. Those applicants have already taken the tests, and they testified in hearings in the past weeks. The field has narrowed to 14. UPowerSC stresses the group is not endorsing anyone for election to the commis- sion, but is trying to bring more transparency to the process. In truth, though, because of South Caro- lina’s uniquely murky campaign finance laws, if that group — or any, such as one tied to a certain industry or special interest — were pushing for the election of a certain candidate on the Public Service Commission, it would be hard to determine. Unregistered political groups can sprout up to influence elections here without having to disclose what they’re doing. In April, PURC’s full recommendation on the candidates will be made public. After 48 hours those candidates can begin to meet with lawmakers and seek their votes. “We think the more knowledge about this the better,” Timberlake says. “It’s appropriate for there to be a public dialogue about the kinds of people, the qualifications that are important for service on the Public Service Commission. The UPower campaign wants to help interested citizens follow the process and understand the process of what the PSC does.” Let us know what you think: Email news@free-times.com. 18 Months Later, S.C. Law Enforcement Closes Case on ‘Zombie Voters’, Finds No Fraud By Corey Hutchins A year and a half after Republicans were seized with zombie voter fever, a state police investigation found no indica- tion that anyone purposefully cast a ballot using the name of a dead person in South Carolina. But the news was not trumpeted on TV or elsewhere like the allegations were 18 months ago. Instead, the State Law Enforce- ment Division quietly wrapped up its inves- tigation and only released its file to media after Free Times submitted an open records request under the Freedom of Information Act. SLED released the report July 3, one day before a federal holiday. The agency found no indication of voter fraud. But don’t expect the officials — or media — who put fear in the minds of voters to try and correct the record to the extent they trumpeted the claims. According to Justin Levitt, a law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who focuses on elections and is researching claims of voter fraud, the level of media attention hardly ever balances when it comes to allegations of such voter fraud and any eventual follow-up that might debunk it. For a while last year, you couldn’t turn on Fox News without seeing S.C. GOP At- torney General Alan Wilson saying things like, “We found out that there were over 900 people who died and then subsequently voted.” And Republican Gov. Nikki Haley said, “Without photo ID, I mean, let’s be clear, I don’t want dead people voting in the state of South Carolina.” The charges of possible voter fraud arose at the time the state’s Republican leadership was pushing an ultimately successful Voter ID law requiring voters to flash a photo ID at the polls. Wilson was unavailable for comment about the released report, but his spokes- man, J. Mark Powell, passed along a state- ment. “The initial claims reported to the Attorney General’s office were alarming,” Powell said. “They were not vague allega- tions, but contained specific information. The state’s chief prosecutor cannot stand by when presented with such a situation. So SLED was asked to investigate this matter. We appreciate SLED’s hard work in prepar- ing this report.” A spokesman for SLED declined to com- ment on the nearly 500-page report. House Democratic Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, a Columbia Democrat, on July 8 called on Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and other GOP officials to “acknowl- edge that they were being dishonest about voter fraud in South Carolina and apologize to the public for intentionally deceiving them for political gain.” Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey didn’t respond to emails seek- ing comment. “I see it all over the place,” Lovitt, the law professor, told Free Times about the disparity between voter fraud claims and follow-up. The launch of Wilson’s investigation was widely covered, he notes. “It turns out, the aftermath — in South Carolina, as I’ve seen most everywhere — is very rarely covered.” The zombie voter fire was kindled back in early 2012 by a list of some 950 names that Gov. Haley’s DMV director, Kevin Shwedo, said were those of dead people who appeared to have voted in recent elections. “Well over 900 individuals appear to have voted after they died,” Shwedo said at one House hear- ing on the matter. Horry County Republi- can Rep. Alan Clemmons, who took much interest in the dead voter drama, proclaimed gravely in another hearing, “We must have certainty in South Carolina that zombies aren’t voting.” (During the state’s battle over Voter ID legislation a year prior, Clemmons had sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice in support of the measure that read in part, “It is an unspoken truth in South Carolina that election fraud exists.”) At the time, State Election Commis- sion director Marci Andino said the agency had investigated a handful of cases where it appeared the names of deceased people had appeared on polling precinct signature rolls, but found no indication of fraud. She ex- plained that of the initial batch of six names of allegedly dead voters on the DMV’s list, one had cast an absentee ballot before dying; another was the result of a poll worker mis- takenly marking the voter as his deceased father; two were clerical errors resulting from stray marks on voter registration lists detected by a scanner; and two others result- ed from poll managers incorrectly marking the name of the voter in question instead of the voter above or below on the list. The agency went on to investigate more than 200 other names on the dead voter list and found zero cases of illegal activity. But the fever wouldn’t break. Eventually, the attorney general’s office announced that SLED would handle the rest of the names on the list. “No one in this state should issue any kind of clean bill of health in this matter until the professionals at SLED have finished with their work,” said an attorney general’s office spokesman at the time. Well, SLED has completed its work — and found nothing nefarious. Agents with SLED drove as far as Myrtle Beach to meet with allegedly dead voters, only to find clerical errors similar to those found by the State Election Commission. Commission spokesman Chris Whit- mire says there was a time when the agency would get daily calls from members of the public who believed people in this state were casting fraudulent ballots in the name of dead people. “It hurt the public confidence in South Carolina elections,” he says. He’s glad SLED’s report confirmed what the elections agency always believed: there was no fraud, merely clerical errors and genuine mistakes. Let us know what you think: Email news@free-times.com.

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