Monthly Archives: October 2011

Behind The Curtain Of The Party Line

Ron Stodghill

Back in the early ’70s, I went to work on my first political campaign. I was eight years old at the time – a late start in my family of political junkies and activists. My debut was decidedly unremarkable: one Saturday morning, my parents piled me and my sister in the car, drove to a neighborhood a few miles away, and enlisted us in a small army of grown-ups walking the cold city streets and passing out fliers for some guy named Mel Ravitz, a Detroit city councilman seeking re-election.

 If Mr. Ravitz appeared among the throngs that day, I never met him. But he managed ubiquity in my household – in the T-shirts, coffee mugs, bumper stickers, posters, buttons, yard signs, ink pens, hats, and other paraphernalia emblazoned with “Ravitz” that were in our rooms for months. Call it my inaugural: by the time I was a teenager, I had walked countless miles for a succession of candidates, from city council members to state reps to district court judges.

I suppose it’s only fitting that I would spend my career doing penance for such blind faith – walking the other side of the campaign trail as a journalist writing about politicians, and the business leaders who grease their wheels.

I’ve covered politics big and small alike, from school board meetings for the Detroit Free Press, to gubernatorial elections for Time, from trade policy debates for the New York Times, to columns about city procurement for the Charlotte Observer.  And at most every turn, I’ve been inspired, astonished – or disillusioned at what I’ve learned.

My new blog, The Party Line: Raising the Curtain on Carolina Politics, is dedicated to examining regional issues and policies through the figures who give shape to them. These are critical, complex, and even downright confusing times we live in. There’s a lot to navigate nationally and in the Carolinas; whether it’s debates on gay marriage, public school closings, or tax incentives for economic development.  The Party Line’s goal is to offer a provocative, intelligent look at the issues and players behind the action; a view that ultimately offers the necessary insight for Carolina voters to hold public servants more accountable.

With the DNC headed to Charlotte in 2012, the politics in these parts will get only more interesting –  the theatre more dramatic, and at times amusing. Come join me behind the curtain – and let me hear your thoughts!


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Too Pretty To Eat: The Art Of Clara D’Tapiero

This is not your grandmother’s Jell-O. Forget the rubbery stuff with the fake-y flavors most of us remember.

This is art. And it’s edible.

Clara D'Tapiero

Picture this: what looks like a domed, glass paperweight has a perfect pink rose suspended within. The flower appears to float. Another orb contains a chrysanthemum; its gold petals cast a soft green shadow underneath its surface. The center of a sunny daisy looks so real, you’d expect to see insects gathering pollen.

These are the creations of Clara D’Tapiero, a native of Cali, Colombia, who now lives in Charlotte. Her medium is gelatin, which she paints, layers, flavors, and molds into works that are lovely – and luscious.

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Carbs For A Cause In Charleston

By WFAE’s Roger Sarow

Temperatures are dropping. Leaves are coloring up. Appetites are sharpening. Are we hearing “road trip”?

Here’s an excuse to head to Charleston. This Friday, October 28th, is the date for the Second Annual Charleston Mac-Off.  Sponsors are hoping to top last year’s crowd of 2,000 who gathered to sample macaroni and cheese variations from Charleston’s formidable list of top-tier chefs.

The ticketed event is scheduled for 7 to 11PM, Friday only, at the Charleston Visitor’s Center bus shed. Besides bragging rights, the event will benefit a local non-profit that assists Charleston area schools.

For more information and ticketing.

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Sipping The Past: Moonshiners, Revenuers Relive Old Times

There were a few unmarked Mason jars floating around, particularly onstage with the storytellers.

By WFAE’s Tanner Latham                                                                 Listen to this story

White lightning. Hooch. The original mountain dew.

It’s hard to talk about moonshine without evoking winks and smiles. It carries a mystique. If you own some, you whisper about it. If you don’t, you can bet someone you know does. It’s probably stored in the back of their freezer.

Moonshine also carries a certain romance. Because the truth is, there’s a story sealed in every Mason jar of the stuff.

Those stories are still celebrated in Wilkes County. Last week, old time bootleggers and retired revenuers met to swap tales. They told about fast car chases, witty judges, and big still busts. There was a lot of laughter.

And rumor has it there was even some sipping…

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On The Grounds Of Coffee

We have become slaves to caffeine, but do you know where that dark, robust beverage we sip comes from?

If I were to ask someone today what Mocha is, I would likely hear a description of the chocolaty, milky espresso drink that is offered in almost every coffee shop. A lesser known fact is that Mocha is the name of the port in Yemen that was once the largest supplier of the world’s coffee for 150 years. Coffee, also known as the “Wine of Araby”, was first mentioned in 15th century documents as the drink that Sufis in Yemen consumed to stay awake at night for their devotions. With the trade routes, inevitably, it spread throughout Arab Peninsula. Of course with the arrival of coffee came the drama: controversy and conflicts about its place in Islam, and bans that infuriated drinkers. Soon, the Europeans would find out about its side effect as well: Coffee brought people together, ignited the conversation and kept their conscious clear to discuss important matters from politics to religion into the wee hours of the night.

Today, coffee has been so extensively integrated into our lives that we expect to see a coffee house on every corner. The first coffeehouse was opened in Istanbul in the 1550s. Since then, along with the coffeehouse culture, coffee brewing process has also evolved: From simple steeping in a pot to the French press, to percolators and vacuum brewers, and finally fancy espresso machines worth thousands of dollars. We diluted and hid coffee’s dark taste behind cream, milk and syrups. We gave it fancy names. We created the “instant” coffee to quickly satisfy the caffeine monster in us and bought travel mugs so we can have our coffee even when we are on the go..

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Fall At The Market

I don’t want it to be a secret any longer. It’s October, but farmers market season is not over.  In fact, the best local produce can often be found in the fall.  Every year for some unknown reason attendance drops off at local markets after Labor Day.  Farmers scratch their heads as they load up their goods at the end of the day and take them to the local food pantry.  They attend season extension technique seminars but wonder why… if no one is going to buy.

You and I can change that together.  This Saturday, visit your local farmers market for an impressive tour of autumn offerings.  If you come to the Atherton Market we’ll spend time with you and give you a set of ideas that will get meals on the table in no time.  Many of them involve a slow cooker, but they’re not your mother’s can-of-this and box-of-that concoctions.

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Pizza In A Pinch

By: WFAE’s Roger Sarow

Here’s my recent winner for a super-quick weeknight supper. Tilt your homemade pizza toward the breadstick end of the spectrum. Lighter and faster than the traditional.

I am shoplifting my inspiration from recent restaurant visit in Washington, DC (a fitting respite from NPR meetings). I shared a pizza that was heavy with cherry tomatoes and arugula, served barely warm rather than baked to the withering point.

To get this project into the oven in 15 minutes or less, start with purchased pizza dough.  My wife and I have been using Pillsbury’s refrigerated  dough. Purists, give me a break here. If you haven’t tried it yet, don’t knock it. It does NOT taste like the pasteboard biscuits that come out of grocery store tubes…

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