Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Venture capital bill passes thanks to Lt. Gov. Cagle's dogged persistence

Posted By on Tue, Mar 26, 2013 at 2:40 PM

The VC fund passed? Drinks on this guy!
A proposal that sets aside $100 million for the state to invest in potentially risky startup companies is now headed to Gov. Nathan Deal's desk.

State representatives approved House Bill 318 yesterday by a 135 to 28 vote. The legislation, tacked onto what was originally a tax incentives bill, would create the Invest Georgia venture capital fund. It would allow an independent board to invest in Georgia-based technology startups over a five-year period.

In addition to overseeing the fund, five unpaid board members would also recruit additional private investors. The appointees - handpicked by the governor, lieutenant governor, and House speaker - would determine which startups received financial support.

The proposal could convince blossoming technology startups to remain in Georgia. It could also spur job creation across the state.

But critics are skeptical of the board's actual independence. More importantly, they wonder if the state should even play a role in economic development when private investors adequately handle that role.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a staunch supporter of the Invest Georgia fund, has worked several different avenues to ensure that the $100 million fund becomes a reality. Those efforts included a stalled House bill sponsored by state Rep. Alan Peake, R-Macon, and a companion proposal pushed by state Sen. Tim Golden, R-Valdosta.

His cohorts ultimately added the wording onto a piece of tax incentives legislation called the Georgia Tourism Development Act that was close to passing. In addition, the upper chamber also earmarked $10 million from the state's 2014 fiscal year budget.

In pulling out all the stops, Cagle and other venture capital fund backers guaranteed that this year's bill would not fizzle out the way its larger predecessor did in 2012.

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'Elvis Lives' at tribute show to the King in Augusta

Posted By on Tue, Mar 26, 2013 at 1:18 PM

TRIBUTE FIT FOR A KING: Elvis tribute artist Bill Cherry plays the 70s Elvis in the touring show Elvis Lives which stops at Augustas Bell Auditorium on March 27.
  • TRIBUTE FIT FOR A KING: Elvis tribute artist Bill Cherry plays the '70s Elvis in the touring show "Elvis Lives" which stops at Augusta's Bell Auditorium on March 27.
"Before Elvis, there was nothing," John Lennon famously said. Far be it from anyone to try to pick up where Lennon left off, but by now, it's probably fair to add that after Elvis, there has been a very great deal indeed.

A list of statistics - records sold, annual visitors to Graceland, blah blah blah - would typically go right here in an article such as this, but suffice it to say the numbers are impressive, and they show what we all already know: Many people around the world are still connecting to Elvis, his work, image and legend in a zillion different ways.

And one of those ways is the "Elvis Lives" Tour, a show featuring a live band and performances by four top Elvis tribute artists representing the King in four different eras of his career: '50s Elvis, Hollywood Elvis, '68 Comeback Elvis, and '70s Elvis (there's even an Ann Margaret tribute artist who performs alongside Hollywood Elvis).

The tour isn't coming to Atlanta (boo!), but readers in Augusta and hardcore Atlanta fans in the mood for a road trip will be heading to Augusta's Bell Auditorium this Wednesday, March 27, to see the show. We talked with tribute artist Bill Cherry, who plays '70s Elvis, to ask about his unusual job and the enduring mystique of Elvis Presley.

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Abandoned Atlanta Constitution building featuring public art catches fire

Posted By on Tue, Mar 26, 2013 at 12:50 PM

Atlanta Fire and Rescue is investigating cause of early morning blaze
  • Courtney Hammond
  • Atlanta police arrived on scene to find smoke coming from building's fourth floor.
Atlanta Police have arrested two men after a fire started early this morning at the abandoned Atlanta Constitution building on Alabama and Forsyth streets in south downtown.

Atlanta Police officers responded to the building around 8 a.m. to investigate a reported fire. Upon arriving, officers observed smoke coming from the fourth floor of the building, which is beloved by architecture buffs and served as a canvas for Adrian Barzaga as part of the city's Elevate art program.

Atlanta Fire and Rescue extinguished the fire. No one was injured, fire and police officials say. City officials are examining the damage to Barzaga's wooden façade installation.

According to the APD, officers detained several witnesses seen exiting the rear of the abandoned building, which is marked with "no trespassing" signs. Officers found that "forced entrance had been made to the secured building with a path that led to MARTA's platform, without authorization." Police arrested Michael Miller, 42, and Gregory McGriff, 46, for criminal trespass and transported them to the Fulton County Jail.

The future of the building, which briefly housed the Atlanta Constitution before it merged with the Atlanta Journal, and later housed offices of Georgia Power offices and some tenants, is uncertain. Plans for a downtown train terminal once called for the building, the only surviving art moderne style building of its size and scale in Atlanta, to be razed. However, the new team that's developing the mammoth project said last year that they'd like to preserve or incorporate the building into the terminal's design.

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'Equus'' dated ideas don't diminish theatrical thrills

Posted By on Tue, Mar 26, 2013 at 11:36 AM

BAD HORSE: Kyle Brumley atop Jason-Jamal Ligon at Actors Express
  • BreeAnne Clowdus
  • BAD HORSE: Kyle Brumley atop Jason-Jamal Ligon at Actor's Express
It's hard to view the compelling drama Equus the same way once you know that that "bronies" and similar groups exist. Four decades ago, playwright Peter Shaffer drew inspiration from a real incident for the award-winning drama about a psychiatrist who investigates why a disturbed young man blinded several horses. Were the play's young Alan Strang a contemporary person, he'd probably find some highly specific communities on the Internet to help channel his impulses in less destructive directions.

Actor's Express' compelling production finds Equus to be at once dated and ahead of its time. Shaffer's script remains a thrilling psychological detective story, with thought-provoking stagecraft that challenges theater artists and audiences alike. As the years pass, however, Equus's themes gallop off further and further afield.

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GOP effort to privatize some MARTA operations stalls

Posted By on Tue, Mar 26, 2013 at 11:09 AM

Republican state lawmakers' push to force MARTA to outsource a laundry list of operations ranging from who cleans the buses to who runs paratransit services has stalled in the final days of the legislative session. But a move to change MARTA's board was approved by the state House of Representatives largely on party lines.

State Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Brookhaven, who chairs MARTOC, the Gold Dome committee that oversees the transit agency, had been hell-bent on forcing MARTA to privatize some functions.

The outsourcing strategy was one of several cash-saving fixes recommended by a KPMG audit that the system's board of directors commissioned in 2011. CEO and General Manager Keith Parker, who joined MARTA in December, has said he agreed with some of the study's findings and has tasked staffers to seriously consider putting in place some of those recommendations.

But Jacobs, who's proved to be just as tenacious as Jill Chambers, his MARTOC predecessor who lost re-election in 2010, wanted to force Parker to make the changes and overhaul employee pension plans. Union and transit officials warned that some of the proposals could run afoul of federal laws. The state Senate balked at the proposal - and, from what we hear, didn't appreciate Jacobs' efforts to stick the language on other pieces of unrelated Senate legislation once he saw the proposal sputtering in the upper chamber.

Jacobs' plan to privatize MARTA is apparently on the back burner until the next legislative session. But considering that the tail end of the 40-day session is when the unexpected rears its head, we wouldn't rest until lawmakers adjourn on Sine Die.

The state House of Representatives yesterday did, however, agree with Jacobs' plan to give mayors in North Fulton and DeKalb cities the power to appoint representatives to the transit system's board of directors. In addition, the governor gets to appoint a voting board member to MARTA. The proposal also temporarily lifts an antiquated, state-imposed restriction on how MARTA spends revenues from a 1 percent sales tax levied in Fulton and DeKalb counties, its main source of funding.

This is the part of the article where we remind readers that the state contributes zilch to help the transit system operate its buses and trains. MARTA is responsible for removing several hundred thousand cars off metro Atlanta's roads, freeing up the notoriously clogged interstates. In addition, it connects transit-dependent people to their jobs, which helps the economy.

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A few questions with Georgia filmmaker and anthropologist Anna Grimshaw

Posted By on Tue, Mar 26, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Anna Grimshaw gets solitary with Bill Coperthwaite
  • Courtesy of Aryan Kaganof
  • Anna Grimshaw gets solitary with Bill Coperthwaite.

This Friday, Film Love and the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center will present the U.S. premiere of the newest film by local filmmaker and anthropologist Anna Grimshaw.

Over the course of a year, Grimshaw chronicled the daily life of William Coperthwaite, an artist and craftsman who - influenced by the poetry of Emily Dickinson, the writings of Thoreau, and the back‐to‐the-land
movement of Scott and Helen Nearing - has lived and worked on 300 acres of wilderness in Machiasport, Maine for the last 50 years.

The resulting film, Mr Coperthwaite: a life in the Maine woods, Part One: Spring in Dickinson's Reach, is the first installment of four, one for each season.

As a filmmaker and an anthropologist, how do you describe a project like Mr. Coperthwaite?

This is an interesting question, because many anthropologists (and others) think of ethnographic films as being about some kind of collective, groups of people. So focusing on a single/solitary individual is sometimes considered "not" anthropology - or there is a lot of uncertainty about what its value might be to anthropology. How might an individual illuminate a collective, what might an individual stand for in terms of something bigger?

But I have long been interested in solitude and in "devotion" - that is, in the different ways people make spaces for themselves in their lives and how these spaces might be thought of [as] spaces for secular, contemplative practice. I made an earlier film in Britain about a factory worker who had devoted his life to racing pigeons, and I was fascinated by the singularity and focus of his practice.

Something similar attracted me to Bill C., except his whole life is about the creation of a contemplative space. By this I do not mean anything passive or spiritual but I refer to the very particular and self-conscious way that Bill inhabits the world. In making the film, I wanted to find out how Bill's life was constituted in the day-to-day practical activities of living in the woods. Anthropologists and filmmakers tend to get hung up on words and want explanations - thinking that anthropology or documentary should be informational or explanatory and the reality of people's experiences are rendered meaningful only when mediated through language. In this film, I wanted to persuade my viewers to observe, to explore and discover, become interested in the small details that I found interesting, and to be drawn into the world that unfolds on screen. In particular, I wanted to think about time as an integral part of understanding character.

In the work, I wanted to stay close to the ground, so to speak - I wanted the film's scale to reflect the scale of its subject (rather than inflate it).

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First Slice 3/26/13: Fulton County prosecutors to indict teachers connected to 2009 APS cheating scandal

Posted By on Tue, Mar 26, 2013 at 8:16 AM

U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey has events planned tomorrow in both Augusta and Atlanta
  • Max Blau/CL File
  • U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey has events planned tomorrow in both Augusta and Atlanta.
Atlanta Public Schools and the Atlanta Police Department are looking into an incident involving a suspected gunman who tried to board a school bus yesterday in Mechanicsville.

U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Marietta, will likely make his U.S. Senate run official tomorrow. The announcement woud make him the second candidate to formally enter the fray.

Fulton County prosecutors will soon seek indictments of numerous teachers and administrators involved in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal that took place almost four years ago.

The Westboro Baptist Church has announced its return to Atlanta. Protesters will make numerous appearances throughout the metro area between April 6 and 7, including one at the Georgia Dome for the Final Four. According to the WBC's picket schedule: "America is mad upon her idols and her college sports are one of them."

MARTA CEO Keith Parker, known for his masterful Instagram skills, wielded his mighty pen for the AJC yesterday and explained what the transit agency has been up to lately.

In case you missed it, GOP state Senators tacked on an anti-abortion amendment yesterday afternoon to an unrelated bill about Georgia World Congress Center Authority employee benefits.

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Monday, March 25, 2013

ATL Bookmarks: 8 Events to hit this week

Posted By on Mon, Mar 25, 2013 at 9:25 PM

A Raft of Grief
  • cover art compliments of Autumn House Press
  • A Raft of Grief

This week, Autumn House Press releases Chelsea Rathburn's latest collection of poetry, A Raft of Grief, with an intimate celebration at Inman Park's White Space Gallery. The collection, which was awarded the 2012 Autumn House Poetry Prize, is Rathburn's first release since 2005's The Shifting Line. Although I haven't yet had the pleasure of reading the collection in its entirety, I have grown especially fond of its title poem, which originally appeared in The Atlantic in 2008.

Writing With Intent
March 25 | 7-9 p.m.
Charis Books and More

Open to fiction, poetry, and non-fiction writers alike, this facilitated group is tailored for serious writers looking for a literary workshop to shape up their work and keep them focused. Suggested donation of $5.

Restless Fires Book Signing with James B. Hunt
March 26 | 7 p.m.
The Carter Library

It takes a rare man to walk the 1,000 miles from from Jeffersonville, Ky., to Cedar Key, Fla. Author James B. Hunt shares the legendary story of John Muir's 1867 trek in his new book Restless Fires.

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