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Staff Editorials

Pickens Arts Community: Washing the dust off our daily lives

    Dale Carnegie once said, “The essence of all art is to have pleasure in giving pleasure.”
    Following his show on Saturday, “Home for the Holidays” artistic director Ross Galbreath said he hoped the show had inspired heartfelt emotions among audience members. Galbreath’s show, filled with very talented local actors, singers, and dancers, brought tears of happiness to at least one audience member in attendance that day and we’re willing to bet many more.
    We at the Progress want to thank the myriad of talented artists - whether in the performing, visual or written arts - for filling our community with wonderful productions that enrich our lives throughout the year.
    Whether you see the latest Tater Patch production, a North Georgia Acting Company play, a dance by Get to the Pointe ballerinas or jazz dancers, a high school or middle school band or choral show, everyone should take advantage of the great community of artists willing to share their talents with us. Local churches, too, provide us with artistic outlets as evidenced by the number of great Christmas and spring musicals performed every year.        
    A large part of any successful community is the arts and, thankfully, Pickens County is more than blessed to have numerous groups whose goals are to provide quality entertainment in many forms. Consider for a moment how fortunate this county is to have regular classical music presented here courtesy of the  Casual Classics concert series not to mention regular opportunities to learn and perform through the Creative and Performing Arts Academy.
    These groups, and many others, have a proud history of excellent productions and ambitious goals for future shows. And we are excited to be a part of a community that supports such talent. We believe arts and culture are critically relevant to everyone’s lives; it enriches who we are as people; it improves economic development; it draws people together. Perhaps most importantly, it lifts the soul and inspires.
    From this weekend’s “Home for the Holidays”, the Tater Patch Players’ “The Miracle Worker” or the hospital’s Love Light Tree lighting, our community’s dedication to arts bring us together.
    We may not be cognitively aware of it but when groups like the Sharptop Arts Association host “Open Mic” nights, allowing local artists to display their talents and us to be exposed to that talent, they are ensuring a better quality of life for us. This group along with Van Goghs Hideaway on South Main, provide unique shows of artwork open for the public year-round, ensuring that we never have to look too far to find genuine artistic works for viewing.
    Plus, courtesy of the Burnt Mountain Trading Company, Jasper often showcases the entries of art contests in public places such as the recent gingerbread house contest and scarecrow contest -- both serve to show visitors that the people who live here have pride in their community.
    And while only once a year, the Artfest celebration in the spring packs downtown with a street-full of high quality displays.
    While not seen, readers may be aware that creative writing is fostered at the youngest ages through the Sassafras Literary society.
    Studies have long found strong relationships between the presence of cultural resources in neighborhoods with much lower levels of social stress in children and adults. Arts and culture, it’s clear, plays an important role in improving the lives of ordinary people by providing us a resource to help us make sense of the world and imagine the future while remembering the past.
    We appreciate the efforts of everyone this year who has led or participated in arts projects in our community and engaged in artistic endeavors of all kinds.
    Communities benefit in multiple ways when there is a vibrant arts and cultural base and the people who develop and deliver high-quality, engaging and imaginative arts projects do a service to us all. From theatre and music to comedy and literature promoted by local volunteers, the arts represent an important dimension of social inclusion.
    This Sunday the Tater Patch Players, a community theater group formed way back in 1977, will host an open house at their theater to thank their volunteers while also seeking new ones. We would encourage everyone to join  them - or the Sharptop Arts Association or North Georgia Acting Company - and remember when deciding whether to take that step and become involved in Pickens County’s arts scene, that an artist cannot fail. It is a success just to be one.

    Editor’s Standard Disclaimer: Right now someone is fuming and saying to themselves -- how could they have left my group out - we do so much to foster the arts here? You are right and we apologize. It was an oversight, not a slight. With all that’s going on  in the local arts scene, it is truly hard to acknowledge all who deserve it.
    We apologize to whomever was left out in advance.

What America searched for in 2012 -- literally

    As December rolled around last week, trendspotting season officially kicked off and we, like everyone else, love to look back at the year and see what most fascinated us.
    From celebrities to superstorms and iconic smartphones to elections, these lists of most popular online searches give us insight into what we love – and love to hate.
    Here are the results.

    Reality-TV star and fashion mogul Kim Kardashian was the most-searched person for 2012. Not a surprise for many of us, since Kardashian and her nearly-as-famous sister siblings are on practically every celebrity news show around. We’re just thankful the presidential election beat out Honey Boo Boo and her famous Go-Go juice.
    Justin Bieber, the kid that met the Canadian Prime Minister this year while decked out in overalls, was knocked from last year’s top spot on most searched for celebrities to number two behind Kardashian, while the hillbilly filly Miley Cyrus came in at number three.
    First-timer Rihanna topped out as the fourth most searched for celebrity, according to Bing.
    Other first-time names like Selena Gomez, Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift also made the list this year, pushing names like Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, Megan Fox and Lady Gaga out of the top 10.
    Lindsay Lohan’s perpetually tumultuous and fight-filled life got her ranked number five in 2012.
    Pop culture easily trumped politics, even in an election year, with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney coming in as the 43rd most searched for, and President Barack Obama ranking 46th on the list.

    Our online searches reveal that excitement around the launch of the iPhone 5 release landed it as the top news story of the year, followed by the U.S. election, the Olympics and superstorm Sandy.
•Reality TV
    ‘Mom-manger’ mogul Kris Jenner must be proud since three of her six children, according to Bing, ranked as the top three most-searched for reality TV stars. Kim Kardashian helped keep it all in the family with her sisters Khloe and Kourtney coming in second and third.        
    Only Kate Gosselin – the mother of even more children than Jenner – landed between the Kardashian trio and Honey Boo Boo, the kid that captured the hearts and minds of America. Five was a lucky number in 2012 for Alana Thompson (aka Honey Boo Boo) because not only did she rank as the fifth most-searched for reality show star, but her show was the fifth most-searched for news story.        
    Don’t mention Thompson’s rankings to Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine though, who called the show the “decay of Western Civilization.”
    Although all the spoof videos of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” kept the song in all our heads this year, the singer still didn’t top South Korean rapper Psy’s “Gangum Style” as the most-searched song of the year and the sixth most-searched news story.

    The pageantry of the 2012 summer Olympics in London and the likes of swimming sensation Ryan Lochte, gymnast McKayla Maroney and gold medal veterans Michael Phelps all pushed the sporting event to the third most-searched event of 2012.

•Social media
    It’s no surprise that Facebook was the top-searched social media on Bing, while Twitter and its 140 characters snapped on its heels in second place.
    So if this is what 2012 looks like, what’s it going to be like in 2013?
    We’re going out on a limb and predicting this year’s 12th most-searched person, Kate Middleton, will likely usurp Kardashian for the top spot next year thanks to her recently announced pregnancy. When news broke Monday, throngs of reporters converged on a London hospital where she was admitted for morning sickness.
    We’re willing to bet next year Americans will be more interested in royalty and than reality (television).

No suspension for Gordon?

    In the words of  tennis great John McEnroe, “You can’t be serious!”
    Emotions run high in sports. From rants and tirades to hilarious acts of violence against inanimate objects, spectators have seen what happens when tempers flare in the world of competitive sports. So when NASCAR racer Jeff Gordon intentionally crashed into Clint Bowyer Sunday afternoon at Phoenix International Raceway just a couple of laps from the finish, many weren’t surprised. But we should have been outraged.
    Racing at speeds of nearly 200 miles per hour, NASCAR stock car racers can do more serious damage to their competitors than in most any other sport, except maybe football - just ask running back Marcus Lattimore.  And for that reason Gordon being penalized 25 championship points, fined $100,000 and placed on probation for the rest of the season just isn’t enough. He should be suspended for his bad behavior – a loss of cool that could have cost others their lives, and not just his intended victim.
    Sometimes sports are more than just sports and Gordon’s actions – though many would say Bowyer’s actions earlier in the season prompted them – are not to be dismissed.    
    NASCAR said they looked at everything that happened both on and off the track on Sunday before deciding on the penalties and fines. We think officials should have stopped the escalating tensions before they got to the point they did Sunday – regardless of how good they were for the ratings.
    Many, including retired racing giant Dale Jarrett, took up for Gordon. Jarrett called Gordon a “true champion” and said all drivers “have been in situations where we’ve lost our cool. We have to remember these are human beings inside these cars. Sometimes the things that make them great are the things that get them into trouble too.”
    A passion for the game is noble but blowups, meltdowns and downright tantrums should be discouraged, not lauded from the sport’s governing body or broadcasters needing to fill talk time. The world of professional sports is a high-pressure atmosphere and that can get to even the coolest of stars but they, like us, should learn to vent in constructive ways. Let’s take our cues from the likes of stoic tennis player Roger Federer, not basketball coach Bobby Knight whose antics have included throwing a chair across the court while arguing against a call.
    Who among us would encourage our children to follow the footsteps of Chicago Bulls bad boy Dennis Rodman who kicked a cameraman after he fell over him during a 1997 game, causing the cameraman to be carried off in a stretcher.  Kicking someone out of frustration is something an ill-behaved two-year-old would do and we shouldn’t accept the behavior from professional athletes.
    It’s one thing when a tennis star like Serena Williams – widely known for her temper on the court – spouts off expletives to judges. Remember a 2009 tirade where Williams screamed, “I swear to God I’m (expletive) going to take this (expletive) ball and shove it down your (expletive) throat, you hear that?”
    Instead of running into his opponent’s car, Gordon should have taken tips from Minor league Braves Manager Phil Wellman who, in June 2007, became enraged over a call by the umpire and started running around the field like a mad man, stealing bases and army crawling through the dirt, before finally tiring himself out and leaving the field – with a base tucked under his arm.
    If Gordon had finished the race, strolled over to Bowyer’s pit area and stole say his helmet, tucking it under his arm and making off with it, that would have shown more guts. And besides that – it’s much more entertaining.


Black Friday shows our dark side

    Black Friday. Gray Thursday. Cyber Monday. Small Business Saturday. Remember when it used to be about Thanksgiving?
    Somewhere in the past few years our national day of thanks became a day of doorbuster specials.            
    There was more media coverage this year about Black Friday shopping than there were stories about what Thanksgiving and what the ensuing holiday season means - or should mean. Where were the stories about soldiers coming home to be with their families? Or the woman who prepared a Thanksgiving meal for neighbors that would otherwise spend another day alone? Where were the stories that make us feel good about the holiday and remind us what it’s supposed to be about?
    Instead, Thanksgiving became viral videos of frenzied shoppers diving into bins to grab phones, or to push others out of the way to get that coveted piece of technological wonderment. Shoppers getting punched in the face, shoppers with guns, Walmart protests, long lines and chaotic crowds became the news of the day instead of stories about families coming together or people showing thanks through good deeds.
    The news of the shopping frenzy filled the air and overshadowed the day that used to be set aside for something completely different - a non-commercial day of giving thanks for what we’ve been blessed with in our lives.
    By Friday morning we all woke up to horrifying tales of Black Friday shopping gone wrong and people fighting each other for “doorbuster” deals. One YouTube video that went viral with over 2.4 million hits in a matter of days was aptly named “Walmart Black Friday fighting over phones during 2012, American people act like animals.”
    Other headlines included: “Black Friday ‘Gang Fight’ at Woodland Mall leads to Chaos, Arrests” and “Black Friday Violence: Police and retailers prepare for crowds and chaos.”
    The shopping mania ate into the day itself with stores this year opening their doors on Thursday evening, not even waiting until the standard day after Thanksgiving.
    Target opened at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving, three hours earlier than last year. Sears, which did not open on Thanksgiving last year at all, opened at 8 p.m.    
    When Macy’s opened its doors in New York’s Herald Square at midnight, 11,000 shoppers had already lined the streets waiting to get in.
    Around 147 million people shopped over the Thanksgiving weekend - each spending an average of $398 -  and stores were expected to haul in approximately $11.4 billion on Black Friday alone. According to Google Trends, people started widely searching online for ‘Black Friday’ on October 14.
    Brick and mortar retailers use Black Friday - and now Gray Thursday - to bolster their annual revenues, as much as 40 percent of which comes from sales that kick off the day after Thanksgiving.
    As Americans rely more and more on online shopping, traditional retailers are feeling the pinch and say they are forced into the retail splurge so they can turn a profit for the entire year.  
    Stores say they are only supplying what people want, so in the coming years why don’t we change “what we want” and show our kids and loved ones that Thanksgiving means just that - giving thanks.
    Next year, let’s forget about that Black Friday deal we can’t live without -- especially if it takes us out of Pickens County and local businesses.
    If we absolutely can’t live without it, at least wait until the day after  Thanksgiving, one of oldest and most noble American holidays. There are still deals out there on Friday.
    Turkey and family on Thanksgiving, shopping local some other time.


Book recommendations for the president

The election is over and regardless of whether your candidate won or lost, everyone can admit that our president has a lot of challenges to face over the next four years.

With that in mind we’d like to suggest a short reading list for our commander-in-chief that we hope will keep him grounded, open-minded and remind him why he ran for office in the first place. 

Our first recommendation is also the most recently published: Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the end of American Debate. In the book, the author, First Amendment lawyer Greg Lukianoff, chronicles cases of censorship at America’s colleges and universities and reveals how higher education fails to teach students to become critical thinkers. By stifling open debate, he points out that campuses are energizing ideological divisions, promoting groupthink and encouraging an unscholarly certainty about complex issues. 

Although the book looks at America’s campuses, the overall theme can be carried to our wider culture, especially among the media where pundits are paid to encourage ideology instead of discussion, pulling readers and viewers along with passionate personalities instead of asking us to think for ourselves.

The president would be well served to consider how intolerance for dissent threatens all of our freedoms. After all, controversy is still a wonderful teacher.

When he finishes this we’d suggest he take up Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain’s Finn can help him remember why he cares about the people he leads. The book, a scathing look at entrenched attitudes, never lets us forget that while facing down threats “a sound heart is a surer guide than an ill-trained conscience,” according to Twain. Obviously the president’s economic decision-making will have far-reaching impacts across America and the world and we think he (and others) would do well to take advice from someone outside his political inner-circle. For this, may we suggest the Oracle of Omaha himself, Warren Buffett. 

Living and working in Omaha, Buffett is one of the richest men in the world and arguably one of the greatest investors of all time. His investment picks and comments on the market are closely followed by everyone who thinks about sticking a toe in the market. Buffet’s annual Berkshire Hathaway reports are collected in The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America. 

Not just for the president or corporate America, Buffett’s writings are lessons for everyone and can teach us that the best investing, like anything else, has a value system attached to it. We hope the president keeps a copy on his presidential night-stand.

After reading Buffett, the president should dip into some fantasy reading like Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, a reminder that human endeavours that try to usurp the Creator often go haywire and with tragic consequences.

And what better way for a president to brush up on his job skills than by studying the original. So we recommend 1776 by David McCullough. The book, as described by McCullough himself is: “The portrait of a leader, George Washington, who in the face of every calamity continued to persevere with an iron will and a public persona that never spoke of his private anguish and despair.”

As the president (regardless of who won)  tries to face down  Congress, perhaps no work could be more beneficial than the classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. Dale Carnegie’s book first published in 1937 still resonates today to the age-old adage that “it’s not what you know but whom you know - and whether or not they like you.” 

The original self-help book offers advice like: “Offer honest appreciation to others”; “Don’t ever call direct attention to people’s mistakes”; and “Show respect for other peoples’ opinions [even if you are the President of the United States].” 

Our final recommendation is Ulysses - just to see if anyone can actually finish this perplexing classic. If our president does, maybe he will explain it to us. Anyone who can read one of the longest “sentences” in English literature at 4,391 words can get through anything, including leading the free world.