Brandon Mitchell

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Creative Loafing ends its print era

On Oct. 31, 2018, Creative Loafing, an alt-weekly magazine famously dedicated to providing relatable yet critical insight into “all things arts and entertainment in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area of North Carolina,” officially ceased all future publishing of print magazines. The magazine released its last physical publication the next day; it will now only continue in its digital form.

According to Ryan Pitkin, the magazine’s former editor in chief, the majority of the staff was not made aware of this decision prior to its implementation. All seven full-time staff members that worked in the development of the print edition were immediately let go without any form of severance. After 31 years of consistent print, the magazine was terminated without warning.

Pitkin tweeted, “I’ve got some horrible news, our publisher Charles Womack waited until we went to print today then shut down the whole paper after 31 years just like that. Everyone out of work. No severance. No nothing. It’s been real.”

Another former staff member took to Twitter to express her frustration. “Go f*ck yourself, Charles.” wrote Courtney Mihocik, the associate editor for the print magazine before its termination. She then responded to her original tweet writing, “I want to follow this up by saying I know that this is not a tasteful thing to say on SM but when you send a paper out, then 10 min later the publisher comes in and lays everyone off giving you 10 min to get your stuff, it’s a really horrid move that warrants this response.”

The decision to end the print section was made on Wednesday, October 31 by Alex Womack IV immediately after he was appointed as president of Womack Digital LLC by his father, Charles Womack III, the previous owner of Creative Loafing. Charles blamed the change on the general public’s preference to the magazine’s digital form, stating that “the media industry is moving fast and furious into the digital age and that is where Creative Loafing needs to be.”

It is true that print magazines have declined slightly in number of readers due to the popularization of online media. However, a survey conducted by Freeport Press earlier this year indicates that physical magazines are not dying as quickly as Charles Womack suggests. The survey, which involved over a thousand participants, shows that print magazines still, on average, garner more readers and subscribers than their digital alternatives. Creative Loafing’s website states that the print magazine reached “more than 276,000 readers” every week.

On November 17, the local band, The Business People, will be hosting a benefit called “End Of A Brand: Rest In Paper Fest.” All profits of this event will go towards aiding the former Creative Loafing staff members in their attempt to create their own arts and entertainment publication.

Attempted kidnapping near UNC Charlotte campus

Photo courtesy Mecklenburg County.

On Oct. 7, 18-year-old Nico Ekenedo was arrested for the alleged kidnapping of a Charlotte-area cab driver. According to the cab driver, Ekenedo called the driver and requested the cab to pick him up from The Edge, an apartment complex less than a mile from the UNC Charlotte campus. Once the cab driver arrived, Ekenedo allegedly drew a gun on the driver and demanded he drive off. The driver refused Ekenedo’s demands.

Ekenedo, still armed, then fled on foot to the nearby University’s campus, where he is not a student. The cab driver alerted police, and later that day police located and placed Ekenedo into custody.

It was unclear whether Ekenedo posed a threat to anyone on campus.

Most students and faculty were off campus during the incident due to fall break. According to reports, students on campus at the time were alerted of the situation.

Just four days after his arrest on Oct. 7, Ekenedo was arrested again for larceny of a motor vehicle. Five days after that he was arrested again for alleged armed robbery of Insomnia Cookies. 

Ekenedo now faces several class A felony charges including larceny of a motor vehicle, attempted kidnapping, robbery with a dangerous weapon and possession of a gun on educational property. If convicted, Ekenedo could be sentenced to life in prison.

Ekenedo has a court date in late November for misdemeanor cyber bullying.

(Fall Fest) Top five things to do in NC to fill your fall with fun

Scarowinds

From early September to late October, Carowinds is fully transformed into a land of horrors and haunts. In addition to the normal thrill rides of Carowinds, Scarowinds is filled with terrifying haunted mazes, themed “scare zones” and several spectacularly spooky shows. It is not a cheap activity but it’s worth it for a night of fantastic frights and some of the best roller coasters on the east coast. If you’re brave enough, I definitely recommend riding the Fury 325, the world’s tallest and fastest giga coaster, and visiting all six of the haunted mazes.

Gate tickets are normally $59, but online tickets only cost $41. There are also discounts for active/retired military personnel and students. Tickets for military personal are only $33, and students can get tickets for only $39.99. In order to save money, I recommend carpooling since parking is $15 per car and eating beforehand since in-park restaurants are a bit pricey.

Pumpkin Carving

Courtesy of Pxhere

Pumpkin carving is one of my favorite fall traditions. It’s simple, fun and it’s perfect for artists or people who just enjoy stabbing things. Gather some friends and go pick out pumpkins from a local patch. Once you have found your perfect pumpkin, carve it into whatever image your heart desires. A medium sized pumpkin will cost around five dollars, and, if you feel inclined, you can purchase a specialized pumpkin carving kit for less than ten dollars. I have always used a normal kitchen knife though and it has never hindered my artistic abilities. With a low price tag and simple setup, pumpkin carving with friends is a perfect way to spend a relaxed autumn night. 

Blue Ridge Mountains

Courtesy of Pixabay

The Blue Ridge Mountains is a 469 mile long mountain range that shows off the best sites in North Carolina and Virginia. Explore mountains sides, waterfalls and vast wilderness at your own pace. There are over 100 hiking trails and numerous camping sites. If hiking or camping isn’t your thing, you can stick to the parkway and still enjoy a plethora of beautiful sites from the comfort of your car. I recommend making a day trip out of it. Get up early, pack a picnic and spend a day exploring the mountains. A couple sites do charge an entrance fee; they are typically worth the price, but are always totally optional. For the just the cost of gas and food, exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains is the best autumn activity for its price.

Horror Movie Night

Gather as many friends and blankets as you can and head to that one friend’s dorm with the good TV and the Netflix password. Binge watch some classic horror films like “The Shining” and “The Conjuring” or catch up on some modern horror films such “It” and “It Follows.” If horror movies are too spooky for your liking, there are plenty of non-scary movies like “Beetlejuice” or “Ghostbusters” that will still get you into the Halloween spirit. This shouldn’t cost anything, except for maybe the price of snacks, and it makes for an awesome laidback night with friends.

Carolina Renaissance Festival

The Carolina Renaissance Festival allows you to travel with your friends to a land of magic and make believe. The festival is filled with over 500 costumed characters that are constantly entertaining guests through comedy, music, dance and many circus style acts like jousting falconry. The interactiveness and overall excitement of the festival will be sure to fully thrill your inner child. For $24, you are fully immersed into the times of the Renaissance. The park also has several rides and games, but they typically cost $1-$5 extra. They also have some fantastic themed food but expect to overpay for it. There are several vendors where you can buy some awesome souvenirs.

To make the most of the Renaissance experience, buy into the experience wholeheartedly. Plan with your friends beforehand and wear costumes to the event. Talk to the characters like you are from the Renaissance. Fully unleash your inner fantasy geek and it will transform a fun experience to a downright phenomenal day filled with geeky memories.

New Affordable Housing Study

The Childress Klein Center for Real Estate (CKCRE), a University of North Carolina at Charlotte organization dedicated to advancing local knowledge in real estate and public policy, is embarking on an ambitious project. Starting early next year, CKCRE will begin an extensive five-year study that will result in a comprehensive new source of data analytics on the housing market within the Charlotte metropolitan area.

The study has already garnered monetary support from over ten organizations and firms totaling more than $200,000. These supporters include the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association, the Piedmont Public Policy Institute, the National Association of Realtors, Center City Partners, True Homes Inc, Evergreen Strategies, Crosland Southeast, the Foundation for the Carolinas, the Charlotte Housing Authority and Moore & Van Allen.

The final report will include a comprehensive inventory of the current housing stock, an analysis of housing affordability across all income levels and a higher-level comparison of the Charlotte regional housing market with those of other regional metropolitan areas. All three of these components will be published in order to provide the public and the local government with an understandable and extensive report of the affordability of both renting and purchasing housing within the Charlotte metropolitan area.

This study should provide policymakers with clear and accurate statistics that could allow them to find better solutions to overpriced housing, gentrification and homelessness across the Charlotte Metropolitan area. A similar but less expansive report released earlier this year stated that “39 percent of people claimed they were unable to afford rent, and even though evictions were down, more evictions had been filed.” The report also stated that “an individual would have to work 103 hours per week at minimum wage to afford a 2-bedroom unit at a fair market rent, according to the report.” It is clear that there is a severe lack of affordable housing within Charlotte and its surrounding area. 

Richard Buttimer, director of the Childress Klein Center for Real Estate at UNC Charlotte, stated that “Policymakers and others who wish to affect change in the Charlotte market will increasingly have to take into account how changes in the suburban markets affect Charlotte and vice versa. Currently, information on the Charlotte market is easier to find than on the surrounding counties. A major goal of this report will be to provide a consistent and uniform degree of detail, as well as a uniform data format, across the entire region.”

The report will be published during the “State of Housing in Charlotte Summit” to be hosted by the Childress Klein Center for Real Estate at UNC Charlotte Center City. This event will allow for the public to express their thoughts on the the report and it will have several national speakers and members of the Childress Klein Center who will provide an in-depth overview of the report.

“ARS Paradoxica”: A Podcast Review

“ARS Paradoxica” follows Dr. Sally Grissom as she accidentally sends herself back several decades onto a Cold War-era battleship. She is taken hostage by the U.S. Military and forced to aid them in the Cold War. With the ability of time travel, the U.S.A. gains a large advantage in the war, but it does come with certain restrictions. Firstly, they can only make minuscule changes in history in order to not completely derail the course of humanity, and secondly, they cannot allow the Soviets to find out they can manipulate time. If the Soviets knew time travel was possible, they would find a way to develop their own version of it. The Cold War conflict serves as a juxtaposition to the conflict of the characters. Power corrupts everyone, and the power to alter the past is too complex for anyone to rationally control. Each use of time travel has unforeseen consequences that range from insubstantial to apocalyptic.

I love the concept of “ARS Paradoxica.” The idea of mixing the intricacies of time travel with the intricacies of the Cold War is so riveting. With twists at every turn, the reader has no idea what may happen next. It is fast paced and often thrilling. The podcast has everything from war tactics to string theory. It is an excellent choice for any sci-fi nerd or Cold War enthusiast.

Doctor Sally Grissom is one of the most accurate strong female leads I have ever encountered. She is always the smartest person in the room, but she isn’t some emotionless shell of a person. She is witty, charismatic and often downright hilarious. Even when she is thrown into an entirely different society, she has her core beliefs and she sticks to them. She is never sexualized or forced into a relationship in order to please the fans. In fact, she is one of the few openly asexual characters to which I am aware. She’s not perfect; she makes plenty of mistakes and often gets herself into dangerous situations. She never breaks, even when faced with possible death, and is never reduced into some pathetic damsel in distress. She is written like an actual human being and she is amazing.

Another aspect I truly enjoy about “ARS Paradoxica” is the format. Everything the listener hears is some type of audio recording taken in their universe. This allows the writers to restrict the flow of information to the readers. They only know what happened to be recorded. This creates suspense and mystery during several major moments of the show. One of my favorite episodes is when this is implemented to set up a murder mystery. It also adds a layer of realism. It causes the podcast to feel less like a show and more like a message sent to you from some alternate past.

“ARS Paradoxica” is an above average podcast, but it is riddled with flaws. Firstly, the character development was weak. Other than Sally Grissom and Anthony Partridge, the characters were somewhat stale. Some did have some interesting story arcs, but I could not seem to force myself to care about them. Especially in the later episodes, character development seemed to take a backseat to the War conflict. I would have been fine with that if I had any idea what was happening. By the end of the series, the storyline was filled with so much convoluted time nonsense that I was too confused to enjoy it. In my opinion, the plot of the third season was an utter mess and I struggled to convince myself to listen to each weekly episode.

Overall, “ARS Paradoxica” is worth trying. The first two seasons were a great balance of fun and mystery. Seeing Sally attempt to adjust to life in the 1950s is both hilarious and eye-opening. She is truly an excellent character and compensates for a significant amount of the shortcomings of the other characters. The version of time travel is full of depth and intricacies that make it so enjoyable to explore. I was truly in love with this podcast when I could understand it. I recommend at least giving the first two seasons a try, and maybe you will be able to understand and enjoy season three more than I could.

Courtesy of arsparadoxica.com

“ARS Paradoxica” is streamable on Spotify, iTunes and most larger audio streaming websites. You can visit https://arsparadoxica.com/ to check if it is available on your preferred application. 

Rating: 6/10

Kevin Olsen found not guilty

Former UNC Charlotte quarterback Kevin Olsen was found not guilty on three counts of second-degree rape and one count of second-degree sex offense.

The trial began Monday, Sept. 24 after charges originated on Feb. 19, 2017, when Olsen sent several threatening texts to his then-girlfriend while intoxicated. The former girlfriend alleges she was then raped and assaulted several times that night while Olsen remains adamant that all sexual acts between the two were consensual. Olsen would have faced up to 30 years in prison had he been found guilty.

According to the prosecutor, the couple got into a heated argument over text following a night of drinking. Olsen sent many hostile messages, including threats to kill both his former girlfriend and himself. Later that night, the couple met at his off-campus apartment where Olsen allegedly became physically violent. The prosecutor stated that “he attacked her with his words, he attacked her with his fists; he delivered blow after blow to her head, to her arms, to her stomach, to her face.”

The former girlfriend alleges that after Olsen assaulted her, he held her against her will and forced her into oral sex. He then allegedly further escalated things by penetrating her “three separate times without her consent.” The former girlfriend was able to sneak out of the room after Olsen fell asleep and sought help from Olsen’s roommate and his fiancee. They then went to Carolina’s Healthcare System University where she spoke with police and received examinations. According to the medical reports, she came to the hospital with “vaginal injuries and bruising around one of her eyes.”

Superior Court Judge Karen Eady-Williams allowed limited media coverage of the trial. It was prohibited to take photos or video of the former girlfriend or the jury, and all audio recordings of the accuser had to be distorted. This was in an effort to protect the accuser and her anonymity amidst a large amount of public interest.

This is not Kevin Olsen’s first encounter with the law. During his senior year of high school, Olsen drove his car into two other vehicles and a tree before fleeing the scene. According to the police, Kevin appeared to be “under the influence of something.” According to court documents, Olsen was found guilty of both careless driving and failure to report an accident resulting in a fine of $254. In addition to this, Kevin was charged with a DUI while attending the University of Miami. This and other inappropriate behavior caused Kevin to be cut from the football program and from the university. He then transferred to Towson University but was quickly removed from their football team due to several reported conduct issues. After this, Kevin transferred to UNC Charlotte and played as the quarterback for the 49ers until he was removed from the team due to the rape allegations made in February of last year.

Kevin Olsen’s family relations play a large factor in the amount of media coverage this case has received. Greg Olsen, Kevin’s older brother, is the tight end for the Carolina Panthers. He was on the list of potential witnesses, expected to deny allegations that Kevin’s jealousy created tension in their relationship. Over the past year, Greg has remained silent about the case.

Kevin Olsen refused a plea deal and his lawyer stood beside him, stating that he was “100 percent not guilty.” Over the course of the trial, Olsen’s defense team, George and Bree Laughrun, attempted to discredit the prosecuting witness by informing the court that she sent a text to a friend after the incident stating, “He is not a rapist.” They also pointed out several inconsistencies in the former girlfriend’s testimony and undermined the accuser’s character by describing her as obsessive and emotionally unstable.

Seven witnesses were called to testify including the prosecuting witness, several friends of the former couple, a CMPD crime lab technician, a DNA analyst and the sexual assault nurse examiner who treated the girl during the night of the incident. Taneika Torres, the sexual assault nurse examiner, testified that the former girlfriend entered the hospital with bruising on her right arm and her left eye and a knot on the back of her head and also reported abdominal pain. Torres also stated that the accuser had vaginal lacerations but could not determine if the injuries were recent. Amanda Blain, the CMPD crime lab technician, testified that Kevin Olsen was exceedingly compliant as she swabbed his cheek and took several photos of him, several of which where of him nude.

On Monday, Oct. 1, a jury consisting of nine men and three women cast their first votes: two votes guilty and ten votes not guilty. The jury remained divided for two days before they finally reached a consistent verdict of not guilty on all charges.

 

Book Review: ‘Pet Semetary’ by Stephen King

I was hesitant to pick up “Pet Sematary.” The idea of zombified pets didn’t really interest me, and the whole premise seemed like it belonged more in a Goosebumps novel than one written by Stephen King. Also, it was a somewhat large book and I have the attention span of an eight year-old. Still, something compelled me to read it and I am glad it did. “Pet Sematary” is one of the most suspenseful and downright chilling thrillers I have ever encountered.

“Pet Sematary” follows Doctor Louis Creed, his wife and their two kids as they move into their new home in rural Ludlow, Maine. This rustic house has a backyard surrounded by a vast forest. It is quiet and undisturbed, except for the occasional noise of a semi-truck passing on the road out front. Across the road lives Jud Crandall, an easygoing and lovable old man who lives with his sickly wife, Zelda. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that Ludlow is no ordinary small town, and the Creed residence is surrounded by danger.

Photo Courtesy of stephenking.com ; Publisher- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Stephen King does an excellent job of knowing exactly when to inform the readers of impending threats. Throughout the novel, I was aware that certain events were going to take place, but I never knew when to expect them. Each page kept me just as enthralled as the last. King also establishes the lore in a way that keeps the story moving and keeps the reader in the dark just enough to keep them on edge. Every time I thought I was fully aware of the situation, I would get sucker punched by a new piece of information. This book is filled to the brim with suspense and is often depressing.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, “Pet Sematary” is not a perfect piece of literature. Firstly, there is a random handjob paragraph which adds nothing to the story. I have nothing against erotica, but this just seemed gratuitous. I encourage you to not let this deter you from reading this novel. It isn’t a large paragraph and refrains from being overly explicit. If it truly bothers you, just skip it. The lore is fantastic and complex, but it has a couple of plot holes. This was not a big problem for me though, because I was so encapsulated by the story at the time that I failed to notice them. My biggest complaint about the book is that it was sad. Sadder than a horror novel had any right to be. I bought this book expecting to be thoroughly scared, but instead, I was almost in tears on several occasions. A book about a stupid undead cat was not supposed to make me want to cry.

I was torn between criticizing and praising the conclusion of “Pet Sematary.” It felt hollow and lacking, but it matched the tone of the story. I think I was disappointed because I was not ready for the story to end. It tied up everything nicely while leaving a few unresolved conflicts that kept a feeling of suspense to the very end of the novel. It was not my favorite ending, but it was still a damn good ending to an amazing novel.

If you are a fan of horror, I highly encourage that you read this book. It may not be as famous as some of Stephen King’s other works like “It” or “The Shining,” but that does not make it any less of a worthy novel. It has surprisingly complex characters and tells a gut-wrenching story that keeps the reader invested through all 374 pages. I implore you, do not judge this book by its cover. Give “Pet Sematary” a chance, and maybe you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Rating: 8/10

The Bright Sessions: A Podcast Review

The Bright Sessions, a gripping science fiction audio drama, tells the story of several patients’ therapy sessions with one, Dr. Joan Bright. These patients come from various walks of life and struggle with the same mental burdens that many of us do. The twist is these burdens are amplified by the fact that they have superhuman abilities. This provides a stark contradiction to the extravagant and fantastical tales of the majority of modern superhero stories and allows the listeners to more closely relate to the characters. These people are not saving the world or defeating monsters; they are trying to figure out life and seeking happiness just like we all are.

Courtesy of thebrightsessions.com

Over the course of the first season, listeners are introduced to three of the Bright’s atypical patients: Sam, an anxiety-ridden young woman with a habit of losing herself in time, Caleb, a confused high school football star that has a difficult time controlling his emotions, and Chloe, a struggling artist with a passion for others and a mind that is always buzzing. Episode by episode, listeners will fall in love with these characters as they grow as people and learn how to control their abilities.

I struggle to find fault with The Bright Sessions. There is a healthy mix of action and filler episodes. Some conflict seems somewhat senseless, but it can be justified by factoring in the characters’ damaged mental statuses. I personally would have liked to see more character development from a few characters, but there is still time for that. It is not a perfect podcast. I am certain I could find several smaller issues if I further thought about it, but they would be with inconsequential in comparison to the utter joy I have found listening to this podcast.

This podcast is clearly a work of passion. The dialogue is calculated yet casual, and it is backed by amazingly talented voice actors. The characters are diverse and complicated. The story is complex enough to simultaneously thoroughly develop each character while constructing a mysterious overarching narrative that keeps the listener constantly guessing about what might happen next. Even the therapy jargon is deeply researched by the writers with the aid of an actual licensed psychological consultant. All of these factors make The Bright Sessions one of the most engaging superhero stories I have ever had the pleasure of encountering.

Over the span of 56 episodes, The Bright Sessions has won much more than my praise. In 2016, it won seven Audio Verse awards, including “Best New Original, Short Form, Small Cast, Ongoing Production” and “Best Writing of an Original, Short Form, Ongoing Production.” Several of the voice actors involved also won awards that year for their phenomenal voice acting. The podcast was also nominated for a Webby Award, an AofP Award, and a People’s Choice Podcast Award.

I highly recommend this podcast whether or not you typically enjoy superhero dramas. The supernatural abilities act as a layer to further deepen the plot, but the basis of the podcast is about normal people, albeit with some odd quirks, trying to navigate this strange world in which we live. I believe this podcast is perfect for high school and college students alike since we are all trying our best to figure out life.

Unfortunately, The Bright Sessions has come to an end, but the universe it has built around it still lives on. Bonus Episodes are released the third Wednesday of every month. There are three young adult novels being written, and there is even a television show in development. I am currently on my second time listening to the series, and I plan on reading the books as soon as they are available.

The Bright Sessions is streamable on Spotify, iTunes, and most larger audio streaming websites. You can visit http://www.thebrightsessions.com/listen/ to check if it is available on your preferred application.

Rating: 9/10

A new virtual reality app for UNC universities

First Look just released a free application for both IOS and Android that will allow those interested to tour campuses within the UNC University system without actually being on campus. “UNC NC GEAR UP” allows users to experience campuses through virtual reality. This will allow people who are not financially or physically capable of touring campuses to still have a general idea of the overall aesthetic of the campus.

“GEAR UP” has a dedicated page for each of the 16 universities within the UNC system. Each page includes a brief 360-degree video that shows off the best of what the university has to offer. These videos can be viewed with or without any sort of headset. It also includes numerous links that allow users to learn about and communicate with the universities that interest them. The application offers several broad videos on topics such as Majors and Campus Life. This app can provide an informative introduction to the University before visiting a university.

For an extensive virtual reality tour of the University of North Carolina Charlotte campus, there is another app available free to both IOS and Android. “UNC Charlotte – Experience in VR” is similar to “GEAR UP” but has a video for each of the university’s major landmarks like Belk Gym and the Popp Martin Student Union. It even has a video about uptown Charlotte. This app also includes the same helpful links that GEAR UP did.

Overall, “UNC NC GEAR UP” seems oriented to aid students in picking a college. It accomplishes this nicely by providing a large amount of information within short 360-degree videos and links practical resources for further research. “UNC Charlotte – Experience in VR” appears to be a better alternative to an actual tour. It allows users to view more of the college at their own leisure while also providing relevant information. Both applications serve a purpose and would benefit anyone interested in attending the University of North Carolina Charlotte, but to receive a thorough and accurate tour, physically visiting the campus is still the best option.