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SHADOWS. Contributing photographer Michael Kaynard took this great shot downtown near Broad Street. If you're looking for a great holiday present, check out the Spotlight below for more information.

Issue 5.06 | Monday, Dec. 10, 2012
Get your tree on!

:: Great site for finding kids' adventures

:: Crossing off two from Bucket List

:: Hollings Lab awards, law school, more

:: South Carolina agriculture


:: FEEDBACK: Doesn't want big road

:: SPOTLIGHT: Kaynard Photography

:: CALENDAR: This week ... and next

:: THE LIST: Great finals

:: QUOTE: Perspective


ABOUT US offers insightful community comment and good news on events each week. It cuts through the information clutter to offer the best of what's happening locally. What readers say



Pluff Mud site for kids offers holiday adventures
Special to Charleston Currents

EDITOR'S NOTE: Writer Leigh Sabine will offer a monthly look at fun activities for Lowcountry kids starting in January. It's based on her great blog, PluffMudKids. Check it out.

DEC. 10, 2012 -- While society has changed, children have not.

As a Mount Pleasant mother of 9-year-old twin boys who worked as a preschool and kindergarten teacher and has a degree in early childhood development, I believe all children need fresh air and outdoor spaces to run, play and grow. Nature connects children to learning in a very hands-on way.  But according to the American Heart Association, studies show that one in three children are trending toward becoming diabetic, overweight adults.

So after years of focusing on outdoor adventures with my children, I decided to create a blog -- PluffMudKids -- to highlight our favorite places in the beautiful city of Charleston and the great state of South Carolina.  Pluff Mud Kids is designed to give families researched details on activities in Charleston and South Carolina to promote an active lifestyle.
In and around Charleston, family holiday activities are stacked like cord wood. Digging deep into the pile, Pluff Mud Kids has uncovered a few less-advertised events that will bring a quiet joy to your season.
There is the hushed awe of strolling through gorgeous candlelit gardens, creating a memory of falling in love with Handel's Messiah, the one and only Holy City Gate Walk, and a rock-climbing challenge to ring in the season. Try one or all and enjoy!

  • The Holy City Gate Walk (ongoing) -- This self guided tour through the heart of downtown Charleston is special at Christmas time. Using the detailed map and guide posted on pluffmudkids, gather up out-of-town visitors and wow them with the beauty of our city. Pull up our blog post and follow along on your cell phone as your children count the gates.

  • Rock climbing at the Holiday Festival of Lights at the James Island County Park (throughout December) -- If your little ones have graduated through the joy of the yearly train ride, they can linger for this more challenging experience. Your children will be captivated by the challenge to make it to the top of the wall and ring the Christmas bell. A great photo opportunity for grandparents!

  • Brookgreen Gardens by Candlelight (weekends throughout December) -- If your family craves an adventure further afield, this is a fantastic option and well worth the trek. The sculpture gardens are aglow with thousands of candles and special lighting just right for the season. Wander along with cider or hot chocolate and soak in the magic. Dates:  December 7, 8, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22 and a special New Year's Eve opening with limited tickets.

  • Holy City Messiah presented by Charleston Symphony Orchestra: 7:30 p.m., Dec. 21.  This is an outstanding production in a gorgeous new setting. Hosted by St. Benedict Catholic Church in Mount Pleasant, this sound is a memory that your child will long associate with Christmas. Pluff Mud Kids highly recommend this performance and suggests listening to the piece with your children before attending to maximize the impact. Tickets are $25 for adults, and $10 students ages 6 to 22. For more information, visit this site. Study the map provided as the entrance to Darrell Creek Trail is unmarked.

Striking two from personal Bucket List
By ANDY BRACK, publisher

WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 10, 2012 – Talk about a Bucket List weekend! A Saturday trip to Philadelphia for the classic Army-Navy football game plus the unexpected Sunday pleasure of a world-class performance of Handel's “Messiah” at the Washington National Cathedral buttressed a weekend that will be hard to forget.

The trip started Thursday with an all-day train ride from Charleston to Washington. If you haven't lately taken the train or considered it for a long trip, you should put it on your to-do list. Amtrak's Palmetto departed from the North Charleston station on time at 10 a.m. And arrived just under 10 hours later at Union Station a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol.

A trip by train has several advantages if you don't need a car to haul other people or lots of stuff. First, it takes just about the same amount of time – and you don't have to deal with traffic on a clogged Interstate 95. Second, the train offers wireless Internet service, which affords one the opportunity to do some work, surf the Web, catch up on Facebook, or read on a Kindle or iPad. Finally, it's less costly than a round-trip plane ticket – about $270 round-trip in business class – and you don't have to arrive very early to mess with security. A tip: Bring some of your own food. On the train, food and drinks are not great and overpriced.

By Saturday, my father, who arrived Friday from Atlanta, joined the weekend trip for a day outing to Philadelphia to witness “America's Game,” the 113th playing of West Point's cadets versus the midshipmen from Annapolis. This year's contest was everything you could hope for in what is described as one of the 100 sporting events you have to see before you die. (Below at leftt, Navy's band marches on the field.)

Army, which came in with a 2-9 record, had lost for 10 years in a row. Navy, with a 7-4 record and headed to a bowl game, wanted to strike an historic 11th victory. At the half, the score was tied at 10 points each. It looked like Army might have a chance as the team seemed to be controlling the ball better than Navy. Then Army went up by three, but Navy scrambled at the end for a touchdown and won again, 17-13.

People who have seen the game in person in the past often remark they have never been as cold as when they were at an Army-Navy game. Saturday's contest, while overcast with dank and droopy weather that foiled a jet flyover at the beginning of the game, found temperatures in the low 50s – not bad for a December in Philadelphia. We were pleased to run into former Charlestonian David Agnew, now White House Director of Intergovernmental Relations, and his 7-year-old son Dallas, before the game.

What is most memorable, however, is the pomp, circumstance and pageantry throughout the game. Before kick-off, 30 companies of Navy midshipmen marched onto Lincoln Financial Field to the beat of a constant base drum and band music. In their dark-blue coats and white hats, they stood out on the green field. Then came 36 companies of cadets in gray, cape-draped great coats. Bunched together in tight formation on the field, the 3,000 cadets looked from the stands like 36 gray tank spoiling for a fight. At halftime before the bands played, Army handed off the day's dignitary, Vice President Joe Biden (at right), to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and the Navy side so Biden could sit with midshipmen for a half.

All in all, a great Saturday. Even a 1.5 hour delay on the train back to Washington didn't cast a pall over the day.

On Sunday, a younger sister treated me and her friend to the almost three-hour performance of Handel's masterpiece. All that can be said was that it was unforgettable. My sister, who has a master's degree in music and knows about these things, said the presentation was as good as we'd ever see. The soloists – tenor Rufus Muller, bass Nathan Berg, soprano Gillian Keith and mezzo-soprano Julia Mintzer – were out of this world. Backed by an orchestra playing on period Baroque pieces and a choir of children and adults, the music that filled the cathedral was inspiring, humbling and impressive.

If you haven't taken the train to Washington lately, give it a thought. There's lots to do in the nation's capital.

Andy Brack is publisher of Charleston Currents and Statehouse Report. He can be reached at:

No to large expressway

To the editor:

As you know, many of the large roadways are pushed by investors, Realtors, and road-building companies that want to make huge amounts of money.  Also, the impacts of the highways are extremely adverse for many property owners, who have to sell their property to Realtors because of the “Eminent Domain Act”…and the Realtors increase the costs to DOT, cities and counties and make huge sums of money on lands.  Roads are not generally built for common people.  We need to keep smaller roads, and have light rail systems,  buses, and bike paths for our people…instead of large freeways!

– Name withheld upon request, James Island, S.C.

Send us a letter. Drop us a line and tell us what's on your mind or what's bothering you? Or send us other thoughts. We love getting input from you.

  • If you have an opinion you'd like to share (150 words or less, please), send your letters to: We look forward to hearing from you!

Kaynard Photography

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Charleston Currents to you at no cost. Today we shine our spotlight on a brand new underwriter: Kaynard Photography, a business run by contributing photographer Michael Kaynard of West Ashley.

If you're looking for that great holiday gift, what better way to show someone that you care than a signed piece of art. Kaynard Photography offers affordable matted photographs from the area – 11 x 14 prints mattered to 16 x 20 for just $60 with smaller sizes available too. They can be framed for a reasonable cost, too.

Kaynard Photography grew from Michael's love of walking the streets of the Charleston's historic district. It developed into a passion for capturing everything Charleston through a camera lens. Kaynard can be seen walking the streets of Charleston many days from dawn to darkness. He calls his work "At Street Level." His photos are available for viewing and sale at

Four win major federal Commerce awards

Four Charleston area residents who work at the Hollings Marine Laboratory received top federal awards Dec. 5 for their scientific work involving the Deepwater Horizon oil tragedy in 2010.

  • Amanda Moors and Rebecca Pugh received the Bronze Medal Award for Superior Federal Service from the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology “for developing a chain-of-custody biorepository program to support NOAA’s natural resources damage assessment of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.” They were among 44 employees to receive the award, the highest presented by NIST.

  • John Kucklick and Michele Schantz received the U.S. Department of Commerce Silver Medal Award for Exceptional Service “for quality assurance of measurements critical to the federal government’s natural resource damage assessment of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.” The award his the second highest honor of the department.

The Hollings laboratory is a unique partnership of governmental and academic agencies including NOAA's National Ocean Service, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the College of Charleston, and the Medical University of South Carolina.

Law school to offer first master's degree

The Charleston School of Law is starting the nation’s first Master of Laws degree in admiralty and maritime law on the East Coast, Dean Andy Abrams announced last week.
“As the four corners of the world become more connected globally, there’s a bright new opportunity developing for our law school here in the home of the ‘Four Corners of Law,’” he said.  “The Charleston School of Law will start offering coursework in August to meet a growing demand in the United States for a graduate law degree in admiralty and maritime law. Offering this new advanced degree highlights our commitment to being the number one school for maritime law in the United States.”
The school is seeking about a dozen students to participate in its founding class of graduate students in maritime law.  When students graduate, they’ll receive an LL.M. degree in Admiralty and Maritime Law. 
“This is exciting and a dream come true,” said Professor Randall Bridwell, who will lead the school’s admiralty graduate program through the Charleston Maritime Law Institute.  “With as much as the Port of Charleston means to our community, it is a natural fit for us to be on the world stage of law schools that offer an advanced degree in maritime law.”

Benefitfocus to unveil new building Tuesday

Benefitfocus, one of the nation’s leading health care and benefits technology providers, will open its new Design and Engineering Building 2 p.m. Wednesday on Daniel Island.

“The evolving health care market is full of new opportunities, and this one-of-a-kind building is designed to fuel innovative thinking and agility in the development of Benefitfocus technology,” said Don Taylor, chief technology officer at Benefitfocus. “It’s truly the ideal environment to draw out the creativity of our associates as we move into the next generation of our overall platform design and expand our workforce with new engineering talent.”

The contemporary office space provides associates with a collaborative environment, complete with a panoramic view of the Benefitfocus campus on Daniel Island. Full-length windows and lounge areas with plush seating contribute to the ergonomic design of the world-class engineering building. Mobile whiteboards are available to facilitate the frequent brainstorming sessions and impromptu meetings for which the engineers are known, reflecting the collaborative spirit of the Benefitfocus culture.

“Engineering is the epicenter of our company’s culture,” said Shawn Jenkins, president and CEO of Benefitfocus. “This dedicated workspace is a testament of the appreciation we have for our engineering team and their ability to take visionary ideas and create remarkable products. That’s what keeps Benefitfocus at the forefront of technology.”

Magnolia wants to collect “a ton” of food for local food bank
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is extending a special discount through the holiday season in an attempt to collect a ton of food for the Lowcounty Food Bank.

Last month, the attraction offered $5 off of a $15 general garden admission ticket for visitors who donated one or more non-perishable health food items. This month, Magnolia will give a 50 percent discount to visitors who donate food items.

The discount is being continued due to an unexpected response from the public, said Magnolia's executive director, Tom Johnson, “So far, we have collected more than 1,000 pounds of food for the food bank, an amount that I didn’t expect us to receive,” he said. “This demonstrates that Charleston’s spirit of giving is alive and well. Therefore, I want us to collect a ton of food so we are continuing this food drive through the Christmas season, the season of giving.

“I am also calling on other businesses, particularly those in the hospitality industry, to do the same. We live in one of America’s most picturesque and historic cities, therefore, no one should be without in a city voted the best tourism destination in the world.”

The healthy foods that support the Food Bank's nutritional initiative include protein products such as peanut butter, canned chicken, salmon and tuna in water.; dried lentils and beans; bread, flour and cereals should include whole wheat flour, 100 percent whole grain cereals and brown rice; low or no salt, low and sugar free canned fruits and vegetables; and snacks such as dried fruit and reduce or sugar free cookies.

How to get free downtown holiday parking

You can get two hours of free parking in downtown Charleston garages through Dec. 31.

  • Click the link to get a voucher and learn where free parking will be.

Send us a recommendation or review

  • An invitation: If you have a review or recommendation of a book, movie, restaurant or local arts endeavor, please send no more than 150 words to editor Andy Brack. Make sure to include your name and full contact information.

South Carolina agriculture
(Part 1 of 3)

For most of its history, agriculture virtually defined South Carolina, and no other single force has so profoundly influenced the state’s economy, history, demographics, and politics. For example, absent the state’s dependence on slave-based staples such as rice and cotton, South Carolina’s fanatical defense of slavery to the point of disunion and war seems less tenable.

From the beginning South Carolina was conceived as an agrarian paradise. The Lords Proprietors intended the colony to fill a niche in the English mercantile system by supplying commodities not produced elsewhere in the empire. At first, however, settlers struggled merely to survive. They raised corn, cattle, and hogs for food while seeking a money crop to put the colony on a paying basis. It was a slow process. Experiments with semitropical plants such as ginger, silk, dates, almonds, and olives were disappointing. Desperate for cash, settlers planted tobacco, the crop of Virginia and Maryland, as a makeshift staple until a more suitable commodity could be found. Thus tobacco became, albeit briefly, South Carolina’s first cash crop.

The colony’s first significant commercial crop was rice. Small-scale experiments evolved into an established crop culture by the 1720s. The Lowcountry’s warm climate and swampy landscape were perfect for growing rice, and an eager market existed as well. Europeans were hungry for Carolina rice, and ships laden with the staple called on London, Hamburg, and Rotterdam.

Rice culture required substantial investments of capital and labor, and hundreds of fields were cleared and thousands of enslaved Africans imported to toil in them. Large plantations (some totaling thousands of acres) developed along the region’s tidewater rivers. Indeed, the expansion of rice and slavery went hand in hand, and by 1740 Africans comprised two-thirds of South Carolina’s population. Black majorities were even greater in the heavy rice-producing areas around Georgetown and the ACE Basin. Thus the blend of Northern European and West African influences that became the unique culture of South Carolina began in the rice fields of the Lowcountry. Rice (and the bondage that supported it) dominated Lowcountry life for 150 years.

In the 1740s, indigo became an important staple. Eliza Lucas Pinckney is credited with introducing indigo culture, although experienced French Huguenot settlers doubtless refined the process. The English government encouraged indigo by paying a bounty on the crop.

As settlement spread inland, so did indigo. Soon farmers in Colleton, Williamsburg, Camden, and Ninety Six were producing the blue dye. Slavery expanded apace, bringing significant numbers of Africans to the interior for the first time. Independence from Britain ended the subsidy on indigo, and overproduction lowered prices still further. In the 1790s high-grade dye produced in India (another British colony) drove South Carolina indigo from the market. Most producers shifted back to rice or a new commodity: cotton. ...

To be continued ...

Excerpted from the entry by Eldred E. Prince Jr. To read more about this or 2,000 other entries about South Carolina, check out The South Carolina Encyclopedia by USC Press. (Information used by permission.)


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Listen to The List on The Bridge, 105.5

Creative final exams

Toward the end of every semester, college students loathe the prospect of final exams. But some professors at the College of Charleston have taken an innovative approach to end-of-semester grading. Here are five interesting exams taking place this month:

Biology: Professor Alison Welch's students will use skills to get a first-hand experience of “doing science” by developing proposals for novel research on invasive or imperiled species. Then they'll present group proposals and the winner will earn funding. Presentations range from gopher tortoises to kudzu.

Spanish natural history: Students in C of C's Biology Professor Gorka Sancho's “Natural History of Spain” class in Trujillo, Spain, observe Mediterranean birds and plants in a place they haven't visited and record species. They're graded on quantification, quality and accuracy of field notes.

Theatre: Students in Mary Beth Berry's “Intro to Theatre” class develop stories and characters from random objects. Then they combine them into a script that is cast, rehearsed, staged and performed. They create something from nothing to better understand how they can be artists.

Water resources: Geology Professor Tim Callahan has students in his “Water Resources” class work with a graduate student to design a project that will propose green infrastructure additions and renovations on the college campus.

Healing narratives: Students in a class by English Professor Kathleen Beres Rogers and Psychology Professor Silvia Youssef Hanna offer presentations about interviews with a senior citizen they have interviewed. The presentations highlight how the person's illness intersects their psychology and English courses and offers a chance for students to outline what they learned from the experience.


"Are you really sure that a floor can't also be a ceiling?"

-- M.C. Escher



THIS WEEK | permalink

(NEW) Big vote by County Council: 5 p.m., Dec. 13, Council chambers, Lonnie Hamilton Building, North Charleston. County Council will meet as the Finance Committee of the whole to consider whether to hand over completion of Interstate 526 to the city of Charleston. Agenda.

(NEW) Book signing: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Dec. 15, Magnolia Cemetery, 70 Cunningham Ave., Charleston. Charleston writer Patrick Harwood, author of “The Birds of Magnolia Cemetery: Charleston's Secret Bird Sanctuary, will sign copies of his 100-plus page coffee-table book. More info.

Vocal workshop: 2 p.m., Dec. 15, Charleston Academy of Music, 189 Rutledge Ave., Charleston. Vocalist Ann Caldwell and accompanist Richard Harris White Jr. will host a workshop to introduce attendees to various musical genres including spirituals, country, gospel, blues and jazz. Admission is $10 for non-CAM families. RSVP here.

Caw Caw craftmaking: 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays through Jan. 5, Caw Caw Interpretive Center, Ravenel. You can make nature-inspired holiday gifts through the Family Artisan Series for ages 8 and up. Among the offerings: Fire and clay jewelry, Dec. 15; and gourd bird houses, Jan. 5. Programs are $8 per county resident; $10 for others. Chaperones needed for kids under 16. More.

Yuletide doubleheader at the Dock Street: Charleston Stage will present two great holiday plays with "A Christmas Story" from through Dec. 16, and "Madeline's Christmas" on Dec. 15 and 16. Both festive tales will be presented at the Dock Street Theatre in downtown Charleston. There's lots of information online.


New Year's on the Square: 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Dec. 31, Marion Square and surrounding locations. Family-oriented concerts and presentations will mark the coming of the new year in a non-alcoholic events and arts celebration.

Exploring the American Revolution: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Jan. 12, 2013, Washington Light Infantry armory, 287 Meeting Street, Charleston. A day filled with roundtable discussions about Southern campaigns during the Revolutionary War will occur with a "Dutch treat" lunch. Learn more online.

Hollingsworth show: Through Dec. 30, City Gallery at Waterfront Park, Charleston. The city's Office of Cultural Affairs presents "Benjamin Hollingsworth: Grace," a show of new works from the emerging self-taught artist from North Carolina. More.

Holiday Festival of Lights: Now through Dec. 31, starting at 5:30 p.m. nightly. The annual three-mile drive through James Island County Park features hundreds of breathtaking light displays will millions of bulbs. Learn about more festivities here.

Seasonal Fashions: Winter in Charleston: Through Jan. 6, Charleston Museum, Charleston. The museum wraps up its year-long exhibit in its Historic Textile Gallery with a lively display of red and green garments surrounding a Christmas tree laden with antique ornaments and a grouping of vintage toys. The late 19th and early 20th century garments include those worn by fashionable men, women and children at holiday parties and while relaxing around the tree. More.

Bird walks: 8:30 a.m. to noon, every Wednesday and Saturday. This is the time of year that a great variety of migrating birds fly through the Lowcountry so what better time to take part in one of the regular early morning bird walks at Caw Caw Interpretive Center in Ravenel. Pre-registration is suggested. Cost is $5. Learn more online.


We encourage you to follow us through Twitter @chascurrents.


12/24: Abrams: Holiday time
C. Brack: Help others
Sabine: Pluff Mud for kids
LaFond: Health directives

11/26: Stevens: Thank you letters
McConnell: Retirement plans
Franklin: Long-term care
Middleton: You make the call

10/29: Herrick: Saucy new book
Spencer: Invest in arts
Ferillo: Hope's promise
Brooks: Senior hunger
Belton: Florence Crittenton

Eberle: Hampton Park
Ringler: Child cancer
Craft: Our water
SC Dems: Convention


12/17: Charleston Christmas
"Satan's Kingdom"
Christening ironclads
Beauregard's return
Second Battle of Manassas
Secessionville aftermath
Battle of Secessionville
Robert Smalls
Preparing for the attach
Yankee in charge?
Lee and Traveller
Stone Fleet


12/24: Looking back at 2012
Action, not talk, on guns
Two off Bucket List
1-526 hoodwinking

11/26: Guilty pleasure
Earlier education
Lessons from the election
Battleground state

10/29: 16 days, Gov. Haley?
Our next mayor?
Remembering Peatsy
Haley's options
Reform ethics system

9/24: New TravelOrMove site
Cake and I-526
Raise gas tax
Doby on stamp, book


10/15: Guerrilla cuisine
Lots of cooking help
Pressure cookers
Thanks to Couric
On John Martin Taylor
Mystery of old cans
Eat like a Founding Father
Nuke that corn
Huguenot torte

Local connection for Star
Teaching mom a little
Cooking for crowd
Farmers markets opening

Hank's new cookbook
Enjoy Carter's Kitchen
Glass Onion to be on TV
Guacamole and the Bowl
Restaurant Week
Using leftover bubbly


11/26: Consumerism, buying local
Can we be a better town
Permaculture, more
Bank on Charleston
Did you know?
Payday lenders hurt economy
Waterkeeper event
GrowFood difference
Earth Day festival
Lorax Project
More gardening tips
Food Waste program
Energy from farms
Turtles that fly
Art from beach trash

Coal ash, more
Boeing's solar farm
More eco-tours
More recycling ahead


12/24: Last-minute gifts
Gift of insurance
Creative finals
Great kid gifts

11/26: Giving back winners
Tech gift list
S.C.'s top golf courses
We're No. 2!

10/29: Anti-hacking tips
#1 best in world
Earthquake tips
Great U.S. streets
5 tech tips

Be tax-ready
One long swim
Clean water
Going postal


Here's the latest from our sister publication, Statehouse Report.


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