Saturday, March 31, 2007

New bill might allow S.C. to sell beer with higher alcohol content

South Carolina law could allow higher-alcohol content in commercially sold beer by this June.

The possibility began again (after being tabled last session) with House Bill 3624, which suggested a change in the current law that would allow beer with as much as 14 percent alcohol by weight. That law was attached to House Bill 3218, which contains some dense language about imported beer and suppliers (I cannot understand it).

Currently the law states that beer cannot exceed 5 percent alcohol. Oddly enough, as I write this, I'm drinking Riggwelter Ale, an import from England that claims 5.7 percent alcohol, and I bought this beautiful stuff locally.

Here's House Bill 3218:

The full House Judiciary Committee will vote on the bill on April 10, and the woman I spoke to said it's pretty much a done deal that it will get out on the floor for the entire House to vote on it.

If the Senate and the House bills link up OK and the final bill passes, then the law could become effective upon the Governor's signature, which would happen in early June.

This page will give you the local S.C. House and S.C. Senate folks, so you can contact them with your opinion on these bills:

North Carolina and Georgia already allow higher alcohol content. Last night, I was drinking some gorgeous Belgian Trappist ales that a friend bought while in Atlanta, and the alcohol content ranged from 7 percent to 10.5 percent.
-Colin Burch

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Friday, March 30, 2007

I liked 'Shooter'

I didn’t know until the opening credits that director Antoine Fuqua’s movie Shooter, starring Mark Wahlberg, Danny Glover and Kate Mara, was based on Stephen Hunter’s novel Point of Impact. Hunter is the Pulitzer-winning movie critic at The Washington Post, formerly of The Baltimore Sun.

I had read Point of Impact several years ago, and subsequent books based on the central character, Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger, played by Wahlberg. I knew the basic plot, including the surprise at the end, so I immediately was thrown off-balance with the inevitable question: Is this movie going to work for me?

I loved it. It’s an entertaining, gut-level movie about survival and justice, and it basically does right by its source – a good indication being that Hunter showed up at the premier.

Wahlberg’s Swagger holds together and never slacks within a fairly tight pace, except the character, approached through the film, is missing some dimensionality, some echo of internal vibe. In the novel, Swagger was haunted and bitter. In the film, Swagger experiences tragedy and has an immediate need for survival, but he doesn’t have the haunted, bitter inner world. In Three Kings, one of my favorite films, Wahlberg’s character wanted to get gold, and wanted to get back to his wife and infant daughter, so he came off as a convincing character. Even in The Departed, Wahlberg’s character seemed to have more layers, and he was only a supporting actor. In Shooter, as much as Wahlberg’s Swagger liked his dog, even the pooch didn’t appear to be a motivating factor. He’s just executing the plot line, not totally two-dimensional, not quite three-dimensional.

A slightly chubby Michael Pena understood the novel’s character Nick Memphis, the FBI failure whose chance meeting with Swagger changes the lives of both characters.

If I say too much about Danny Glover’s role, it might be a give-away. I’ve never seen him play this type of role.

You know the constructed world of the film has a moral compass when bad guy Ned Beatty, playing a senator, says, “Truth is what I say it is!” Then again, as Swagger’s actions imply, when the powerful put themselves above the law, vigilante justice works just fine.

The political undertone of the movie has taken a hit in some conservative circles. They have some points, but maybe I don’t care because I don’t go to Hollywood movies for political or historical accuracy.

I tagged some glitches in the film:

1. As Swagger shops in a general store in Lynchburg, Virginia, highly attractive, fashionably dressed women pass through in the background, and they just don’t seem like they would be the norm in a Lynchburg general store.

2. A steel-mesh hanging basket in a kitchen scene with Mara holds fruit that looks way too fake.
Cool parts:

1. The first scene with Sarah Fenn (Mara); ga-ga.

2. What Swagger did with a bottle of water, salt, sugar, and some kind of culinary implement apparently used for injecting turkeys.

3. A ghastly contraption the bad guys attached to Memphis.

4. Big-ass explosions.

I saw this movie in the best cinema around, at Colonial Mall between Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach. The old cinema at the mall was terrible. Then someone came along, tore the old place to the ground, and rebuilt with stadium seating, top-notch digital projectors, and a thunderous sound system. Better still, it’s about a half-mile from my house.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Alas, the first edition of has been completed and posted at

The idea behind this online journal is to publish good writing that relates directly or indirectly to history, traditions, liturgy, creeds, and a sacramental way of seeing the world, including artistic and literary works.

Here's what I've got in this first edition:

An interview with acclaimed British historian Lesley Chamberlain

Thoughts on bread-baking and spirituality from author Peter Reinhart

A poem by Rhett Iseman Trull, editor of Cave Wall, a journal of art and poetry

A painting by Andrew Burch, whose work has been shown in Carolina galleries

An essay on the importance of the creeds in the Christian faith

An essay on historical continuity in liturgy with special reference to the founding of

Check it out, and enjoy!

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Structure, creativity, and the brain

The human brain apparently integrates structure and creativity in much of what it does, the left hemisphere lending a hand to the work of the right hemisphere, and vice versa. In ancient Greek thought, apparently, the roles of structure and creativity were considered a bit more mutually exclusive. Let me introduce a quote with two brief, simplified definitions.

Lógos: For Greeks, encompassed reasoning and language

Mûthos: For Greeks, encompassed words, speech, stories, poems, fictions, and fables

"Recent neurological research indicates that, by and large, the hemispheres of the human brain have distinct functions [stay with me, it gets better]: in the left (for most people) is the proposenity for language, mathematics, and linear reasoning, in the right the propensity for visual, spatial, intuitive, and analogical skills, the hemispheres working together through their neural links. This discovery has prompted a re-examination of the roles and relationships of lógos and mûthos, suggesting that they may be partners rather than rivals. If this is so, creative thought may require both linear left and holistic right. In linguistic terms, logic is as likely in verse as in prose, and analogy and metaphor are as much the tools of philosophers and scientists as of bards and mystics." -The Oxford Companion to the English Language

For example, if I attempt to write a sonnet, the imposed structure forces me to be creative in solving the problems of tailoring topic and language. However, I think the point in the Oxford Companion might point to something more foundational, deeply rooted in the brain. In communicating a mystical fable, one must stick to grammatical norms, and the vision of the teller can inspire certain structural choices.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Going beyond form

This passage, from Peter Reinhart's book Bread Upon the Waters, explains a truth that applies in so many areas of human experience, including athletics, creative work, and spirituality:

Shortly before he died, the great martial artist, Bruce Lee, developed his own technique of fighting called Jeet Koon Do, based on formless, spontaneous intuitive movements. The few people who had the opportunity to study with him claim that it was the most brilliant form of martial arts ever devised. Lee refused to teach it to anyone unless he had already achieved a black belt or its equivalent in a traditional school of karate, kung fu, tae kwon do, aikido, judo, or jujitso. He said, "I cannot teach you to go beyond form until you have mastered form."

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Whiskey for Saint Patrick's Day

I had a $15 shot of Irish whiskey last Monday night, preparing for my Saint Patrick's Day column. Midleton Very Rare was an amazing sipping experience. Kristi, who is a Jack Daniels drinker, liked Midleton better than the other Irish whiskeys we tried that evening.
Speaking of which, we also tried Bushmills, Michael Collins, and Power's.
Read about the Irish whiskey adventure here: . A link to previous columns is on the same page.
Happy Saint Patrick's Day,

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Myrtle Beach Moment, No. 6

Two of the most unique names in Myrtle Beach commercial real estate: Stokes Graves and Rusty Helm...

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Monday, March 5, 2007

Polanyi and the Art of Knowing

My review of Mark T. Mitchell's book Michael Polanyi: The Art of Knowing appears in the new issue of Appraisal, the journal of the Society for Post-Critical and Personalist Studies in the U.K.

Mitchell writes, "Polanyi points a way out of the dark forest of rational scepticism and systematic doubt. He shows us how we might once again speak meaningfully of the good, the true and the beautiful. And he shows us how we might recover an understanding of the importance of the places we inhabit and the persons with whom we live."

To read the review, click the following link for a PDF of the book review section, and then scroll down to the mid-point of page 6: .

-Colin Burch

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Friday, March 2, 2007

Gluten-free beer: Is the end near?

Redbridge is a beer made from sorghum, a type of grass that was used to make syrup in the Old South. Redbridge is for people who are living a "gluten-free lifestyle." So it is made with no wheat or barley.
When I saw this near beer at the package store, I thought the apocalyptic Left Behind series might be onto something.
But when I tasted it... well, click here and find out:


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Thursday, March 1, 2007

Farewell to The Living Room

During the first week of January 2001, Kristi and I opened The Living Room Coffee Bar & Used Books here in Myrtle Beach.
We sold it March 2004 to Diane Parker, and we became patrons of The Living Room, always being proud that we started the place and it was still going, never mind losing money on it.
Recently, Diane was due to renew her lease. The property owners drew up a new lease agreement that included a 20-percent hike in her monthly rent. She couldn't do it, and we understand why -- it's not big bucks, just big hearts, that run a social, community-minded place.
The Living Room closed for good on Saturday, Feb. 24.
The following is an article written for the Neighbors section of The Sun News by Tory Tall, a regular and one of The Living Room's biggest fans going back to our first days of operation. (After Tory's column, I'll paste the article that ran on The Living Room's last day, which appeared on the front of the Money section in The Sun News.)

Coffee house will be missed; customers call it second home

It was standing room only Saturday night as folks gathered for The Living Room's last hurrah. Open mike participants were in rare form as they serenaded the crowd with everything from edgy guitar tunes to "Georgia on My Mind." Let me just say that bongos and kazoos were involved.
As evidenced by the farewell notes left by despondent customers, the establishment had become a second home for many.
"I will miss this warm, lovely Living Room - my living room away from home - where sweet people served me the best coffee on the beach and shared their life with me. Big hugs," penned Patti C.
"I'm going to miss all of you because it's good to be recognized in this busy world, and not only for being a customer," wrote an anonymous author.
Almost every note made a reference to this sense of connection.
The lyrics from the TV show, "Cheers" - "where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came" - may not have been what proprietress Diane Parker used as a business model, but it's certainly what she created.
"I wanted my staff to greet each customer with a smile because we care about people and know that our customers are the heart of our business," she said. "A small business helps develop a sense of community and that small-town feeling we all want."
She created that and so much more.
Just as Parker will miss seeing everybody, she and her fantastic, albeit eclectic, staff will be much missed. Have no doubt that you, like the man in one of your favorite parables, have made a difference to a whole lot of starfish.
The loss of the Living Room should be a cautionary tale, as it is only one of the many small businesses that have been unable to withstand market pressures in our local community. Although I appreciate the convenience of ordering from Amazon in my PJs and paying less for Steamfresh veggies at Wal-Mart, I miss independent bookstores like the Whale's Tale, locally owned restaurants like Corbin's and Little's, and record shops like Sounds Familiar, where personal attention was the standard.
I am deeply grateful for those places like New Life Natural Foods, Studio 77, Sun City Cafe and Anything Joe's, among others, that are still able to fight the good fight. Hard work isn't enough to keep places like these safe from the fate that befell the Living Room - they need your patronage.
If you want to wear your support on your bumper, order the sticker that says "Independents Do It Without Chains" from Malaprop's Bookstore in Asheville, N.C., and for further inspiration, read "Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America's Independent Businesses."
Contact freelance writer TORY TALL at or 602-1194.

Living Room leaving MB
By Lisa Fleisher
The Sun News
Local artist Harry Love will have to find somewhere else to hang his paintings. Musician Otis Windley will say goodbye to the grand piano and the crowds he's entertained. A local Spanish club will have to find a new place to chat.
Countless devoted customers who have come to feel at home at The Living Room Coffee Bar & Used Books are saying goodbye to the Myrtle Beach coffee shop and used bookstore, which will shut its doors today.
Patrons say there's nothing in the Myrtle Beach area quite like the place, where paintings and sketches hung for sale on the walls, shelves of used books filled the back half of the coffeehouse and mismatched, yet charming furniture filled the front.
"Oh, we're heartbroken," said Joan Rigby, of Southampton, Ontario, Canada. "We started coming for the good coffee, and then we heard the new music, and that was it."
Diane Parker, 54, took over the business three years ago from the previous owners when she moved here from Raleigh, N.C., where she was a dental hygienist.
"I always wanted to own my own business," she said. "That just was one of the things I needed to tick off in my life's journey."
Parker said she has to close because the business was getting too much for her to run and she could not find a buyer. Her three-year lease had expired, and the rent was about to jump 20 percent.
Live music will play tonight until the last patron leaves.
This year was the first in the black for the six-year-old business, Parker said.
To make the business work, she introduced live music nights, set up chairs and tables, wheeled in her own grand piano and revamped the book and menu selection. She added homemade quiches, chicken salads and brownies.
"The first day I made a mocha I was so proud," she said, leaning in to whisper her dirty little secret: she's not a coffee drinker.
She knew nothing about espresso either, but she trusted her employees to make it happen.
"Once you've been through life and gone to enough restaurants, you know customer service, you know what you like, and more, you know what you don't like," she said. "It's just a matter of knowing how to run a business."
With such a large retired population to cater to, Parker said she had to educate customers who had not grown up with a Starbucks on every corner about what a latte and a cappuccino were.
Parker tried to establish an atmosphere where customers felt they could milk their lattes for hours while relaxing in a comfy chair surfing the Net on their laptops for free.
After her husband died in 1999, Parker said she wanted to give back. She went on mission trips. Then, with The Living Room, she tried to create a community gathering place.
"It's probably been more than I expected it to be," she said. "I get e-mails from people all the time thanking me that I have this place here."
What really formed the close-knit community were the open-mike nights on Thursdays, she said, and jazz on Fridays.
Slam poets and amateur musicians would perform in a space where they said they felt safe and appreciated. Fridays would get so crowded, latecomers knew they had to bring their own chairs.
Even in the daytime, a lone guitarist or fiddler often sat on a chair outside, entertaining themselves and passersby.
Dan Allen, 38, a local electrician who taught himself violin as a teenager, would play on his lunch breaks from the nearby construction site of the Beach First center on 38th Avenue North and Robert M. Grissom Parkway.
He writes and plays his own songs. "They've never really run me off," he said, laughing.
He'll miss the fair trade coffee and the vegetarian food, he said.
This past week, customers picked through the hundreds of books still on the shelves and enjoyed their last chocolate scones.
"We like your store a lot," one customer told Parker.
"So do we," she said. "So do we."
If you go
What Last night of music
When Tonight at 6
Where The Living Room, 1285 38th Ave. N. in Plantation Point Plaza
Contact LISA FLEISHER at 626-0317 or

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