The year that’s almost over – 2012 – didn’t come to an early end along with the rest of our world last week as the Mayan doomsday prophecy failed to materialize.
Although many of us thought a clear sign of the Apocalypse surely came on Nov. 6 with the reelection of President Obama, life goes on and we’re afforded the opportunity to look back and say, “what the hell happened?”
Divisive politics and over-the-top Facebook philosophizing dominated the culture in 2012 along with real-life zombie-like attacks and more economic malaise, but here at Surge HQ, we tried to rise above the fray and cast a wide net to capture those outside-the-box stories, tales, personalities and profiles largely ignored by other segments of the local media yet which make life along the Grand Strand anything but dull (thankfully).
In 2012, our cover stories varied widely, from the beach’s stormin’ Mormons, to the spread of so-called mommy porn to a popular cereal treat standing in for our new Congress-elect, to several looks at local nightlife and entertainment trends, such as the beach’s hip-hop scene, the rise of Sunday Funday partying, a homegrown record label peddling retro product, a local coffeehouse owner with a spiritual bent, and we also took on sports - from women’s athletics at Coastal Carolina University to Harry Potter’s Quidditch becoming real - and many, many points in between.
Never miss a local story.
So it’s that time to take a deep breath, look back and pat ourselves on the back. OK, only jesting...slightly. But we are once again in retrospective mode, examining the year that was, and this article represents a compilation of the 12 top Surge cover stories of 2012, as selected by this publication’s shadowy gatekeeper known as The Editor. But it’s more than simply a compilation - it’s also a competition. These 12 stories were penned by a dozen different hard-working freelance writers that make up Surge’s stable of regular contributors, otherwise known as The Bullpen. We couldn’t function very well without their contributions, so this annual competition for Story of the Year is a way to throw them a little bone, boost their self-esteem and put some extra green in their pocket. You see, the writer of the top story of 2012 will also pocket the equivalent cash of writing one of these here cover stories - without having to lift a typing finger.
How does this work?
Well, just like last year, and the year before, here’s what you, as a faithful Surge reader, can do:
Peruse the following synopses of the dozen stories vying for Story of the Year 2012, then mosey on over to this link http://myrtlebeachonline.upickem.net/engine/Welcome.aspx?contestid=78991
, which will take you to the digital voting platform.
Voting kicks off today and runs through Jan. 18, with the winner announced in the Jan. 24 edition of Weekly Surge.
Voting is limited to once per hour per user, but you can vote multiple times for multiple stories.
May the best story win.
Cover Story: Drastic Plastic: Is disposable culture strangling our coastal habitat?
Written by: Kimberly Moore, for Weekly Surge
Published: Jan. 19, 2012
Despite the amounts of plastic trash you’re likely to encounter on any given stroll of the Grand Strand’s 60-mile stretch of beaches, it’s relatively clean compared to the West Coast, says the man who discovered the Great Pacific Garbage patch, a massive whirlpool of garbage that’s been likened to plastic soup.
“I visited the East Coast in November, and walked the beaches in Litchfield, Pawleys Island, and Myrtle Beach. I was impressed with the lack of plastic compared to where I am from,” says Captain Charles Moore, a native of California who discovered and reported the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. “This area has it, but along the East Coast, the currents end up blowing it offshore.”
Could it be local municipalities are diligent in cleaning up plastic litter on local beaches, as well as policing polluters? Have local clean-up efforts and awareness campaigns struck a chord with a local population that’s becoming more eco-sensitive and are we attracting environmentally-conscious tourists?
Could it be the major problem is swept under the rug - or out to sea in this case?
Is our disposable society feeding a Great Atlantic Garbage Patch?
Cover Story: SOPA on the ropes: Can Congress craft legislation to combat online piracy without becoming Big Brother?
Written by: Lee Newman, for Weekly Surge
Published: Jan. 26, 2012
Did you head to Wikipedia on Jan. 18 to settle a heated debate only to find a blackout screen?
By now, you’ve probably heard about SOPA and PIPA, but what does it all mean, and why did some of the Web’s most popular players go dark in protest a little more than a week ago?
No, SOPA isn’t the newest product from Johnson & Johnson and PIPA isn’t going to make your food taste any better. The Stop Online Piracy Act, also known as SOPA or H.R. 3261, and Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, also known as PIPA or S. 968, are two pieces of controversial legislation that have gotten a lot of buzz lately, but what to do they mean for the average person?
For starters, it could have meant the potential end of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. It also could have meant the end to streaming media sites like YouTube or Grooveshark. It also would have meant larger corporations would have the power to strike down smaller start-ups if they got too close to their copyrights on the Web. When does the protection of copyrighted material become Draconian censorship?
It looked like the two bills were on the fast track to becoming law, and any outcry against them was falling on deaf ears. Luckily, a flex of Internet muscle from some very big name Websites finally made politicians take notice and put both bills on hold, if only temporarily. Here’s the quick and dirty on the two bills, how they would work if made law as is, where South Carolina representatives stand on the issues, the growing fear surrounding them, and the local business who are taking a stand against them. Finally, with the recent tabling of the bills, we take a look at if the free Internet is really out of the woods yet or if these bills are just lurking in the darkness, waiting to return. The bills may be back at the drawing board, but the debate rages on.
Cover Story: Bandit on the Run: Former Myrtle Beach golf pro says he robbed banks to fuel drug habit
Written by: Paul Grimshaw, for Weekly Surge
Published: Feb. 9, 2012
Forty-one-year-old former Myrtle Beach golf pro, Wesley Todd McCracken, dubbed by authorities as The Nike Hat Bandit for wearing an easily identifiable cap with the iconic swoosh on it, played the game, only he played for real, his crimes fueled, he says, by an insatiable addiction to cocaine. His bank robbery crime spree – he says he knocked over 13 banks in seven states over the course of seven weeks – began in Florence on Oct. 24 and ended at 12:01 p.m. Dec. 29 in a Georgetown restaurant parking lot, where he was apprehended by police.
In an exclusive Weekly Surge interview held at the Georgetown County Detention Center on Jan. 31, McCracken told his story, in his own words, and of his own free will. Though more questions were raised than answered, in his candid confession one all-too common theme emerged – drug addiction. But this was not a one-time money grab – this was an epic binge setting McCracken up as perhaps the most profligate bank robber to ever emerge from Myrtle Beach (that we know of). McCracken’s drug and crime bender ended with guns drawn, and a notorious F.B.I. Wanted criminal suspect in custody.
“I robbed 13 banks,” said McCracken, dressed in an orange jumpsuit seated on the other side of a bulletproof glass divider, the handset of a telephone to his mouth. He seemed happy to have a visitor, though apparently nervous, his legs bouncing in dramatic rhythmic undulations. When asked if he was sure he wanted to be on the record, he smiled and said “Why not? I’ve got nothing to hide. I’ve told the F.B.I., all the cops, everything. I’m not telling you anything I haven’t already told them.”
Cover Story: Keeping the faith: Is Myrtle Beach a Mormon melting pot?
Written by: Christina Knauss, for Weekly Surge
Published: March 1, 2012
You could say Mormons are, in their own way, hip right now.
Considering today’s pop culture, that’s an unusual designation for a faith whose members aren’t supposed to drink alcohol or caffeine or smoke, and whose values revolve around strict codes of sexual purity, morality and family values.
Latter-Day Saints are experiencing something of what Time magazine recently called a “Mormon moment.”
Mormonism’s moment in the spotlight is, of course, largely because it’s the faith of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and a national “I’m a Mormon” ad campaign seen on TV, the Net and billboards. Romney could become the first Latter-Day Saint ever to win the Republican nomination, and if elected, he would be the country’s first Mormon president. Former Republican presidential candidate John Huntsman is an active LDS member, too.
(Think all Mormons are Republican? Many are, and Utah is by far one of the reddest states in the Union, but the Church doesn’t officially endorse any one party. Democrat Harry Reid, majority leader of the U.S. Senate, is also LDS.)
With all the attention Latter-Day Saints are receiving nationwide, it’s not surprising that church members in the Myrtle Beach area say they’re getting asked more questions about their faith these days. Mostly, they welcome the chance to tell others about treasured beliefs which shape their lives but are often misunderstood.
“I think whenever attention is given to our faith, that’s probably a positive thing,” said Liberty Case, 30, a Myrtle Beach resident who is president of the local Relief Society, the church’s main organization for women. “Negative things get said all the time, but people who read about the church will be able to decide for themselves. If they read or hear something that puts the church in a negative light, I’d urge them to look at their LDS neighbor, their LDS coworkers, and the examples they show, and decide for themselves.”
What a minute, did we say Mormons in Myrtle Beach?
Is Myrtle Beach experiencing its own Mormon moment?
Cover Story: Forced to tap out: Is 44-year-old local fighter too old to rage in the cage?
Written by: Eric Rutherford, for Weekly Surge
Published: March 8, 2012
When Warfare MMA hosted Fight Night at The Palace in Myrtle Beach one local fighter was on the outside of the cage looking in, despite being healthy and despite folks in-the-know testifying that he’s imminently qualified to continue his MMA career.
Forty-four-year old Jim Kiser owns Myrtle Beach Martial Arts and he has been denied a license to fight in South Carolina in amateur Mixed Martial Arts bouts despite being physically, mentally, and medically ready. Kiser isn’t the only one who says he is ready. Warfare MMA owner/promoter Andy Halovel was prepared to put Kiser in the cage; one of Kiser’s martial arts mentors Donald Kyles testified to his readiness at a special hearing on the issue; and Kiser’s doctor vouched for his condition in writing and supported it with exam results.
So why can’t Kiser fight? Age discrimination is the only thing that makes sense to Kiser.
And members of the state board that regulates MMA fighting in The Palmetto State apparently don’t want to talk about it.
Cover Story: Fields of flavor: Pelicans to throw fans a changeup with retooled food menu
Written by: Becky Billingsley, for Weekly Surge
Published: April 5, 2012
West Coast ball parks may have been trend setters in pitching gourmet dining options to hardball fans, but what started a few years ago as a move beyond hot dogs, peanuts and popcorn has transformed the concession industry of America’s pastime, including at Pelicans Ballpark in Myrtle Beach when the new season kicks off, to a country-wide field of regional flavors. This year Pelicans fans can still get a hot dog, boiled peanuts and popcorn, but they’ll also be able to feast upon gourmet hot dogs and flavored popcorn, plus locally traditional recipes including She-Crab Soup and Chicken Bog.
Hot dogs are of course top sellers at minor league ball parks - easily a quarter million are consumed on any given night during the season among 250 U.S. teams - but culinary times are evolving. From the East Coast to the West, ball park chefs such as Myrtle Beach Pelicans Food and Beverage Director Brad Leininger are innovating to keep fans’ palates excited.
At Ticketreturn.com field at Pelicans Ballpark, Leininger is throwing a changeup to create a balance of standard favorites and fresh new ideas, with some of them showcasing regional tastes. It’s a trend taking place across the country at ballparks as chefs realize some customers want to eat healthier than standard ballpark comfort foods, other fans have special dietary needs, and some diners are looking for grand slam gourmet food and beverage choices.
As for regional tastes, sometimes food served at a ballpark to out-of-town visitors is the area’s only chance to introduce traditional flavors.
Cover Story: Grin and bear it: Out of hibernation, LGBT subculture is on the hunt for companionship at the beach
Written by: Chris Rudisill, for Weekly Surge
Published: April 26, 2012
“The hunt is on.”
Those were the words used when V.P. and General Manager of WMBF News, Ted Fortenberry, discussed the increase in black bears along the Grand Strand back in December. “For the next two weeks black bears are fair game in our area,” said Fortenberry during the station’s segment “Consider This.” Little did he know that the hunt is on again along the Grand Strand, but for a different sort of bear.
Bears, a subculture of the gay community, descended upon the beaches of the Grand Strand this for Bear Hunt XII - Crusade – an annual gathering of what can be considered the more masculine and often bigger and/or furrier segment of the gay male population.
Many may actually be surprised to learn how large the bear community in Myrtle Beach is, according to local Bear Hunt attendee David Bennett (not to be confused with the former Coastal Carolina University football coach of the same name). “Many bears aren’t into the bar scene and choose to remain low-key. Once a month a group called Myrtle Beach Bears hold a ‘Bear Supper’ at one of the local restaurants to eat and socialize.” The event in February had more than 18 bears in attendance for the buffet supper and was a fun evening, for as Bennett puts it: “you know how bears love to eat.”
Take that ravenous appetite and multiply it by five days of beach and pool parties, free-flowing kegs, wildlife and ecology tours, tourist attraction outings, mini-golf, bocce ball, sand castle building contest, speed dating and a Mr. Bear pageant, add in a does of philanthropy/charitable work and you’ve got the Carolina Bear Lodge’s Bear Hunt XII - Crusade in Myrtle Beach.
What began as a weekend camping trip a dozen years ago has now evolved into a five-day beach bonanza, with luau and pirate themes in the past, and this year’s edition had a medieval/royalty spin - it’s guys being guys – except these guys happen to be into other guys.
Cover Story: Mommy Porn? Is popular erotic trilogy burning up the conservative Carolina coast?
Written by: Jennifer Sellers, for Weekly Surge
Published: June 21, 2012
Women across the Myrtle Beach area - married and single - are having an affair with one man: Christian Grey.
He is filthy rich, unbelievably sexy, more complicated than you will ever want to understand; oh, and he owns a bondage playroom called, “The Red Room of Pain.”
The affair is part of a scandalous book club of women who are intoxicated and infatuated with the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy, written by British author, E.L. James. The books are described on the author’s Web site as romance, suspense and erotica and include three books, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “Fifty Shades Darker,” and “Fifty Shades Freed,” which have become the hottest, steamiest books of erotic romance mainstream.
Mass media outlets have dubbed the trilogy as “Mommy Porn” for its BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, masochism), sex scenes and the fact that it appeals to married women older than 30. Maybe it’s the thrill of reading a supposed naughty book for its graphic, descriptive nature, or maybe it’s the idea of something else we yearn for in our own relationships. Whatever it is, “Fifty Shades of Grey” has become one of the most-purchased trilogies in the last few months. An international phenomenon, the intense popularity is still gaining steam at the beach, especially as summer reading gets into full swing. Although libraries in Wisconsin and Georgia have banned it, the libraries in Horry County have more than 260 people on the waiting list for the first book in the trilogy.
Cover Story: Adrenaline quick fix: Climb aboard as we put Myrtle Beach thrill rides to the test
Written by: Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge
Published: June 28, 2012
If you are an adrenaline junkie, who says you have to invest thousands of dollars in a hobby and travel to remote locales? You can get a quick fix right here on the Grand Strand. Whether it’s racing around on wheels, flying through the air or slicing through the waves – we have the answer.
But it’s impossible – and downright misleading - for us to recommend a way to get your kicks if we don’t test them out first, right?
So come along as we push ourselves to the limits of Surgesanity to see where our local attractions – from ziplines to The Slingshot to the NASCAR Experience -
rank on The Surge-Oh!-Meter, in the first ever Surge Adrenaline Test.
Hiccup = Child’s play
Churner = Gets the blood pumping but no big deal
Tingler = Makes every cell in your body feel alive
Barf Blaster = Pushes the adrenaline levels over the limit and leads to a seizing stomach and total upchuck.
Cover Story: Pimp Your Dorm: Gotta Have It gear and tips for decking out your college crib in style
Written by: Rebecca Robertson, for Weekly Surge
Published: Aug. 16, 2012
As new and returning college students at Coastal Carolina University, as well as throughout the hallowed halls of Academia across the land, begin moving into residence halls in the coming weeks, the need to decorate a stylish pad to reflect their personal style and create a home away from home feeling comes into focus. However, what about students who feel they can’t channel their inner Genevieve Gorder or Todd Oldham?
While the idea of setting up a dorm room may seem daunting, the selection and styles that a variety of retail stores are offering can easily erase any fears that interior decorating-challenged students may have. Big box stores such as Target and Walmart, as well as department stores including Bed Bath & Beyond and jcpenney, have rolled out specialized sections catered specifically to the collegiate crowd.
Locally, at Coastal Grand Mall in Myrtle Beach, the jcpenney store greets shoppers entering the main entrance with a section dedicated to back to school and dorm room needs. Comforters, pillows, sheet sets, coffee makers, photo frames, microwaves, blankets, and much more are assembled in fun displays with coordinating colors and prints to entice students making the big move on campus.
Likewise, at the new Target near the S.C. 544 and U.S. 17 Bypass interchange, pennant-style signs direct shoppers to the back of the store to the College Stuff section.
According to Debra Schweiss, the Divisional Trend Director for jcp Home, jcpenney’s Back to School collection is a reflection of fall 2012’s most popular trends: bold colors, plaids, and global- inspired prints such as chevrons, stripes, and medallions.
But where to begin? For college students near and far who wish to decorate their room in style, shopping for pieces that are fun, functional, and affordable is the key; however, keep in mind that universities and residences halls, like the ones at CCU, have rules and regulations which will have an impact.
Cover Story: Platter Up! Local beer samplers introduce newbies to the world of craft brews
Written by: Colin Burch, for Weekly Surge
Published: Aug. 30, 2012
Small juice glasses hardly seem appropriate for good beers.
But those little glasses, holding colors varied as straw, gold, amber, copper, and coffee, are not attempts at moderation or self-control.
As small as they are, those little glasses are a bridge to craft brews.
While many bars carrying micro-brewed beers will proffer a free sample sip from their draft taps, some folks want to try several of the complex and sometimes unpredictable offerings in a brewpub or a craft-beer bar.
They want to try several flavors without having to commit to an entire pint, or even a half-pint, of something they might not like any more than fried-insect cuisine from a faraway land.
That’s where the beer flight comes in.
Usually priced less than $7, a customer can buy four-to-six samples, depending on the restaurant or bar. Beer flights of various sizes and styles are available all along the Grand Strand, sometimes arriving at tables on a wooden paddle, sometimes lined up across a printed paper placemat, sometimes appearing glass by tiny glass.
The flights often arrive in 4-ounce glasses, some of which look like they should be holding apple juice in a pancake house instead of presenting glorious craft beers at a watering hole. The craft-beer newbie risks less with smaller portions.
Occasionally, the experience inside one of those little glasses leads a customer to order the same experience again, but this time, in a pint-sized glass.
In those cases, a craft beer might gain a new fan.
In other cases, a new craft-beer fan is born.
The beer flights might count as training, too. When the time comes for a beer festival, which can feature dozens if not hundreds of beers, sampling is the mode of the day.
Whether limbering up for a festival or discussing the merits of brewing styles with friends, local beer flights round up the best brews available in the area and promote the art of craft beer.
Cover Story: Quidditch, please? From Hogwarts to CCU, fantasy game becomes reality sport at college campuses
Written by: Roger Yale, for Weekly Surge
Published: Nov. 8, 2012
In J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” Series, a muggle is a non-wizard – a mere mortal with no magical powers to speak of. Pity the poor muggles – forced to envy the charmed lives of their gifted and bewitched counterparts and live their mundane lives on the sidelines. No spells – no wands – no incantations – and no Quidditch.
In the real world, this has changed. Quidditch, replete with Seekers, Beaters, Bludgers, Keepers and Chasers – even the elusive Golden Snitch – is being played on a growing number of college campuses worldwide, thanks to the efforts of an organization called the International Quidditch Association, or IQA, which hosts an annual World Cup. Prestigious schools including UCLA, University of Southern California, Yale University and a slew of others have embraced what the IQA calls the fastest-growing sport in the United States.
In South Carolina, Quidditch teams abound, from Winthrop University to College of Charleston - and right up U.S. 501 at Coastal Carolina University, which played host to a Quidditch meet in September.
To the uninitiated, the game looks complicated – a dizzying display of frenetic activity, but the premise is simple: Seven players on each team. Three hoop goals on each end of the playing field, usually held aloft by PVC pipe. Volleyballs are the de facto Quaffles, which are supposed to get tossed into the hoops to score points. Dodge balls serve as Bludgers, which are used to attack opponents. Beaters are in place to deflect the attacks. Seekers keep an eye open for the arrival of The Golden Snitch, in this case a troublesome imp dressed in yellow with a tennis ball in a sock hanging from the back of its gym shorts – briefly appearing at the beginning of the match – then vanishing – only to return from its hiding place later, causing all sorts of mayhem. The Seeker’s job is to dislodge the socked tennis ball. Did we mention that all players except the Snitch are required to play with a broom between their legs?