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19 October 2017

A Note About Plagiarism and Extreme Edits to Our Stories

Plagiarism is wrong.

Publishing someone else's work without giving them the credit can cause a lot of problems, especially when that person's work is sliced and diced so that the original publication no longer appears as the author intended.

Two days ago, I published an article that gave details about the death of a 19-year-old who attended Imagine Music Festival last month. The 500-plus word piece was the result of repeated calls and emails to the Henry County Coroner, Henry County Police Department, and Imagine Music Festival representatives.

An extremely edited version of our article appeared on EDMTunes (http://www.edmtunes.com/2017/10/imagine-attendee-killed/). Other outlets like "EDM All Day," (http://edmallday.com/19-year-old-hit-and-killed-in-car-accident-during-imagine-music-festival/) "Music Junkie TV," (https://musicjunkietv.com/19-year-old-hit-and-killed-in-car-accident-during-imagine-music-festival/) "This Song is So Sick," (http://thissongissosick.com/19-year-old-hit-and-killed-in-car-accident-during-imagine-music-festival) and others ran the EDMTunes version of my work on their respective sites.

I received an email from Imagine representatives this evening, expressing concerns about my reporting. I sent them a link directly to Georgia Unfiltered's coverage, and highlighted the differences between my work and the plagiarized content appearing on other web pages.

I stand by my reporting and I stand by the story I wrote.

I have no control over how other people warp, maim, and mutilate my work, except to say, don't do it again.

17 October 2017

19-year-old Miami resident hit, killed by car while attending Imagine Music Festival

A weekend filled with music and fun ended in sorrow for the loved ones of 19-year-old Fabian Gonzalez.

Gonzalez had his life cut tragically short after a car struck and killed him while he attended a concert at Atlanta Motor Speedway last month. Police reports say Gonzalez was just a few hundred feet away from the venue’s entrance when the accident occurred shortly before midnight on September 23.

The Miami, Florida, resident was in town for the annual Imagine Music Festival.

Gonzalez and his friends were among an estimated 30,000 people who flocked to Hampton, Georgia, for the event that featured world famous DJs like Tiesto, DeadMau5 and Above & Beyond.

The 3-day festival started ordinarily for Gonzalez and his companions. They arrived at the track, normally used for NASCAR races, expecting to party late into the night. Their expectations quickly changed when Fabian Gonzalez disappeared.

Gonzalez’s friend, Eric Same, posted a desperate plea on the social media app Radiate.

“Guys, help! Hey everyone, my friend Fabian is missing. If you’ve seen him, hey me plz! [sic],” Same’s message read.

An update later confirmed the worst.

“He’s in the hospital. It’s looking bad. He was found in his underwear with his bag stolen a few miles away from the festival. Looks like he might’ve gotten hit by a car,” Same posted online.

Fabian Gonzalez, 19, died at the hospital on September 26.

Major Mike Ireland, a spokesman for the Henry County Police Department, provided additional details about the incident.

“Mr. Gonzalez was running in the middle of the street, at 11:39 p.m., without clothing when he was struck by a vehicle,” Ireland said. “He was transported to Atlanta Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead a few days later.”

(Three people witnessed a fatal car accident occur on this quiet two-lane road in Hampton, Georgia. Photo Credit: Andre Walker.)
The Henry County Police report, obtained through an open records request, indicates that Gonzalez was hit 325 feet away from the intersection of Oak Street and U.S. Highway 41 in Hampton. Atlanta Motor Speedway is located across from an Exxon gas station where the two roads cross.

Asked if the motorist driving the car that hit Gonzalez would be charged, Ireland said no. Ireland also noted that a toxicology report would not be compiled on Gonzalez either.

Imagine Music Festival organizers say they were informed of the incident shortly after it occurred.

“Imagine have been cooperating with this ongoing investigation, given the proximity to the festival, but cannot comment further,” festival spokesman Chad Shearer said.

Gonzalez’s death marks the second time an Imagine ticketholder lost his life while attending the festival in the past year. 21-year-old Kurt Stelzig of Rock Hill, South Carolina died from injuries sustained in a fall during the 2016 Imagine Music Festival. Neither incident occurred on festival grounds, however.

Still, safety at Imagine remains a hot topic for some.

Many Imagine festival-goers complained about safety, security and the lack of water stations to WSB-TV last year.

The festival is also the defendant in a civil suit filed by Suzanne Randall. Randall claims the organizers’ negligence caused her to be hit by a vendor’s car on festival grounds, and is seeking an undisclosed amount of monetary damages. The legal action is currently pending in DeKalb County State Court.

Opinion: Presentism Dooms Us to Repeat the Mistakes of the Past

Historical presentism is the act of applying modern morals, standards and values to the past.

Many historians warn against historical presentism. Presentism, they say, does not promote understanding of bygone eras. We're not asking how historical events occurred. We're not asking why historical figures made their decisions. We are passing judgment upon the past, not learning from it.

A debate rages across the country about the role monuments to great men of the past should play in modern society. This question started anew following the violent Charlottesville, Virginia protests.

Should statues of former Confederate leaders, like Robert E. Lee, come down? A reporter asked President Trump this exact question.

"So this week it's Robert E. Lee," the president replied. "I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?"

Where does it stop?

Vandals in Yonkers, New York decapitated
a statue of explorer Christopher Columbus. Maryland removed a statue of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, author of the infamous Dred Scott decision, from the state capitol steps in Annapolis. A Chicago pastor demanded a new name for Washington Park because its current moniker honors a former president who owned slaves.

Each of these incidents is textbook presentism; present-day values applied to the past.

Dr. Lynn Hunt, a distinguished research professor at UCLA, had this to say about the historical fallacy known as presentism:

"Our forebears constantly fail to measure up to our present-day standards."

"Presentism, at its worst, encourages a kind of moral complacency and self-congratulation. Interpreting the past in terms of present concerns usually leads us to find ourselves morally superior," the former American Historical Association president concluded.

Presentism runs rampant across the United States these days.

To quote a few lines from "Fahrenheit 451," "It came from the people; the people demanding not to be offended; the people demanding that something be done about this language and that language they don't like.

A not-so-original-observation from Spanish philosopher George Santayana goes like this:

"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

We aren't learning anything. By engaging in presentism, we're just finding new ways to make the same old mistakes.

27 September 2017

The Truth Never Stops with Singer-Songwriter Vérité

2017 started off right for 27-year-old Kelsey Byrne.

(Kelsey Byrne, better known by her stage name, Vérité, continues to redefine success for herself and her music career. Photo credit: Eric Ryan Anderson.)
Entertainment Weekly magazine premiered her new single, “Phase Me Out,” to its loyal readers. Radio personality Elvis Duran named her his Artist of the Month. And the New York-born singer-songwriter, who goes by the stage name, Vérité, made her national television debut with a performance on NBC’s “Today” show.

Three years ago, if anyone were to ask Vérité her definition of success, she likely would have pointed to the first few months of this year as her measuring stick. Byrne admitted as much in a recent telephone interview.

Now, with fourteen singles and several tours under her belt, the State University of New York at Purchase graduate displays a maturity unexpected from someone not yet 30.

“Success is ever-changing,” Vérité says.

Indeed. Success means never resting on your laurels, and Vérité is not resting.

The grit Vérité showed while working up to 70 hours a week at the Applebee’s restaurant in Times Square remains a significant part of her musical career today. She toured North America this summer, often scheduling three or four straight days’ worth of shows before taking a break.

The multi-city tour came in support of her first full-length studio album, “Somewhere in Between,” released in June.

31 August 2017

South Fulton Picks Fight with Neighboring City Over Land and Tax Dollars

The new City of South Fulton needs to balance its checkbook. But local leaders are learning start-up costs don't mirror numbers that said South Fulton could form without a tax increase.

A search is on for more money. That quest now has South Fulton eyeing land and tax dollars in Union City they say belongs to them.

South Fulton City Council members approved legal action against their neighbor on August 30, 2017.

At issue is 125 acres annexed by Union City last year. South Fulton contends the annexation was illegal, and they point to a recent Georgia Supreme Court decision to support their case.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Alford Dempsey invalidated several Atlanta annexations before the November 2016 vote incorporating the City of South Fulton. Judge Dempsey said the annexations were untimely since they came into effect after the July 1, 2016, deadline that locked South Fulton's borders. Atlanta appealed the judgment, but Georgia Supreme Court justices unanimously upheld the lower court ruling.

South Fulton lawyers claim the state Supreme Court opinion also reverses the Union City annexation because the move took place around the same time as the contested Atlanta annexations.

"Right now, we're trying to kind of work it out with the cities to reach an agreement where those properties come back into South Fulton, considering the Supreme Court's decision," a staff attorney told officials. "The declaratory judgment action would ask that the court declare the annexations from Union City improper."

The disputed property, located at 5355 Hunter Road, carries a value of $2.9 million. Public records show the property yielded $13,431.64 in taxes to South Fulton while the area remained unincorporated.

Against the backdrop of a tight budget and possible tax increases, every penny counts. District 3 representative Helen Zenobia Willis admitted as much during her questions to city staff.

"If successful, how far can we go back and reclaim our tax revenue dollars that we didn't get," Willis asked.

South Fulton City Manager Ruth Jones replied, later in the meeting, "We would not be due any back taxes because we were not a city."

21 August 2017

Tomorrowland: A More Elegant Festival for a Civilized Age

Tomorrowland is an event unlike any other.

The 3-day festival celebrated its thirteenth year, in 2017, with two weekends of DJs spanning the entire gamut of electronic music. But limiting the annual gala to only music would greatly undersell the party. More than just an event, Tomorrowland is an experience. And the Tomorrowland experience starts when the plane first lands in Belgium.

(Greeters welcome Tomorrowland ticket-holders as they arrive at Brussels airport. Image courtesy Tomorrowland.)
Decorations greeted visitors as they made their way through the Brussels terminal. Beautiful ladies adorned in light blue outfits tended official welcome desks, answering questions and providing information. The steady beat of house music pumped from a nearby kiosk selling cell phone SIM cards to international travelers. Anticipation was in the air. Eyes gleamed with electricity as person after person gathered their luggage and left the building.

Belgian hospitality did not end at the airport though.

Many U.S. festivals like Imagine Music Festival, held south of Atlanta in Hampton, often run into angry residents who demand elected officials shut down or scale back the event. The entire city of Brussels, on the other hand, rolled out the red carpet for Tomorrowland ticket-holders.
(The Museum of the City of Brussels hosted one of many Tomorrowland welcome parties before the official start of the event. Photograph by Andre Walker)
Grote Markt, the Brussels town square, served as the epicenter for pre-game festivities.

Tomorrowland banners sporting the words, "Magic, Beauty, Unity and Love," garnished the Museum of the City of Brussels located across from city hall. Tomorrowland flags waved from poles usually reserved for Belgium's national flag. A DJ played a high-energy set from the museum's balcony while locals and visitors danced below. Tourists packed the shops and restaurants surrounding the square, sampling food and beer. The day ended with a massive fete at another Brussels hotspot, Tour & Taxis.

Dawn brought Tomorrowland's second weekend into focus.

Boom, a town of over 16,000 in northeast Belgium, continued the warm reception shown in Brussels the night before. Homes along the route to the festival featured Tomorrowland flags hanging from their windows. It was a sight that again demonstrated contrasting differences in attitudes toward large-scale events like Tomorrowland between the Americans and the Belgians.

Sixteen stages dotted Provinciaal Recreatiedomein De Schorre, the park that's hosted Tomorrowland since 2005.
(The dragon stage, one of sixteen stages at Tomorrowland, featured a dragon whose body went under water and breathed smoke through its nose. Photography by Andre Walker)

Unlike some American concerts, where performance areas possess little imagination, Tomorrowland's structures tell a story through their elaborate designs that utilize existing landscapes. The dragon stage (pictured right) is a prime example of the Belgians' attention to detail.

Each Tomorrowland carries a theme. The theme for 2017 was Amicorum Spectaculum. Amicorum Spectaculum brought the circus to town. Literally.
(Image courtesy Tomorrowland.)

An enormous stage sat at the center of Tomorrowland complete with tightrope walkers, a moving merry-go-round, popcorn, cotton candy and a ringmaster emceeing the show totally underneath the big top.

2017 was the year Tomorrowland proved they are the greatest EDM show on Earth.

More than 400,000 people came from 198 countries to Tomorrowland this year. That is only seven fewer than the number of countries represented at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.