Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Three-squared honored with highest civilian award in the state

I must admit: I've always thought the Order of the Long Leaf Pine was the highest civilian honor a North Carolinian could recieve, but according to this article, the North Carolina Award is such.

Nonetheless, nine folks were honored with the North Carolina Award on Tuesday. More than 200 North Carolinians have been selected as recipients since the award was first issued in 1964.

Gov. Mike Easley presented the awards for service in fine arts, literature, public service and science.

Here is a summary of the winners, from the N&O. (For more, click on the link above.)

He has developed a research program in agricultural air quality that is recognized worldwide. In 2001, he was also appointed professor of environmental technology in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources.

From 1974 to 2000, Cashion was research branch supervisor of what is now the Office of Archives and History in the state Department of Cultural Resources.

Davidson has served as director of the John C. Campbell Folk School since 1992. Founded in 1925 at Brasstown in Clay County in the southwestern corner of the state, the school offers about 850 classes to more than 3,000 students in art forms such as blacksmithing, basketry, weaving, music, storytelling and writing.

Ehle has supported the N.C. School of the Arts in Winston-Salem since 1967, and she serves on its board of visitors. Born in Ashby, Suffolk, England, Ehle grew up in India and was educated in England.
Ehle made her London debut in 1952 in "The Seven Year Itch." Her stage career included roles opposite Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole and Laurence Olivier. She received a Tony Award for her role as Eleanor of Aquitaine in "The Lion in Winter," a Golden Globe for her role in the television miniseries "Holocaust" and an Emmy for her role in "Notorious Woman." Most recently, Ehle has enjoyed popular acclaim as Aunt May in three Spider-Man movies. (Emphasis mine; who knew?)

After graduating from law school at UNC-CH, Frye became the first African-American elected to the N.C. General Assembly in the 20th century. He served in the House of Representatives until 1980, when he was elected to the state Senate. In 1983, Frye was appointed to the state Supreme Court. His appointment as chief justice in 1999 made him the first African-American to lead the state's court system.

The author of more than a dozen books on 20th-century American history, Leuchtenburg is known for his scholarship on Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. Leuchtenburg lives with his wife, Jean Anne, in Chapel Hill.

In 1982, Mitchell was elected associate justice of the N.C. Supreme Court, where he later was named chief justice and served in that capacity for four years.
Mitchell remains in his hometown of Raleigh with his wife, the former Mary Lou Willet.

In 1974, Rose began a long affiliation with Bill Moyers, collaborating on a number of PBS programs. A short stint in Dallas-Fort Worth led to a talk show in Washington, as well as acclaim for his interviewing skills. In 1983, CBS hired Rose to serve as host of "Nightwatch." "The Charlie Rose Show" premiered in 1991 with national distribution two years later. He kept his own show while also serving as a correspondent on "60 Minutes II."

Notable in his long career is Stafford's work that has enabled doctors to better regulate how patients respond to blood-clotting medications.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Port ... of Elkin?

The Associated Press is reporting that officials are studying the possibility of building an inland port ... in the North Carolina mountains.

"Legislators have appropriated $100,000 for a study in which researchers from Western Carolina University will determine the feasibility of a shipping hub for distributing freight to be transported by truck, rail or even air," says the AP.

“It has nothing to do with water,” said Alan Thornburg, a senior policy fellow at Western Carolina. “It’s an inland intermodal facility for the transfer of goods.”

The idea of moving freight inland by truck or rail is being considered in part, to take pressure off traditional seaports as the principal place where freight is transferred because those ports can’t handle the volume.

“Seaports are - this sounds really bad - swamped,” said Michael Smith, a WCU business professor involved with the study. “We’re overwhelming the seaports in a lot of ways.”

In 1970, about 1 million containers a year moved to and from U.S. seaports, said Scott Hercik of the Appalachian Regional Commission. By 2000, that number had grown to about 20 million. By 2020, it is expected to be 50 million.

The commission, which is looking at possibilities for an Appalachian network of inland ports, sees in them a potential economic boon.

An area in northern Virginia surrounding an inland port in Front Royal, the first of its kind, has added more than 7,000 jobs since its creation in the 1980s, said Hercik, a commission adviser. ...

Read the rest of the article here. (Oh, and I just randomly picked Elkin.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Quick hits: One tourist mainstay is restored, while another says goodbye

Wright Brothers memorial sees inner beauty restored
"Towering 151 feet above the rest of Wright Brothers National Memorial, the granite Wright monument is a glittering landmark from afar; up close, it's a mighty sculpted artwork that well represents the feat of flight.

"Inside, it's dark and empty and dank. Niches in the granite walls where busts of Orville and Wilbur Wright and a model of the Wright Flyer were once displayed are bare. The steel map marking aviation breakthroughs has been removed. White buckets are positioned on the floor to catch water drips," says the Virginian-Pilot.

"Because it's so woefully unpresentable, few people have seen the interior of the Wright monument.

"But a restoration project set to start next month will include cleaning and restoring the interior and exterior. Mortar will be chipped out and replaced. Wiring and lighting will be redone. A new air conditioning unit will be installed.

"When the project is completed in 120 days, weather permitting, the Wright brothers monument will be nearly as perfect as it was when it was dedicated 75 years ago. ..."

Famous Cherokee booster dead at 72
"Henry 'Chief Henry' Lambert, who became the iconic image of the Cherokee Indian during five decades posing with tourists at his roadside tepee, died Tuesday of lung cancer. He was 72.
Lambert started 'chiefing' in 1951 to support his family," writes the Asheville Citizen-Times.

"His striking features, flowing headdress and enjoyment of the crowds brought generations of families back year after year to have their pictures made with him. His image still appears on postcards sold in Cherokee.

"Lambert never denied that the character he created was taken from Hollywood expectations of what an Indian should look like. He never promised to be authentic, only entertaining.

" 'I wouldn’t do anything else,' he said in a 1995 interview with The Associated Press. 'Meeting people from all walks of life. Kids. Kids love seeing an Indian.”' ..."

N.C. as the center of the universe -- '07 edition

We wrote last year that, if you think about it, North Carolina plays such an important part on the holiday season.

"I've always found it somewhat fascinating that beginning with Thanskgiving, millions of Americans will indulge in goods that are dominated by the state of North Carolina," yours truly wrote almost a year ago today.

At that time, the state was the second-largest turkey-producing state after Minnesota. (And probably is still.)

And then there are the sweet potatoes.

North Carolina has been the number one producer of sweet potatoes in the United States, according to the Department of Agriculture. "Today more than 40% of the natinal [sic] supply of sweet potatoes comes from North Carolina."

And, finally, the holiday season closes out with Christmas trees.

"The North Carolina Christmas Tree Industry is ranked second in the nation in number of trees harvested and first in the nation in terms of dollars made per tree," according to the N.C. Christmas Tree Association.

"The North Carolina Fraser fir has been judged the Nation's best through a contest sponsored by the National Christmas Tree Association and chosen for the official White House Christmas tree nine times (more than any other species) 1971, 1973, 1982, 1984, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2005, and 2007."

A 20-foot Fraser was chosen this year for W's house.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A big night for Daughtry

Chris Daughtry had quite the night on Sunday at the American Music Awards. The McLeansville native earned pop/rock album of year (for "Daughtry"), breakthrough artist of the year and adult contemporary artist of the year honors.

"Wow," Daughtry he said. "I can't believe we're in the category with Justin Timberlake and Linkin Park. It's pretty awesome."

Now in its 35th year, the American Music Awards honor nominees based on national sales and radio play.

For the first time in show history, winners were chosen by public votes cast online.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Despite drought, N.C. Christmas trees in good shape

According to this press release from N.C. State, North Carolina's Christmas tree crop will be just as good as last year's.

"The state will harvest and distribute around 5.5 million trees at a total value of about $130 million to stores and lots across North Carolina and the Southeast," says the release.

"The recent rains came just in time to give most N.C. Fraser fir growers a much-needed reprieve from the drought."

"The six to nine inches of rain we had in late October replenished the moisture in the trees before harvest started," said Jeff Owen, an NCSU area extension forestry specialist who works with Christmas tree growers across the N.C. mountains. "While the rain didn't come in time to save many Christmas tree seedlings planted in 2007, it was just what the doctor ordered for our market trees."

Bill Leslie on the Hometown Opry

WRAL stalwart Bill Leslie writes about North Wilkesboro's "Hometown Opry" on his Carolina Conversations blog.

"Doc Watson has played there. So has Ricky Skaggs and many others. If you're into bluegrass music I would suggest a trip to North Wilkesboro some Friday morning to Minton Pawn & Music Company downtown," writes Leslie.

"Every Friday morning at 7:00 A.M. pickers and grinners gather for a two hour back porch bluegrass session. It's free and tons of fun."

There's even a multimedia, black-and-white slideshow of the opry here. Definitely worth checking out.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Redundant Whitewater Center costing an arm and a leg

The redundantly-named U.S. National Whitewater Center for rafting in Charlotte has lost $1.7 million in its first year in existence. According to the Associated Press, the center will ask local governments to cover the loss.

"Center officials told the Charlotte City Council they thought more rafters would use the facility. More people visited the center than expected, but not as many paid to raft. Entrance to the facility is free," says the AP.

Six area governments in Mecklenburg and Gaston counties had already pledged up to $12 million to cover losses for the first seven years.

The center opened to the public in the fall of 2006. Along with its whitewater rapids, center attractions include a climbing tower, a restaurant, bike trails and a conference center.

The center, which cost $35 million and took nearly six years to build, was this country’s answer to an elite, Olympic training center for whitewater athletes. The hope was to put them on equal footing with the dominant European teams, which all train on artificial courses.

Not all is bad news in the Queen City. After all, it is the place to go for a "Mancation."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The state's best football rivalry

Let's face it: North Carolina is a state of mediocre football. Heck, even the Panthers aren't very good anymore.

Bad football or not, blood still boils when State and Carolina kick it off each year. This Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, you'll be able to feel the intensity in the stands, let alone on the field. The fans of the respective schools love to give and take, and there should be plenty of that before, during and after Saturday.

Coaches Tom O'Brien (NCSU) and Butch Davis (UNC) are not leading their alma maters, like their predecessors Chuck Amato and John Bunting did. In fact, the two newbies actually get along quite well.

But don't expect the importance of this game to sneak past them.

“I’ve got an idea (what’s ahead),” O’Brien told reporters on Monday. “I don’t think any one game is any more important when you play 12 games. If there is a sense that one (game) approaches that, this has to be it because of who and what we are.”

O’Brien is confident that he has had the best training possible to contend with the rivalry’s demands [writes the Winston-Salem Journal's Bill Cole]. He attended the Naval Academy and played in the Army-Navy game for four seasons. He coached in the game for seven seasons as a Navy assistant.

And to O’Brien, there is no rivalry that can surpass Army-Navy.

“From 28 June, 1967, the day I reported, the first three words I learned were, ‘Beat Army, Sir.’ ” O’Brien said. “From the first day you’re there to the day your plebe year (first year) is over, that’s all you do. Everything there is to beat Army. Nothing else is important as far as athletics.”

Sounds familiar.

Film festival hopes to shine focus on Western N.C., Asheville

Wilmington may get most of the hype when it comes to North Carolina's viability as a film-making destination, but Western North Carolina more than holds its own. Just think about the films that have been filmed (or partly filmed) in our state's mountains: "Dirty Dancing," "Last of the Mohicans," "Forrest Gump" and also "Nell," among many.

A film festival in Asheville hopes to take advantage of this history.

"Asheville is rich in filmmakers who, because of inexpensive, powerful equipment and a fast Internet connection, can live here as easily as the media metros of Los Angeles and New York," says the Citizen-Times. "Asheville visionaries are trying to make the city a center of digital arts — an effort that gets no small boost this week with the opening of the Asheville Film Festival.

"The festival features a variety of independent films, including features, documentaries, shorts and animation, as well as a student film competition. There are industry panel discussions, studio tours, parties and galas, and free professional development courses. The Asheville Film Festival, now in its fifth year, adds hundreds of people to downtown’s already busy sidewalks, amping up the excitement of pre-holiday season shoppers, art gallery aficionados, and lovers of fine food and drink. Last year’s festival attracted some 8,500 visitors, with a quarter of the people coming from outside the area. Each year, three-quarters of the films sell out. ...

"Festival promoters hope the film festival helps the city make a smooth transition into the lucrative digital arts.

"They already are pretty valuable. The nonprofit arts and culture industry in Buncombe County generates $65 million and 2,192 jobs annually, according to a study by Americans for the Arts, the leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in America. The Asheville Hub Project, an ambitious plan to create economies on existing strengths, contends the arts are already one of major engines driving moneymaking in the area.

"The film and video production industry spent about $5 million last year in Western North Carolina — up from $3.5 million the year before, according to Mary Trimarco, director of the WNC Film Commission. Locally last year, crews shot the feature films 'Don’t Fade Away,' 'A Dance for Bethany' and 'Ghost Town: The Movie.' Several film and video production companies have moved or opened in the area in recent years, including 2 Bruce Studio and See No Evil Films, both of Asheville. ..."

Friday, November 02, 2007

Quick hits: Good news, bad news and 'More good news

Emerald Isle plans new pier
"A year after its bid to buy the Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier fell through, the town of Emerald Isle is working with the N.C. Aquariums for a new structure at the site of a pier wiped out by storms in 1996," writes the News & Observer.

"State and local officials Thursday announced a joint effort to build a 1,000-foot concrete pier that eventually would be one of three state-operated piers along the coast. Plans call for the $12.2 million project to be completed in five years.

"The town had tried to buy the existing pier near Bogue Inlet last year, but the deal fell through, Town Manager Frank Rush Jr. said. ..."

Hollywood strike could script trouble for Wilmington
"It's the ultimate game of 'hurry up and wait' for local filmmakers," wrote the Wilmington Star-News.

"Today is the final day of negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and the group that signs its members' checks, the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. The two groups have until midnight to work out a new deal covering, among other things, residual pay for films and TV shows sold through iTunes and other nontraditional media outlets. If, as expected, no settlement is reached, the WGA membership has authorized a strike.

"Threat of work stoppage has temperatures running high in Hollywood, but workers in Wilmington's production community are playing it cool. ..."

Biltmore Estate among top destinations for 'alternative' Thanksgivings
"You can celebrate Thanksgiving with a horse and carriage ride at the landmark Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., which will already by decorated for Christmas by then," writes the Associated Press. "For meals, you have a choice of venues—Bistro, Deerpark or Stable Cafe, or, if you're staying at the Inn on Biltmore Estate, you can have your turkey at The Dining Room. Three-night packages at the Inn start at $1,760 for two; details at"