Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Official: Changing name to 'UNC' had little impact on Pembroke

The current chancellor of UNC-Pembroke stated recently that changing the name from Pembroke State University to UNC-P back in the 1990s had "minimal effect" on the school's enrollment growth, even going so far as to say that the name change initially hurt enrollment.

It wasn’t until UNC-Pembroke started an “aggressive marketing campaign” several years after the name switch that enrollment began to grow, Allen Meadors, the school's chancellor, said. He believes the name change played a negligible role in that growth.

“I do not think the name change was a major part of that growth, but it wasn’t a negative,” Meadors told the Daily Advance.

Meadors’ perspective is at odds with that of state Rep. Bill Owens,
D-Pasquotank, who co-authored the bill authorizing the name change at Pembroke
and is now pushing for a study of a possible name switch at Elizabeth City State

At an ECSU Board of Trustees meeting last week, Owens in fact used the
enrollment growth at Pembroke to make his pitch for the name-change study at
ECSU. He noted that Pembroke’s enrollment had grown by more than 100 percent
since the name change, suggesting that ECSU could reap similar benefits if it
changed its name to include some form of North Carolina in its title. Two
options Owens has heard are Northeastern North Carolina University and the
University of North Carolina at Elizabeth City. ...

Owens said he believes the name change at Pembroke has had an effect in
boosting that campus’s profile. And he believes the same could happen at ECSU.

“Public perception means a lot, and the UNC-Pembroke name does mean a lot
to most people in the public,” he said. “UNC schools have worldwide recognition,
and we want ECSU to have worldwide recognition, too.”

Meadors acknowledges that he wasn’t at Pembroke at the time the university
changed its name. However, Pembroke was still feeling some of the effects of the
name switch when he arrived in 1999.

“We had some very unhappy alumni and community people for a number of
years,” he said. “However, after 14 years, we are seeing less and less of that.”

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

This just in: N.C. has a connection to tobacco

Greensboro is fourth "smokiest" city in America, according to a report. Wilmington came in at No. 7, and Hickory came in at No. 10.

"Earlier this month, U.S. News & World Report published a list of metro areas with the most smokers as a percentage of population," says the Star-News.

"The rankings, which came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s health risk data, showed the Wilmington metro area, which covers New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties, in the No. 7 spot, tying with the Chattanooga, Tenn. area.

"Nearly 27 percent of adults in the Wilmington area said they smoked in the CDC survey."

Oddly enough, Durham -- which was built on tobacco -- ranked as the fifth-lowest city for smoking, with just 12 percent its residents saying they smoke.

"The Huntington, W. Va. area topped the list of 161 metro areas included in the survey, with more than 34 percent of its adult residents smoking. In comparison, only 7 percent of residents in the Provo, Utah area reported they smoked.

" 'I think the fact that we have North Carolina ranking that high means that we do really need to take action in the state,' State Health Director Leah Devlin said by phone Monday. 'Those statistics represent real people.' ..."

Quick hits: N.C. is fourth-fastest in growth and hog riders can show their love of the Parkway

N.C. is No. 4 on list of fastest-growing states
"Utah is the nation's fastest growing state, knocking Nevada from its usual top spot," according to the Associated Press.

"Utah's population climbed by 2.5 percent from July 2007 to July 2008, according to new population estimates from the Census Bureau. Arizona is the second-fastest growing state, followed by Texas, North Carolina and Colorado.

"Nevada, last year's fastest-growing state, fell to eighth. Nevada had been among the four fastest-growing states each of the last 23 years. ...

"California remained the most populous state, followed by Texas, New York, Florida and Illinois."

State tag lets motorcyclists support Blue Ridge Parkway
"A new North Carolina license tag is set to go into production for motorcycle riders who want to help the Blue Ridge Parkway.

"The Winston-Salem Journal reported Monday that enthusiasts have nearly reached the required threshold of 300 bike owners committed to buying the Blue Ridge Parkway motorcycle tag," again according to the AP.

"The cost is $30 more than the regular license fee. The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation would get $20 for its work; another $10 will go to the state's roadside wildflower program. ..."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Psycho T sets UNC scoring record

Those who know me know I'm a Wolfpacker through and through, so it pains me to have to write/say/think just about anything positive about the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (See -- I couldn't even reference the school as just "UNC" or "Carolina!")

Having said that, this site would be remiss if it didn't say congratulations to the ever-hustling Tyler Hansbrough for becoming UNC's all-time leading basketball scorer.

"Since the day he stepped foot on North Carolina's campus, forward Tyler Hansbrough has been working to diversify his offensive resume by trying to extend his shooting range," writes the N&O.

"But it seemed appropriate that when it came time to break UNC's three-decades-old career scoring record during the top-ranked Tar Heels' 91-73 basketball victory over Evansville on Thursday night, the senior went back to an old staple: a workmanlike power move.

"With 7:42 left in the first half at the Smith Center, Hansbrough muscled around Purple Aces forwards James Haarsma and Pieter van Tongeren to bank in a shot off the glass and score his 10th point of the game and 2,292nd point of his career. That basket broke the mark of 2,290 that point guard Phil Ford set from 1974 to 1978.

"Hansbrough finished with 20 points and now has 2,302 for his career."

Congratulations, Psycho T. But forgive me if I say that I hope you never score another college point again -- or at least against the Pack!

(Getty Images photo via

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Barbecue with 'single-minded devotion'

This article from the Los Angeles Times is almost a year old, but it bears reading again.

"The moon was high over the loblolly pines when Keith Allen arrived for work at 2 a.m. He built a fire of hickory logs, and a plume of rich blue smoke creased the black night sky.

"When the fire had produced glowing red coals, Allen shoveled them into a pit below two dozen hog shoulders on a metal rack. For the next nine hours, he shoveled more coals, stoked the fire, and turned the shoulders as they cooked a ruddy, smoky brown.

"Long after first light, he was still at it. With a cleaver in one hand and a knife in the other, he chopped the pork with a rhythmic whump, whump, whump. Then he plunged two gloved hands into the steaming meat to mix in a homemade sauce of vinegar, salt and red pepper.

"And that, for purists, is the long, hard, wearying way of making genuine pit-cooked Eastern North Carolina chopped barbecue. ...

"Only 20 to 30 barbecue restaurants among hundreds in the state still cook with wood, says Bob Garner, author of two books on Carolina barbecue. 'But nobody does it to the degree Keith does – he’s one of a kind,' Garner said.

"Allen’s painstaking methods – cutting his own hickory, manning the fire for hours, chopping his own meat and making his own sauce – have their roots in a time-honored process. Pigs have been roasted over wood coals in North Carolina since the 17th century.

"The process evolved generations ago into the hickory-smoked, seasoned and chopped pork dish known as North Carolina barbecue. (Sauce in the eastern part of the state is vinegar-based; in the west, it’s tomato-based.)

"But purists say the delicacy is being compromised by modern shortcuts. That’s why holdouts such as Allen are so significant, Garner said.

" 'He pursues it with a single-minded devotion,' Garner said. 'That’s his niche, and he’d be a fool to change now.' ..."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hard Rock Park unlikely to open in '09, 2010 a possibility

Just a short drive from N.C. is Myrtle Beach, aka, the "Redneck Riviera." It's a popular spot for North Carolinians; let's face it, there's more "to do" in Myrtle Beach than in any of our state's beach destinations.

One thing that can be scratched off the "to do" list in MB - at least for the very near future - is Hard Rock Park.

"The auction of the $400 million Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach is under way, but even if a buyer is identified this week, it is doubtful the park will be able to reopen next year, the state's tourism chief said.

"The 55-acre park, which opened in April, is being sold as part of the bankruptcy case of its owner, RPH Myrtle Beach Holdings LLC," says the Associated Press.

"Chad Prosser, director of South Carolina's Parks Recreation and Tourism Department, said Monday he thinks the $35 million minimum bid for the park may be a stumbling block for potential buyers.

"The winning bidder would have to spend a lot of money to get the park up and running and to market it, Prosser said. And that also would take time, even if a buyer comes out of this week's auction.

" 'At this point, I think it would be difficult to open in 2009,' Prosser said. 'I think it's more likely 2010.' ..."

Have no fear, beachgoers. There's still plenty of good restaurants and golf in Myrtle Beach, not to mention Eagles, Wings and the poor man's Hooters.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Quick hits: N.C. Christmas trees and ECSU's name are in trouble

Can foreign firs save N.C. trees?

"Christmas begins on the mountain slopes of North Carolina, where farmers grow Fraser firs from seedlings to decorate millions of East Coast homes – including the White House.

"An estimated 50 million Fraser firs are under cultivation, and North Carolina ranks second in the nation (behind Oregon) in the number of Christmas trees harvested," says the News & Observer.

"With the rapid increase in fir plantings have come problems, such as the spread of a highly destructive rot, called Phytophthora, that infects the roots of Frasers and kills thousands of trees each year. It costs N.C. growers an estimated $5 million to $6 million a year.

"The exotic pathogen doesn't just kill the trees. It leaves the soil unusable for growing more Frasers. Left unchecked, that poses a serious threat to a state industry that relies on the signature Fraser.

"But help may be on the way from Turkey.

"More than 50,000 Turkish firs are now growing on mountain slopes in North Carolina. ..."

ECSU should study name change
"A state lawmaker plans to ask the Elizabeth City State University Board of Trustees Monday to study a possible name change for the university to reflect ECSU’s regional appeal," says the Daily Advance.

"State Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank, emphasized Saturday that his recommendation is only that ECSU officials study a name change. He said the idea has been talked about for two decades but never formally studied.

" 'I’m not suggesting anything other than they look into it and weigh the pros and cons,' Owens said.

"It’s unknown what type of reception Owens will get. However, four key alumni leaders have signed a letter opposing changing the school’s name.

"The letter from Charles D. Cherry, president of the ECSU National Alumni Association, Curtis Bryan, chairman of the NAA Board of Directors, Kenneth Henshaw, chairman of the ECSU Foundation, and Hezekiah Brown, chairman of the ECSU Board of Visitors, also opposes 'any major revision to the mission statement that excludes an acknowledgement of (ECSU’s) rich heritage as an historically black college and university.' ..."

(Photo of the Fraser Firs near Grandfather Mtn. from; photo of the 1899 ECSU class from

Friday, December 12, 2008

Quick hits: Shrine Bowl to be shown on 'The U' and WCU sustains Cherokee art

Shrine Bowl to be televised on ESPNU
"A tape delay of the 2008 Shrine Bowl of the Carolina's will be shown on ESPNU on Jan. 7, at 10 p.m.," according to HighSchoolOt.

"The game will be held at Gibbs Stadium on the campus of Wofford College on Dec. 20. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.

"The Shrine Bowl of the Carolina's is the oldest prep football all-star game in the country, featuring 44 of the top football players from North Carolina and South Carolina. ..."

Western Carolina helps sustain Cherokee art
"In the past six years, more and more members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have rekindled interest in native arts.
"But these aspiring craftspeople also found it increasingly difficult to find the natural materials the tribe has been using for generations, such as river cane for baskets and the butternut for fabric dye.

"That's where the Revitalization of Traditional Cherokee Artisan Resourcesan initiative operated through Western Carolina University's Cherokee studies program, steps in," says the Citizen-Times.

"RTCAR was established in 2004 to help ensure craft materials are available to Cherokee artists and that these crafts are promoted through education and exhibitions.

"The two-person office on U.S. 19 near Bryson City receives its funding from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation and has distributed $1.2 million in grants. ..."

Warren Haynes: Hell of a guy

"Thursday's heavy rains made gardening impossible, but that's what Suzie Cromer was thinking about.

"Cromer is looking forward to tending flower beds in the yard of the new home she received from Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. The home was built with proceeds from the 2007 Warren Haynes Christmas Jam.

" 'I think it's a great opportunity,' Cromer said of the home. 'It's the best opportunity.' ..."

Musicians, actors, celebrities oftentimes overstep their fame by telling us who we should vote for, what causes we should back, etc. But sometimes these are just good people doing great things. We've noted for some time the Asheville Citizen-Times' great coverage of Haynes and his annual Christmas Jam, which raises money for Habitat.

"Haynes, a Grammy-winning guitarist known for his band Gov't Mule, presented the keys to the home in the Habitat for Humanity Enka Hills community to the Cromers on Thursday afternoon," according to the paper. Haynes has funded about 10 percent of all the homes the organization has built in the Asheville area.

Not too shabby.

All proceeds from the annual concert go toward the organization's building projects. It has pumped $665,000 into the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, allowing the organization to build about 12 homes. Habitat usually builds two homes each year with money raised from the jam.

For Haynes, meeting the families who receive the homes “makes it all very omnipresent.” When he first started making this now-annual appearance in the neighborhood, he said he found it very emotional.

“It makes you realize what you are doing this for,” he said.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Funding for N.C. Zoo may not be in the cards

According to WRAL, 2009 may not be a good time for the good folks from the N.C. Zoo to ask for more funding, despite being in need of repairs and new exhibits.

A legislative panel "decided it would be useless to seek about $4 million for the zoo next year. The panel said the economic slump is creating budget shortfalls for the state.

"Zoo officials want to use 70 percent of admission revenue to repair old exhibits and build a new one. To do that, the state would have to pay more of the park's operating costs.

"The committee said it would ask the Legislature to allow the zoo to participate in commercial activities, such as development of hotels."

Monday, December 08, 2008

Quick hits: Christmas Jam's charity aspect more important than ever, and country ham making a comeback

Christmas Jam expands to double duty
"The annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam has long been a major force in Asheville, drawing 7,000 or more fans to the Civic Center each year, many who fill local hotels, restaurants and clubs during their stay here," says the Citizen-Times. "It's the signature concert event at the Civic Center, with an international reputation for its strong musical lineup. And it's so far pumped $665,000 into the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, letting the organization build about 12 homes.

"But this year, with the economy in recession, the jam's financial punch could be more important than ever. Grammy-winning guitarist Haynes, an Asheville native, is expanding the all-star jam to two nights, Friday-Saturday at the Civic Center arena. ..."

Disappearing art of the country ham
"Salty. Leathery. The skin dried so hard, it can take a band saw to cut through it. Before cooking, you have to heft it into a sink and scrub off the mold. This is not most people's definition of food. But in the Carolinas, it's a good description of one of our most important contributions to the American food story: Slow-cured country ham," says the Charlotte Observer.

"It once kept people in this part of the world alive through tough winters. It added flavor and protein to meager plates of grits and greens. It was so prized, colonists made scarce cash by shipping it to Europe for the gentry.

"Today, slow-cured country ham is not much more than a lingering taste of Carolinas history. In supermarkets, you usually find mass-produced versions that use climate controls to hurry the process. ..."

Friday, December 05, 2008

Winston and Salem's baseball team no longer the Warthogs

Winston-Salem still has a minor league baseball team, but they are no longer the Warthogs.

Instead, the team will be known as the "Dash," a "nod to the hyphen between 'Winston' and 'Salem' and the city's history," says the Journal.

"The team unveiled the new name -- and the new logo, uniforms, colors and mascot -- at a midday party yesterday at the Millennium Center downtown."

(Warning: This part coming up does not sound promising. ...)

"The team's mascot is a yet-to-be-named red furry animal, a cartoonish cross between a bear and a dog with a mohawk and lightning bolts over its ears."

The team's owners and managers collected more than 3,000 submissions for the new team nickname, then narrowed those to five. The team eliminated the four others -- Rhinos, Aviators, Wallbangers and Racers -- after talking with corporate sponsors and season-ticket holders, Kevin Terry, the team's president, said.

"A lot of people leaned toward the Dash," Terry said. "You can't have Winston-Salem without the dash, and then it ties into baseball because you can dash around the bases and an outfielder can dash after a ball."

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Rodney Rogers paralyzed in ATV accident

Durham native and former Wake Forest basketball player Rodney Rogers is paralyzed as the result of an all-terrain vehicle accident, according to The News & Observer. |

Dave Odom, who coached Rogers when he earned All-America honors at Wake Forest and was the 1993 ACC Player of the Year, said Wednesday that his former star is paralyzed from the shoulders down.

“Say a prayer for Rodney and his family,” Odom said.

Barry Saunders writes that Rogers had a “legendary physique,” and that’s what struck me as especially stunning when I heard about his paralysis: The Durham Bull, an athlete defined by his body, is now rendered helpless by it.

I watched Rogers beat N.C. State in Reynolds Coliseum when I was in school. He had two 360-degree dunks in a display of his body as art.

Career statistics: Wake Forest | NBA

N.C. earns a 'B' when it comes to college affordability

"Most states are doing better preparing students for higher education than they did a decade ago, but that modest progress is eclipsed by rising tuition costs, enduring enrollment gaps between rich and poor, and a in global competitiveness," says Gannett.

"The situation could worsen if states don't do more to prepare high school students for college and make college more affordable and accessible to Americans of all backgrounds, according to the 'Measuring Up 2008' report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education."

The good news for North Carolinians is that the state still continues to do a fairly good job of offering affordable college education, even if perhaps not doing as good a job as it has in the past.

“Family wealth and income, race and ethnicity, and geography play too great a role in determining which Americans receive a high school education that prepares them for college, which ones enroll in college, and which ones complete certificate or degree programs,” said James B. Hunt Jr., former North Carolina governor and chairman of the center's board.

The center graded states from A to F in five areas — college enrollment, college affordability, college completion rates, how well the states prepare high school students for college and percentage of residents who are college-educated.

North Carolina received its highest grade, a B- , in both completion and preparation. The proportion of eighth-graders scoring well in math has almost tripled over the past 15 years, and the state is a top performer in enrolling high school students in upper-level math.

In other positive news, three-quarters of high school students are taught by qualified teachers. And while 58 percent of college students complete a bachelor's degree within six years, 47 percent of African-Americans graduate within six years compared with 62 percent of whites.

The study also found that the likelihood of enrolling in college by 19 has increased by 25 percent since the 1990s.

The state received a C+ for benefits, an F for affordability and a D+ for participation. Every state got an F for affordability except California, which got a C-.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Quick hits: New Bern's 300th and an Air Force One museum ... in Wilmington?

Celebration of New Bern's 300th expected to boost city
"The chairman of New Bern's 300th anniversary committee says a yearlong celebration of the city 'will help us weather the storm and position us well for economic recovery.'

"Nelson McDaniel, who leads the committee, said the group is eager to have advice from the city and that its members 'will be the best stewards of the trust placed in us,'" according to the New Bern Sun-Journal.

"Part of that job, he said, is being mindful of the struggling economy as plans are made, but understanding that the celebration should be grand enough to have long-term effects.
" 'We are putting together a celebration that ... reflects our history, our values and our current lives ... a celebration that is to have immediate and lasting impacts,' McDaniel told aldermen this week. ..."

Officials endorse Air Force One museum in Port City
"A group of Southeastern North Carolina elected officials Monday afternoon unanimously endorsed a private proposal to build an Air Force One Museum and White House Photo Gallery in Wilmington.

"But that doesn’t mean it’s coming here," says the Star-News. "Other places in North Carolina, including at least one in the Outer Banks, are also hoping to land the proposed museum, where the history of presidential air travel would be preserved alongside a display of decades of White House photographs. Museum planners also hope at least one former presidential bird would serve as the museum’s main attraction.

" 'The question is where it’s going to be,' said Howie Franklin, director of the Brunswick County Airport and a member of the proposed museum’s board of directors. 'It’s going to be somewhere.' ..."

(Rendering from the Star-News online)

Monday, December 01, 2008

All the Christmas tree news fit to print

Another North Carolina tree has found its way to the nation's capital to enjoy its final days as the official White House Christmas tree.

"A horse-drawn wagon pulled the 20-foot Fraser fir up to the White House on Sunday as [Laura] Bush was waiting under an umbrella. The tree will decorate the Blue Room," says the AP.

"Jessie Davis and Russell Estes, owners of River Ridge Tree Farms in Crumpler, N.C., where the tree was grown, joined the first lady, along with their families.

"The North Carolina Farm Bureau says River Ridge also will provide about 25 smaller trees for the White House, including the ones for the offices of the president and vice president."

Across the state, tree farmers are hoping for a good sales season, despite the slumping recession.

"Consumers are telling us that they won't have as much under the Christmas tree this year, but they will have a tree," Linda Gragg, director of the N.C. Christmas Tree Association, told the News & Observer.

So far, so good for tree sales.

"After one weekend, Christmas tree farms in western North Carolina appear to be standing tall in the face of a struggling economy.

"The Asheville Citizen-Times reports that farmers enjoyed a good opening weekend, and one official representing growers expects this year to be as good as 2007."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Wolfpack: State football champs

(Sorry for the tardiness of posts; a newborn baby will do this to ya.)

With NC State's 41-10 whipping of UNC on Saturday (a win that has State fans, well, excited), the Wolfpack has laid claim to being the best program in the state. At least, that's Coach Tom O'Brien's theory.

But is he correct?

WRAL's Dane Huffman says ... maybe. If you're counting recent success, you gotta give the edge to Wake Forest. National prominence this year? UNC. A chance at a conference title? ECU.

The Pack did go undefeated against everyone from the state that they played. And State beat App State in recent seasons -- seasons that saw the 'Neers win consecutive national titles.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

UNCC WILL get football

UNC Charlotte will field a football team. The school's board of trustees voted 8-0, with one abstention, today to adopt a Chancellor Phil Dubois plan that could add a football program at the school, according to the Charlotte Observer.

In September, Dubois recommended the school suit up a team by 2013, if boosters and football fans demonstrated support by raising $5 million in six months to help build a $45.3 million stadium complex.

"The cold stark financial reality we face is that those who say they want football are going to have to help pay for football," Dubois told trustees in Spetember. "We need to see support demonstrated now."

He suggested selling 5,000 personal seat licenses - or "Forty-Niner Seat Licenses" - for $1,000 each, just for the right to buy tickets, within six months of the BOT's vote.

That vote, of the 13-member BOT, came Thursday. There were nine members voting, and eight voted in favor with one abstention. There were no votes against. The other four members didn't vote. Three had previously expressed support for the initiative.

At the close of business on Wednesday, the Charlotte 49ers had received reservations for 4,167 of those FSLs. At a price of $1,000 each, that could translate into more than $4.1 million for the creation of a football program.

No money has yet been accepted by the ticket office, which was awaiting today's vote. ...

Interested fans and corporations can add their names to the reservation list by calling the 49ers ticket office at (704) 687-4949 or the 49ers Athletic Foundation at (704) 687-4950.

The biggest obstacle to football is a place to play. Dubois recommended building an expandable 12,000-seat stadium on campus, or playing at a renovated Memorial Stadium in uptown Charlotte.

School officials are talking to Mecklenburg County officials about Memorial Stadium. If the school invests significant money in renovating that facility, it would play there for several seasons, Dubois said.

Revisit the golden days of N.C. rock with Comboland Radio

Been humming an old dBs song but can't think of where to hear it? Or perhaps you've been discussing how great the Pressure Boys were and waxing nostalgiac? Or maybe you just really are in the mood for some Arrogance.

Comboland Radio is the place for you.

"Comboland" was a phrase used to describe the music "coming out of the Carolinas in the middle ‘80’s,"writes Comboland creator Michael Smith on his website. "There were so many great bands that should have got the big record deal and lots of radio airplay. I can’t do much about those big record deals but with Comboland Radio I can give those artists and the ones that followed an entire radio station! Here it is…. Comboland Radio! All day every day you can listen to this great music, much of it out of print and unavailable anywhere else!!"

Comboland offers R.E.M., The Connells, Dillon Fence, Corrosion of Conformity, Cry of Love, Mitch Easter, Johnny Quest and so many more.

"The idea to create Comboland is an example of something good coming from something bad," wrote Metro Magazine.

“The genesis of the idea is the death of David Enloe,” Smith explained during our phone chat. “He was the lead guitarist and one of the founding members of The Fabulous Knobs, along with Terry Anderson, Debra DeMilo and Jack Cornell. David and Terry met, I think, in junior high school. Terry may correct me on this, but I do know they’d been together for a long, long time. I didn’t know them well back in the day. I knew them a little. I did a lot of road case pushing for local bands so I could go see them without paying a cover.

Enloe passed away in November 2007. David Menconi wrote a fine obituary for Enloe, which is available online: There’s also a great tribute to Enloe on MySpace: .cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid

Smith was not aware of Enloe’s illness, however, so when the news of his death reached him, it set him to thinking.

“When I heard about David’s passing, I moped around for a while thinking how horrible it was, and then I went to the storage facility where I keep all my vinyl records and packed up all my Triangle-area bands and brought it home,” he recalled. “I started listening to it, just sort of reminiscing, and it hit me that this stuff was still really good. It was a shame that these bands didn’t make it big-time.

“I decided it was time to start digitizing all this music,” he said. “Once I’d digitized it, then I had to play it around the house a little bit, so I made the play list and stuck it in Winamp and played it through the stereo system. I have a little program that will actually seg the songs, similar to what you have on a radio station. “Well, the songs sounded great, so I thought I’d stick in some newer stuff by Don Dixon. Then I downloaded some newer stuff and started experimenting. All this music sounded really good together, so I decided to make a radio station out of it.”

(CD images from Comboland's website)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

MacGruber loves him some Wilmington

Will Forte, of "MacGruber" fame on "SNL," recently shot a movie in the Port City. And he then lauded the city's praises on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien."

Forte "made an ecstatic face, proclaimed Wilmington a 'beautiful' and 'wonderful' place and said he was at a loss for to words to describe how much he enjoyed his time here," writes the Star-News.

Forte worked in Wilmington on "A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy." He described the movie and then began to praise Wilmington.

Forte also talked about an obsession with the video game "Donkey Kong" that blossomed in Wilmington. He said he had several days of downtime during shooting when he would frequent a bar (he didn't mention it by name, but it's downtown hot spot The Blue Post) early in the afternoon while few people were there to brush up on his "Donkey Kong" skills for hours at a time. The arcade-style game was introduced in the 1980s and retains a cult popularity, epitomized in the 2007 documentary "King of Kong," about two men vying for the highest "Donkey Kong" score of all time.

The story played out on a smaller scale here in Wilmington, and it became his mission in life, Forte said, to knock the initials "LMK" out of the high score rankings, which he eventually did with his own, "WIL." Forte praised as a "really nice guy" the University of North Carolina Wilmington professor whose initials he replaced.

"He got my initials wrong," said Jim Kreul, the UNCW professor in question, whose initials are actually JLK. "That's understandable, though. At least he was in the ballpark."

Friday, November 07, 2008

Happy 90th, Rev. Graham!

Today is the Rev. Billy Graham's 90th birthday. The "nation's reverend" will spend the big day with family members -- and some North Carolina barbecue, according to the Associated Press.

"The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has gathered messages, greetings and stories from supporters to present to Graham as he celebrates.

"Graham's health has declined in recent years, and he spends much of his time secluded at his mountainside home in Montreat. The past adviser to several presidents and globe-trotting evangelist was hospitalized last month after tripping over his dog and at other times has been treated for fluid on the brain, prostate cancer and macular degeneration."

Graham's health may be declining, but his mind still appears sharp.

Graham "spends his days in his mountaintop home in Montreat, relying on a walker to navigate the trek from bedroom to study," says the Charlotte Observer. "His voice is now soft, his hair snow-white. He's watched over around the clock by a nurse and a trusty golden retriever named Sam.

"Like so many others battling old age, the Charlotte-born Graham tires easily, naps often, is sometimes lonely and has great difficulty hearing. In conversation, his responses aren't as quick as they once were. Macular degeneration is slowly stealing his sight, denying him one of the chief pleasures of his life: reading the Bible. ...

"But for all the loss, those around Graham say his mind remains sharp, his memory strong. And like the young preacher whose calendar was ever-full, the elderly Graham still prefers to focus on the future: on that day he'll see Ruth again in heaven and finally get to gaze on the face of Jesus, who he has served faithfully since his conversion at a Charlotte revival in 1934.

" 'I've discovered that just because we'll inevitably grow weaker physically as we get older, it doesn't mean we must grow weaker spiritually,' Graham, still the evangelist, said in response to questions e-mailed by the Observer. 'Our eyes ought to be on eternity and heaven – on the things that really matter.' ..."

Happy birthday, Rev. Graham. Here's to many, many more.

Quick hits: A fisherman's memorial and a passenger train ... in eastern N.C.?

Fisherman's memorial unveiled in Morehead City
"His boat was the Carolina Princess. And those who knew the late James B. 'Woo Woo' Harker say he was the Carolina Prince.

" 'He taught by example and you never wanted to let him down,' said Leonard Rigsbee, a Carteret County resident who worked as a mate on the Carolina Princess just before it made its home on the Morehead City waterfront.

"Rigsbee, a former charter boat captain who now works as a boat builder, described Harker as a 'true mariner' and said it is Harker who inspired his interest in fishing and boating," says the Jacksonville Daily News. ...

"Rigsbee was just one of many whose life was touched by Harker's influence, and it was apparent in the crowd of friends and family that gathered on the Morehead City waterfront Friday evening for the unveiling of a fishermen's memorial in his honor. ..."

Local commuter rail service proposed for Cherry Point, Camp Lejeune
"Instead of driving to work, some Marines could take the train," says the Havelock News.

"A transportation committee of the Military Growth Task Force is suggesting the idea of commuter rail service between Cherry Point and Camp Lejeune.

"Danny Walsh, a Havelock commissioner and member of the task force, said a train would run in the morning and the evening along the 26-mile rail spur between the two bases.

"He said a commuter train would decrease the number of cars on the road and would also offer military members a chance to get some work done on the train.

" 'A lieutenant colonel that's going to Camp Lejeune every day could work on his laptop for the 35 minutes that he's riding down that railroad track,' Walsh said. 'He can talk on the telephone. He can rest. He can do everything except hang on to the steering wheel.' ..."

Monday, November 03, 2008

Preseason is premature

The injured Tyler Hansbrough of North Carolina and Stephen Curry of Davidson were named to the Associated Press preseason All-America team Monday, earning this response from “bsee65” at

“Preseason All-America? You’re kidding, right? Let’s let these guys earn it on the court.”

The rest of the team: Luke Harangody of Notre Dame, Darren Collison of UCLA and Blake Griffin of Oklahoma.

For an informed opinion on the preseason Associated Press poll, go to Patrick Stevens’ D1SCOURSE blog. He’s an AP voter.

Quick hits: Good news and bad news about the economy

N.C. keeps 'Top Business Climate' award for fourth year
"North Carolina’s 'business climate' is best in the U.S. for the fourth consecutive year, says Site Selection Magazine.

"The magazine praised Tar Heel policy leaders for the state’s use of incentives, taxes, economic development and work force development in securing new or expanded business opportunities and jobs," says

"North Carolina has finished first in seven of the past eight years. ..."

Cherokee casino suffers in sour economy
"Brenda Wentz recently made the 2 1/2-hour drive from her home in Lincolnton to try her luck at the machines inside Harrah's Cherokee Casino.

"She brought her 84-year-old mother — who cares nothing about gambling — to see the fall colors and dine at a restaurant in the casino's hotel," writes the Citizen-Times.

"The economy and gas prices didn't keep them away. Instead, it pushed them toward a gambling trip.

" 'It gets our minds off things,' Wentz said.

"Harrah's Cherokee Casino, one of the largest private employers in Western North Carolina, is betting on people like Wentz as it braces for potential losses this year for the first time in its 10-year history. ..."

Friday, October 31, 2008

Lineups announced for Christmas Jam

You have to hand it to Western North Carolina: it has two of the better and longer-running concert events in America. A lot of people know of Wilkesboro's MerleFest, but perhaps equally impressive is Warren Haynes' annual Christmas Jam in Asheville.

Haynes has mentioned of late that he really wanted to step up the talent for this year's Jam, which will take place Dec. 12-13 at the Asheville Civic Center.

Um, I think he did.

"The Allman Brothers Band, Derek Trucks, Marty Stuart, Travis Tritt and Steve Earle are among the acts playing at this year's Warren Haynes Christmas Jam, event organizers announced," says the Citizen-Times.

But that's not all.

"Also booked are Joan Osborne, Johnny Winter, J.J. Grey, the Del McCoury Band, Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk, Ruthie Foster, a Michael Franti acoustic show featuring Jay Bowman, Col. Bruce Hampton, Robert Kearns, Kevn Kinney, Eric Krasno and Mickey Raphael. More performers will be announced."

The Jam is a two-night affair this year, with an "invitation-only pre-jam on Dec. 11 at The Orange Peel on Biltmore Avenue."

It is Asheville's single-biggest entertainment event of the year and has raised more than $650,000 for Habitat for Humanity, which works to build affordable housing.

“Warren promised that this year's jam would be the biggest yet, and it looks pretty good to me,” said Rick Rice, announcer at Asheville's Rock 104 radio station. “I think there are three or four acts there that could be headliners.”

The Carolinas Shrine Bowl: America's first all-star high school football game

(Disclosure: I am not a Mason; I came across the information below in searching for this year's Shrine Bowl rosters.)

On December 20 in Spartanburg, S.C., the Tar Heels will take on the Sandlappers in the 72nd Annual Carolinas Shrine Bowl, the all-star game between North and South Carolina high school football players.

The proceeds from the Shrine Bowl - the oldest high school all-star football game in America - go to the Shriners' Hospitals in the Carolinas. I never knew that Pulitzer prize winner Ralph McGill wrote the Shrine Bowl slogan, “Strong men run so weak children may walk" or that Walt Disney drew the Shrine crippled children design and donated it to Oasis Shrine. Nor was I aware that by "1986, the game’s 50th year, 62 million fans tuned in on the Shrine Bowl TV and radio networks. One million had watched from the grandstands." But the most impressive fact is that $28 million had been raised (from projects plus game tickets), far exceeding all other North American Shrine fundraising events.

Not too shabby at all.

Here is the North Carolina roster for this year's Shrine Bowl. I don't say this often (actually, never), but here 'goes ... Go Tar Heels!

OG Nick Allison, Asheville Roberson
OG Whit Barnes, Rocky Mount
LB Hawatha Bell, Charlotte Butler
LB Joseph Blanks, Pembroke Swett
WR Jheranie Boyd, Gastonia Ashbrook
DL Justin Brewington, Richmond County
TE Wesley Carter, North Stanly
OT David Collins, East Forsyth
DL Jamaal Dixon, Gates County
RB Kevin Fogg, Apex
RB Hunter Furr, Winston-Salem Mount Tabor
WR Corey Gattis, Durham Hillside
LB Brandon Grier, West Charlotte
C Taylor Hanson, Wake Forest-Rolesville
C Ty Howle, Bunn
DB Joshua Hunter, Mallard Creek
LB Justin Jackson, Richmond County
LB Perry James, Davie County
DL Jared McAdoo, Chapel Hill
LB Lamer McClendon, Fayetteville Seventy-First
K Matt Millisor, Greensboro Page
QB Brett Mooring, West Craven
DL Donte Moss, Jacksonville Northside
LB Andrew Nallenwag, Erwin
OT Xavier Nixon, Fayetteville Britt
OG Perry Owens, Edenton Holmes
ATH Randy Pressley, North Buncombe
WR Michael Price, New Bern
QB Everett Proctor, Fayettteville Britt
RB Larry Raper, Shelby
DB JaQuan Rucker, West Iredell
DB Marcel Sargent, Charlotte Butler
DB Terry Shankle, South Stanley
FB Tyler Shatley, East Burke
LB Spencer Shuey, South Mecklenburg
TE Perry Simmons, Sanderson
OT Will Simmons, Hertford County
DB Jocquin Smith, Hibriten
DL Andrew Stryffeler, Lee County
RB Damonte Terry, Scotland County
DL Rodney Torain, Chapel Hill
DB Tony Washington, High Point Andrews
WR Reese Wiggins, Southern Durham
DL Pat Worley, South Columbus

Thursday, October 30, 2008

No surprise: UNC preseason national No. 1

Roy Williams' Tar Heels are the unanimous preseason favorite to win the NCAA men's basketball national title.

"North Carolina received all 31 first-place votes as the unanimous No. 1 in the preseason ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll, which was released Thursday," says

"Since ESPN began participating in the coaches' poll in 1997-98 -- USA Today began the poll in 1991 -- the Tar Heels are the first unanimous preseason No. 1. They're also the top-ranked team for the second straight preseason.

"The other Final Four teams from 2008 earned strong rankings. UCLA came in at No. 4 and national runner-up Memphis landed at No. 12. The Tigers and Bruins have been ranked in the coaches' Top 25 for 61 consecutive weeks, the longest active streak."

The Duke Blue Devils are in at fifth place in the preseason poll.

"North Carolina's candidacy as the nation's top-ranked team and national championship favorite got a significant boost last spring when player of the year Tyler Hansbrough announced he would return for his senior season. The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 22.6 points and 10.2 rebounds in leading the Tar Heels (36-3) to the winningest season in school history while sweeping the major national player of the year awards.

"Hansbrough already has qualified to become the eighth player in school history to have his jersey retired and can add several more records to his resume in his final season. He will be the first returning Associated Press national player of the year since LSU's Shaquille O'Neal in 1991."

Miami of the ACC is 16th, while Davidson is 20th and Wake Forest 24th.

More Carolina spookiness

Saw this in the Washington (N.C.) Daily News this morning ...

"Imagine a fierce storm blowing in off the Pamlico River, bringing with it wind, rain, thunder and lightening.

"Youngsters huddle on the porch of their family’s home, watching in awe as a mysterious ball of light bounces in the distant.

"Sound far-fetched? Maybe not.

"Just such a phenomenon has been reported for generations in the Beaufort County town of Bath, a place rich in history and in lore and legends.

"The so-called 'Blackbeard’s Lights' reportedly make their appearance during such storms, dancing between Plum Point, where the legendary pirate Blackbeard is said to have lived, and Archbell Point.

" 'Over time, people have said they’ve seen them, but I haven’t ever seen them,' said Bea Latham, interpreter and assistant site manager at Historic Bath. 'It’s interesting that the lights have been described as bouncing from one side to the other.' ..."

Click here for the rest of the story.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Spooky N.C.

One of our most popular posts over the past couple of years (according to FEEDJIT) is our post last Halloween regarding our favorite North Carolina ghost stories.

Some of the my favorite Old North State haunts include the Devil's Tramping Ground, the mysterious footprints in Bath, the Maco Light near Wilmington, the The Little Red Man at Old Salem and, of course, dear, poor Lydia trying to get back home.

Closer to (my) home, the State Capitol is supposedly haunted, as is the governor's mansion.

Now, Virtual Blue Ridge has a list of hauntings along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a good number of which are in North Carolina. Among the haunts are the Biltmore House, the Grove Park Inn (both in Asheville) and the Green Park Inn in Blowing Rock. The site cautions that many "places listed here require special permission to visit or investigate. Many are patrolled by authorities and trespassers could be prosecuted."

I would also add the Lake Lure Inn to the list of Western N.C. haunts. I stayed there a couple of years ago and swear that there was a boy standing at the foot of my bed during the night who quickly vanished. (Of course knowing that the Inn is supposedly haunted BEFORE I went to sleep probably didn't help.)

Among the other western haunts are the Old Battery Park Hotel in Asheville ("It's said that in a private apartment building in downtown Asheville, which used to be known as the Battery Park Hotel in the early to mid 1900's, apparitions can be seen very early in the morning. Individuals who worked the morning shift in the pantry refused to go in alone because a man who was murdered there was known to reveal himself in spirit form to employees.); Appalachian State University in Boone ("East Hall is one of the dormitories for the college and is said to be haunted. Student assistants have reported being followed by unknown footsteps when on their rounds after midnight. People have also claimed that the lights will suddenly turn off in halls and you can feel someone brush against you."); and of course the Brown Mountain Lights in Linville ("At two different places on the Blue Ridge parkway you can see the brown mountain lights. There are three stories to this one. 1) It's said that there was a war between two different Native American tribes. At night when it was safe, the women would go out and look for their husbands with big bright torches, but they were killed too, so now they keep looking forever. 2) It was winter and a little girl had gone missing. Her father looked and looked for her but she died and he died as well. To this day, he continues the search. Scientist have tried to figure out what has been going on for hundreds of years and many people have seen these lights year after year. 3) The spirit of a faithful slave who is in search of his master who was accidentally wounded while hunting.... whatever they are, they appear nightly in the gorge, with no set pattern, they weave in and out of the trees until they reach the edge of the river, then they disappear only to reappear in another spot.")

Happy Halloween!

(Lake Lure Inn photo courtesy of its website)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Quick hits: Wild horses, old piers and Ol' Roy

Study looks at how many wild horses are enough
"A study is being launched to determine what impact wild horses have on the northern Outer Banks of North Carolina, where the animals compete increasingly with visitors for space," says the AP.

"The Corolla Wild Horse Fund estimates the study could cost $800,000 and take up to two years, The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reported Monday.

"Karen McCalpin, executive director of the fund, said the group plans to commission researchers from N.C. State to examine the effects the horse herd has on marshes and grass.

"The fund and the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge agreed in 1999 to limit the herd to about 60 horses. The herd currently numbers 101 and McCalpin said she thinks a herd of 120 to 130 would be good for long-term health. ..."

N.C. aquarium agency closer on bidding on pier
"The head of North Carolina's aquarium agency says he hopes a rebuilt pier on the Outer Banks will be open for use by 2010," says the AP.

"North Carolina Aquariums director David Griffin said the agency will begin seeking bids this week on the Jennette's Pier project, The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reported Monday.

"The $15 million project would rebuild the pier to 1,000 feet and design it to withstand hurricanes of 130 mph. The pier would include alternative energy generators and a 200-seat meeting area. ..."

UNC hoops No. 1 in media poll
"For the second straight season, North Carolina was the unanimous pick of media members Sunday to win the ACC in men's basketball," says Ken Tysiac.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Who knew? The etymology of 'bunkum'

Am in the process of reading Bill Bryson's excellent Made In America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States, when I came across an entry on the now-forgotten 1820s congressman Felix Walker (1753-1828).

Walker, it seems, was "accused of speaking drivel" when "he replied that he was speaking to the people of Buncombe, County, North Carolina, his district," Bryson writes. "Almost immediately his congressional colleagues began referring to any political claptrap or bombast as speaking to Buncombe."

Bryson goes on to say that the prhase's use went beyond Washington and morphed to buncombe, bunkum and also just plain bunk.

"Thus with a single fatuous utterance, the forgotten Felix Walker managed to inspire half a page of dictionary entries."

Well done, Congressman Walker.

NFL's Wilson enjoying the 'High Point' of his career

The Winston-Salem Journal's John Delong has a nice piece on Arizona Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson, a former NCSU star.

"When Adrian Wilson isn't making big hits as the Arizona Cardinals' strong safety, he can often be found at a designer shoe store that he owns in Scottsdale.

"The name of the store?

"High Point.

"It's partly a tribute to his home town, where he starred at High Point Andrews before going on to N.C. State and ultimately to the Cardinals as a third-round pick in 2001.

" 'Obviously it is a tribute to my home town, but I also said once I got my own business it would be the high point of my career, and the high point of my life. That's how it is and that's pretty much how I want to keep it.' ..."

Wilson is the Cardinals' longest-tenured player on the team. (He's in his eighth season in the NFL, all with 'Zona.) He has been in on 21 tackles this season, despite missing one game and most of another with a hamstring injury, Delong notes. "He got the 17th interception of his career in the Cardinals' season-opening win against San Francisco, and continues to close in on a personal milestone. With three more interceptions and four more sacks, he will become the ninth player in NFL history to record 20 career sacks and 20 interceptions.

"He is also in the NFL record books for having the most sacks by a defensive back in one season, with eight in 2006. He had two 99-yard returns for touchdowns that season, also an NFL record, with a 99-yard interception return against Atlanta and a 99-yard fumble return against Minnesota."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Quick hits: New sports channel, interstate for the Carolinas

Fox Sports launches Carolinas network
"After agreeing to televise more Carolina Hurricanes games, landing a deal to carry the Charlotte Bobcats and adding South Carolina to its lineup, Fox Sports South decided it had enough programming to launch a Carolinas network," says the N&O.

"Hence the new Fox Sports Carolinas, to be abbreviated as FSCR in television program listings. You'll be able to get it on the same channel you're using to watch FSN South, for example channel 50 if you subscribe in Raleigh to Time Warner Cable. FSN South will send a more Carolinas-specific feed to Time Warner for viewers in those two states, says Jeff Genthner, senior vice president and general manager of Fox Sports South and FS Carolinas. ...

"FS Carolinas will televise 65 Canes games this year (up from 55), 70 Bobcats games and 43 ACC men's basketball games, including 19 on Sunday nights. The new regional sports network will look for additional opportunities to line up programming of local interest. ..."

New interstate to Myrtle Beach?
"South Carolina is now clear to start buying land for a new interstate to the Grand Strand," says the AP.

"State and federal highway officials signed papers Wednesday in Columbia for the northern stretch of Interstate 73. The action clears the way for buying land for the interstate between I-95 and the North Carolina state line. ...

"Interstate 73 will one day link Myrtle Beach and Michigan. It will provide the first interstate connection to the beach, which is the heart of South Carolina's $16 billion tourism industry. ..."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Quick hits: Another N.C. tree to grace the White House, and more on BBQ bible

White House Christmas tree from North Carolina

"A tree farm in the northwestern corner of North Carolina now knows which tree the White House wants for President Bush's final Christmas in office," says the AP.

"River Ridge Tree Farms in Ashe County won the right to supply the tree in August, when it was named grand champion of the 2008 Christmas Tree Contest of the National Christmas Tree Association. ...

"It's the second straight year an Ashe County tree has been chosen. A tree from neighboring Alleghany County was the White House tree in 2005."

Book chronicles history of N.C. barbecue

"Truth be told, the biggest issue in North Carolina is not deciding between Democrat and Republican.

"Heck, no.

"It's deciding whether Piedmont or Eastern-style barbecue is best," writes the Salisbury Post's Susan Shinn.

"And that's a dispute, my friends, that no election will ever resolve.

"It's a fine problem to have. North Carolina will always be pro-pork. We love our barbecue in the Old North State. ..."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Good news: A game that should be played

It's not Georgia-Florida, Ohio State-Michigan or even N.C. State-North Carolina. Nonetheless, the news that East Carolina and Appalachian State will face on the gridiron next year is great news for college football in the state.

"The Sept. 5 game at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville will mark ECU's first matchup against a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), formerly known as Division I-AA, opponent since 2001.The Mountaineers own a 19-10 lead in the Appalachian series that dates back to 1932 but the two programs haven't met since the Pirates won 38-21 in Boone on Nov. 3, 1979.

" 'Although this is a single-game contract with Appalachian State for the 2009 season only, it is my hope that this game will be a springboard for a great in-state rivalry in the future,' ECU Director of Athletics Terry Holland said. 'The Mountaineers have proven their ability to compete against the very best programs in the area and in the nation.'"

This matchup presents a nice east-versus-west rivalry that both sets of fans can get behind. Hopefully it is a game that will be played quite regularly. It's a game that should be played on a consistent basis, along with N.C. State-Duke (whacky ACC division scheduling has screwed that up), N.C. State/UNC-South Carolina, along with the other border schools (Tennessee and Georgia come to mind), as well as NCSU/UNC-ECU. Of course, if/when UNC Charlotte adds football, the idea of scheduling like this might go out the door.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ridin' the N.C. rails

I had the absolute pleasure -- and I don't use that term lightly -- to take Amtrak's Piedmont train from Raleigh to Charlotte a little over a week ago. It had been a decade since my last Amtrak experience -- a horrid, 18-hour (each way) affair from Raleigh to Fort Lauderdale.

Needless to say, I was cautiously optimistic about what lay before me. My previous experience coupled with the fluid and flawless rail trips in Europe -- and the horror stories of American train trips that I've heard/read about -- made me suspect that not only would the Piedmont not get to the Queen City in the estimated three hours, but that it may be a dirty, smelly and generally unpleasant trip.

How wrong I was, thankfully.

The Piedmont was scheduled to leave Raleigh at 7 a.m. (Truth be told, if there is a building in Raleigh that could use some aesthetic help, it is the downtown Amtrak depot. It doesn't exhude pleasantness.) It left at -- wha-lah! -- 7 a.m. It got to Cary at the scheduled 7:11; Durham at 7:30; and so on and so on. Yes, it lost a minute or two along the way, but I was in Charlotte at roughly 10:15 -- some six minutes after it was supposed to arrive.

The fact that I had ample leg room (made me not ever want to set foot on a plane again), complimentary snacks and drinks, and plenty of time to sit back and read (or nap), made the experience one that I will gladly recreate in the near future. True, the Piedmont and thus the Carolinian don't exactly wind their way through the Alps or France's wine valleys, but you do get to see parts of North Carolina that most folks never do: N.C. State from the windows of the train; Durham's burgeoning downtown; and towns that look like they were built up around the train, like Kannapolis and Cary.

If there is a downside to traveling the train it is that Charlotte's train station is in a "worse" part of town than Raleigh's.

Is train travel conducive all the time? No; one is still better off probably driving to places such as Orlando or, ahem, Fort Lauderdale. But trips to D.C., Philly, Boston, NYC, Charlotte and Atlanta (and, for that matter, Charleston and Savannah) SHOULD be open to efficient train trips.

This trip did nothing but reinforce my belief that trains should be highly invested in as a critical mass transit option --whether for intra- or intercity travel.

Quick hits: Writing about Ocracoke's charms, Appalachia's borders - and honoring those that write

Ocracoke, off-season
"When the seasons cool, we tumble into the car with our dog – Blue – and head to the coast. We've had New Year's at Ocracoke and Christmas at Pawleys Island, S.C. Ocracoke is our family favorite," says the Charlotte Observer.

"The beach seems wider, the sky more blue, and there's quiet in the village except for the wind whispering down Howard Street. There's more room to run, more space to ride bikes, and there's more time to do everything or nothing at all. ..."

Bush redraws boundaries of Appalachia
"Tabbatha Tubbs laughs at the thought of Washington politicians decreeing her hometown Appalachian. After all, there’s not a mountain in sight from this gently rolling countryside best known for its thoroughbred horse farms," says the AP.

"This is picturesque Bluegrass country: Black wooden fences surround grazing thoroughbreds. Golden stalks of tobacco hang from tiered barns. And herds of fat beef cattle mow their way across fields of green grass.

"It’s hardly the heart of Appalachia, the rugged hills where President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty some 44 years ago. But like it or not, Tubbs and her neighbors are now residents of the impoverished region, at least in the eyes of the federal government. ..."

Writers, historians honored
"Three people were inducted into the N.C. Literary Hall of Fame on Sunday afternoon," said the News & Observer.

"Durham poet James Applewhite, Chapel Hill historian William S. Powell and Hillsborough novelist Lee Smith were inducted in a ceremony at the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities in Southern Pines. ..."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Small town gets the splotlight for major motion picture

"Like many small towns, Watha is a 'blink and you miss it' kind of place, settled along a crossroads near Burgaw in Pender County," writes the Wilmington Star-News.

"It’s an old railroad town of turn-of-the-century houses, cats lounging on porches, small churches and hog farms. But come this weekend, everyone in the country will be able to see the North Carolina town of 190 people.

" 'The Secret Life of Bees,' the big-budget movie based on the best-selling book by Sue Monk Kidd, filmed in Watha for about three weeks in February. The star-studded film, which opens in theaters Friday, tells the story of a young Lily Owens (played by Dakota Fanning), who leaves behind her father and their South Carolina peach farm. Traveling with her nanny, Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson), Lily encounters the Boatwrights, a trio of beekeeping sisters (Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys and Sophie Okonedo), who fold the girl into their strange, secret world."

For the rest of the story, click here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A little N.C. flavor in Copenhagen

"There is a distinctively North Carolina flavor at the American ambassador's home in the Danish capital," writes the Winston-Salem Journal.

"Paintings by artists from the state adorn the walls of 'Rydhave,' a house noted for its beauty and history. And business leaders from North Carolina who recently visited found the state flag flying outside and a meal of barbecue, biscuits and pecan pie imported from the Tarheel state.

"The decor and dishes reflect the heritage of Jim Cain, who grew up in Winston-Salem and uses his home-state's heritage to put the best face on American foreign diplomacy."

Read on for more about Cain, who has worked in Raleigh as an attorney, businessman and even president of the Carolina Hurricanes. (Cain even once used the same Raleigh barber as one certain blogger. Ahem.)

"Public attitudes toward the U.S. have worsened throughout Western Europe since the onset of the Iraq War," said Pete Furia, a professor of political science at Wake Forest University.

"However, official relations between the U.S. and Denmark over the same period have been warmer than those between the U.S. and larger European countries like Germany and France."

Cain has "encouraged Danes to visit his home state," says the paper.

"He helped Danish students spend time in both North Carolina and Winston-Salem through various exchange programs during the past three years. He also came to Winston-Salem with the Danish ambassador to the United States, Friis Petersen, in 2006 to speak to law students at Wake Forest."

Friday, October 10, 2008

'Old North State' pride

Regular contributor James C. sent me this photo that he took the other day, and I felt compelled to post it. What a great shot.

"Hurrah! Hurrah! the Old North State forever!"

(Thanks to James for the photo.)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Autumn colors are on the way

Want to get a head start on seeing the most spectacular fall colors? Then head up the mountains, says the Asheville Citizen-Times' Dale Neal.

"Go high for the best bet at seeing spectacular fall colors over the next week or so," he says.

"With recent rains and a cooling trend, the highest peaks around Western North Carolina could see colorful fall foliage starting this week, said Gary Walker, a biology professor at Appalachian State University.

"Temperature, rainfall, the length of the nights and elevation all factor into the formula of where to expect the best color. ...

"Grandfather Mountain may be nearing its peak color this weekend, with about half the trees above 5,000 feet already turned, park naturalist Jesse Pope said. 'All the maples are in full color and many of the oaks have changed. I think this weekend will be really nice, but we should have good color next weekend and two weeks out.' ..."

Oh, no!

I don't like the sound of this one bit.

"The Associated Press reported earlier this week that the producer of the 1998 movie 'Bull Durham' hopes to start filming a sequel in Durham in late spring 2009."

Why take the chance of tainting one of the best sports movies of all time?

Some people, however, have thought long and hard about this.

"[Durham business owner George] Davis believes he has an idea for a plotline that could work out for a second installment.

" '[Susan] Sarandon and [Tim] Robbins own the team and [Kevin] Costner's to be the coach,' he said. ..."

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

One of life's little pleasures: 'Coke' in a glass bottle

I know it's almost heresy to proclaim an allegiance to Coca-Cola when you were born and raised in the state that gave the world both Pepsi and Cheerwine. But there are few better, simple joys in life than a cold "Colcola" in a glass bottle.

But I should note that perhaps part of my love of this drink is because of nostalgia. I can remember going on Saturday mornings with my father to the local barber shop for a haircut. There, in the corner, was an old Coke drink machine, serving out only bottled goodness. They even had Mello Yello in a (green?) bottle. Even the sometimes-incidental knocking of the front teeth against the top of the bottle was worth it.

Even my wife, who is not a fan of sodas, let alone caffeinated ones, agreed the other night that "sometimes there's just nothing better" than a bottle of Coke.

There. I said it. Please don't revoke my Old North State passport. At least Coke is Southern.

(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

More good news for Chimney Rock Park

The Charlotte Observer's Bruce Henderson reports that a $3.5 million grant and private fundraising will "help protect a landmark mountain in Rutherford County that will likely become part of Chimney Rock State Park."

The state paid $24 million, including a private donation, for the 996-acre Chimney Rock Park tourist attraction in January 2007. The new state park now covers 4,005 acres, largely because of acquisitions by the Nature Conservancy and local land trusts, which have worked for two decades to protect the Hickory Nut Gorge.

The nonprofit group said Tuesday it will buy 357 acres on the flank of Rumbling Bald Mountain, on the gorge's north side and one of its most important undeveloped tracts. The money will come from the state Clean Water Management Trust Fund and a $3.25 million campaign by the conservancy. ...

Rumbling Bald, distinctive for its series of three mounds and high rock cliffs, rises to about 2,800 feet. Oak and hickory forest covers much of the tract, which harbors rare spiders, salamanders and wood rats. Ravens nest in the cliffs and bats hibernate in large fissure caves.

Money to develop a master plan for the new Chimney Rock State Park has been approved, and public meetings will likely be held early next year. When complete, said deputy state parks director Don Reuter, the park “will be a crown jewel in our system.”

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Take the state parks survey

Joe Miller posted on his blog that the N.C. state parks system is seeking feedback.

"Ever complained because a campground wasn't up to snuff? Groused that a hiking trail needed repair? Kvetched over a dearth of recreational opportunities?" he writes. "Think we need more trails to avoid traffic jams such as this one at Eno River State Park (OK, it was during the annual Eno River Association New Year's Day Hike)? Take the State Parks survey and make your voice heard.

"If you've ever done that at a state park, then here's your chance to direct that complaint in the right direction. The N.C. Division of State Parks and Recreation is opening their suggestion box in the form of an online survey. Go to their Web site, click on 'State Park Survey' under 'Items of Interest' in the column on the left, and spend about five minutes rating what you think works and what doesn't and indicating what you'd like to see more of. ..."

The survey will close on Friday, November 7, 2008.

Friday, October 03, 2008

UNC chancellor blogging about the Old North State

Those that know me know I'm not a huge fan of Carolina blue. But I have to commend new UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp for his latest endeavor: blogging about his experiences traveling the state to get to know North Carolina.

His blog,, gives insight to what he sees as he travels across the state.

"As I begin my tenure as Carolina's chancellor, this blog will help me share thoughts, ideas and news about how the university is fulfilling its commitment to our students and to our state," Thorp wrote on the blog.

"Thorp began posting his impressions Monday from a visit to Tom Herndon's authentic research class at Chapel Hill High School," says the News & Observer. "A second post covers stops Tuesday at UNC-Asheville and Jenny Thomas' Advanced Placement chemistry class at Asheville High School."

His most recent involves a visit to Charlotte.

"One of the students asked what made Carolina students so different from students at other universities," he wrote. " I fumbled around with some general statements and then finally said, 'They love the university, and they love each other.'"
(Photo from

Quick hits: Musical bonanza

Pickler's latest will separate her from the country-music pack
"It's hard not to like Albemarle's Kellie Pickler, especially if you're from the Carolinas," says the Charlotte Observer.

"Pickler's down-home charm, unapologetic honesty and humor has helped the former 'American Idol' finalist establish herself as one of country music's rising young female stars. She picked up three CMT Music Awards earlier this year; she'll compete for New Artist of the Year at the Country Music Association Awards on Nov. 12; and her self-titled sophomore album hit stores Tuesday.

"Having recorded her gold-selling debut 'Small Town Girl' while touring with “American Idol,” Pickler took a larger role in crafting her follow-up: She co-wrote half the disc's tracks. ..."

North Carolina Music Hall of Fame ... in Kannapolis?
"What do Earl Scruggs, Thelonious Monk, and Shirley Caesar have in common? They are all Grammy Award Winning Musicians from the state of North Carolina. Earl Scruggs (Shelby), Thelonious Monk (Rocky Mount), along with fellow North Carolinians, John Coltrane (Hamlet) and Doc Watson (Deep Gap) have been honored with the Grammy lifetime achievement award. Shirley Caesar (Durham) has received 11 Grammy awards and 7 Dove Awards throughout her career as a gospel singer. In fact North Carolina has produced some of the finest musicians in the modern world, but surprisingly, very few people are aware of North Carolina’s rich musical heritage.

"North Carolinians have helped shape every category of the music world, from country to rap, indie to pop, and from big band to jug band," writes New Raleigh. "Nina Simone (Tryon), Tori Amos (Newton), Charlie Daniels (Wilmington), George Clinton (Kannapolis), and of course Andy Griffith (Mount Airy), all have received numerous awards for their various contributions to the field, yet where would a person go to be explore this history?

"Many people might believe that the young James Taylor was baptized in the ol’ well at UNC on the day of his birth, although he was actually born in Boston. Both he and Tift Merrit were born outside the state, but graduated from the University of North Carolina.

"But nowhere in the entire state are all of these musicians and their achievements showcased. Why doesn’t North Carolina have a Music History Museum? Also, why is North Carolina creating the NC Music Hall of Fame in Kannapolis? ..."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Quick hits: State to buy another WNC landmark and Asheville is 'easy'

State to buy Grandfather Mountain
"The state government plans to buy Grandfather Mountain and preserve the private park and popular tourist attraction against development," said various news outlets.

"North Carolina will gain ownership of the nearly 6,000-foot mountain and its surrounding 2,600 surrounding acres in Avery, Watauga and Caldwell counties, said Jack Morton, a board member of Grandfather Mount Inc. The deal, to be announced Monday, will cost about $12 million.

"The state will also acquire an easement around the mountain to enhance its preservation efforts, Morton said.

"Grandfather Mountain is known for its Mile High Swinging Bridge, challenging hiking trails and wildlife habitats, including a home for black bears. The park is home to dozens of endangered species and is recognized by the United Nations as an International Biosphere Reserve. ..."

Asheville an 'easy' fall weekend getaway

"Imagine a place where the local paper advertises an 'organic mechanic,' the streets teem with bandana-wearing banjo players, and tempeh is common on menus, and you have the crunchy Southern mountain retreat of Asheville," writes MSN Travel.

"Encircled by the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains, and a five-minute drive from the bucolic Blue Ridge Parkway, the North Carolina town has been drawing travelers in search of a holistic holiday since the late 19th century. ... While downtown Asheville has plenty to offer, access to the outdoors is the real draw. The surrounding mountains seem to peek out from behind buildings in every corner of town. George Vanderbilt felt the call of these mountains in 1895, when he constructed the grand estate Biltmore (1 Approach Rd.; 877/245-8667;; tickets $47) and the 75 acres of gardens, which are bursting with hundreds of chrysanthemums through the end of this month. And along the Parkway, the foliage is at its peak from mid- to late October. Asheville’s tourism Web site ( makes weekly recommendations of the best drives for taking in the kaleidoscope of colors. ..."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Third largest sound stage in the world to be in Wilmington

"EUE/Screen Gems Studios officially broke ground Thursday on Stage 10, what will become the third largest movie sound stage in the world," says the Wilmington Star-News.

"State and local government officials joined studio executives, members of the film council and others at the North 23rd Street film studios in Wilmington for the occasion. Because of inclement weather, a box of sand inside another sound stage stood-in for the studio’s back lot. It was, perhaps, Stage 10’s first involvement in movie magic.

" 'Now we can do the larger films and the economic benefits in Wilmington will be significant,' said Chris Cooney, president of EUE/Screen Gems Ltd., which owns the studios in Wilmington and in New York.

"Cooney said there had been occasions when filmmakers wanted to shoot in Wilmington but needed a stage larger than the 7,200 to 20,000 square foot facilities here.

"Stage 10 will be 37,500 square feet in area and will have no columns to get in the way of camera operators. It will also house a 50 X 50 X 10.6-foot deep indoor water tank which can be used for underwater filming. ..."

As Borat would say: "Very nice."

UPDATE: Hard Rock Park to reopen in '09

I had mentioned yesterday the report that Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach had closed. Word now is that it will reopen in 2009.

"After an inaugural season rocked by poor attendance and tight credit markets, Hard Rock Park wants to reorganize its debts, cut costs and market the park to a wider audience in an attempt to survive in 2009," says the Charlotte Observer.

"The park, off of U.S. 501, blamed a drop in tourism and its own inability to advertise out of the Myrtle Beach area for its cash problems, which forced it to grind to a halt Wednesday when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

"The park plans to reorganize under Chapter 11 and reopen in April. Under Chapter 11, businesses keep their creditors at bay while trying to rework their debt."

Hard Rock Park apparently "did not have cash for enough out-of-market advertising - which had a 'devastating' effect on attendance, according to documents.

"About 80 percent of visitors decided to come to the park before they came to Myrtle Beach, the park said in the documents.

"The park owes at least $343 million and has between $100 million and $500 million in assets, according to court filings. ..."


Thursday, September 25, 2008

UPDATE: Old North State motto lost in translation?

Last week or so I posted this query about an old N.C. state seal.

Came across an old book, American Symbols: The Seals and Flags of the Fifty States by M. B. Schnapper, which includes an interesting (and up until now unknown-to-me) history about North Carolina's state seal.

One of Nostre Caroline's early seals (around 1663) includes the phrase "Que Sera Tamen Respexit." This obviously predates the motto of "Esse Quam Videri" (To Be Rather Than To Seem), which was authorized in the 1890s.

The question, for you Latin experts out there, is what does that old motto actually mean?I went to an expert (an Internet translation site) which spit this out:"And sera nothwithstanding regard."

Somehow, I don't think this is what King Charles II had in mind.Obviously, "que sera" means " what will be will be." But what about the rest of it. For the record, Schnapper never divulges it either.

No one ever came forth to answer this question, so I went to an expert.

"The line comes from Virgil, Eclog 1, line 27: 'Libertas, quae sera tamen respexit inertem . . .'" replied Zola Packman, an assistant language professor at N.C. State University and a Latin expert.

Packman states that "Que Sera Tamen Respexit" "roughly" translates to "Liberty, which, (though) late (in life), looked upon (me), inactive (as I was)."

"The speaker is an ex-slave, so the liberty spoken of was meant to be that of a free, ie non-slave, man," Packman responded in an email. "I suppose that when used as a motto it must be understood to refer to a population, or an area, and that the freedom is meant to be understood as freedom from foreign occupation."

Thanks for the feedback! And how cool is it that there is a professor named "Packman" at NCSU?