Monday, June 30, 2008

Highway 12 among world's most spectacular drives

"Two hundred miles of barrier islands make up the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and a drive along Highway 12 reveals a region steeped in maritime history (Blackbeard the pirate was killed in Ocracoke Inlet)," writes MSN Travel in its list of the "World's Most Spectacular Coastal Drives."

Highway 12 is also "where the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk and where the English attempted to start their first colony in the New World. No trip here would be complete without a visit to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the lighthouse that stands sentry there."

See the complete list of spectacular coastal drives here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Land of Sky? More like Land of Great Food

The family and I were in Asheville last week for a conference. The conference allowed ample time for getting out and enjoying that city's culinary delights -- a couple of which were new to us.

Upon the suggestion of a former co-worker, we headed to the River Arts District for some barbecue from 12 Bones. We were told to get there early for lunch (they only do lunch). We tried, but failed. Getting there at roughly noon, we still had to wait in line a half-hour just to get in the building. There were people in line from Atlanta who traveled to A-ville just to sample 12 Bones.

But man, oh man, was it worth the wait. I ordered the barbecue plate, which came with two sides and cornbread. I opted for the jalapeno cheese grits and macaroni and cheese. Being a 12 Bones virgin, I also got a side of three rib just to sample them. That was a mistake - not because they were bad. In fact, they were stupdendous. But it was a mistake to order all that food. I never even got to the cornbread, and didn't finish the sides. Oh, and the plate was just $6, not counting the ribs. It's an amazing amount of food for the price.

My wife, by the way, got the BBQ sandwich with two sides: corn pudding (probably the best thing between the two of us) and sweet potato casserole.
(Note: The barbecue is of the pulled variety, not chopped. However, it favors more Eastern N.C. style than Lexington.)

My one regret? That I didn't buy a 12 Bones t-shirt. (Slogan was something like: "Juicy butts. Sweet racks.")

Oh, and by the time we left at around 1:45, the line outside was still 40-or-so people deep.

Later that night, our last night in Asheville, we waddled our way to downtown for dinner at Tupelo Honey Cafe, a place that was closed for renovations the last time I was in Asheville. We were still stuffed from our earlier pork adventure, but we fought through. And we were so glad we did.

Tupelo Honey describes itself as a "locally owned sole proprietorship, offers old southern favorites with creative twists. It has quickly distinguished itself from other regional restaurants by presenting familiar, creative, comfort fare, healthier options, fresh ingredients, and large portions at a fair price."

They are so right, especially about the price. I ordered the sweet potato pancake (at $4 perhaps the best deal in town). That was all I ordered, and that was all I needed. Even if I hadn't been stuffed from 12 Bones, that pancake would've been plenty. The pancake has "flavored with cinnamon and sweet potatoes, topped with whipped peach butter and spiced pecans." Nice.

We enjoyed our Tupelo Honey experience so much that we seriously considered returning the next day for lunch. (In the end, we were too embarrassed to do that.)

(Tupelo Honey Cafe photo from the restaurant's website)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Quick hits: Asheville arts and Durham history in the news

Asheville among top 50 metros for arts
"The Asheville metro area is among the top 50 metro areas in the United States for the number of artists as a percentage of the overall work force, according to a new report.

"Painters, animators, dancers, designers and others comprise 1.63 percent of all nonmilitary workers in the Asheville metro area, which includes Buncombe, Madison, Haywood and Henderson counties. Those findings are part of the recently released 'Artists in the Workforce: 1990-2005,' the National Endowment for the Arts’ first nationwide look at artists’ demographic and employment patterns in the 21st century. ...

"Asheville can’t compare with San Francisco, the No. 1 metro (artists make up 3.71 percent of the work force)," writes the Citizen-Times. "But Asheville beat the national percentage (1.40), as well as Las Vegas (1.62) and Miami (1.61). Asheville’s only top 10 finish among artist categories was among photographers, where it placed sixth among all metro areas. The report states that 195 photographers live in the area. ..."

Marker to commemorate Durham sit-in unveiled
"A state historical marker is being unveiled near the site of a Durham restaurant where protesters held a sit-in 51 years ago," says the AP.

"The marker was to be unveiled Monday inside Union Baptist Church. The new sign will be permanently installed on the site of the former Royal Ice Cream Parlor later this year after Union Baptist finishes a school where the parlor once stood.

"On June 23, 1957, eight young blacks sat in the parlor's whites-only section. The eight were asked to leave; one protester left and police arrested the other seven when they refused.

"The Durham action predated the protest by four college students at the Woolworth's lunch counter in downtown Greensboro. That sit-in on Feb. 1, 1960 is credited for helping to launch the civil-rights movement. ..."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A true unique one passes away

Found this not in the News & Observer (where it first ran) but on Nonetheless, this is worth noting, and I'm glad I came across this as I never had heard of Sidney Jackson Bartholomew Jr., who passed away at his home in L.A. on June 15.

He was born in Tarboro, NC on August 5, 1953 to Jack and Frances Bartholomew. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Appalachian State University where he studied visual art under William Dunlap. He later earned a Masters degree in art from Memphis State University.

He was influenced by many 20th- century pop artists and eventually worked as an assistant to the iconic conceptual artist Christo. His career in the entertainment industry was launched when he channeled his outsized and anthropomorphic sensibility into his first major job as art director on Peewee’s Playhouse. He was hired to create the setting for the show at its inception and his efforts garnered an Emmy Award in Art Direction.

His success with Peewee’s Playhouse made him an in-demand art director for music videos. He worked with many of the major music video directors in the ’80’s and ’90’s and is remembered for bringing his signature style to many memorable videos, in particular George Harrison’s 'I Got My Mind Set on You'.

In 1994 he moved to the big screen as production designer for Dumb & Dumber. This was the beginning of a long and productive relationship with Peter and Bobby Farrelly. Sidney rovided much of the artistic vision on all the Farrelly Brothers films including Kingpin, There’s Something About Mary, and most recently The Heartbreak Kid. Peter Farrelly said, 'He was a total weirdo, the best kind of weirdo, and most talented artist I’ve ever known, but his huge heart will be the thing I’ll most remember when I think of Sidney J.'

In 2002 he wrote and directed the kids soccer film Just For Kicks for MGM.

He was also a great blues harp player, world-class animal lover, and avid sailor.

In addition to his achievements in the Art and Entertainment worlds, Sidney J. Bartholomew, Jr. will live on in legend for once driving a car off a cliff, another time running 12 troopers to the North Carolina state line in his buddy Merle’s Maserati, jamming with Vassar Clements, and other exploits that will titillate minds and hearts far and wide for years to come.

Bartholomew was preceded in death by his parents and his "loyal and beloved airedales Jack, Scout and Bubba."

RIP, Mr. Bartholomew.

Monday, June 16, 2008

It was 20 years ago today ...

OK, so not exactly today. But it has been 20 years since the movie "Bull Durham" made Durham, N.C., a popular culture trivia answer. and ESPN The Magazine have dubbed this "Bull Durham Week" in honor of the anniversary. Among the highlights: an interview with writer/director Ron Shelton and interviews with Tim Robbins and Kevin Costner.

Both of those men have returned to Durham in honor of the anniversary. Costner revealed a Durham-focused anecdote from the days of filming.

"... Anyway, there's a guy in the film who was really enjoying himself in town when we weren't shooting, and may have had a good time out at the bars with a lady or two on the young side. Anyway, Ronny decides to get a local cop to come out and walk onto the set while we're in the middle of shooting a game scene and confront the guy, cuff him and arrest him for what would be, in the cop's words, having a little too much fun with an underage girl, unbeknownst to him. I mean, this is Durham and nobody's checking ID's. So the cops are basically there arresting the guy, and you can see the horror. Everybody else just loves this and it makes me almost want to throw up. I wanted to go hide in the dugout, and I'm dying. But the kid, the guy, he's just seriously watching his entire life crumble in front of him and it's in front of everybody! I'm pretty sure I snapped a bit and had to sort of reveal the prank, just for my own sanity. My stomach is just f**ing turning! And I mean, the thing is, Ronny had gotten actual cops to do this. They were taking him off the field. For all intents, this was no joke. I couldn't take the suffering. "

And Robbins is asked if "Bull Durham" is the greatest sports movie of all time.

"Yea, I mean I am biased, but I'd have to say yes, it is," he answers wisely.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Panthers games to be broadcast in Spanish

This is another sign of the influence (and influx) of Spanish-speaking folks in North Carolina. The NFL's Carolina Panthers will become the 12th team in the league to have games broadcast over the radio in Spanish.

"The team announced Thursday that Charlotte radio station WNOW-AM will air all its games in Spanish in 2008. The area has seen a dramatic growth in its Hispanic population, and team officials said they wanted to better serve that growing fan base," said media reports.

"Los Panteras" open the preseason on August 9 at home against Indianapolis. The first game that counts will be on September 7 in San Diego against the Philip Rivers-led Chargers. The Panthers' first home game is a week later against Chicago.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Big Rock, a big deal

The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament in Morehead City is perhaps this region's premier outdoorsmen/sportsmen's event.

"Parking lots filled along the Morehead City waterfront Monday and people flowed along the sidewalks in the same direction. The scales opened and a crowd converged on the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament weigh station to see the outcome of the first day of fishing in the weeklong tournament," said the Jacksonville Daily News. ...

"While the offshore action belongs to the boats participating in the tournament, the weigh station is the hub of excitement for everyone else.

"Curious children seek the best seat for a close-up look at the fish; friends and family arrive to cheer for their favorite crews; and visitors to the area stop for a glimpse of the biggest catch of all, the blue marlin. ...

"The Czaikowski family planned their vacation to the area around the Big Rock, and Ruth Zurn of Morehead City was glad show her brother and nephews what the tournament is all about.

" 'It's the event of the year. I always look forward to it and I'm glad to have my family here,' said Zurn, who has fished in the Big Rock's Lady Angler competition each of its 11 years.

"The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament is celebrating its 50th anniversary with 176 boats vying for a tournament purse that had reached $1.79 million as of Sunday and was $230,000 higher than last year's record purse. ..."

Monday, June 09, 2008

Chapel Hill among 'brainiest' places to retire

US News & World Report lists Chapel Hill as one of the top 10 "brainiest" places to which to retire.

"Just because you hit your 60s, it doesn't mean your brain starts to power down. Just the opposite," says the publication. "Your noodle needs more stimulation than ever, and, finally, you have the time to supply the required intellectual input. And picking a place to retire can be key to that process. For retirees who have no desire to stop learning—and that's, like, pretty much everyone—there are plenty of American communities that boast thriving intellectual centers where cultural activities keep residents (and their brains) as busy and interested as they want to be."

"... Chapel Hill, N.C., residents might spend their evenings paddling out in kayaks to watch the stars with an astronomy educator from the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill."

The brainiest places to retire:
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Berkeley, Calif.
Boulder, Colo.
Brookline, Mass.
Chapel Hill, N.C.
Hoboken, N.J.
Lake Oswego, Ore.
Reston, Va.
Upper St. Clair, Pa.
West Lafayette, Ind.

Friday, June 06, 2008

OBX beach garners "best of" honors

Carova Beach, the Chardonnay-colored beach along North Carolina's Outer Banks, has been noted as one of North America's Best Beaches by

"This barrier beach covers the upper stretches of the Outer Banks and is the most undeveloped of an already Spartan beach chain. Part of what keeps the region mellow is the lack of paved roads, with Highway 12 stopping north of Corolla," writes Shermans. "Four-wheel-drive is a must, as the only route to these beaches is a ride on the sand or a primitive system of dirt roads connecting vacation homes in the wooded interior. Drive slowly to see the wild horses (descendants of shipwrecked Spanish mustangs) that roam the protected dunes. ..."

Sedaris: The 'preeminent humorist of his generation'

Humoris David Sedaris, who grew up in Raleigh, has released a new collection of essays, When You Are Engulfed in Flames.

Entertainment Weekly's Whitney Pastorek calls Sedaris the "preeminent humorist of his generation," though Pastorek is not overly complimentary of this latest collection.

Sedaris "seems awfully close to exhausting his material. ... By now, we're plenty familiar with Sedaris' family and long-suffering partner, Hugh, as well as his continuing inability to understand French despite having lived in Paris for a decade. Flames doesn't bring a lot more to the table, though we do learn Sedaris has no better linguistic luck with Japanese. ..."

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

'Sex' star Davis to launch fashion line at Belk

The Charlotte Observer reports that "Sex and the City" star Kristin Davis is launching a clothing line at Charlotte-based Belk ("Belk's" to us native North Carolinians).

"The self-titled brand will include women's apparel, sleepwear, loungewear, shoes and accessories priced between $38 and $240," said the paper. "It will be initially available at 125 Belk stores and on the company's Web site and will expand to additional locations in spring 2009. Plans also call for extending it to additional categories across the store in the future. ...

"The brand, he said, will offer a modern, feminine style designed to capture Davis' look and personality, providing a selection of clothes and accessories exclusive to Belk. The company aims to make Kristin Davis its leading fashion line across all categories, executive vice president and general merchandise manager John Thomas said. ...

“ 'The only way I would have done a line of clothing is to do it at Belk,' Davis said in the release. 'I feel like I understand what the Southern woman wants to wear – it's influenced my personal style so much growing up in the South.' ..."

Hola! Welcome to Carolina du Nord!

According to the N.C. Department of Commerce, North Carolina ranked 15th in the United States for attracting overseas visitors last year, up from 18th in 2005.

North Carolina attracted 358,000 tourists from overseas last year, which was a record, according to the state Department of Commerce [and according to this article].

"The prior high was 305,000 overseas tourists in 2004. A total of 282,000 overseas tourists visited the state in 2005, the last year that overseas tourism data was compiled for North Carolina, said Commerce Department spokesman Wit Tuttell. ...

"North Carolina was the third-most popular destination among overseas tourists in the Southeast, according to the Commerce Department.

“ 'More and more people realize what a great state North Carolina is,' Gov. Mike Easley said in a prepared statement. 'The survey results also show the success that has come from the hard work our tourism offices are doing to promote the state as a travel destination.' "

Monday, June 02, 2008

Wray's 'Rumble' among best guitar songs of all time

Dunn native Link Wray's influential song "Rumble" has been named one of the top 100 "Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time" by Rolling Stone magazine.

"In 1958, guitar distortion and power chords were virtually unheard of, but Wray stabbed a pencil through his amplifier to make it sound nastier, dragged his pick like a switchblade, and got this blues riff banned by radio stations as an incitement to violence," writes RS. "Not bad for an instrumental."

As I noted previously, Wray's "Rumble" also made the magazine's list of the top songs to shape rock-n-roll.