Friday, July 31, 2009

Fate of HBO shows filmed in Wilmington?

The Star-News is reporting that HBO's "Eastbound and Down," which is filmed in the Wilmington area, has been renewed for a second season. Unfortunately, HBO's "Little Britain USA," also filmed in the Port City, likely will not return in the same form. Instead, it will likely return as a special or series of specials.

More likely is the return of 'Eastbound and Down' to the Port City. The raunchy half-hour comedy starring Danny McBride filmed in Wilmington last fall and aired on HBO this spring. That show has been renewed for a second season, which could start production as soon as this fall. And though it is not definite that season two will film in Wilmington, the creators have said they want to return.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Yeah, N.C. beaches!

North Carolina's beaches can boast clean beach waters, according to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The states' beaches with the cleanest beach-water samples were Delaware, New Hampshire and Virginia, with N.C. and Georgia tying for fourth. South Carolina's came in 19th among the 30 states reviewed. Louisiana came in last.

North Carolina (and Georgia) can boast just 2 percent of her beach-water samples "failing to pass muster," according to McClatchy Newspapers.

Nationwide, the total number of beach-closing days due to water pollution topped 20,000 in 2008 for the fourth straight year.

"Pollution from dirty storm-water runoff and sewage overflows continues to make its way to our beaches," said Nancy Stoner, a water analyst with the environmental group. "From contracting the flu or pink eye to jeopardizing millions of jobs and billions of dollars that rely on clean coasts, there are serious costs to inaction." ...

A third list in the report uses a five-star rating system to assess 200 popular beaches across the country. ...

In North Carolina ... seven of 10 rated beaches get four stars, and none receive fewer than two. ...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Quick hits: Bob Barker stumps for bears and App State favored yet again

Bob Barker asks Cherokee chief to end bear pits
"Former game show host and longtime animal rights activist Bob Barker asked the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to stop using bear pits as tourist attractions and turn the animals over to a sanctuary in California," says the AP.

"The Asheville Citizen-Times reported that Barker met Tuesday with Principal Chief Michell Hicks and five members of the Tribal Council. He called the bears' conditions inhumane in a public meeting moderated by Hicks and attended by some business owners.

" 'To think that with as advanced as our civilization is now that there is any place in the United States were bears are kept in pits is just unbelievable,' said Barker, who is part American Indian and grew up on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. 'Just picture yourself, if your life, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, month after month, was in a pit.' ..."

Appalachian State picked to win SoCon for fifth straight time
"Whether he's talking about a title contender or a cellar resident, Appalachian State football coach Jerry Moore has consistently spoken in reverent tones when referring to Southern Conference opponents over the years.

"That didn't change Tuesday during the league's preseason teleconference, which replaced the annual 'Rouser' gathering that typically takes place at a plush South Carolina hotel," according to the Citizen-Times.

"When asked about the prospect of winning a fifth consecutive SoCon title, something that only one other active league member has done (Georgia Southern won six from 1997-2002), Moore remained humble.

" 'Every year, I want us to be as good as we possibly can be,' said Moore, who's starting his 21st season in Boone. 'That's been my guideline here, not to settle for just showing up, but to be the very best we can be. If we're good enough to win a championship, then so be it.' ...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lumbees want ancestral river's name to change

The Lumbee's Tribal Council recently passed an ordinance asking the General Assembly to change the name of the Lumber River "back" (in their opinion) to the Lumbee River. The Lumbees say that "Lumbee River" is the ancestral name.

"Under the ordinance, tribal leaders are now referring to the river by its ancestral name in all correspondence and tribal publications," said The Robesonian.

But even if the state approves the change, to become recognized as the Lumbee River at the federal level the tribe would have to make a requestto the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, the federal board with the responsibility of maintaining uniform geographic name usage throughout the federal government. To approve changing the river’s name, the board would have to be convinced that the name change requested by the tribe is more than just an act to correct or re-establish historical usage.

Significant documentation exists that before the early 1800s American Indians in the region called the river the Lumbee — an Indian term that refers to the river’s dark color.

According to Stan Knick, director of the Native American Resource Center at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, both Angus McLean, a N.C. governor from Lumberton, and Hamilton McMillan, a member of the state General Assembly, referred to the Lumbee River in the 1880s. And according to Wikipedia, the poet John Charles McNeill, who lived from 1874 to 1907, used the Indian name Lumbee in his writings about the river.

“I think it would be a great idea to change the name of the Lumber River back to its original name,” Knick said. “This river is very important to the Lumbee tribe, especially the stretch that flows through the part of the region still home to so many tribe members.”

Jimmy Goins, chairman of the Lumbee Tribal Council, also supports renaming the river.

"Personally, from a historical aspect, I think it would be something nice," Goins said. "It would be a good gesture toward the Lumbee tribe."

State Rep. Ronnie Sutton, who is Lumbee and represents Robeson County, said last week that he thinks it may be difficult getting state legislation approving the name change.

"My feeling is that this wouldn't be popular with everyone. I don't think all of the people in the county and state are going to rally around this," Sutton said. "I have not yet taken, or been asked to take, an official position and I have no personal opinion at this time. Before I take a position I will want more information ... I'm not opposed to it, but I'm not out waving the flag for it either."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Daughtry tops the charts, knocks off the late King of Pop

It's often been remarked how Kurt Cobain and Nirvana knocked Michael Jackson from the top of the Billboard charts with "Nevermind." Well, North Carolina's Daughtry (led by former American Idol contestant Chris Daughtry) can now make that claim as well.

"For the past three weeks in a row," says Entertainment Weekly, "Michael Jackson's 'Number Ones' has been the biggest-selling album in the country.

"Each time, it's been disqualified from Billboard's flagship Billboard 200 chart, along with all Jackson's other releases, due to its age.

"That unusual run of asterisked Billboard 200 chart-toppers is now over. Which artist put an end to Jackson's posthumous flummoxing of the Billboard rules, you ask? The answer is Chris Daughtry, whose 'Leave This Town' bows atop the chart with a very nice 269,000 copies sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

"That's actually a bit of a drop-off from the 304,000 that the first album from American Idol alum Chris Daughtry's band sold when it hit shelves in 2006, but it's more than anyone else could muster in this sales frame -- yes, even Michael.

"And so for the first time in a month, the No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 is actually the No. 1 selling album in the U.S., no tricks, no fooling. ..."

Another ghost town: Diamond City

We've touched on some "ghost" towns in North Carolina of late, Buffalo City being one of them. Today our attention goes a bit south, into Carteret County, where Diamond City once prospered.

According to Wikipedia, Diamond City was a "former settlement on the eastern end of Shackleford Banks" with a population of about 500 residents. Unfortunately, a hurricane struck in August 1899, and the residents decided to move. "The last of the residents had left by 1902, and even relocated houses to nearby places like Harkers Island, and Morehead City."

Today, there are "no bridges from the mainland to the site where Diamond City was located or any other part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Visitors must ride a private boat or a passenger ferry to reach the undeveloped Shackleford Banks site."

"Though it would be difficult to find visual evidences of it there today, one of the largest communities on the Outer Banks in the latter part of the last century was Diamond City, which was located a short distance west of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, just beyond The Drain," wrote David Stick in The North Carolina Outer Banks, 1584-1958.

"People had been living in that vicinity since the early days of Banks settlement, but the life of Diamond City itself was a short one, with a strange and unhappy ending. It was not until about l885 that this community of several hundred persons acquired a name, yet in less than twenty years the name was about all that was left of it, for the people had moved, and when they moved they took Diamond City with them--except for the name, that is, and the little family graveyards where the houses used to stand."

This interview with a Dorothy Guthrie of Harkers Island (conducted by Betty Joe Moore of the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum) delves into Diamond City some.

BM: Who were your parents?

DG: Joe William Willis and Missouri Guthrie.

BM: And where did they come from?

DG: They came from Diamond City.

BM: What is your family's connection to Diamond City?

DG: We-

BM: That means your parents, uh, did they, both of your parents, did they live at Diamond City or Shackleford?

DG: They both, both my parents lived at Diamond City and they came,...I had a brother, Walter Willis, he was born to Diamond City and he was six years old is when they moved over here to Harkers Island.

BM: Ok, it says, was anyone born on Shackleford, but you just said your brother was born and that was Walter Willis. Do you know what year he was born?

DG: I do not know. I got it in the genealogy records, but I don't know what year. I know this. He was fourteen years old when I was born.

BM: Do you remember anything that your parents told you or what have you heard that they taught others in your family which remains, what did they do for a living? What did your mother and father do over there for a living?

DG: They done, let's see, my father, they earned their living out of the water, like fishing, clamming, oystering, and also helping to kill whales in that day.

BM: What did they eat?

DG: They eat mostly seafood, I imagine. Now my mother, she also, she knit net for people.

BM: What were their houses or their homes made of? How did they make their houses?

DG: Now the way she used to tell me, they were just what you'd call little huts. They had fireplaces and they had iron pots and pans and stuff that they cooked on in that fireplace and they set by the fireplace.

BM: Well where did they get the lumber to build the houses?

DG: They would go, they called it beach racking. When boats and ships would come to shore beat to pieces, they would go get up early of a morning, they and the other ones that lived over there and they would go down the beach "a racking" or they called it for lumber and stuff and that's how some of them got their houses built.

BM: Well didn't that take a long time to build a house if they had to wait for a shipwreck?

DG: It seems like to me it should have and that is also the way they build the caskets, called coffins in those days. When anyone died, they, the men people would build their caskets.


BM: ... Uh, where did your family go when they left Shackleford?

DG: When they left?

BM: Shackelford or the Banks, where did they go?

DG: They just come here to the island and then you went by skiffs they called it, sail skiffs. That's how they traveled. Here on the island, we had no bridge; we had no connection of anything of getting off the island, only by boat. And I've heard her tell about when anyone got sick, that's when they lived to the Banks. There was a doctor in Marshallberg. You'd have to take that person in a sail skiff and sail to Marshallberg to see the doctor.

BM: Well now, uh, if anybody was like, you know, did the women of the Banks take care of that?

DG: They had a mid wife, that's all they had and that's all they had on the island for years and years and years was just a mid wife.

BM: What year, do you remember what year your family came over here to the island?

DG: No, I don't know. The date might be somewhere but I don't know. I know my mother used to say when they come to the island, there was about twelve families is all that lived on the island and that was Gaskill's down to the east end.

BM: Now when they decided to come across, uh, how did they bring their houses? I've heard them say they used to float them on---

DG: They would take them apart and maybe, uh, the side of the house and put it across two skiffs and that's how they got them here. That is why they settled on the shore side.

BM: Uh, and then where did they, how did they find a piece of land? Did they just go put it wherever they wanted it and then somebody helped them with the house?

DG: No, I think I know where the land, my mother owned it, the land I'm on today. Her brother, Matthew Guthrie, was in the Coast Guard, and he had a little, you know, he could afford to buy a piece of land here on the island. He bought this acre of land. Now Betty Jo, this concerns you crowd. He bought this acre of land. He was stationed to Ocracoke and that's where he married and his family lived to Ocracoke, but they are all passed away now. But he bought this acre of land and he give my mother a fourth of the acre. Her brother and his brother, Jimmy Guthrie, he give the three fourths of the acre of land.

BM: Is that .....

DG: Yes, yes that was.......

BM: So how has your family kept connected to the Banks, which means do you have any dealings with anything that goes on?

DG: No, well used to we'd go over there to enjoy ourselves. That was our recreation. We would go on Sunday afternoons and walk about and swim and things like that. But of course, now, it would be almost dangerous because we go over there and they drink and have parties and all that stuff which used to couldn't have been had when we'd go.

BM: What stories do you remember or do you remember any stories of your mother or your brother or anybody telling you about what they used to do over there for entertainment or do with the children or you know, it couldn't have all been work.

DG: No, they had recreation. They had fun. They had parties. I've heard my mother talk about, like the girls and boys that lived to Diamond City, they would walk on the beach side or either on the sound side to the west end of the Banks, they called it, or if any people from the mainland would come over there to hold meetings, they called them meetings, they would go up there and they would have picnics and things like that you know, and all the Bankers get together and eat and enjoy and have a good time.

BM: Did you ever hear your mother say anything about where her people came from? Or she didn't know?

DG: No, it's just that James Bryan Guthrie and the beginning of him, he come from England in the 1700's, that's the record.

BM: Well now when, the 1700's when he went to the Banks or Shackleford or Diamond City, were there people, a lot of people living there at that time or was there just a few people there?

DG: There was just a few people. It was like my father's side, you see, he was the Rose generation. Joe William Willis and the John C. Willis and the Josephus, that you hear talked about up tilling the plows and all, and my father's father, his brothers, they all settled to Morehead, the Martin Willis and these other ones.

BM: To the Promise Land?

DG: To the Promise Land, because my father called uncle mark and uncle so and so you see. But on Sundays they would take their families and come to the Island to visit their kind that was over here and they would come by sail skiffs.

BM: Wonder how come some of them went to different places. Did they just see the land and decide to go over there or did they.......

DG: I don't know or why did they go by Harkers Island and go to Marshallberg. I don't know why they did.

BM: When they came across, most of the land was not cleared up, was it?

DG: No, it was just a woods island. All of where this house is today was woods, thick woods and that's why the people settled along the shore side, because all they had was boats and they kept their boats in the water, see.

BM: Now when your mother and them came over here, they put the house up and all, were they satisfied to be over here or did they want to go back?

DG: I've heard talk about how bad they wanted to go back; they were dissatisfied.

BM: They had lived there all their life...

DG: All their life, born, I guess they were born there, yeah they were.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

NY Times: Surfing, with a dark edge, on the OBX

The New York Times' Lens section has a nice piece on the photography of Chris Bickford, who documented -- in stark black and white -- the surfing scene of the Outer Banks. You can view the article here; click here for the amazing slide show.

Bickford's project a"bout the local surf scene on the Outer Banks of North Carolina was all about firsts: his first time shooting in water, his first time capturing a fast-action sport and his first time conceptualizing completely in black and white.

" 'I struggled, but that basically worked to my advantage,' Mr. Bickford said. 'If I had shot the tack-sharp images you see in surf magazines, there wouldn’t have been anything interesting about it.'

"During the six months he spent on this project, Mr. Bickford, 42, was constantly pummeled by waves and sucked under them. Treading water while equipped with fins, a digital S.L.R. camera and an AquaTech waterproof housing, he looked for riders coming down breaking waves. Then he swam as close as possible.

"The result? 'After the Storm,' a little book with fantastical photographs that make you feel as if you’re engulfed in the wild tumult of a raging ocean. In one, the silhouette of a surfer is spattered with thick spray. In another, an ominous wave arches straight up into sky. And his portraits of locals, set on beaches against a backdrop of stormy clouds, are just as dramatic. ..."

Monday, July 20, 2009

'Uncle Walter' was a fan of Wrightsville

The late, great Walter Cronkite became quite the fan of Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington through the years, thanks to twice-a-year sailing trips along the Eastern Seaboard, according to the Star-News.

Cronkite, who died Friday at age 92, docked his sailboat at Seapath Yacht Club in Wrightsville Beach while sailing south in the fall to Florida or the Virgin Islands and while returning north to his summer home at Martha’s Vineyard, said Maria Mann, a captain and friend of Cronkite’s.

“He just liked Wrightsville Beach,” Mann said. “In Martha’s Vineyard, he could walk around and people wouldn’t bother him. In Wrightsville Beach, it was sort of the same way. He could be like a regular person, and he enjoyed that aspect of it very much.”

Mann, 64, of Wilmington, was captain of Cronkite’s boat from 1980 to 1981, and she continued sailing with Cronkite and his family each year until 1999. She attended Cronkite’s wife’s funeral in 2005 and said she last spoke with him on the phone about two years ago.

His boat would sometimes stay docked at Seapath for weeks while Cronkite traveled or worked, but he would often fly in to stay on the boat even when he wasn’t sailing on it, Mann said.

He enjoyed walking the Seapath docks and talking to people about boats, she said. “He loved talking to other fellow sailors.”

Cronkite’s connections to Wrightsville Beach didn’t just involve docking at the marina. Several of his captains, mostly referred by Mann, were from the area, and Cronkite also bought a yacht from local builder Sunward Yachts.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Wanna compare cost of living between, say, Burlington and L.A? Now you can!

Thanks to the folks at the Center for Carolina Living, I am now aware of's Cost of Living comparison calculator, which can be found here.

Thinking of moving to the Left Coast but not sure if your Alamance County lifestyle will be drastically impaired? Well, compare and find out.

(In case you're interested, someone living in Burlington and making $50,000 a year would need to find a job making $73,000 just to enjoy the comparable lifestyle in Los Angeles -- a 47-percent increase. After all, movies cost $3.54 more in "Hollyweird" than they do in Burlington.)

Some of the comparisons may surprise. For instance, someone (still making $50,000 a year) in Raleigh could actually take a 5-percent decrease in income and still maintain the same standard of living in Atlanta, but that same person would only be able to accept a 3.79-percent decrease to enjoy the same life ... in Akron.

Note: We have absolutely nothing against Burlington, L.A. or Akron. Just randomly chose them as examples.

(Image from

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Is N.C. the new Florida?

The retirement blog Florida Islands pondered the above question recently, admitting that many Northerners are now choosing the Tar Heel State over the Sunshine State.

Florida has traditionally been the state that most chose to retire in due to its beautiful weather and excellent retirement communities. Due to the increased number of hurricanes and tropical storms of late, many northerners that moved to Florida are now moving a little bit further north to North Carolina. In Florida, because of the massive hurricane damage, the average home insurance premium for a non-coastal home has risen 26.3%. For the coastal properties, are averaging a premium insurance increase of 42.1% with some choice areas facing premium increases far higher then that. Condo associations are also increasing their costs to members by an average of $2000 per year to make up for their increased insurance costs.


Your dollar goes a lot further when buying a house in North Carolina compared to Florida. Both property and home insurance are very affordable in North Carolina. This is yet another reason why so many who may be on a fixed income choose to retire there.

North Carolina is a beautiful state with many great places to move to for retirement. ...

The site goes on to list the amenities of the N.C. coast, the mountains and Sandhills (but not the urban, 40/85 crescent).

In closing, the site states that "North Carolina offers affordable property, great weather and activities for every taste. With baby boomers reaching retirement age, we may be seeing a larger wave of retirees moving that way. It’s easy to see why so many people are shifting to North Carolina for their retirement plans."

No surprise here.

(Florida image from

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A state sport? State neckwear?

The subject of state symbols is a popular one here at the Society. North Carolina has some good ones (see the link to the state symbols on the right side of this blog):

-Reptile: Eastern Box Turtle
-Shell: Scotch Bonnet
-Tartan: Carolina Tartan
-and many more.

And seemingly every year there are discussions about adding to that illustrious list. A state amphibian? Maybe.

But what about a state sport? In Maryland it is apparently jousting. Yes, you read that right. Jousting. What would North Carolina's state sport be? Racing? Basketball? Golf? Fishing?

And the good folks in Arizona can claim the bolo tie as the official state neckwear. What would ours be? I'd vote for a bowtie.

Oh, and Washington state can claim the Triceratops as the state dinosaur. Maybe the "Terror of the South," the Acrocanthosaurus could be ours?

Any other state symbols you'd like to see North Carolina adopt?

(Bolo tie from Wikipedia; Acro image from the NC Museum of Natural Sciences website)

Quick hits: Law to protect wild horses and 49ers football moves along

Law gives horses some space
"Visitors to North Carolina's Outer Banks now are required to stay away from the famous wild horses in the Corolla area," says the AP.

"The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reports that the Currituck County Board of Commissioners adopted a new ordinance last week that orders visitors to stay 50 feet away from the wild horses.

"A law adopted in 1989 made it illegal to be within 50 feet of a horse if trying to feed it. The new law bans any intentional contact.

"County Attorney Donald McRee says there have been complaints this year about people putting children on the horses and posing with them for photos. Officials also said a woman walked with a herd and ignored repeated warning to move away. ..."

49ers football campaign kicks into high gear

According to the Charlotte Observer, if "college football is to become a reality for the Charlotte 49ers, it has to happen in the next two months.

"That was the call to arms Monday night when school and local officials gathered at the Quail Hollow Club to kick off an aggressive program designed to sell the 5,000 football seat licenses necessary for the planned program to proceed.

"As of Monday, deposits had been taken on 1,850 seat licenses, far short of the goal of 5,000 set by Chancellor Phil Dubois. Organizers hope to reach the goal before a scheduled Sept.17 meeting of the school's board of trustees, when a decision on whether to continue with the football plan is expected. ..."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The 8th Grade N.C. County Challenge

If you grew up in North Carolina and attended public middle school here, then you no doubt remember having to memorize all 100 N.C. counties in eighth grade. Well, every now and then, in my attempt to ward off the loss of memory as I get older, I take pen to paper and attempt to see if I can remember all 100 of them.

The first time I tried it I think a couple of years ago, I got about 68 correct. The next time was about 75. I'm proud(?) to say that with my most recent attempt I correctly remembered 81 of them. Mr. Bradham would be so proud -- I think.

Having grown up in Eastern N.C., it shouldn't shock me that I missed mostly those in the "State of Franklin" areas of North Carolina, our westernmost counties. (Still, I'm disappointed I didn't do better with those; my dad's "people" are mostly mountain folk.)

So, how would you do if you took half an hour and tried the "8th Grade 100 County Challenge?" Think you could top my 81? Could you nail all 100? Maybe it would be tough to get past 40?

Try it and report back here afterward.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Winds Of Change Sweeping Away Sunset Beach Bridge

This article by Myrtle Beach's The Sun News, regarding the eventual removal of the swinging pontoon draw bridge at Sunset Beach, comes on the heels of my family's annual pilgrimage to the state's southern-most beach.

My family has taken a week-long trip to Sunset for the last six years, and my mother's family used to own a residence on the mainland side of the Intracoastal Waterway for decades. As long as I can remember, Sunset Beach has been "the beach" anytime the term has been used by me or my family.

So it's with a heavy heart that I've watched over the last half-decade as the final days of the great, unique bridge have drawn slowly closer and closer. The bridge is as much a part of the beach experience as any other aspect of our trips.

Eating dinner at Twin Lakes, tight-roping on the large braided ropes that span the pilings in the parking lots, watching the bridge begin its slow, plodding opening...the connectors popping up...the steel cable running from the pontoon section to the cable tower snapping taught, tossing up a line of water...the loud grinding rumble of the tower pulling the pontoon its way...the bridge's methodical arc widening as it's done hundreds of thousands of times before. Nothing interrupted a good game of chicken on the Twin Lakes ropes with li'l sis like the spectacle of the Sunset Bridge opening.

The real treats were seeing the mega vessels that came upon the bridge. A huge yacht...a construction barge...only the biggest of watercraft carried the clout to force a bridge opening at a time other than the top of the hour. To my dad's credit, he never once got irritated at an unexpected bridge opening (always guaranteeing a good 10-15 delay on where you were headed, either on or off the island). I think he enjoyed seeing the big ships glide by just as much as those of us in the back seat, our heads craning out of the windows to get a better look. A time or two he'd even park it, kill the engine and walk out with us to get a better view.

These are the memories that the future generations of Sunset Beach beachgoers will never know. They'll zip over the waterway, unable to see the water below them, nor the vessels that will now traverse up and down the waterway unimpeded.

The only constant is change, and I suppose it's on us to roll with it. As the article mentions, it's only by sheer luck that no one on the island died due to emergency services being unable to reach them due to a bridge opening. The new bridge will ensure EMS can breath a little easier in that respect.

But that first time I have to drive over the new bridge in the summer of 2010, near where the old one used to float, creak, rattle and groan through its everyday duties, I'll probably shake my head and bemoan the consequences of change--however necessary.

Quick hits: 'Fayette-nam,' blame Florida for the tough times, and new/less tags?

Playwright says 'Fayette-nam' a tribute

"A new play about Fayetteville and Fort Bragg debuted last month in San Francisco, but people here aren't necessarily celebrating the publicity," says the Fayetteville Observer.

"It's called 'Fayette-Nam.'

"The title injects new life into a nickname that Fayetteville leaders have tried to shed for 30 years. The Fayetteville of today is not the Fayetteville of the Vietnam era, when the city was filled with rough-and-tumble draftees preparing to go overseas, and downtown was filled with strip bars and prostitutes, said Mayor Tony Chavonne.

" 'It's a different city today. It's a different country,' he said.

"But the play isn't about Vietnam-era Fayetteville.

"Set in the present day, it's about a 19-year-old soldier who fears dying in Iraq.

"According to published reviews and press materials, the soldier - a black man from California - goes absent without leave the night before he's to deploy. He hides in a doughnut and egg roll shop next to a strip club on Bragg Boulevard with a first-generation Chinese woman (who dreams of living in Paris) and her college-student daughter (who is on the run for burning down a dormitory in New York). ..."

Financial chill in the Carolinas? Blame Florida

"Amid the bad earnings, bankruptcies and other bleak financial news from Carolinas companies, executives are increasingly blaming some of the gloom on the Sunshine State," says the Charlotte Observer.

"From Fortune 500 corporations to family-owned businesses, many area companies invested in Florida in recent years to capture a piece of the state's population boom. Now that the housing market has collapsed, growth has stalled, tourism has ebbed and consumer spending is down, a chill has fallen on the state's once-sizzling economy.

" 'They all rode the wave, and the wave came crashing down,' said economist Sean Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Economic Competitiveness in Orlando. ..."

Some lawmakers want to review specialty plates

"Attention trout anglers, tennis players and forestry fans: you can now promote your passion on the back of your cars.

"The three are among the latest in an ever-growing collection of specialty license plates on the state’s highways – letting motorists show some individuality while generating extra money and awareness for groups, schools and hobbies," says the AP.

"The number of vehicles with specialty plates – not to be confused with personalized or vanity plates – has soared by nearly 50 percent in the past three years to 227,221 as of July 1, according to a state Division of Motor Vehicles report.

" 'When you drive down the road and you see a license, you say, what does that license plate mean?' said Kelly Gaines with the North Carolina Tennis Foundation, whose new 'Play Tennis' plate started June 1, generating donations for tennis camp scholarships and junior programs. 'There are some incredible causes out there.' ..."

Now, I LOVE tennis, but I even shook my head and chuckled on Friday when I saw the "Play Tennis" one for the first time. Maybe these plates are getting a bit out of control. I, for one, would love more standard North Carolina options. But that's just me.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

An N.C. present for the Italian prez

Personally, I think this says a lot about how far North Carolina wines have come ...

President Barack Obama presented Italian President Giorgio Napolitano this morning with a gift from North Carolina [according to the N&O's Under the Dome].

Obama, meeting with Napolitano prior to the G-8 Summit, presented the Italian president with a variety of American wines. Included in the package was a 2008 Raffaldini Vineyards Vermentino.

Raffaldini Vineyards is in Ronda, between Winston-Salem and Wilkesboro, and the vinyard's owners were thrilled to have their wine included in the gift.

“Raffaldini Vineyards is honored to have been selected to represent the U.S. and is proud that our preservation and promotion of our Italian heritage and culture have been recognized,” co-owner Barbara Raffaldini said in a release.

A release from the vineyard notes that the Vermentino grape is "most famously cultivated in Sardinia," and that Raffaldini Vineyards was among the first to plant the grape in the U.S.

The vineyard says the 2008 vintage "is characterized by its lively green apple and lime flavors and refreshing acidity."

More on Abe Lincoln, N.C. native(?)

When discussing more than a year ago the "Most Influential North Carolinians" we mentioned the (tenuous) idea that Abraham Lincoln was in fact born near Murphy, not in Kentucky.

Well, author John A. McKinsey has dived right into the speculation with "The Lincoln Secret," a novel.

“The Lincoln Secret” is a modern-day, mystery adventure that explores mysteries of Abraham Lincoln’s life and the Civil War. In particular, the book delves deeply into the theory that North Carolinian Abraham Enloe might be the real father of Abraham Lincoln [according to the Elizabeth City Daily Advance].

The core mystery in “The Lincoln Secret” is whether Abraham Lincoln’s father was really Thomas Lincoln. A documented version of history holds that Abraham Enloe impregnated Nancy Hanks, Abraham Lincoln’s mother, while she was working in Abraham Enloe’s household as a servant girl. She was sent back to Kentucky in disgrace where she secretly had the child after marrying Thomas Lincoln.

As the nation prepares to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday, “The Lincoln” Secret probes into the topic of who Abraham Lincoln’s father really was and raises doubts about when he was really born. ...

“I tell the story of the Abraham Enloe theory though a modern-day, fictional story,” explains author John McKinsey. “It is a great medium to push the envelope of history and also to get people’s attention. But it has to be done respectfully and accurately. I think I struck the right balance in ‘The Lincoln Secret.’

“The more I explored the story of Abraham Enloe’s possible fathering of Abraham Lincoln, the more curious I became about why the story seems to be covered up and is clearly ignored by many historians. The idea that Lincoln’s parentage might have been covered up is what led to this mystery novel.”

Thoughts on this (some would say preposterous) idea?

(Image of book cover from

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Best place to retire in the South? Why, North Carolina, of course!

Ideal Living has released its list of the top places in the South to retire, and of North Carolina regions stake the claim in two of the top five, including the top one. Nice.

"Based on our reader surveys, we know that the 'lifestyle' is what you desire most," says the site. "Active year-round outdoor activities, small-town flare with big city access, a sense of community, golf, boating, abundant walking trails and more."

Taking readers feedback, Ideal Living ranked the N.C. coast No. 1.

"Consistently ranked in the top 5 US retirement destinations, the North Carolina Coast is home to Wilmington, New Bern, Cape Hatteras, The Albemarle Sound region and more." They recommend "checking out" Waterside at The Point near New Bern, Compass Pointe and River Landing, both in Wilmingon.

Following the N.C. coast were the Florida and South Cackalacky coasts, respectively, then the Tennessee mountains and, finally at No. 5, the North Carolina mountains.

"Rounding out our top 5, the NC Mountains have gained extreme popularity over the past 5 years, primarily for the national attention Asheville, NC has received as a retirement destination. But if you take a step outside of the mainframe, you’ll discover a lot more to explore in quaint mountain villages."

(Coastal photo by Kelly Capps)

Quick hits: Highland Games, what's up with Perquimans, and WNC gets a medical school

Games bring Scotland to Western N.C.
"For more than half a century, Grandfather Mountain has hosted the Highland Games, a celebration of Scottish heritage through athleticism, music and dance," says the Citizen-Times.

"But the event, beginning Thursday at MacRae Meadows, may draw particular interest this year, according to Catherine Morton, marketing director with Grandfather Mountain.

" 'In the world of travel and tourism in 2009, everybody is looking for a way to have recreation and unique experiences, and they also don't want to spend a lot of money doing it,' Morton said.

" 'This is a far-away place that isn't far away,' she said. 'You can sleep in your bed but feel like you've spent the day in Europe.' ..."

What's in a name?
"The mayor of Hertford, N.C., has been known to quiz newcomers about his home county of Perquimans," says the Virginian-Pilot.

"His most often asked question is about the meaning of the name. Always a good tour guide, Sid Eley has his answer ready and a theory about its genesis.

" 'It's an Indian word that means land of beautiful women,' he said.

" 'I've heard one story - but I don't have any proof of this - that the men would go to the Outer Banks on fishing expeditions and this is where they left their women. And none of them had ugly wives.' ..."

WNC takes first steps toward medical school

"Like their classmates around the state, four UNC School of Medicine students spent the first day of their third year of medical school taking a tour of the hospital they'll be working in and getting their identification badges.

"But unlike their classmates, the four women who sat practicing suturing on pig's feet Monday afternoon are the first to receive their training at the medical school's newest branch in Western North Carolina and among the first in the country to participate in a new way of educating medical students," says the Citizen-Times.

"The pilot program that started this week establishes a branch of UNC School of Medicine in WNC for the first time, bringing the four third-year medical school students to the mountains for two years to learn clinical skills.

"The program is a collaboration among the UNC School of Medicine, UNC Health Care System, Mission Hospital, the Mountain Area Health Education Center, the Western North Carolina Health Network and local physicians. ..."

Monday, July 06, 2009

Canes No. 2 among America's pro teams; Panthers 28th, Bobcats 59th

The Carolina Hurricanes were ranked second in ESPN's voting of the Ultimate Team rankings -- based on the "Big Four" of MLB, NBA, NFL and the NHL, while the Carolina Panthers came in 28th and the Charlotte Bobcats 59th.

Personally, I'm excited that the Canes are that high, perplexed that the Panthers aren't higher, and equally perplexed that the 'Cats aren't lower. Oh well.

How the rankings came to be, From the site:

The eight major categories that make up the Ultimate Standings were created based on feedback from fans about what they want most from their favorite teams (click here for a more detailed account of the method to our madness.) The categories:

Bang For The Buck (BNG): Wins during the past three years (regular season plus postseason) per revenues directly from fans, adjusted for league schedules.

Fan Relations (FRL): Openness and consideration toward fans by players, coaches and management.

Ownership (OWN): Honesty and loyalty to core players and local community.

Affordability (AFF): Price of tickets, parking and concessions.

Stadium Experience (STX): Quality of arena and game-day promotions as well as friendliness of environment.

Players (PLA): Effort on the field and likability off it.

Coaching (CCH): Strength of on-field leadership.

Title Track (TTR): Championships already won or expected in the lifetime of current fans.

Based on that critiera, the Canes came in just behind the Angels but ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Detroit Red Wings. The Canes came in at No. 17 last year.

Here's ESPN's take on the Canes:

Surprised that the Canes are an ice chip (.01 point) away from topping our list? Fans from this unconventional hockey market aren't. In fact, they ­embrace their underdog role, although references to Hartford South still rankle ("When was the last time you heard the Avalanche being referred to as the 'Nordique-Avs'?" complained a poster on What doesn't rankle is the wallet- and fan-friendly Hurricane Experience. After all, what's better than an elite team that loves you back at a bargain-basement price? Not much. Even before this spring's playoff run, which included two Game 7 road wins, the Hurricanes offered an "Ice Your Price" plan that guaranteed a two-year freeze on season-ticket costs. As it was, the Canes' average ticket price of $38.38 was already fifth lowest in the NHL, and only one (the Blues) of the three teams with cheaper ducats made the playoffs. As for the requited love, PR chief Mike Sundheim says the team prides itself on making players accessible to the community. Practices at the RBC Center are open to the public, and weekend workouts draw hundreds of fans. Best of all, players stick around afterward to sign autographs. Even visitors are impressed by the Canes-Caniacs love affair. "They know that they are no longer a bandwagon mob," blogged one Bruins supporter who road-tripped to Canes country during Boston's unhappy conference semis, "and they want everyone to know it." Thanks to the team's showing in our Ultimate Standings, everybody does.

... and the Panthers:

After a rough 2007, fans in Bank of America were itching for a bailout. Sure enough -- a year earlier than the rest of the banking industry's -- their pleas became too big to fail. An intact Jake Delhomme behind center plus a healthy dose of Double Trouble (RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart) helped the 2008 squad improve in wins (+5), rushing yards (+613) and points (+147). Cats management responded by pumping in a two-and-a-half-times-as-large hi-def video display, adding flat-screens in the 100 and 500 levels and installing more JJR's BBQ Shacks to sate fans' jones for succulent pulled pork and Midwest-infused beef brisket. Sure, 63,000 of the 73,504 seats are locked down in PSLs -- so much for spontaneity. But it's hard to complain while downing $3 soda and sub-$6 brew, getting free programs and capturing the NFC's jointly held (with the Giants) top record with the eighth-cheapest stubs. Management has frozen ticket prices for 2009, so Panthers backers can feel safe depositing their hard-earned cash in B of A … for now.

.... and the Bobcats:

When one measly Texans playoff berth is all that separates the Bobcats from becoming the lone remaining franchise across major pro sports without postseason experience, well, it's easy to understand their fans' frustration -- and why only one category improved from last year's Standings. That would be Coaching, which leaped a whopping 67 spots after the team finally got serious by hiring Larry Brown. The HOFer brought some much-needed experience and long-sought-after credibility to the sideline for a team whose two previous regimes compiled a sorry .332 WP. Sure, Brown may not be the most stable choice (someone check -- has he unpacked yet?), but he still gets results: His first season was almost good enough for that elusive playoff berth, as Charlotte finished a mere four games out. But fans haven't forgotten (or forgiven) front office follies like trading for Jason Richardson and -- remember this one? -- drafting Adam ­Morrison No. 3 overall. At least now the albatross (Richardson) and the mustache (Morrison) are gone. Sprite Family Night packages (four tix + four dogs + four sodas = $65), the league's fourth-cheapest tix ($33.25), cheapest parking ($6), free programs, a 17% average ticket price drop for next season and one of the NBA's least-attended venues (14,526 per game) make things more wallet-friendly. Still, there's no price this team, or its fans, wouldn't pay for a postseason.

And in case you were wondering (I'm sure you were), the last-placed team is ... (drum roll) ... the Los Angeles Clippers. No surprise there.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Happy Fourth of July, North Carolina!

Images from the Asheville Citizen-Times (Melrose St. parade), Wilmington Star-News (fireworks), ShareTriangle (Greenville fireworks) and ("Jon & Kate Plus 8")

As American (and Southern) as apple pie, sweet tea ... and red hot dogs?

The Charlotte Observer has a great piece on the appeal of red (you know the ones) hot dogs. Those things are one of those great Southern mysteries, like grits, that people either love or hate. (I like 'em; the wife won't touch 'em.)

In fact, the bright red dogs have developed loyal followers that (according to the article) there are people who won't eat anything BUT a red hot dog.

"This holiday weekend, depending on where you live in North Carolina, the hot dog peeking out from under your mustard, chili and slaw is likely to be bright red," says the Observer. ...

" 'It's the flavor and the tradition,' Manly Turner, 51, explains while eating lunch last week at Jones Lunch in downtown Clayton, about 140 miles east of Charlotte.

"Johnston County is ground zero in North Carolina for the fire-engine-red dogs. The county is home to two makers: Carolina Packers and Stevens Sausage Co. ...

"The red dog not only has fans in North Carolina but also throughout the Southeast. In Alabama, the Zeigler brand is preferred. Along Highway 11, also called the Lee Highway, in southwestern Virginia, hot dog shops and lunch counters serve the Valleydale brand. ..."

The article even delves into that age-old question: why -- or rather HOW -- are they so red?

"What you probably don't know is all hot dogs used to be red, explains Bruce Kraig, a professor at Roosevelt University in Chicago who just wrote 'Hot Dog: A Global History.' (Kraig recently did a taste test with about 150 people in New York City. The crowd preferred Bright Leaf hot dogs over Oscar Mayer.)

"In the 1960s, when concerns were raised about a commonly used red food dye possibly causing cancer, most hot dog companies stopped using red dye. But in the South, hot dog makers switched to other red dyes to keep that scarlet color. Now the same dye used to color cough syrup and cherry soda is used in those dogs.

"It was the same at Carolina Packers. 'We started with the red. We continued with the red,' says Jean Jones, president and CEO of Carolina Packers. ..."

So there. Happy Independence Day, red hot dog eaters!

(Image from