Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Avett Brothers' new album drops [industry term] today

We're big fans of the Avett Brothers here. And I, for one, am extremely excited about their new album, "I and Love and You," which is released today. (Heard it via NPR's site; it's very good. The one complaint: no song with a North Carolina-centric title. Oh well.)

"It's their first album on Columbia Records and was produced by Rick Rubin, co-chairman of the label and producer for artists from Johnny Cash to Jay-Z to Metallica," says the Charlotte Observer. "On pre-orders alone, 'I and Love and You' hit the top 50 on Amazon.com.

"It's possible, of course, that this week turns out to be as good as it gets. The record could tumble down the charts, the part-time fans could wander off, and before long the Avetts could slide back down the hill they've spent all these years climbing.

"It's also possible, of course, that the opposite could happen.

"On major labels like Columbia - home of Dylan and Springsteen, Celine Dion and Beyonce - records routinely sell in the hundreds of thousands, and the top artists sell millions.

" 'We are at the table now,' says Dolph Ramseur, the band's manager. 'We're at the point where, if the general public likes the record ... well, things could happen that we can barely imagine.' "

The boys played Letterman last night. Unfortunately, their local affiliate in the Charlotte area cut away. Those of us in Raleigh got to see/hear the entire title track. (You can see it here also.)

The Charlotte Observer has done a very good job of tracking the band over the past week or so, so no need to re-hash here.

Update: As of 4p.m., "I and Love and You" is up to No. 22 on the Amazon chart.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Quick hits: Tupelo Honey plans second joint, and the American chestnut makes a comeback

Tupelo Honey plans second Asheville restaurant
"Tupelo Honey Café plans to open a second Asheville location by early next year," says the Citizen-Times.

"The popular downtown eatery will open a larger restaurant in the former Stir Fry Café building at 1829 Hendersonville Road in south Asheville by mid January or early February, owner Steve Frabitore said.

"The original restaurant at 12 College St. will remain, he said.

" 'You will walk in and immediately recognize that it’s Tupelo Honey Café,' Frabitore said of the new site. ..."

Altered chestnut trees succeed
"In stands of tiny trees in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia blooms the hope of restoring a mighty giant, as scientists try to bring back the American chestnut from near extinction.

"Five hundred blight-resistant American chestnut saplings are thriving a year after they were planted in three national forests, a milestone in the long-term effort to re-establish the tree in its native habitat," says the N&O. "Reviving the chestnut, decimated by a fungus, would reverse one of the worst ecological disasters in the nation's history, reviving a major source of food and lumber that forest animals and humans have missed for more than a century.

"The cutting-edge genetic research that offers the promise of a blight-resistant hybrid could, if successful, also be used to stop the damage to U.S. forests by other exotic pests, such as bark beetles, the woolly adelgid and Dutch elm disease.

" 'If it works, there is a long line of similar ecological problems that are waiting for similar kinds of solutions,' said Ron Sederoff, a professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at N.C. State. 'There are 100 different threatened trees in our American forest, and each one has a disease or a pest that potentially could do as much damage as the blight did to the American chestnut.' ..."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Irish road bowling comes to the mountains

Heck, I've just gotten used to Cornhole being the game du jour, and now comes word from the N.C. mountains that there may be a new game on which to latch: Irish road bowling.

"Irish road bowling is a sport best played on winding country roads, with lots of hills," says the Citizen-Times.

" 'Of course, Western North Carolina has quite a bit of those,' said Justin Hunter, one of the founders of the newly formed Asheville Irish Road Bowling Association. 'Plus it's an outdoor sport and relaxed, which fits the personality of the area.'"

Road bowling is an old sport, dating back about 350 years. It was originally played by Irish soldiers. A road bowler hurls a 28-ounce cannonball, called a bowl or a bullet, roughly the size of a tennis ball, toward a designated finish line between 1-1.5 miles away. Unlike conventional bowling, there are no pins to knock down. The bowler who takes the fewest tosses to reach the finish line wins. ...

Hunter grew up in West Virginia, home to one of the sport's three major associations in the United States; Hunter's father co-founded the association in Ireland, W.Va., in 1995. When Hunter moved to Asheville, he brought road bowling with him, and in March, the association had its first meeting.

About 15 people regularly play matches here, usually on a stretch of Grandview Road near the Buncombe-Madison county line. On a Sunday afternoon in early September, the road bowlers gathered there for a match. ...

You're on alert, Cornhole.

(Photo from Steve Dixon, Citizen-Times)

Monday, September 21, 2009

What if East Carolina really WAS a state?

It was hard not to chuckle at this Onion article last week. (Note: This is a sarcastic -- as in NOT REAL -- publication.)

At a press conference Monday, Jaguars quarterback and East Carolina University alum David Garrard indicated through certain statements to reporters that "East Carolina" is one of the 50 United States. "I can say without hesitation that it is definitely my favorite of all the Carolinas," said the former ECU Pirate, who, when pressed, identified the imaginary commonwealth's capital as Greenville and its state bird as the red-necked grebe.

Garrard is "quoted" as saying that he feels pride in crossing the border between North and East Carolina and that Barrack Obama carried the fictional E.C. in the last presidential election, proving that it is a progressive state.

I thought about this for a second: what if E.C. really was its own state? Of course, this has been tried before, to no success, way out west. Oh, and no one really even remembers that.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Quick hits: Carnival to cruise out of Charleston all year long, and state park attendance has jumped in '09

Cruises to sail all year from Charleston
"South Carolina's tourism ship came in Thursday with the announcement that Carnival Cruise Line ships will sail from Charleston year-round, resulting in millions for the state and local economies," says the AP.

"Carnival Cruise Lines, a unit of Carnival Corp., announced it will homeport its 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy in Charleston beginning next May. The ship will make five-, six and seven-day voyages from South Carolina to the Bahamas and Key West, Fla.

" 'It's like a fantasy come true,' said state Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Bonneau, the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, who said the decision will mean $70million in direct spending yearly for the Charleston economy. ..."

Note: This why N.C. should work harder and faster on a deep(er)-water port.

State Park attendance up in N.C.

"Attendance at North Carolina’s state parks has jumped significantly during 2009, with a third of the state parks and state recreation areas reporting visitation up at least 20 percent, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation," said a DENR press release.

"Through August – the latest reporting period – the state parks recorded 10.6 million visitors, up 14 percent from a year ago and surpassing visitation during the same eight-month period of 2007, which was a record year for state parks visitation. The report includes 35 state parks and state recreation areas along with Weymouth Woods State Nature Preserve.

" 'Citizens in North Carolina traditionally have turned to state parks for affordable family recreation during difficult economic times, and these attendance numbers reflect that,' said Lewis Ledford, state parks director. 'Despite tight budgets and reduced staffs, the state parks have worked extra hard to maintain the facilities and the visitor experience so people can relax and enjoy the outdoors this year.' ..."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Lake Lure to honor Swayze

Twenty-years later, fans of the movie "Dirty Dancing" still make a pilgrimage to the mountain town of Lake Lure to re-live their favorite moments. Lake Lure is, to many, synonymous to the movie.

So it only makes sense that the town and community will hold a service in honor of the late actor Patrick Swayze, who died of pancreatic cancer earlier this week.

The event is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at the Firefly Cove development, where scenes from the film “Dirty Dancing” were shot more than 20 years ago. Swayze, who starred in the movie, died Monday of pancreatic cancer [according to the Citizen-Times]. ...

“We've had a lot of calls coming in to the community. That's why this was put together,” said Michelle Whitaker, communications manager with the Rutherford County Tourism Development Authority. ...

Besides paying tribute to Swayze, the event will help promote awareness of pancreatic cancer, Whitaker said.

Speakers will include Rev. Everette Chapman, who was pastor at Fairfield Mountain Chapel in Lake Lure when the movie was made, and Peggy Keys, who's active in the Pancreatic Action Network.

Whitaker advises people who attend to bring flashlights instead of candles. Parking is somewhat limited at Firefly Cove, she said.

The iconic movie reached classic status and became part of the fabric of Lake Lure, where a great deal of the movie was filmed and where the stars stayed during the filming. ...

New N.C. quarter on the way ... in a short 7 years

According to the Associated Press last week, a new series of quarters -- celebrating our national parks -- will soon be on the way, beginning next year.

The quarters "will be minted based on the dates the parks or historic sites were established and start with Arkansas' Hot Springs National Park, founded in 1832.

North Carolina's quarter will celebrate the Blue Ridge Parkway, which was established in 1936.

The others to come out next year include:

Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park, 1872

California, Yosemite National Park, 1890

Arizona, Grand Canyon National Park, 1893

Oregon, Mt. Hood National Forest, 1893

Beaufort to host Nat'l. Estuaries Day

From the Jacksonville Daily News ...

The North Carolina Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve, in partnership with the North Carolina Maritime Museum, will host a National Estuaries Day and National Public Lands Day celebration on Sept. 26 in Beaufort.

Outdoor interactive education displays and an indoor showing of the “Waters of Life” film will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Maritime Museum. Event details can be found at www.nccoastalreserve.net.

The day’s activities will begin with a clean-up of the Rachel Carson Reserve, the complex of islands located just across Taylor’s Creek from downtown Beaufort. ...

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

USS North Carolina will showcase the 'original'

We mentioned back in June the terrific gangway plank of an old USS North Carolina. (You can view the gangway at the Museum of History in Raleigh.) Well, turns out there's a terrific painting of another old USS North Carolina. (At least, I don't think it's the same one.) And you can view this rare painting on the 'newer' USS North Carolina, which is moored in Wilmington.

This spring, the battleship bought an original 1827 watercolor-and-ink-on-paper portrayal of the USS North Carolina – a ship-of-the-line that sailed before the Civil War – using funds raised by its non-profit support group, the Friends of the Battleship [says the Star-News].

The 182-year-old painting is a little too delicate for frequent showings, said Kim Sincox, museum services director for the battleship. Still, a high-color photo reproduction should soon be hanging in the memorial’s lobby area. Visitors will be able to see it on the way to the ship’s gangplank. ...

The painting is by Nicholas Cammillieri (1798-1856), one of the best-known maritime artists of the 1800s. Cammillieri, a native of Malta, painted a number of Royal Navy ships, but also executed paintings of the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”) and USS Constellation which are now in the U.S. Naval Academy’s collection.

An inscription, in gold lettering, on the bottom of the painting notes that it depicts an actual incident: On Dec. 28, 1826, the North Carolina weathered a gale near the island of Zembra, off the coast of the North African nation of Tunis. The storm split the North Carolina’s jib sail into pieces, fouling much of the rest of the three-masted ship’s sails as well. ...

With 74 cannons, the North Carolina was the equivalent of a battleship of its day, intended for a place in a battle line in a major naval engagement – hence, ship-of-the-line. Built in 1820 at Philadelphia. it was more than 196 feet long, with a displacement of 2,633 tons and a crew of 820.

The North Carolina sailed from Hampton Roads, Va., to Gibraltar in 1825 to become the flaghip of Commodore John Rodgers, commander of the U.S. Mediterranean fleet. The Mediterranean was then a hot spot for the new navy; in 1815, the United States had fought a war with the Barbary pirates of North Africa, who were preying on U.S. merchant ships.

During that voyage, the North Carolina became the first American line-of-battle ship to cross the Atlantic. ...

(Image from the Star-News)

Monday, September 07, 2009

DT to assist Jordan’s Hall of Fame induction

Michael Jordan has chosen David Thompson to present him during his induction Friday into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

From Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports:

Michael Jordan had his pick. Dean Smith. Phil Jackson. Maybe even his good friend Charles Barkley.

Each would have been an understandable choice to present Jordan during his induction Friday into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Smith was Jordan’s legendary coach at North Carolina. Jackson helped guide Jordan to six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls. Barkley shared the role of rival and running buddy.

Jordan passed on all of them. Instead, he chose someone who had never coached him or played with or against him.

He chose David Thompson. The former NBA high-flyer who had starred at North Carolina … State.

The Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony is Friday at 6:30, and it will be televised by ESPN and NBAtv. The other inductees in this year’s class are John Stockton, David Robinson and Jerry Sloan. | NBA.com

Friday, September 04, 2009

Enjoy the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse ... at night

The AP reports that Cape Hatteras Lighthouse visitors can "find out for themselves why the Outer Banks landmark was so important to coastal navigation."

The National Park Service on Friday offers nighttime tours of the lighthouse to coincide with the full moon rising over the Atlantic Ocean. There are no lights inside the lighthouse stairs, so visitors will climb the 210-foot brick tower using flashlights.

At the top, visitors will be able to view the working light up close and in motion. If weather allows, climbers stepping out on the balcony will get a glimpse of what lighthouse keepers in the 19th and 20th centuries saw as a powerful beam of light reaching out to sea and to the full moon.

(Photo by Kelly Capps)

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Great Smokies celebrate 75 years

From the Associated Press ...

President Franklin D. Roosevelt's dedication speech is being recalled as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is rededicated on its 75th anniversary.

About 2,000 people – from high government officials to citizens who were quick to apply for tickets – were bussed from Pigeon Forge to Newfound Gap on the Tennessee-North Carolina state line for the event on Tuesday.

Among dignitaries scheduled to take part in the ceremony was entertainer Dolly Parton, who grew up in the foothills of the Smokies.

U.S. 441, which runs through Newfound Gap, was shut down for the day.