Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Quick hits: AVL in the running for 'most romantic city' in America, and a grouper ban hurts

Asheville in the running for Most Romantic City in America

"Asheville is always winding up on one top-ten list or another, and now it’s in the running to be named Most Romantic City in America in a contest by Korbel California Champagne," according to the Citizen-Times.

"Asheville is one of 12 cities to make the finals in this contest. Korbel asked the public to nominate their favorite romantic city, and hundreds responded with stories and photographs on why their towns should be considered. ...

"Also in the running are Indialantic, Fla.; Kansas City, Miss.; Duluth, Minn.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Bend, Ore.; Gold Beach, Ore.; Manhattan, Kan.; Hana, Hawaii; Mackinaw Island, Mich.; Grand Junction, Col. and Charleston, S.C."

Grouper ban strains coastal restaurants

"It may be a few months before James Clark, the executive chef at Waterscapes at the Marina Inn in Myrtle Beach, serves up another grouper platter to his patrons," says the Sun News.

"Most of the fish he cooks come from Murrells Inlet, and the four-month grouper ban enacted by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council means no grouper for his restaurant.

"The ban - which started Jan. 1 and runs through April 30 - prohibits commercial and recreational fishermen from keeping the shallow-water grouper that is caught in federal and state Atlantic waters from North Carolina to Key West, Fla., as well as state waters in the Gulf of Mexico. ..."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Smithfield to reflect on star Gardner's death

The town of Smithfield has become synonymous with one of Hollywood's legendary leading ladies from the golden era, Ava Gardner. Today, visitors to the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield will be able to honor her, exactly 20 years after her death.

Visitors "will receive a reproduction of the program given to mourners at the service held at her graveside in the Johnston County town," says the AP.

Gardner died in London on Jan. 25, 1990 at age 67. She was buried four days later at Sunset Memorial Park alongside her parents and siblings.

She starred in films including "The Barefoot Contessa," "The Night of the Iguana," and "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" during a career that peaked in the 1950s and '60s. She appeared in a handful of episodes of the CBS prime-time drama "Knot's Landing" in the mid-1980s.

According to Wikipedia, Gardner was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her work in Mogambo (1953). She appeared in several popular films during the 1950s, and received BAFTA Award nominations for her performances in Bhowani Junction (1956), On the Beach (1959) and The Night of the Iguana (1964).

During her life, Gardner was married to the likes of Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra.

Note: Edited to get the "correct" Rooney mentioned. (Thanks, KB!)

(Image from hollywoodyesterday.com)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bullock, Hall receive Screen Actors Guild awards

East Carolina alumnus Sandra Bullock and Raleigh native Michael C. Hall won Screen Actors Guild awards on Saturday night in Los Angeles.

Bullock solidified her status as the favorite to win a Best Actress Oscar for her role in “The Blind Side.” | People.com

Sandra Bullock continued her awards-show winning streak, picking up the trophy for outstanding performance by a female leading actor for The Blind Side ...

“If this were only not televised so I could use the appropriate words I’m feeling right now,” Bullock, who won the same award at last weekend’s Golden Globes, said. “I’m Sandra Bullock, and I’m an actor and I’m so proud to say that in a room full of faces that have inspired me.”
Hall has been nominated four times for the title role in the Showtime series “Dexter,” but Saturday marked his first win. | People.com

Michael C. Hall had plenty to celebrate Saturday night.

... the actor was named outstanding actor in a drama series at Saturday’s Screen Actors Guild Awards. And, he told PEOPLE backstage, his cancer is in remission.

“I’m two-thirds of the way through this treatment that already has this thing in remission,” he said. “It’s nice in the homestretch to have this kind of shock of positive energy. It’s a celebration.”
IMDb.com: Sandra Bullock | Michael C. Hall

Friday, January 22, 2010

An outsider's look at N.C. BBQ

Again, gotta love Google Alerts. If not for it, I would never have come across this blog piece.

"For (American) Northerners there remains a number of unfounded misconceptions about the South. People are fat. People are rednecks. People are racist. Yes, they are, and some of us above the Mason Dixon line hit those marks too," writes Nick Schonberger. "Despite consistent bad mouthing and classist snobbery one thing is universally acknowledged as better down South — the BBQ."

He gets some names and stuff wrong (Allen & Brothers instead of Allen & Sons in Chapel Hill; referring to ECU as "East Carolina State University"), but the romance is there.

To wit:

An almost mystic pull to down home, no frills, dinning, brought me to North Carolina for a weekend in May. Having toured Texas BBQ and Memphis, and sampled a number of places throughout Virginia, I’d largely ignored North Carolina in the past. Yet, the style is the most frequently copied (and ruined) in my regular BBQ consumption. “Carolina Pulled Pork” sandwiches litter menus at bars and taverns up the Eastern Seaboard, and given this an opportunity to investigate the authentic origins of the ubiquitous dish proved impossible to resist.

... Rolling through North Carolina, it became obvious that while blanket statements can define the taste, technique, and texture, there’s no accounting for individual twists and turns in the make up. ...

.. [w]e gathered remaining strength and hit Greenville. A ghost town. A place where even the locals are quick to tell you to leave. One did. A single toothed proprietor of the town’s Skate Shop. He told me, frankly, that there wasn’t a single good thing to eat within miles. I suppose his lack of teeth made living there possible. The best thing in town was a giant sculpture of a Pirate. The rest was genuinely frightening.

Three days. 8 giant meals. Hundreds of miles driven. The lesson learned, people in North Carolina certainly take BBQ seriously, and certainly place a highly localized stamp on a plate of pork.

ECU picks alum to lead football program

East Carolina athletics director Terry Holland said he didn't want to go out and get a "retread" to lead the Pirate football program. The AD stuck by his guns.

The week-long search for a replacement for Skip Holtz has ended with Holland selected Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill -- an ECU alum -- to lead the Pirates, according to various reports.

“You’re always worried this late because you run into student-athlete recruitment and assistant coaches get taken, so the bowl becomes more shallow. But I had confidence we’d find the right person because I knew what Terry was doing and who he was evaluating,” ECU chancellor Dr. Steve Ballard said after the ECU Board of Trustees made the new hire official shortly after a 5 p.m. emergency meeting inside the Spilman Building on campus.

“I was a little concerned about the timing, but when I saw the people we were evaluating, I thought we’d be fine,” Ballard said. ...

“His human skills and his interpersonal skills are A-plus, and I think you’ll see that the minute you talk to him,” Ballard said of McNeill. “I had a great hour-and-a-half with him today. I did my own referencing on these people, and everybody who knows Ruffin says the same thing about him.”

Holland, who made the second football coach hire of his six-year tenure at the school, joined the trustees meeting via teleconference. Holland fired John Thompson toward the end of the 2004 season before hiring Holtz in December of that year.

“Coach McNeill’s interview revealed his strong commitment to doing things the right way and his love of coaching young men to grow in every part of their lives,” Holland said. “His excitement for what ECU football can become in the future was contagious and his deep and abiding appreciation for what East Carolina University has meant to him and his family was truly moving.” ...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

N.C. to get new Smokies visitor center

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has awarded a contract to build a new visitor center at the park's main North Carolina entry, according to the AP.

Officials announced Tuesday they have selected Joseph Construction of Knoxville to put up the new 7,000-square-foot center at Oconaluftee, just inside the park near Cherokee, N.C.
The Great Smoky Mountains Association is providing $2.5 million to build the center, and the Friends of the Smokies is adding $500,000 for exhibit design and fabrication. The gifts together will fund 100 percent of construction costs.

The center will be environmentally friendly with such features as geothermal wells and a cistern to catch rainwater to use for flushing toilets.

Construction will begin in February and is expected to take about a year.

Charlie Daniels suffers mild stroke

Wilmington native and country music legend Charlie Daniels suffered a mild stroke while snowmobiling in Colorado. Daniels -- the star of a recent Geico insurance commercial -- reportedly has some stiffness and numbness in his left hand and arm, according to the AP.

Daniels, 73, suffered the stroke Friday just outside Durango, about 230 miles southwest of Denver. He was treated at a local hospital then airlifted to a Denver hospital, where he was released on Sunday.

In a posting on his Web site Wednesday, Daniels said he was starting physical therapy. He didn’t say whether his playing had been affected but wrote, “I’m doing fine.”

Another statement on the Web site says he doesn’t plan to cancel any concerts. His next appearance is scheduled for Feb. 27 in Fort Pierce, Fla.

Daniels, a native of Wilmington, lives in Mount Juliet, Tenn., but has a home in the Durango area where he takes an extended vacation every year around Christmas, his spokeswoman Paula Szeigis said.

I have a fondness the CDB because, one, he's a N.C. native, and two, because he's related to two good friends of mine, also great musicians. Here's hoping the best for Daniels.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

'OTH' fans flock to Port City for reunion

More than 30 fans of the TV show "One Tree Hill" have arrived in Wilmington for a reunion -- and the get-together is not even sanctioned by the show or the studio.

The attendees came from across the state and Southeast, as well as Canada, the UK, France and other states.

While the wide-spread geography of the fans is impressive, perhaps more impressive is the fact that the event had no backing or support from The CW, which airs the show, or Warner Bros., the show's production company. The studio tour, location tour, hotel arrangements and such were all accomplished through the efforts of one fan from Miami, Fla., ChristyAnne Arancibia [according to the Star-News].

“It was a comment that was made through a live chat we had,” Arancibia said, referring to what gave her the idea for the “One Tree Hill Fan Reunion.”

You can read more about it here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hall wins first Golden Globe award

Raleigh native Michael C. Hall won his first Golden Globe award Sunday night, taking the honor for best actor in a television drama for his title role in the Showtime series “Dexter.”

Hall, who revealed earlier in the week that he has almost finished treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer, wore a skull-tight hat to cover his bald head. | People.com

East Carolina alumnus Sandra Bullock won best actress in a motion picture (drama) for her role as Leigh Anne Tuohy in “The Blind Side.”

In an upset, “The Hangover,” starring N.C. State alum Zach Galifianakis, won best motion picture (musical or comedy), beating “(500) Days of Summer,” “It’s Complicated,” “Julie & Julia,” and “Nine.”

Julianne Moore, an Army brat born in Fayetteville, was nominated for best supporting actress in a dramatic motion picture for “A Single Man,” but she did not win.

Golden Globe winners: Michael C. Hall | Sandra Bullock
280 characters: “The Hangover”

Friday, January 15, 2010

Quick hits: Lumbees get new chair, Bobcats on a roll and State Farm drops beach insurance

Lumbees welcome new tribal chairman
"Lumbee Tribal Chairman Purnell Swett took office on Thursday in a ceremony punctuated with a beating drum, cheers, praise for God and continued commitment to pursue full official tribal recognition from the federal government," says the Fayetteville Observer.

" 'It is with great pleasure that I accept this noble position,' Swett said during his inauguration speech. 'It is a responsibility that I take seriously, and one that I will pour my heart and soul into ... because it concerns you.' ..."

These Bobcats are getting hard to ignore

"The Charlotte Bobcats are 14-4 at home this season. Their best previous home record after 18 games is 10-8. These are the only seasons in which they were above .500 at this juncture," writes the Charlotte Observer's Tom Sorensen.

"I'm not sure what the difference is. Perhaps it's the fans. There were about 7,500 at Time Warner Cable Arena Tuesday for Charlotte's thrilling comeback victory against Houston. ..."

State Farm drops insurance on barrier islands

"State Farm is dropping protection for homeowners whose insured property is on one of North Carolina’s barrier islands," says the Jacksonville Daily News.

"Approximately 140 homeowners in Onslow, Carteret and Pender counties will be receiving notices of non-renewal, according to Russ Dubinsky, the spokesman for State Farm Insurance Company of North Carolina. ..."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Johnson, Wilson are NFL All-Pro selections

"Chris Johnson didn't get any votes for MVP. He didn't miss any for The Associated Press 2009 NFL All-Pro team," says the AP.

The 2,000-yard rusher from the Tennessee Titans (who played at East Carolina) was the only unanimous choice for the squad, which was announced Thursday. He's joined in the backfield by Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who won an unprecedented fourth Most Valuable Player Award last week, when only quarterbacks received votes.

"That'd be a good thing," said Johnson, who won the Offensive Player of the Year award Wednesday. "Because I feel like if you put a season out there, out of those dudes who got votes or the dudes who won, I wouldn't feel they had a better season than I had, and broke as many records in one season that I had."

Also named to the All-Pro team was former N.C. State player (and High Point native) and current Arizona Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson.

This is the first time that Wilson has been named to the NFL All-Pro team, and the first NC State player to be selected since Torry Holt in 2003. Wilson is the only member of the Cardinals represented on the first team [said GoPack.com].

During the 2009 season Wilson started all 16 games, while recording 74 tackles and a career-high five interceptions and 13 pass deflections. Wilson has been with the Cardinals for nine years since being drafted in the third round in 2001.

While having solid contributions as a rookie, Wilson took over the starting strong safety spot in his second year and has never relinquished it. Since coming into the league Wilson has recorded 686 tackles, 20.5 sacks and 23 interceptions.

State fish gets its time in the spotlight

The Wilmington Star-News' Amy Hotz reports that the North Carolina state fish is the star of a new movie, "Redfish Can't Jump," which will have its public premiere on Jan. 21 in Wilmington.

"You might call it a red drum, spot tail, puppy drum or blue tail, but hey, a fish by any other name . . . . still smells like a fish, I guess," says Hotz.

The movie was three years in the making and "not only shows some beautiful flyfishing footage, but it also investigates why the fish is popular, why it’s important to the ecosystem and why it deserves to be saved from from overfishing (intentional and unintentional) by being declared a gamefish.

According to the “Redfish” Web site, the fish is regulated as a “bycatch” fishery by the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries and its annual quota of 250,000 pounds is regularly exceeded by tens of thousands of pounds each year. Gill nets also put pressure on the population.

“Redfish Can’t Jump” was created by a team of locals: Capt. Seth Vernon, Luke Pearson, Josh Eddings, Wes Aiken and Mark McGarity.

By the way, if you’re even remotely interested in flyfishing, you’ve got to see this film.

(Image from Fish4Fun.com)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Former Pirate Johnson named NFL Offensive Player of the Year

"That blur speeding away from opposing defenses and running off with The Associated Press 2009 NFL Offensive Player of the Year award is Chris Johnson," writes the AP's Barry Wilner.

Considered the fastest man in pro football, Johnson was uncatchable in setting a league mark for yards from scrimmage (2,509) and becoming the sixth player with a 2,000-yard rushing season. Johnson played in college at East Carolina.

He is the first NFL player to finish with at least 2,000 yards rushing and 500 receiving (503).

That earned the second-year pro 38 1/2 votes Wednesday from a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the NFL. Johnson easily beat New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, who received nine votes.

"I kind of realize what I did and I feel like I had a dream season," said Johnson, who scored 16 touchdowns (14 rushing), second to Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, and tied the NFL mark with six consecutive games rushing for at least 125 yards.

Also in the running was League MVP Peyton Manning, who received 1.5 votes, and former N.C. State and current San Diego Charger QB Philip Rivers, who got a vote.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New members of the N.C. Sports Hall announced

The N.C. Sports Hall of Fame -- based at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh -- has announced its newest members.

Among them is Don McCauley, an All-American running back at UNC in the '60s; former multi-sport star at State and future college football coach Jim Donnan; former State and NFL wide receiver Mike Quick; and current Duke assistant women's soccer coach and UNC legend Carla Overbeck, among others.

"You're always happy for the other guy, hoping one day you'll get the call," McCauley told the News & Observer in Raleigh.

The newest members are:

-Herb Appenzeller, who played football for Wake Forest in the 1940s and was Guilford College athletic director.

-Donnan, a former quarterback for N.C. State who went on to a successful coaching career at Georgia.

-Overbeck, an assistant women's soccer coach at Duke who was a three-time All-American for UNC.

-Quick, a former N.C. State wide receiver who had a Pro Bowl career with the Philadelphia Eagles.

-Karen Shelton, coach of UNC's field hockey squad, which has won seven national titles under her watch.

-Paul Simson, a Raleigh resident who has won two British Amateur Senior Open championships in golf.

"It's nice when people remember you," Quick told the paper.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Quick hits: Connemara needs funding and Fantasia & N.C. need to re-brand?

Carl Sandburg home in need of funding
"... For many visitors to the Carl Sandburg home," says the Citizen-Times, "the experience of walking through the house and its grounds helps them to learn about the Pulitzer Prize-winning author who moved to the 264-acre home in Flat Rock in 1945.

"But a lack of funding could put preservation of the home's 50 historic structures and thousands of archived materials in danger. A report released last month by the National Parks Conservation Association gave the park's cultural resources a “fair” score of 78 out of 100, saying insufficient staffing and funding limit the park's ability to adequately protect historic structures and accomplish all the needed cultural resource planning work and research. ..."

Fantasia is rebuilding her post-'American Idol' life

" 'American Idol' winner Fantasia Barrino gets her house back in order on the first episode of her VH1 reality series, debuting at 10 p.m. tonight," says the Charlotte Observer.

"Despite a successful autobiography, a made-for-TV movie, a Broadway role in 'The Color Purple' and a platinum album, Barrino fell into money problems after moving from High Point to Charlotte following her 'Idol' win in 2004.

"Liens were filed against her first home, in Piper Glen in south Charlotte, over unpaid homeowner association fees. Creditors filed suit for her $240,000 Mercedes. And her second home, a $1.2 million mansion off Elm Lane, was saved from auction after fees were paid on back taxes in 2009. ..."

N.C. slipping as a destination?

"In recent years," writes the Observer, "North Carolina owed much of its prosperity to newcomers who pulled up stakes elsewhere and gambled on opportunities here.

"Now, at least one survey suggests that the state is losing some of its glitter as a land of opportunity.

"The survey, conducted yearly by the interstate moving company United Van Lines, shows North Carolina slipping as a migratory destination.

"In 2006 and 2007, the state had the highest rank of newcomers; in 2008 it ranked third. But in 2009, based on 10,292 shipments United made in or out of North Carolina, the state had fallen to 10th among 'high-inbound states,' with 55.4 percent of the shipments moving in and 44.6 percent moving out. ..."

(Photo by the Charlotte Observer)

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Blue Ridge Parkway: 'Simply beautiful'

"It all started 75 years ago, in the midst of the Great Depression," writes Joe Tennis with the Bristol Herald Courier in SW Virginia and eastern Tennessee.

"Right on the North Carolina-Virginia border, the ground broke on Sept. 11, 1935 to build the Blue Ridge Parkway on the state line at Cumberland Knob.

"But this was not like other roads, built simply for transportation. This was a ridge-top ride made to cruise – with views.

" 'The parkway is a road that’s designed to be an experience,' said Cara Ellen Modisett. ..."

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Some N.C. film news

According to the Citizen-Times, Asheville resident and film star Andie MacDowell will be in Flat Rock on Jan. 16 to screen the documentary “The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo.”

The movie will be shown at the Flat Rock Cinema, followed by a reception with McDowell. Tickets are $7, with all sales and any donations going to Mainstay, Henderson County’s domestic violence prevention agency.

The Emmy-nominated film shows atrocities against the Congolese women and girls by militant soldiers in the Congo of Africa and documents the mass rapes of women and girls as a tool of intimidation in an effort to profit from the mining of minerals such as tin, tantalum and tungsten.

In addition, the News & Record in Greensboro reports that TV icon Ed Asner is in High Point making a feature film based on the script by High Point U. professor Ed Simpson.

Asner plays the lead character in “Elephant Sighs.”

On Wednesday, Asner and other cast and crew filmed in a warehouse-turned-movie set in town. It has become a community center in a fictional Pennsylvania town, where Simpson set his comedy/drama. The “bromance” tells a story of loss, loneliness and the healing power of friendship.

Asner said the film attracted him because “it was a boy flick. I was busy in it. I had some interesting things to say.”

“It’s a sweet film,” Asner said between takes. “It’s a film about people who need each other and fulfill each other. If we do the right job on it, people will feel good when they see it.”

Familiar actors play the four other main roles.

David Wells, a Guilford College and UNCG alumnus, has appeared in films and a list of TV shows, including “CSI” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

John Cariani has appeared in “Numb3rs” and “Law & Order”; Jack Kehler, in films “The Big Lebowski” and “Men in Black II”; and Mark Fite on television in the sitcoms “Friends” and “Seinfeld.”

“They are so talented and great guys to work with,” Simpson said.

Filming is expected to wrap up fin High Point and Thomasville on Jan. 23. The movie should be out in the spring.
Simpson, Carr and Wells attended Guilford College together in the 1970s.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Quick hits: L-R gets gift and new destroyer to be commissioned in Wilmington

Lenoir-Rhyne gets $2.5 million gift

"Former Hickory resident Thomas Mott Jr. has left an estate gift of about $2.5million to Lenoir-Rhyne University, it was announced Tuesday," according to the Charlotte Observer.

"The gift will provide approximately $112,000 each year in scholarship aid to Lenoir-Rhyne students.

"The scholarships will be awarded to students of any academic major who have demonstrated outstanding academic and leadership skills.

"A member of one of Hickory's most prominent families, Mott attended Lenoir-Rhyne and earned a master's degree in textile chemistry from N.C. State University in 1929. He was a captain in the Marine Corps Reserves and served in the Pacific during World War II. ..."

Destroyer USS Gravely to be commissioned in Wilmington

"Another U.S. Navy ship will be commissioned in the fall in Wilmington, city spokeswoman Malissa Talbert announced late Tuesday," says the Star-News.

"The 509-foot-long guided-missile destroyer Gravely (DDG 107) is part of the Navy's only active class of destroyers, which are among the largest and most powerful destroyers ever built, Talbert said.

"The Gravely is named after Vice Admiral Samuel Lee Gravely, who was the Navy's first African-American vice admiral, Talbert said. ..."