Monday, August 30, 2010

Great news for turtles and rare birds

The National Park Service says the 2010 breeding season has broken records for rare sea turtles and birds along North Carolina's Cape Hatteras National Seashore, according to the Associated Press.

The park service says 147 sea turtle nests have been recorded, the most ever at Hatteras. There's also a record number of piping plover and oystercatcher chicks surviving long enough to fly.

A coalition of environmental groups says the numbers are thanks largely to a rule adopted in 2008 that restricts off-road vehicles in nesting areas. ...

Monday, August 16, 2010

N.C. Zoo -- the world's largest -- looking into expansion

From News 14 Carolina:

The world's largest acreage of zoo is located in the heart of the Piedmont Triad and soon the North Carolina Zoo could see some big changes.

Over the last three days, the city and county government met with members of the zoo staff and a New York based consulting firm to discuss the the wildlife center's future. Already the North Carolina Zoo is unique both in size and layout.

“North Carolina Zoological Park is now the largest zoological facility acreage in the world at 2,100 acres," said N.C. Zoo Director Dr. David Jones.

The 1,500 acre main site houses an African and North American exhibit and takes tourist nearly half a day to explore. Now the zoo is looking into opening an Asian exhibit which could keep visitors around a little longer.

"If they had another exhibit it would probably either take the whole day or you could spread it up and spend the night here and you know enjoy this area too," said visitor Megan Hendricks.

Which is exactly why the group decided to bring in an outside consulting firm to help decide if the expanding the zoo is worth the money. 273 acres of adjacent land owned by the zoo society, that could potentially house a new hotel and conference center for the additional visitors. ...

If the zoo expands, so could current and future highway access to the site. Funds for the study were provided by local tourism development authority, the city, county, the economic development corporation, and the zoo. The consulting firm will now develop a comprehensive report on the potential for the Asian region and rough plans for it's design.

That report should be completed by the end of November.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fantasia suicide scare

From the Charlotte Observer:

"American Idol" winner Fantasia Barrino - who has recently been accused of making a sex tape with a married man - was hospitalized Monday night after overdosing on aspirin and a sleep aid, according to a police report and her manager.

Barrino was taken to Carolinas Medical Center-Pineville just before 9 p.m., according to a police report.

The incident happened in the Glynmoor Lakes community in Piper Glen in south Charlotte, where Barrino lives with members of her extended family.

The police report classified the incident as a suicide attempt, but a statement by her agent, Brian Dickens, stopped short of that. In the statement, Dickens described Barrino's injuries as non-life-threatening.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Quick hits: Fantasia in affair scandal, and N.C. tuitions are favorable

Fantasia accused of affair with married man

"A North Carolina woman is alleging that 'American Idol' winner Fantasia Barrino engaged in an affair with her husband, and says in court documents that the pair 'recorded' their sexual encounters," according to

"Paula Cook, who separated from her husband, Antwaun Cook, in June, filed the documents -- seeking child custody, alimony and other monetary support -- Wednesday in Mecklenburg County District Court.

"The documents allege Antwaun Cook began the affair with Barrino, 26, in August 2009 after the pair met at a Charlotte-area T-Mobile store where Cook is employed.

"Barrino -- the 2004 winner of the popular Fox show and an eight-time Grammy nominee -- treated Cook to a lavish lifestyle over the course of their affair, flying him to Atlanta, Georgia; Miami, Florida; New York; Los Angeles, California; and Barbados, the documents allege.

"The pair 'have at times recorded their illicit sexual activity,' according to the documents. ..."

S.C. colleges have highest tuition in the South

"An education group says South Carolina's public colleges charge the highest tuition among 16 Southern states," according to the AP.

"The Post and Courier of Charleston reported Sunday that median tuition at South Carolina 4-year public schools was $8,400 for the 2008-09 school year. That compares with $4,174 in North Carolina and $4,032 in Georgia.

"The figures were reported by the Southern Regional Education Board. The board says part of the reason for the high tuition is because state lawmakers do not fund South Carolina public colleges at the same level as North Carolina and Georgia.

"State funding at South Carolina colleges was about $4,800 a student in 2008-09. That compared with more than $11,500 per student in North Carolina and about $7,800 per student in Georgia. ..."

Thursday, August 05, 2010

NYT Mag: Dale Jr. 'wanted to get out from under being Dale Earnhardt's son'

The New York Times Magazine has a very intriguing profile on NASCAR racer and product pitchman Dale Earnhardt Jr. The piece, "In the Name of the Father," written by Pat Jordan, basically asks, "Can Dale Earnhardt Jr. Outrace His Father's Influence?"

The short answer, upon reading the piece, is that Little E has struggled mightily to do that -- with little to show for it. He does, however, keep trying. To his credit, "Junior" attempts to keep some semblance of normalcy in his life -- which is tough with 3-4 PR people around him at almost all times.

“He is very, very introverted,” a publicist says [begins the article]. “He lives alone. He plays video games by himself eight hours at a clip. He’s a multimillionaire, yet he lived alone for months in a 20-by-20 garage loft.”

The 35-year-old Earnhardt "has been the most famous driver in Nascar, and most beloved by fans, over the past eight years, and yet he has almost vanished from sight in Nascar winner circles. He has not won at Nascar’s top level since 2008. Last year, his worst ever, he finished 25th out of 72 Nascar drivers in the final standings — a sad comedown for a driver who was once a kind of Elvis of his sport, the winner of 15 races in his first five full seasons, starting in 2000. So this season would seem to be pivotal for Earnhardt, because it may well determine whether he reclaims his position as Nascar royalty — his father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., was one of Nascar’s greatest drivers — or sink for good into midpack anonymity, grinding out one frustrating race after another as he pushes 40, the equivalent of Elvis as a second-rate Vegas lounge crooner."

Here are some more of the highlights from the article (which you can read by clicking above).

For the past seven years, Nascar fans have voted Earnhardt Jr. their favorite driver. He has appeared on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," hosted his own TV show, “Back in the Day,” and handed out an award at the Country Music Awards ceremony. He makes millions of dollars a year racing, and he earns another $10 million endorsing the likes of Adidas, Nationwide Insurance and Wrangler jeans, and for selling merchandise with his name, face, car number and signature on it. His crew chief, Lance McGrew, described him to me as “the Pied Piper of Nascar.” “If Dale’s not running good in a race, fans turn the channel. He’s Nascar’s most important marketing tool.” Mark Martin, Earnhardt’s racing teammate, told me, “Junior has the weight of Nascar world on his shoulders.”


His father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., grew up hardscrabble in Kannapolis, N.C., dropped out of school in ninth grade, married and had kids as a teenager and spent his early race years hustling odd jobs as a mechanic, welder, anything in order to put together a stake to keep his race cars running. He was an aggressive driver, one short step from a dirty driver. His fans called him the Man in Black, Big E, the Intimidator and Ironhead. He began his career in 1975 and was the last of a line of irascible, hard-nosed, old-timey drivers going back to moonshiners outrunning revenuers over mountain roads. Earnhardt Sr. was beloved because he started poor, like his fans, was ruthless on the track and a winner. Today many of the best Nascar drivers, like Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, are not Southerners at all (both are from California) and are clean-shaven, well-spoken men who never banged around dilapidated race cars on red clay tracks.


“It’s hard to maintain your cool dealin’ with three or four P.R. people [said Earnhardt]. People think I’m always pickin’ my next move. Hell, I have no marketing savvy. I just do what I’m told. It’s frustrating to hear I should decide whether I want to be a race-car driver or a marketing tool. In Nascar I have to be both.”


Nascar, like country music, likes to refer to itself as family, and in truth, it has always been dominated by families. ... Earnhardt Sr. had three families. He left his first two without much consideration. He let his first wife’s new husband adopt his son Kerry so he wouldn’t have to pay child support. His second wife struggled financially with Dale and Kelley until their house burned down and he reluctantly took in his two children when they were 10 and 12, respectively. There was tension from the very beginning between Earnhardt Jr. and his father’s third wife, Teresa. On top of that, Earnhardt Sr. was a strict, penurious and distant father. His son and Kelley had a 13-inch black-and-white TV for 15 years.

“My daddy never let us have friends over,” Earnhardt told me, “’cause he didn’t want them tearing up his new possessions. He never really did anything with me. He never told me things. We were raised by six or seven nannies. I always thought he felt I wasn’t much like him.” Kelley says that as a child, her brother was small, timid and sensitive. Kids bullied him. She tried to protect him. “We were as close as you could be,” Earnhardt said. “We still are.” He went on to say, “I feel like a child star protected by all these stage moms.”


Earnhardt is reclusive because beyond his own small world in Mooresville (what his publicist calls his playground), his life isn’t his own. It wasn’t his own when he was under the shadow of his father, and now he has found himself held hostage again, this time by Nascar. He’s too valuable for Nascar to be left on his own. So he’s constantly trailed and driven and steered this way and that by his handlers.

(Image from Mark Peterson/Redux for the New York Times)

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Now promoting K-Swiss: Mr. Kenny Powers

No, Kenny Powers is not real. But this endorsement deal is. (BTW, NSFW, y'all.)

From the AV Club: HBO’s Eastbound And Down officially returns on September 26, but for those who can’t wait until then to see what Kenny [expletive] Powers has been up to ..., this new Funny Or Die video offers some clues. In short, he’s doing what he does best—cashing in on his fame via an endorsement deal with K-Swiss. Oddly enough, the campaign is real: K-Swiss really did sign “Kenny Powers” to be the spokesperson for its Tubes training shoes, and soon enough you’ll be seeing his face in magazine ads, billboards, subway posters (as seen above), and commercial spots for TV and movie theaters.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Hey, Jack Kerouac recently did a story about the photographs of Allen Ginsberg, who captured the Beat Generation with his words and images.

"[T]he beats arrived on the American art scene with an explosion of amphetamine-fueled creativity," says CNN."Their frank explorations of the twin taboos of sexuality and drugs helped to usher in the counterculture of the 1960s and, though their wild antics were the stuff of legend, they paid a heavy price.

"Jack Kerouac killed himself with alcohol, while William Burroughs killed his own wife in a drunken parlor game gone awry."

The first photo that pops up in the slideshow is of Kerouac. His On the Road is one of those seminal works that everyone who has ever been "searching" for anything has read. I first read the book as a college freshman (surprise!) and was shocked, somewhat, to see that Kerouac's main character references both Fayetteville and (here's the really surprising part) my hometown of Dunn.

In reality, Kerouac referencing anywhere in N.C. is not that surprising. After all, the writer lived for some time in Rocky Mount and made numerous treks there to visit family.

Raleigh's John J. Dorfner has written and studied about Kerouac's time in Rocky Mount-- called "Testament, Va., " in On the Road -- "the only time he used a fictitious name for a town in any of his books," wrote Dorfner back in '07 in the News & Observer.

Kerouac described America once as one big backyard, one he loved to wander in, from yard to yard, just seeing what everyone was doing, and to join the party that was going on. And the wild, sad, mystical book describing Kerouac and Neal Cassady -- a cowboy and a football player -- in an automobile cruising the highways, cities and towns of America in search of "it" actually started in Eastern North Carolina, in Rocky Mount. ...

Kerouac roared into Rocky Mount on a roadway of words -- by train, bus or a ride that he bummed along the way. During the late 1940s until 1956, Kerouac made extensive visits to Rocky Mount.

Kerouac visited North Carolina in June 1948 for the birth of his nephew, Paul Blake Jr. He joined his family during Christmas 1948, in a little white house on Tarboro Street, at the end of a dirt road in Edgecombe County, right across the Nash County line, the railroad tracks that separate the town. The city streets weren't paved in those days and Kerouac describes the muddy new Hudson pulling into his brother-in-law's front yard. ...

Cassady and crew pulled up on a snowy Christmas Eve 1948. Neal played jazz records and jumped around and had Kerouac's relatives concerned. But it was all straightened out and Jack and Neal left for their first venture on the road together, taking Kerouac's mother's load of furniture up to Paterson, N.J. Then they came straight back for her and the rest of the gang, Marylou and Ed.

Kerouac's sister moved from their home on Tarboro Street to the crossroads community of Big Easonburg Woods, five miles outside of Rocky Mount. The community is called West Mount now and hasn't changed much from when Kerouac started visiting in 1952. ...

Kerouac describes his life and times in Big Easonburg Woods in his novel "The Dharma Bums," written after the publishers told him that they wanted another "On the Road" type of book. "The Dharma Bums" explores Kerouac's leap into Buddhism; his West Coast mountain climbing with Japhy (Gary Snyder); and poetry adventures with Allen Ginsberg and "HOWL." In it, he devotes five or six chapters to describing his life in Big Easonburg. Kerouac's sister and brother-in-law rented a little cottage that Kerouac used for his retreat. He'd come there from places North, South, East and West and usually walked the three miles to his sister's house after being left off at the intersection of Little Easonburg and Halifax roads. He details this lonely walk, observing the farmhouses and tobacco fields covered in snow. Kerouac would live and sleep out on the back porch. This was his room. He would stay up late writing, either on his back porch or in the little kitchen. He wrote "Visions of Gerard" there, beginning right after Christmas 1955, taking over the little kitchen and writing all night long. He finished up during the first weeks of January 1956.

If you want more about Kerouac and Rocky Mount, be sure to visit Dorfner's article at Empirezine. The town provided Kerouac "with inspiration in-between his cross country journeys in the 1950's. It was a peaceful setting for the hurricane that was to become Jack Kerouac's life and times. Kerouac...if people heard of him at all...they'd associate it with the author of the 1957 novel On the Road, the story of one man's search for a place that, for him anyway, never existed."

(Photos from Empirezine)