Saturday, April 29, 2006

Tar Heel Tavern #62 - The Best of Living in North Carolina

Welcome to the weekly reader of North Carolina, Tar Heel Tavern!

It's been a rough month with the news media here in the Triangle and from the mountains to the ocean, so I asked for stories regarding the best things about living in or visiting North Carolina.

My personal new best thing about living in NC is the new record shop that has been so badly needed in the Ninth Street business district of Durham. So, this week, THT is brought to you by Chaz's Bull City Records in Durham.

Open since last November, Chaz's is off Ninth Street at 1916 Perry St., just down from Cosmic Cantina and Ninth Street Dance Studios. Chaz's is the kind of indy/DIY place where I'd buy records (yes, "records") twenty years ago in grad school in Gainesville, FL (home to Tom Petty, Sister Hazel, and Less Than Jake). Owner/manager Chaz Martinstein is the consummate young hipster from Richmond by way of my old stompin' grounds of Boulder, Colorado.

Chaz's Bull City Records is a community experience - pet the dog, look through the used bins and local music, and catch up on what the kids are listening to. If you're lucky, you can even talk with his business-savvy girlfriend, Rachael, who owns the appropriately-named giftshop, Tre Bella, with her two sisters in West Village, together with a handcrafted handbag business as well. The unrelenting positive energy of these young entrepreneurs gives me great faith in the future of our Bull City.

Although a lot of us in the 40-49 demographic might feel uneasy in other "too cool" music shops, Chaz is so comfortable with his own hipness that he didn't laugh when I asked him to order the new Springsteen boxed set or chat with my 3 1/2-year-old daughter. He went off very seriously on a quest with his laptop to find the right Woody Guthrie collection that had a single song I'm trying to learn ("Ludlow Massacre"). Chaz even hosts musical performances in the shop, asking only for a $5 contribution to support the band's gas money.

In these days of corporate-driven, mind-numbing, lemming-leading radio and musical outlets, it is a pleasure to support Chaz's: music by the people and for the people.

Now, on to the show:
The Best of Living in (or Visiting) North Carolina

So, speaking of music, it is only appropriate to start out with the story My Day at Pratie Place by Melinama. She is an empty nester musician who sometimes co-blogs with her daughter Melina in NYC. I was just reminded that she and Bob, who play as traditional British Isles duet called Pratie Heads, had a free, open-air gig in Durham yesterday at Foster's Market. Dang, we were on the road to visit our family in Wilmington at the time - next time, friends!

We also had two fantastic photographic entries that really capture the beauty of living here this time of year. First is Central North Carolina in the Spring from Moomin Light. The self-described "dangers of an avid gardener with a new digital camera" truly capture the beauty of our region. The closure of her post with song lyrics from the Indigo Girls leads very nicely to our next submission.

Second in the photoessay category comes from Jude in Syracuse, the only regular out-of-state Tar Heel Taverner. I Am But A Visitor To This Place at Iddybud Journal captures North Carolina beauty with the yearning that can come only from someone who has left this place. Like James Taylor, Jude opens with, "In my mind I'm goin' to Carolina."

This week's submission from Waterfall's A Sort of Notebook describes Very Cool Science-Class Stuff. Reading her entry and links about her excitement in using the western NC trails as a classroom for her seventh-grade science class makes me wish I was back in junior high.

While we're on the topic of education, I'd be preaching to the choir when I say that the state education system of North Carolina has been a national leader for decades. However, even our great success has not been enough to protect our educational system from being victimized by cost-cutting and short-sightedness all too common in this political climate. Keeper of the THT and prolific blogger, Bora Zivkovic (Coturnix), posted a very nice overview of an essay on Nurturing Success in the Sciences by new NC State president, James Oblinger. Bora closes the post with an important paragraph that argues persuasively why better science education, not necessarily more scientists, is essential to an educated, critical-thinking democracy.

Consistent with this great scientific tradition, I should add that North Carolina has been home to a number of Nobel Prize winners including Gertrude Elion, George Hitchings, Martin Rodbell, Peter Agre, and even the well-known, surfer-dude developer of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), Kary Mullis, who spent a large part of his childhood in Lenoir.

Another high-profile blogger, Screwy Hoolie, submitted a post from Scrutiny Hooligans exemplifying the great grassroots political tradition of North Carolina by calling to the carpet Western NC Rep. Charles Taylor for his refusal to support a memorial for passengers and crew of Flight 93. The post is aptly titled, Charles Taylor: Surrender Weasel.

As Screwy Hoolie says,
"This post notifies NC that Taylor, recently under fire for being the only person on Planet Earth against a Flight 93 memorial, is cutting a deal to get the funding through. It took a political shitstorm to make him come around."

And that's all I had for this week. Thank you all for submitting your posts and putting your best foot forward on behalf of our great state. In my six years here, I've truly come to learn how many North Carolinians truly live our state motto, "Esse Quam Videri"; that is, "To be rather than to seem."

For those who would like to join this group of doers, please be sure to volunteer with Bora to host future issues of Tar Heel Tavern. I'd usually pass along submission info for the next host but a last check of the schedule revealed there is no one listed to host THT #63 on 7 May 2006. This process was really a lot of fun for me to get to know some of my fellow NC bloggers near and far, so think about volunteering even if you are early in your blogging career.

If I forgot anyone or misappropriated credit, please be sure to e-mail and I'll correct the situation as soon as I can. Thank you for reading!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Call for submissions - Tar Heel Tavern #62: Best of North Carolina

We'll be hosting the Tar Heel Tavern blog carnival here on 30 April 2006.

So, I'm shouting out to all NC bloggers to e-mail their submissions to me by Saturday evening, 29 April, at 8 PM EDT (0100 GMT 30 Apr): bullcitybooster AT gmail DOT com.

I note the GMT conversion because I'd also like to solicit posts on the best things about living in, or visiting, North Carolina from anyone who has ever lived or visited here. I know that many bloggers have come through the state, especially due to our many great universities. So, even if you don't live in NC now, I'd love to field your entry.

Anton has two posts this week, here and here, that are good examples of celebrating the great things about living in North Carolina. You've got some beautiful children there, Anton.

Maybe you'll want to sing the praises of your favorite restaurant, record store, professor, friend, secret fishing hole, beach, arts festival, mountain hideaway - whatever.

Of course, I'll accept any of the best writing of my Old North State compatriots on any topic, as usual.

Just let me know in the subject line of your e-mail which section you wish to be listed in: "Tar Heel Tavern - Best of NC" or "Tar Heel Tavern - General."

I'll try to have THT posted sometime before Saturday Night Live airs.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

One last change in time for hosting Tar Heel Tavern

FYI - the bicycle edition of Tar Heel Tavern #61 is now live at Nicomachus, appropriately a cycling blogger (tagline: "the velorution will not be motorized").

Before this local blog gets rolling, as it were, I wanted to make one last change before we get our chance to host the Tar Heel Tavern next week.

Since I use Bull City Booster as my nom de plume here, I wanted to change the blog name to something slightly different but relevant, including a little alliteration. Since we're still just only around 100 total hits, I figure that I wouldn't screw up too many RSS feeds by changing the name of this bully pulpit to...Bull City Bully Pulpit.

Note that the URL remains the same:

If you never got as far as Teddy Roosevelt in your American History class, he was the originator of the term, "bully pulpit," as described in the C-SPAN Congressional Glossary:
"This term stems from President Theodore Roosevelt's reference to the White House as a "bully pulpit," meaning a terrific platform from which to persuasively advocate an agenda. Roosevelt often used the word "bully" as an adjective meaning superb/wonderful. Roosevelt also had political affiliation with the Progressive Party, nicknamed the "Bull Moose" party. It got the moniker when Roosevelt ran for President as its candidate in 1912, after declaring himself as "fit as a bull moose."

As Bora has proscribed at Science & Politics, we will be hosting next weeks' Tar Heel Tavern #62. I'll follow tomorrow or so with a post on my theme and submission information after consulting with the Coturnix himself.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Local agriculture: the new organic

I was happy to pick up Wednesday's N&O to find my old friend, Ben Bergmann ("the Eggman"), cited in an article on local farmers. Together with Noah Ranells, Ben's Fickle Creek Farm over in Efland provides free-range, hormone-free, antibiotic-free organic eggs for sale on-site as well as at high profile outlets like Weaver Street Market in Carrboro.

I came to know Ben when I bought eggs from him through an RTP CSA arrangement (Community Supported Agriculture). I've learned from him and other local farmers that the land that brought many of us tech and science geeks here was originally settled for raising livestock and growing produce (besides tobacco). Rather than buying organic produce shipped in from Florida or California, local farms give you the opportunity to taste the garden freshness of food even if you don't have a garden.

Local restauranteurs have even seized upon local agricultural offerings. The most insightful quote in the N&O article comes from Andrea Reusing of Lantern on Chapel Hill's Franklin St:

"Imagine a turnip that the species was selected so it could sit in a crate," she said. "It's already genetically selected for sitting, not eating."

The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association celebrates this local culture this weekend with the Piedmont Farm Tour. Around 30 farms in Chatham, Orange, and surrounding counties open their doors to visitors Saturday and Sunday for us to get some local flavor, literally.

We've done parts of this for several years now and find it well worth the $30 per carload donation - a great outing with the kids but equally fun for college students who may not have known that lettuce doesn't come from a plastic bag. Saturday may be a little soggy, but Sunday should be great.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Breaking news: Duke lacrosse arrests at 4:54 am Tues morning

Having been up most of the night working on a grant proposal, I saw the expected arrests come through just after 5 am.

I'd stay tuned to Signifying Nothing for local updates.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Hodding Carter III on WUNC-FM today

Hodding Carter III, will be interviewed today at noon by Frank Stasio on The State of Things. Carter has a quite notable history having served as a Jimmy Carter campaign manager, advisor, Edward R. Murrow and Emmy-winning Mississippi journalist and, most recently, as executive director of the Knight Foundation. Live streaming audio is available to those outside the North Carolina Public Radio network beginning at 12 noon EDT (1700 GMT).

Hodding's father was a revolutionary, Pulitzer prize-winning Southern journalist who turned his back on the racism of the times. We are very fortunate to have Dr. Carter contributing his equally lofty stature to our community at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he has been Professor of Leadership and Public Policy since January. I'm also quite fond of him for his support on the Board of Directors of the Stetson Kennedy Foundation.

Coincidentally, I had the pleasure of listening to Professor Carter speak on Sunday at a panel discussion following the world premiere of the documentary, Terry Sanford and the New South, a beautiful 55-minute examination of the influences and accomplishments of the late NC Governor and Duke President, revered by many here (including former Sen. John Edwards), but little-remembered outside of the state. Moderated by Judy Woodruff, the panel included former two-time NC Gov. Jim Hunt, Judy's husband and Bloomberg News executive editor Al Hunt, former NC House Speaker Dan Blue, and documentary producer Thomas Lennon. In fact, Al Hunt noted that if history books were written on the top US governors and university presidents in US history, Sanford would be included in both.

Gregory Phillips from the Durham Herald-Sun wrote, "Measured against contemporary leaders, like Alabama Gov. George Wallace and his infamous "segregation forever" speech, Carter said Sanford "stood out from a crowd as dismal and dark as any in the South's history."

I personally appreciated the juxtaposition evident from another Carter quote that Sanford was central, "to the liberation of the white man from his own curse."

Stasio is a great host, with his recent interview of Durham's Branford Marsalis ranking among one of my favorite of his shows.

Today's interview with Hodding Carter should be quite insightful, particularly given new developments in the Duke lacrosse team rape allegations and the larger issue of race relations here in the New South.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Duke lacrosse scandal overshadows fabulous Duke women's hoops season

Each day, the Duke men's lacrosse team scandal grows so much more disturbing that each new revelation overshadows all of the great things going on in the City of Durham and at Duke University.

Today, I'd like to share with you some things you're not hearing about - the activities of fabulous young folks at a great American university.

First, props to David Fiocco for telling us some good news about The Real Face of Duke University and the spectrum of activities that the vast majority of Duke students have initiated and executed to improve their community. As always, the sensational missteps of a few bad eggs (really bad eggs in this case) tend to get far more media attention than students of character who are raised with a proper sense of respect and community, using their talents to improve life for those less fortunate or otherwise in need, no matter where they live.

Second, congratulations to the Duke women's hoops team for toughing out a heartbreaking loss to Maryland in the NCAA finals. With just seven seconds from a national championship, a Maryland 3-pointer sent the game into overtime where Duke ultimately came up short, losing 78-75.

Our family got heavily into Duke women's hoops this year, due initially to the first year play of fellow Colorado expats, Emily Waner (right) and Abby Waner (left). Their Dad, Tim Waner, played for a time in the New York Yankees farm system. Together with his wife, Jeanie, they endowed these girls with some incredible genes and a strength of character rarely seen in 18- to 21-year-olds. In fact, I'd love for them to write a book on parenting so we could learn how to do even half as well with our daughter.

Well, as my man Barry Jacobs put it last November, "Best of Duke's newcomers may be the Waner sisters--5-foot-10 Abby, a freshman guard voted Gatorade's prep player of the year in 2005, and 5-foot-8 playmaker Emily, a sophomore transfer from Colorado. Perhaps they'll be nicknamed "Big Poison" and "Little Poison" in emulation of the Waner brothers, Lloyd and Paul, Major League baseball Hall of Famers who played from the mid-1920s through World War II."

After the game Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, freshman Abby Waner gave a heart-wrenching but incredibly mature and poised interview with ESPN that had my eyes welling with tears even on the third playback.

Our little girl and I have gotten to know these great young ladies a little bit this year and went to Cameron Cathedral last evening with about 350 other fans to a 15-minute welcome back for these tremendous student-athletes. (My wife was still in clinic seeing patients.)

PharmPreSchooler thought that bringing her Build-a-Bear Glitter Pony would help to cheer the ladies up. It was a bittersweet homecoming in that the finals loss was followed immediately by three seniors (Mo Currie, Mistie Williams, and Jess Foley) being drafted into the WNBA that afternoon. If I were on the team, the last thing I'd want to do would be to come directly from the airport to another public event. The ladies looked tired and demoralized. Everyone who spoke had an emotional quiver in their voice, but it was clear that they appreciated the support on their return to the Bull City. Getting to know some of these folks as students really humanizes for me the pain and disappointment they must be feeling.

But my daughter held up Glitter Pony, clapping its little glittery hooves with the rest of the crowd. We got up close so she could show the players that Glitter Pony was proud of them; when she caught Abby's eye, it was the first time I saw her smile in public, and maybe even laugh, since the disappointment in Boston.

After the quick program, some players and Coach Gail Goestenkors still stuck around outside Cameron to sign autographs, take pictures, and thank the fans - what a complete class act. Australian Jess Foley (what collegiate athlete has a book club with her coach on the team's website?) expressed shock at her being drafted by the Indiana WNBA team and had a good laugh when she learned that my little girl didn't want an autograph; she just wanted to show Jess her Glitter Pony.

Even Coach G was incredibly gracious with my little one, offering to take a picture and accepting our thanks for being a great Duke leader, teacher, and role model at such a difficult time in the history of the university.

And for those of you in our media market, check out the photo on page 9C of the Raleigh News & Observer: just to the left of the podium, you'll see a picture of a little girl with her head turned to the side, clutching Glitter Pony.

Thank you, Duke women, coaches, docs, and other staff - the 2005-06 season has been a great ride and we can't wait until next season.

I can't think of a better group of folks to serve as role models for our daughter.

As far as we're concerned, the Duke women's basketball team ARE champions.