D.G. Martin

Winter reading suggestions from North Carolina Bookwatch

It is time to talk about books again. If you are looking for some special holiday gifts for some hard-to-give-to friends, I may have some help for you, thanks to UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch’s programs during the next few weeks. Here is a book for lovers of history or politics: One of North Carolina’s most popular speakers about European history and the history of ideas is Lloyd Kramer, chair of the department of history at UNC-Chapel Hill. He makes complicated topics understandable and interesting. That is what he has done in his new book, “Nationalism in Europe & America: Politics, Cultures, and Identities since 1775.” I always thought of nationalism as our collective loyalty to our country, a good thing that binds our country’s people together. But Professor Kramer challenges those ideas in his book and in his conversation with meon Bookwatch on Friday, December 9, at 9:30 p.m. Sunday’s Bookwatch will be preempted by special Winterfest programming. For those who love down to earth stories about North Carolina people, I recommend Ruth Moose. She is widely admired as an author, storyteller, poet, teacher, and supportive reviewer of the works of other writers. What grabs my attention are her stories about farmers, townspeople, preachers, teachers, handymen, and regular people struggling to get to the next day. Most are set in and near the Uwharries, where Moose grew up. Her book...

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The ACC's first 20 years

 Just as the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) is poised to expand again, North Carolina’s basketball victory over South Carolina in Las Vegas last week brought back memories. They are memories of a time when the ACC was young and South Carolina was part of the small family. Well, sort of. That “sort of” story is just part of “ACC Basketball: The Story of the Rivalries, Traditions, and Scandals of the First Two Decades of the Atlantic Coast Conference,” a new book by Sam Walker. During most of those first 20 years, South Carolina, a founding member of the conference, was part of a family that stayed together, even if not altogether happily. Those first years took the ACC to the top as a basketball conference, a position it still holds. The book opens with a description of the first ACC conference basketball game. On December 2, 1953, Maryland played South Carolina in Columbia before about 3,000 fans. If you do not remember who won, you are not alone. The next day, the newspapers in Washington and in Columbia gave only short reports that few people noticed. (Maryland won, 53-49.) Not much attention. Not much respect. Walker compares that debut game to a meeting between the same two teams in 1971, when 14,000 fans crowded Maryland’s Cole Field House to see Lefty Driesell’s young Maryland team upset Frank McGuire’s second-in-the-nation-ranked South...

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Prime Minister Bowles?

We are following in the footsteps of Greece and Italy. Just like them, we have lost control of our nation’s budget, and along with them, our economy is tanking. Just like them, we have a bunch of people who are hooked on government subsidies and unwilling to give up any part of them. We also have a bunch of people who have the resources to contribute much more, but who are, like the Greeks who are wealthy, unwilling to give up anything. Our country, like theirs, is headed for a train wreck. You hear this kind of talk, don’t you? Like Thelma and Louise, we seem to be headed for a cliff, more ready to ride out–and crash–than we are to grab the steering wheel or push our foot down on the brakes. Our two political parties have strong partisan and tactical commitments that preclude a cooperative and pragmatic approach to the budget emergency and the shattered economy. Both political parties have only enough power to keep the other one from taking charge. Thus, neither political group has enough power to govern. Meanwhile in Greece, where the budget emergency is greater than in our country, the warring politicians have organized a coalition government and picked a “technocrat,” one respected by everyone, to lead the government as prime minister. A similar approach in Italy resulted in the recruitment of a...

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Eleven-Eleven-Eleven

November 11, 2011. It will be remembered by many of us as the day Carolina beat Michigan State in the inaugural NCAA Carrier Classic on the deck of the Navy aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson. Others of us still remember the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 when the armistice ending the First World War went into effect. Armistice Day –now Veterans Day– means more, of course, than just a basketball game. In my family, we remember that day is also St. Martin’s Day, and we remember my father, who would have celebrated his 101st birthday last Friday. But a Durham-based author says that November 11 this year was important for another reason. Sharon Ewell Foster, author of “The Resurrection of Nat Turner, Part One: The Witnesses,” reminds us that this year marks the 180th anniversary of the slave rebellion led by Turner. Beginning in August 1831, Turner and a small band of followers moved from farm to farm in Southampton County, Virginia (just across the line from Northampton County, North Carolina), freeing the slaves and killing men, women, and children in slave-holding families. After being captured, tried and convicted, Turner was hanged on November 11, 1831. Later, his body was beheaded and quartered. The authorities tried 45 slaves and five free blacks. Of the slaves, 18 were convicted and hanged, 15 were...

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Still weaving for a living

There was a time when events near Kinston a few days ago would have been headline news. Here is what happened. A Russian military-style cargo airplane took off from the Kinston Regional Jetport loaded with a North Carolina woven product worth millions. The product was transported to France where it will be assembled into a final product in another factory. Having a Russian military-style aircraft touch down in Eastern North Carolina would have made big headlines in the Cold War days. On the other hand, the movement of woven materials from a North Carolina factory to another country for further processing would have drawn no special attention. Back then, cotton and other fibers moved from spinning mills, to dying facilities, to weaving mills, to cut-and-sew operations, and a variety of other domestic and foreign processors before the final product was ready. But the recent manufacture and export of the woven product from Kinston should have been headline news. The woven product that left North Carolina in the Russian plane was not cloth. It was a large section of the fuselage for the new Airbus A350 XWB passenger aircraft being assembled in Europe from parts made all over the world. Woven product? That is right. The newest aircraft models of both Airbus and Boeing are built using composite materials that are stronger than the heavier metals that once were the...

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Top Screwups Doctors (and Politicians) Make

What are the top screwups that politicians make? Joe and Terry Graedon, radio hosts of “The People’s Pharmacy,” have a new book, “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.” Could politicians and doctors be making the same mistakes? Here is the Graedon’s top 10 list of medical screwups and the similar errors our political leaders make. 1. Not listening. The Graedons write, “Many doctors have a habit of interrupting patients within 12 to 20 seconds of the beginning of an office visit.” Tea Partiers, Occupiers and many other Americans will tell you that politicians are not listening to them, either. 2. Misdiagnosing. The Graedons suggest that at least 40,000 to 80,000 deaths in hospitals result from misdiagnosis each year. Partisans in both political parties say that the other side’s misdiagnosis of economic problems threatens the country’s ability to recover. 3. Providing too little information. The Graedons assert that doctors often “gloss over” the possible harmful side affects of the medicines they prescribe. Politicians consistently downplay the downsides of their proposed economic recovery plans. 4. Not dealing with side effects. The Graedons suggest that 25 percent of the time doctors “ignore drug-induced side effects” reported by their patients. Politicians almost always ignore the harmful side effects of their actions. 5. Undertreating or ignoring the evidence. The Graedons report that far too many patients die because their physicians fail...

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The Republican nominee: It's going to be Rick Perry

Don’t write off Rick Perry. You ask, why not? Because he is going to be the Republican nominee for President and will give Barack Obama a heck of a race next fall. You are laughing, aren’t you? If I had made this prediction six weeks ago, you would not have laughed. No, you would have said something like, “Well maybe” or “probably so.” You would not have been laughing like you are now. You might have let me know that I was stating the obvious and given me a big “So what!” Not now though. The last few weeks have not been kind to the governor of Texas. After his near coronation as Republican nominee when he formally entered the race in August, it has been mostly downhill for Perry: *The surfacing of remarks made in 1992 in which Perry disparaged North Carolina barbecue, saying that Texas road kill was better. *Calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme. *Poor ratings from the media on his performance in the debates with other candidates. *Press reports about a sign that used a racially charged word to identify his family’s leased hunting ranch, *The meteoric rise of Herman Cain in the polls and the imaginations of conservative voters. *Perry’s collapsing poll numbers. The political pundits have declared him to be road kill. (Remember: North Carolina barbecue is better!) They have moved the conversation...

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Autumn reading suggestions from North Carolina Bookwatch

It is reading time again.   So, courtesy of UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch, I have some autumn reading (and early Christmas gift) suggestions for your consideration.   Charles Frazier’s new book “Nightwoods” will be on this Sunday’s New York Times best seller list for the second week in a row. “Nightwoods” may not be the same kind of blockbuster that his “Cold Mountain” became, but it is off to a solid start sales wise. “Nightwoods” is set in Frazier’s beloved North Carolina mountains. With engaging characters and a story line of suspense and surprise, this short book could become a favorite. Because it is compact it opens the doors for a wider audience to become acquainted with Frazier’s magnificent gifts. I am betting that many people who did not finish “Cold Mountain” or “Thirteen Moons” will, through “Nightwoods,” become new members of Frazier’s fan club. You can visit with Frazier on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch this weekend: Friday, October 21, at 9:30 p.m., and Sunday, October 23, at 5 p.m.   A new book by a New Bern resident will almost certainly be at or near the top of The New York Times list by the end of October. Nicholas Sparks’s “The Best of Me” is the kind of love story Sparks knows how to tell so well. Set in Oriental, a small town and sailing center on the...

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Sparks' new book is good news for the East

The launch of a North Carolina author’s book this week will give economic development in eastern North Carolina a nice boost. New Bern’s Nicholas Sparks’s “The Best of Me” made its way on to the bestseller lists before its official October 11 release date. It is bound to be another blockbuster for Sparks, who has sold over 100 million copies of his earlier books. Warner Brothers has the movie rights to the new book, and rumors have production beginning next year with Sparks as co-producer. What does the new book have to do with economic development in the Coastal Plain? First of all, the book’s royalty checks will go to New Bern, where Sparks lives. For every million copies sold, there could be three to four million dollars into Sparks’s mailbox. Plus the movie income, which could be considerable. Secondly, like most of Sparks’s books, his stories are set in Eastern North Carolina, most often in and around New Bern. Sparks does not paint an idyllic picture of the region.  But the region he describes is small town America, close to the water, and full of mostly good people who would welcome new businesses. Thirdly, and most important, Sparks’s success has given him the resources to live anywhere in the world. Having that choice, he lives in New Bern. The message for people looking for good places to site...

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A smaller glass, filled to the top

Why does Cold Mountain’s Charles Frazier’s new book make me think about the joys of dining at a popular restaurant in Carrboro near Chapel Hill? Read on, and when I explain, you will understand why I think the new book, “Nightwoods,” is going to give Frazier a host of new readers, ones who never read “Cold Mountain” or “Thirteen Moons.” What does his new book have for these readers that is other books lacked? That is the wrong question. The attraction of “Nightwoods,” compared to his earlier books, will be that it “lacks” the number of pages and words that filled “Cold Mountain” and “Thirteen Moons.”    “Nightwoods” is Frazier’s gift to readers who like their novels to be compact with a story line that moves along briskly.  Frazier’s devoted fans need not worry. He has not abandoned them or given up his skill in delivering lovely, engaging, descriptive prose or his development of richly complex characters, the qualities that made reading his first two novels so rewarding. He continues to bring wonderful literary food to our tables, just in a smaller portion. Now, about the restaurant. Its name is Glasshalfull. It features carefully prepared delicious food, elegantly served, in very small, half-sized, portions. Sometimes eating light is much more satisfying than the overwhelming portions we get in other good restaurants. Frazier’s “Nightwoods” is his literary glass half full, a smaller...

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