D.G. Martin

Why do North Carolinians love pirates so much?

Pirates in North Carolina again? Yes, we remember Black Beard. Most authorities now agree that the shipwreck we thought was Black Beard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge is just that. The big news about the recovery of the ship’s anchor has us talking about pirates again. The new “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, although not as big a hit as its predecessors, brought the world’s attention to pirate mythology again. At East Carolina University, the Pirates nickname for its athletic teams makes all ECU fans justifiably proud of their pirate heritage. It is the same thing for many North Carolina high schools that have adopted this popular nickname. But, when we are pushed to explain why we are so enthusiastically romantic about pirates and their mythology, we begin to stutter. It is difficult to explain why we would want to tie ourselves so closely to a group of ruthless, brutal, selfish thieves. These are not the kinds of people we ordinarily would claim for our own. We simply do not have a good explanation for our love of pirates. Three new books might help us as we struggle to understand our identification with pirates. First, there is “Sir Walter Raleigh: In Life & Legend,” a biography by Mark Nicholls and Penry Williams. As noted in an earlier column, this book teaches us that Sir Walter’s colonizing efforts on our coast were...

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North Carolina books for summer reading

Summer is here. Are there some North Carolina books in your summer reading book bag? If not, here are some possibilities from authors who will be featured on upcoming programs on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch. Rachel, the blue-eyed child of a black American GI and a Danish mother, is the central character in an award-winning novel, “The Girl Who Fell From the Sky” by Heidi Durrow. Durrow herself is the child of a Danish mother and an African-American father, whose military assignments brought him to North Carolina. The author’s real struggle to find her identity provided the background for the similar fictional struggle that Rachel faced. But the novel is a darker story, a more compelling one, of a child whose mother loved her so much she wanted her child to die with her. (Durrow will be my Bookwatch guest at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, June 17, and 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 19.) Suzanne Hobbs, who teaches at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, is a prominent public health professional and author of several books in the “for Dummies” series, including “Living Dairy-Free for Dummies.” Why would a distinguished professor want to write a book for dummies? She explains that the “dummies” formula is a big help for an author who wants to write clearly and simply. Lots of readers, most of whom are not dummies, appreciate the...

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Another war we cannot win?

One lesson America is reluctant to learn: Wars are easer to declare than to win. Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya elude the kind of total victory our country achieved in World War II.   And we have other declared wars that command national resources even though finding a strategy for a decisive victory has been elusive.   War on poverty. War on cancer. War on crime. War on terror. War on AIDS.   These wars confound us because we can find no way to total victory.   No war has been more confounding in that respect than the war on drugs.   Its cost over the last 40 years, some estimate, exceeds a trillion dollars.   Our criminal justice system continues to expend substantial resources tracking down drug sellers and users. Prisons are full of the “catch.”   Still, no victory is in sight. The use of illegal drugs rages on. Many otherwise law-abiding Americans “do drugs” or confess that they “did drugs” in the past.   Criminals run the profitable illegal drug marketing system that supplies the demand of American consumers. The high street cost of the illegal drugs drives drug addicts into criminal activities to raise money to buy the drugs.   Our jails are packed with such people.   So, is it time to surrender and give up the war on drugs by legalizing...

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A short North Carolina history lesson

Here is my list, compiled about 10 years ago of the most important events in 20th Century North Carolina. It is a good time to reassess, but I am sticking with what I wrote back then. The election of 1900. The white supremacy Democratic Party returned to power and Charles Brantley Aycock became governor. The adoption of a literacy requirement for voting (with a “grandfather clause” to protect illiterate whites) assured the Democrats’ victory, effectively froze most blacks out of North Carolina political life for most of the century, and made us a solid one-party state. The Wright brothers flight in 1903. Maybe the Wright brothers came from Ohio. But they came here. As a result we define ourselves as “first in-flight.” The creation of the State Highway Commission in 1921 under “Good Roads” Governor Cameron Morrison. The establishment of the Duke Endowment in 1924. The philanthropy of James Buchanan Duke assured the national prominence of Duke University and set the pattern for a rich philanthropic tradition in North Carolina. The textile strikes in Gastonia in 1929. The publication of Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel in 1929. The 1931 consolidation of the campuses of North Carolina State, Women’s College, and the University of North Carolina under one governing board and president, leading ultimately to the unified administration of all public higher education under the UNC system beginning in 1971....

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An aerotropolis in North Carolina?

But what about North Carolina airports? How do our major airports and associated metropolitan areas fit into the concepts for the future of the world’s mega airport cities discussed in the new book, “Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next” by UNC-Chapel Hill’s John D. Kasarda 
and Greg Lindsay? Does any one of our “airport cities” have the potential to be a real “aerotropolis”? In an earlier column about this book, I promised to try to respond to these questions. “Aerotropolis” is a word that Kasarda popularized. It describes an airport-city where the airport is hub of a surrounding urban area. The urban area provides nearly “frictionless” connectivity for the airport’s passengers and freight. The urban area’s business, manufacturing, and brainpower élites thrive on the convenient and speedy global connectivity the airport provides. Several North Carolina airports have some of the attributes of an aerotropolis. Charlotte stands out in passenger boarding and ranks as one of the world’s major airports in this category. It is a major hub. Some people in Charlotte assert that this major hub status costs them money because tickets cost more than at non-hub airports.*** But, as Kasarda explains, the time saved is valuable in a just-in-time world, more valuable than the extra money spent on tickets. Businessmen can leave Charlotte in the morning, have face-to-face meetings with clients during the day, and get home in...

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Outside the banks—the Mississippi and you and me

The Mississippi River has gone “wild” again. When it happened back in 1993, it led me to compare the challenges of managing a river and managing our lives, both sometimes moving outside their defined channels. Here is what I wrote back then: *** “It will probably fall back into the same channels in most places. But in some cases, the forces bill be so powerful that there will be a permanent change in where it runs,” said an environmental expert responding to a radio reporter’s question during the great Mississippi River Flood of 1993. But he could have been talking about my life. Or your life. Or our society. “Will the river, having broken, return to its old channels when the flood recedes?” the reporter had asked. The answer may have been different before man came. Then the great river moved naturally in and out of its banks as the floods came and receded. The periodic flooding of the lowlands alongside the river was a part of the order of things. The vast plains absorbed huge amounts of the floodwater like a sponge. Water then flowed out slowly—moderating the intensity of the flood downstream and cleansing the river and the plains. In his efforts to regulate and tame the river, man built the system of levees and other barriers to contain the river. He poured tons of concrete and...

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“Aerotropolis.” Is it for us?

“Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.” Yogi Berra’s seemingly contradictory wisdom could be a subtitle for a new book about airports and the surrounding landscapes that grow up around them. “Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next” by John D. Kasarda and Greg Lindsay, catalogs the world’s major international airports, explaining which ones work well, which ones do not, and why. Kasarda is director of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at UNC-Chapel Hill and an early proponent of North Carolina’s Global TransPark. The authors examine the rising cost and looming shortage of petroleum and the unquestioned detrimental environmental consequences of carbon emissions and pollution. Then they argue persuasively that, not withstanding these factors, the world’s mega airports are here to stay. Not only here to stay, but also they assert, these large airports and the urban areas that surround them are destined to be the world’s most important centers of population, employment, commerce, industry, enterprise, and creativity for the foreseeable future. Older airports like Los Angeles, Chicago, and London’s Heathrow demonstrate how such operations can be amazing economic generators and how they are being choked by their very success. For example, say the authors, “LAX [Los Angeles International] is a case study for how airports are incubators for trade and the cities that spring up to seize it. And then there are the side effects.” Not...

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North Carolina books for spring reading

What should I be reading this spring? Some of you know that I get this question from my friends each year when the weather starts to warm up. And, you remember, I often respond with a list of a variety of books, each of which has a North Carolina connection and, often, just happen to be scheduled on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch’s upcoming programs. First up is former poet laureate of North Carolina, essayist, critic, teacher mentor of many of North Carolina’s outstanding writers, recent recipient of the John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities, and acknowledged by many to be the dean of the North Carolina literary community, Fred Chappell. Every student of North Carolina writing should become familiar with Chappell’s work. His recent book of short fiction, “Ancestors and Others: New and Selected Stories,” showcases his storytelling talents by taking his readers all over the world and then back to people we know in North Carolina. He will talk about the book and his writing career on North Carolina Bookwatch on Friday, May 6, at 9:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 8, at 5 p.m. Kathy Pories, senior editor at Algonquin Books, is the series editor of “New Stories from the South,” an annual collection of the best short fiction in our region. Reading this collection of authors like Lee Smith and Jill McCorkle is a great way...

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Legislative trading and sausage making

“If someone ties a love note to a nuclear bomb, do you take ‘em both?” That was State Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt, a Democrat, complaining about the legislature’s Republican majority tying a controversial budget cut provision to a popular proposed extension of unemployment benefits. Of course, as Sen. Nesbitt knows, this kind of posturing goes on all the time in the General Assembly and in the Congress. The best way to get an unpopular piece of legislation passed and signed by the president or a governor is to tie it tightly to a very popular bill. When I first started my former job representing the university system in the legislative halls, I had a lot to learn. (And to be fair, I still had a lot to learn even after I had spent years on the job.) One of the hardest things for me to understand is the marketplace character of the legislature. What do I mean? Simply this: It is where a lot of trading goes on. When a legislator or a lobbyist wants to get something done, he or she quickly finds out that it will not automatically happen just because it is a good idea. It usually takes some trading. Here is an example. When the legislature gives inflationary increases to the pensions of state workers, it regularly makes similar adjustments for the faculty members...

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“They are trying to eat Big Bird”

The hundreds of William Friday’s friends and fans who gathered to hear him speak last week might not have guessed that the institutions he worked so hard to build were threatened by the just-released legislative budget proposals. But he gave them a big clue when he opened his remarks with, “They are trying to eat Big Bird.”   The luncheon gathering, hosted by UNC-TV, celebrated the 40th anniversary of Friday’s television program, “North Carolina People,” and the approximately 2,000 people who have been his guests, one of them every week on UNC-TV since 1971.   Friday is 90 years old. So people are wondering how much longer the program will continue. But, as Friday has scaled back some activities, his enjoyment of and commitment to the program has increased. Folks at UNC-TV say that they are already planning for a 45th anniversary party five years from now.   But it was not always that way. Friday told his audience that it all started when his friend and colleague Jay Jenkins persuaded him, over his objections, to host a program with four living governors. That program was a success. Jenkins and UNC-TV director John Young pushed him to do a one-on-one interview. He did, and did it again and again every week, ever since. His comments last week were vintage “Bill Friday,” self deprecating and so respectful of the people...

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