Friday, March 30, 2012

UPDATE: Charlotte advertising agency BooneOakley makes its debut on episode four of The Pitch, Sunday, May 13, 11 p.m. on AMC, competing against New York agency Conversation.

I'm now hooked on Mad Men. The show premiered its fifth season on AMC last Sunday, and I'm ashamed to say that was the first time I've seen it. Now I'm racing to play catch up by watching past episodes--it would take too long to go all the way back to the beginning, so I'm starting with season three, which I should have completed by the end of the weekend. Then I'll watch season four, and hopefully in a couple of weeks I'll be able to start watching season five episodes as they air.

While Mad Men is AMC's hit, award-winning show about a fictional New York advertising agency in the 1960s, the network is now trying its hand with The Pitch, a new show based on real-life ad agencies. Here's how the network describes the show, which premieres April 30:
The Pitch offers viewers an intense, gripping, never-before-seen glimpse inside America’s top ad agencies. Each week watch two agencies as they compete to win a new client the only way they can: by going head-to-head in a cut-throat, winner-takes-all showdown, a presentation known as The Pitch. With only seven days to prepare, the pressure to perform is intense. The whining, the brainstorming, the blue-sky thinking: it’s all here as the teams work around the clock and pray for the moment of inspiration that will win them the job and keep their companies alive. The drama is real, the stakes are high, and the clock is ticking.
Reportedly, there are 15 ad agencies from all over the country competing on the show. Two are from North Carolina: BooneOakley from Charlotte and McKinney from Durham. From its office in South End,  BooneOakley  has garnered national acclaim for its advertising campaigns for Charlotte-based clients Bojangles' and Mint Museum, among other national brands.

Members of the BooneOakley team. Credit:

Read these news articles for more details on the show: The New York Times and Ad Week. You can also watch the trailer below.

If your interest is piqued, you don't have to wait a month to see more. A sneak preview of episode one of The Pitch is scheduled to air Sunday, April 8 at 11 p.m., following a new episode of Mad Men.

Follow The Pitch on Twitter @ThePitch_AMC and like its Facebook page at

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Over the last few years, Johnson C. Smith University, led by its president Dr. Ronald L. Carter, has worked hard on initiating revitalization efforts of the community where the university sits. Pegged as the Northwest Corridor, including a unique intersection where Beatties Ford Road, West Trade Street, West Fifth Street, and Rozzelles Ferry Road all meet, just outside of Uptown, the impact of JCSU's efforts are starting to come to light—literally. The latest is “Passing Through Light,” a new work of public art using LED technology that's located at the I-77 and West Trade Street underpass.

Lighting the underpass was a priority for Dr. Carter to make it safer for pedestrians and students, and also to make it more visually appealing to the many motorists who drive through it each day. For too long, the area around the university was seemingly neglected by the city, when it has both a valuable history and is only a mile from thriving Uptown complexes like Gateway Village, which is home to Johnson & Wales University, Bank of America offices, and numerous other corporate tenants.

"Passing Through Light" was made possible by funding from JCSU and the City of Charlotte. The project was also supported by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Art Commission, which is managed by the Arts & Science Council. Through this public/private partnership, they commissioned Austrian artist Erwin Redl to create the artwork that consists of three sequences of light that slowly loop through a color gradient. If it looks familiar, it's because Redl also created the ribbons of lights that wrap around the exterior of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which opened in Uptown nearly two years ago.

In this video, WFAE takes you inside the LED-lit public art and talks to the artist and other parties involved.

The university continues to forge ahead on previously announced projects in the neighborhood, such as Mosaic Village. I ran into Dr. Carter at an event a few weeks ago and he was excited about the progress they've made.

Saturday, March 31
JCSU is giving community members the opportunity to voice their opinions and share ideas about the future of the Northwest Corridor at the Second Annual Indaba Community Forum on Saturday, March 31. The free event will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. inside Grimes Lounge in the Mary Joyce Taylor Crisp Student Union on campus (100 Beatties Ford Road), and will include breakfast and lunch. Topics to be discussed regarding the Northwest Corridor are: economic development, land use planning, education, small business development, and community leadership.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

If you know nothing else about The Hunger Games, you likely at least know that the highly anticipated movie, based on the hugely successful books, opens in theaters this Friday. The movie was filmed entirely in North Carolina, including cities such as Charlotte, Concord, and Asheville and small towns like Hildebran and Shelby. In the March issue of Charlotte magazine, I wrote about the local locations The Hunger Games production used and how the movie's projected box office revenue stacks up against other movies filmed in Charlotte.

This scene from The Hunger Games was likely filmed inside one of the Uptown Charlotte locations. Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks, left), Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson, center), and Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, right).
Credit: Murray Close/

Now that the premiere of the movie is upon us--some lucky Charlotteans are being treated to an advance screening this evening--the buzz and media coverage surrounding The Hunger Games are at a fever pitch. And a lot of it is putting the spotlight on North Carolina. Below are some of the news links from the past few days:

Because of all the hype and local ties, I plan to go see The Hunger Games some time within the first two weeks. If you haven't already purchased advance tickets, you can forget about seeing it during this opening weekend. Fandango announced yesterday that the movie has sold more advance tickets than any other non-sequel ever, and that more than 2,000 showtimes have sold out. The Hunger Games is projected to bring in somewhere between $100 million and $140 million this weekend.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

This March Madness has been insane, right? Hold your head up Duke and Mizzou fans. Well, I've spent most of this weekend in what we affectionately call "the country," which is my mama's house in Rembert, SC, where I grew up. Today after church, one of my older cousins came by my mom's house. Ran (short for Randolph) is almost 70 years old, but he's one of the coolest dudes I know. He did what several of my older family members have done--born and raised in the South, migrated to the North in the 1960s and '70s, worked there for 30 or so years, retired with good pensions, then moved back down to their hometowns in the South where they can live very comfortably (NYC and Philly pensions go a long way in SC). So during Ran's visit, he was telling me about his grandson, Durrell Watson, who's a few years younger than me but I don't think I've ever met, unless it was when we were little kids and I don't remember. Ran had me call his daughter, who's Durrell's mother, and we started having a great conversation, which has led to me now connecting to some family members on Facebook who I've only vaguely known. They're all really proud of Durrell, who's appeared in some television commercials recently, including this one by Powerade. It's called "The Dance," and the sports drink company released it about a week and a half ago, just in time for the NCAA Tournament. Dime Magazine called it "The Best March Madness Commercial You'll See this Year." Durrell is one of the ball players in the commercial.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rumors and speculation of a potential merger between US Airways and American Airlines have been running rampant over the last couple of months. It's an important topic locally because Charlotte Douglas International Airport is US Airways' largest hub, and if US would to merge with American, which also flies out of CLT, there are concerns this could mean fewer flights and higher prices.

But it's hard to tell who's on first. In a January Charlotte Observer story, US Airways' CEO said his company is exploring a merger with American. But a week later, the Observer reported American's CEO essentially saying don't hold your breath. Then, from outside analysts there's been tons of speculation. The most recent fuel came when uncovered Sunday that US Airways had purchased a bunch of domain names like and that seem to indicate plans for a merger. The Associated Press confirmed the domain purchases today, after speaking with a US Airways rep who said the company bought the domain names to prevent anyone else from buying them. A spokesman for American said his airline knew nothing about the domain names.

So, the merger might never happen, and might not actually be pursued much by either party (or perhaps not by one side). In the video below, Marek Fuchs, from TheStreet, breaks down how such rumors run wild, thanks largely to the media.

Friday, March 9, 2012

See the press release below and please support this important cause.

RAIN’s Trinity Project, The Red Pump Project, and CW Williams Community Health Center invite mothers, daughters, and girlfriends of the Queen City to come out for free self-empowerment, HIV/AIDS awareness and education workshops, and HIV/AIDS testing Saturday, March 10 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. at First United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, 501 N. Tryon Street (click here to register). In addition to scheduled workshops, attendees will be motivated by the words of keynote speaker Kimberly Jowers, author of The Heart of Perfecting My Space (PMS)!

Ladies attending are encouraged to wear (or bring) a pair of red pumps to enter the Red Pump Shoe Contest, hosted by The Red Pump Project, a nonprofit organization that raises awareness and education about HIV/AIDS specifically aimed at women and girls. Photos of those in the contest will be posted on The Red Pump Project’s Facebook page. The Red Pump Project’s Facebook friends will vote for their favorite pair of pumps and the top five with the most likes will participate in the Red Carpet Walk Off. The crowd will choose the final winner, who will receive a Red Pump Gift Pack.

“HIV/AIDS is a serious public health issue,” said Geneva Galloway program director of Community Services at RAIN. “More importantly, it is a serious health issue for women, particularly women of color.” 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2009, 57 percent of total new HIV infections among women were among black women and 18 percent were in Latina women. The rate of new HIV infections among black women was 15 times as high as that of white women and more than 3 times as high as that of Latina women during that year. The reasons why black and Latina women are more affected by HIV and AIDS than that of other racial and ethnic groups are not directly related to race or ethnicity, but rather to the circumstances that place these women and girls at greater risk of becoming infected with HIV. These circumstances may include stigma, fear, discrimination, and limited access to high-quality health care.

“Limited access to high-quality health care plays a major role in why minority women are impacted by the effects of HIV/AIDS at higher rates,” said Elizabeth Kirk, program manager for CW Williams’ HIV/AIDS Program. “Many times some providers will not provide care for those infected with HIV/AIDS. CW Williams provides comprehensive health care for women, infants, children, and youth who are infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. We provide services to those with and without health insurance, making sure they receive comprehensive quality primary and infectious disease care.”

CW Williams will be on-site to provide information on their HIV/AIDS Program and other health services. 

This event is just one of many that will be held around the country to honor National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on March 10, a national awareness day coordinated by the Office on Women’s Health (OWH), within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its goal is to encourage people to take action in the fight against HIV/AIDS and raise awareness of its impact on women and girls. This National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, OWH is partnering with the Greater Than AIDS campaign and asking, “What’s your deciding moment?” According to Greater Than AIDS, deciding moments are everyday opportunities to take action against HIV, whether it is getting tested, talking with friends and family, using condoms, practicing abstinence, or taking medications as directed.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Hip Hop Caucus' Charlotte Leadership Committee is engaging the community in a social media campaign today to bring awareness to protecting voting rights and the importance of registering to vote. If you're on Twitter, please follow hashtags #RespectMyVote and #Selma and tweet your support (even if you don't have a Twitter account you can click on the links and read what's being said). You can also read about the effort in an article published today by

The Hip Hop Caucus is a national nonprofit organization, based in Washington D.C. and led by Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., with more than 650,000 supporters across all 50 states. Respect My Vote is its nonpartisan voter registration, mobilization, and education campaign targeting young people between the ages of 18 and 40. In regards to the Selma hashtag, today, March 7, is the anniversary of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March, also known as Bloody Sunday, when several hundred voting rights activists and Civil Rights leaders attempted a 54-mile march but were met with force and brutality by the police. The efforts of these brave souls, however, would help lead to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Honoring important historical events such as this isn't about opening old wounds or harping on our country's ugly past of race relations. Instead it's about reminding young people today not to take our liberties, freedoms, and rights for granted because people literally died for them. In regards to voting rights in particular, we should both understand the importance of voting and educate ourselves on who and what we're voting for: North Carolina's Primary is May 8; get Charlotte/Mecklenburg County info here.

Also, on this week's episode of 282, one of our guests is Rod Garvin, member of the Hip Hop Caucus Charlotte Leadership Committee. He talks about honoring the Selma event and details the national 2012 Respect My Vote campaign that's launching April 4. (In the episode we also talk about the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners upcoming vacant three at-large seats with guest Amanda Raymond from the League of Women Voters. But it isn't all politics this week--we also feature John Morgan, who's leading an effort to replace the Bobcats name and bring the Hornets mascot back to Charlotte's NBA team).

In coming weeks, I'll provide more details on how you can get involved with the Respect My Vote campaign in Charlotte.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

After a light week in which they played two road games while having five days off sprinkled in (some off days due to the NBA All Star Game), the Charlotte Bobcats return home this Sunday for the first of four home games next week. The New Jersey Nets come in on Sunday, Orlando Magic Tuesday, Utah Jazz Wednesday, Nets again Friday; then the Bobcats hit the road next Saturday to play the Oklahoma City Thunder. This is likely the busiest week the Bobcats have this season, particularly with four home games, so it makes perfect sense that the team is holding an Open House this Sunday, March 4, 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., at Time Warner Cable Arena, free and open to the public. Allow them to reintroduce themselves. RSVP by clicking here.

Each person who attends the Open House will receive a free ticket to attend the 6 p.m. game against the Nets later that evening. You could make it an all-day family outing for free (that's different from an all-day family-free outing, which is what I tend to have...LOL). If you wanna kill some time in between the end of Open House and start of the game, you can visit Levine Museum of the New South, which is free on Sundays and is only a few blocks away. Plus, this is a Bank of America "Museums on Us" weekend, so if you have a BofA card you can visit any of these six Charlotte museums for free today and tomorrow: Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, Levine Museum of the New South, Mint Museum Randolph, and Mint Museum Uptown.

Also regarding the Bobcats, their second match-up against the Nets next week is one of three games this month in which the franchise will pay tribute to the Carolina Cougars by wearing throwback uniforms. The Cougars played in North Carolina as part of the American Basketball Association from 1969 to 1974. They were a "regional team," playing their home games in Greensboro (where they were based), Charlotte, and Raleigh. In games they've dubbed Hardwood Classics, the Bobcats will wear Cougar uniforms March 9 against the Nets, March 23 against the Milwaukee Bucks, and March 30 against the Denver Nuggets.

But this is what I'm most fond of regarding the homage to the Cougars:

The Lady Cats are Cougars too (I kid with the pun). 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

In the March issue of Lake Norman Magazine, you'll find a home renovation story I wrote, titled "Sophisticated Sanctuary." The work was done by Starr Miller Interior Design, and in early January, Starr took me on a tour of the house. You can read the story and see the photos and understand how posh the place is--and this just focuses on about a fourth of the house without even detailing the immaculately landscaped yard and an outdoor living space that Hugh Hefner would approve of.

But there's one thing in particular I'd like to point out in this picture below from inside the house. The flatscreen TV is behind/inside the wall mirror, and the speakers are hidden in the wall as well. It all comes to life with a remote control that looks like a mini-keyboard. Ball so hard.

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