Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Brooklyn Decker Is the 'New Girl'

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 1/29/2013 No comments
Model-turned-actress Brooklyn Decker guest stars on tonight's episode of New Girl at 9 p.m. on FOX. While the Matthews native's recent acting roles have been in movies--What to Expect When You're Expecting, Battleship, and Just Go With It--not only will this gig be a good boost to her IMDB because New Girl is a hit show, it also appears that the role will allow her to display her sexy-comedic side, which (male) audiences usually like. Olivia Munn recently had a multiple-episode arc on the show, playing Nick's love interest.

I've been a fan of New Girl since it debuted in fall 2011 (how can you not love anything starring Zooey Deschanel), and when The Mindy Project debuted this season in the time slot behind it, Tuesdays 9-10 p.m. became one of my favorite blocks of TV programming.

In tonight's episode, Brooklyn plays Holly, while Nick and Schmidt compete for her attention. As the episode progresses, some stripping ensues (#MustSeeTV). Brooklyn talks about her role, and how big of a fan of the show she is, in a TV Guide interview.

You can watch a couple of sneak peeks of the episode below (or click here and here).

Remember a couple of weeks ago when the 2013 Charlotte No Pants Light Rail Ride took place, inspired by the annual, NYC-based No Pants Subway Ride? Well, the Charlotte organizers have released the video recapping their inaugural event. I didn't spot anyone that I know personally, but they had a pretty good turnout. I expect the crowd will only get larger if they decide to do it here annually.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Since opening in the summer of 2011, UNC Charlotte Center City has become not only an educational extension of the College of Arts + Architecture from the UNC Charlotte main campus in north Charlotte, it's become a cultural gem in Uptown. The leaders at the 12-story building, which resembles a stack of books, have done a great job of opening its doors to the community. Donell Stines-Jones, community outreach coordinator at UNC Charlotte Center City, and Crista Cammaroto, director of galleries for the College of Arts + Architecture, are two of the people most responsible for the great art exhibits and cultural events that have been featured there over the last year and a half. I had the privilege of partnering with them on an event in September on behalf of the Hip Hop Caucus-Charlotte.

UNC Charlotte Center City, at the corner of E. Ninth and N. Brevard streets in Uptown.
Credit: facebook.com/UncCharlotteCenterCity

Visit the UNC Charlotte Center City online calendar of events, http://centercity.uncc.edu/calendar, featuring lectures, film showcases, classical music concerts, art exhibits, and more, many of which are free and open to the public. And below is a recent video that highlights "The Arts at UNC Charlotte Center City."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

American Idol producers along with host Ryan Seacrest came to Charlotte last June, when thousands of hopefuls auditioned at Time Warner Cable Arena for a chance to compete during the 2013 season of the reality singing competition television show. As far as I know, it was business as usual. But when American Idol returned in October for the second round of Charlotte auditions, during which the celebrity judges panel of Randy Jackson, Keith Urban, Mariah Carey, and Nicki Minaj set up shop at Charlotte Motor Speedway, all hell broke loose. And that isn't just a figure of speech in this case.

American Idol Charlotte and Baton Rouge auditions promo. Credit: americanidol.com

TMZ obtained cell phone video footage (about a minute long) back then of Nicki and Mariah engaging in a brutal shouting match, led by Nicki's repeated profanity. The bickering between the two divas that TV audiences saw last week during the season premiere, pales in comparison to what took place during the Charlotte auditions. After months of speculation and media and tabloid buildup of the Nicki-Mariah feud, the question now is, how much will American Idol reveal when the Charlotte auditions air tonight at 8 p.m. on FOX? Guess you'll have to tune in to see.

You might also want to check out Nicki and Mariah's tweets to see if they have any comments during and after tonight's episode.
"Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber," it is believed to have been said by Greek philosopher Plato more than 2000 years ago. He truly was a genius to have foreseen the world of politics we live in today. I write a lot, as my profession requires, and I have strong views on things, which my blogs afford me the opportunity to express. And while I cover politics among the many different topics I write about, I don't engage in political rhetoric, nor do I challenge others on their political views (I'm not FOX News or MSNBC). Yet, I'm more intrigued by politics today than ever.

I've long been a news junkie, since I became engrossed in my courses at the J-School at the University of South Carolina more than a decade ago. But it was when I began covering the 2012 Democratic National Convention that my interest in politics reached new heights. As you might have seen me reference before, I wrote "The DNC In The CLT" blog for Charlotte magazine for an entire year, from September 2011 to September 2012. It was a tremendous experience for the city of Charlotte to host the DNC, as well as for us local journalists who jumped at every press release and announcement from the Democratic National Convention Committee, which was comprised of  a couple hundred staffers, many of whom had relocated to Charlotte from other parts of the country and lived here for more than a year, and from the Charlotte in 2012 Convention Host Committee, which were the mostly-local officials. All things considered, they put on a great convention (my recap), regardless of whether you supported their renomination of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

President Obama being sworn in Monday at the inauguration. Credit: facebook.com/barackobama

Over the last few weeks, I received daily emailed press releases from the press office of the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Committee, just as I had for months from the DNCC and Charlotte in 2012. It made me miss those days of Charlotte being a pivotal part of the national political landscape. Reading the PIC announcements of committee co-chairs, guest speakers and performers, special events, parties, and galas, and high-profile politician and celebrity attendance (including many who came to Charlotte for the DNC), only reminded me how special an opportunity it was for Charlotte to have played a central role in the presidential election process.

The way I see it, there were three key components of the 2012 election, in terms of milestone events: the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in September (and Republican National Convention in Tampa in August), the presidential election in November, and this week's 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C.

I feel about the entire 2012 election cycle the way President Obama felt about the inauguration:

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

While big corporations shell out millions of dollars for TV commercials to air during the Super Bowl each year (30-second spots are selling for as much as $4 million this time), over the last few years some of the funniest and most talked about commercials have been created by individuals who've competed in the annual contest put on by Doritos. (Remember last year's winner "Man's Best Friend.") The tortilla chip-maker once again gave fans the opportunity to create a funny, 30-second commercial for a chance for it to air on CBS during the Super Bowl on February 3, and a shot at the $1 million grand prize. It's down to five finalists in the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest and one of the creators is Charlotte native Mark Freiburger.

Mark, a filmmaker who now resides in the Los Angeles area, created a commercial titled "Fashionista Daddy." In it, a father is walking out of the house to go play football with his buddies, but he's stopped by his daughter who asks him to play princess dress-up with her. She tempts him with a bag of Doritos, and the comical actions ensue. 

You can vote for "Fashionista Daddy" or any of the five finalists twice per day (once on your computer and once on your mobile device/tablet) until January 28, and watch each of the videos by visiting www.crashthesuperbowl.com.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Even though we're less than one month into the winter season, over the weekend you would've thought it was spring in Charlotte. Saturday and Sunday each surpassed 70 degrees, and I know a lot of people took advantage of the great weather.

Personally, Andrea and I went hiking at Crowders Mountain State Park in Kings Mountain on Saturday. She'd gone a few times before, but this was my first time. It was obvious that the unseasonably warm weather had brought out plenty of hikers, as the trails were busy with people of all ages, including many with their children and dogs. But if you're going to climb to the top of the mountain, which we did, prepare for a workout. It was worth the burn in my legs to enjoy the fresh air and to be able to look out over several surrounding cities and towns from the mountaintop.

After about two hours on the trail, we'd certainly worked up an appetite. Crowders Mountain is just outside of Gastonia and since we'd have to pass through Gastonia en route back to Charlotte, we decided to find a place there for a late lunch/early dinner. Franklin Boulevard in Gastonia is home to a lot of retail stores and restaurants--you'll actually find some locations of franchises we don't have in Charlotte. But if I was going to eat in Gastonia on a rare occasion, I didn't want it to be at some big chain restaurant.

There are several Mexican restaurants along Franklin Boulevard, and we sort of picked one out of the hat and went to Azteca Mexican Restaurant (1863 W. Franklin Blvd.). It was a good choice, as we encountered good food, good margaritas, and friendly service. To elaborate, I had the largest margarita I'd ever been served (that's the normal size, and it costs only $7.25) followed by one of the largest dinner plates I'd ever seen.

A margarita fit for an Aztec king.

Complimentary chips and salsa.

Two tacos and an enchilada with rice and re-fried beans.

This cool painting was on the wall above our booth.

There are three other locations of Azteca Mexican Restaurant in the area: two in Charlotte--one on Woodlawn Road and one in north Charlotte--and a Matthews location. Visit aztecarestaurantcharlotte.com for more details.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Charlotte is getting in on a pantless act this Sunday by participating in the 12th Annual No Pants Subway Ride, which was founded by Improv Everywhere in New York City. According to the NYC organizers, last year nearly 4,000 people participated in New York, and tens of thousands more participated in 59 cities in 27 countries around the world.

As far as I know, this will be Charlotte's first year. Here's a brief rundown of what's going down this Sunday, January 13 on Charlotte's light rail, if you want to participate.

Meet at the LYNX Blue Line Scaleybark Station (3750 South Blvd.), which is a park and ride stop, at 3 p.m. Bring a backpack or purse to put your pants in, and purchase a light rail ticket. You're advised to wear normal clothes and undergarments (this is not a streaking event), and lucky for you Charlotte's weather for Sunday is forecast to be an unseasonably warm high of 73 degrees. The participants will board the 3:22 p.m. train. When you take off your pants, you're supposed to act nonchalant and pretend as if you don't know anyone else who's taken off their pants or why you all are doing it. After your group has successfully dropped-trou and ridden the light rail several miles to Uptown, you'll hop back on and head to South End to celebrate at Common Market (1515 S. Tryon St.), shortly after 4 p.m.

Get complete details about the 2013 Charlotte No Pants Light Rail Ride at www.tinyurl.com/CLTNoPants. And follow along on Twitter using the #CLTNoPants hashtag.

Below are two videos of Improv Everywhere's successful run in the pantless series. The first describes how the event got started in 2002, and the second video recaps last year's event.

Monday, January 7, 2013

I added Cinemax to my premium cable TV lineup last week, so for the last several days I've seen previews for the network's new series Banshee, which premieres this Friday, January 11 at 10 p.m. The show is described as: "From the creator of True Blood, Banshee stars Antony Starr as Lucas Hood, an ex-con and master thief who assumes the identity of the sheriff of Banshee, Pennsylvania, where he continues his criminal activities, even as he’s hunted by the shadowy gangsters he betrayed years earlier." The series also stars Ivana Milicevic, Ben Cross, Frankie Faison, Ulrich Thomsen, and Lili Simmons.

Sometimes these action-crime dramas become television hits, and sometimes they only last one season. But I'm tuning in each week specifically to see if and when I spot scenes of Charlotte, and hopefully I become a fan of the show in the process. That's one of the things I enjoy about watching Homeland, in addition to it being one of the best shows on TV. Banshee began production in the Charlotte area last spring and, according to its local casting Facebook page, looks like filming continued here throughout the summer. Similar to Homeland where Charlotte plays the role of Washington, D.C., in Banshee the Charlotte area plays the fictional small town of Banshee, Pennsylvania.

In the trailer for Banshee, I spotted the Levine Avenue of the Arts in Uptown at the 1:24 mark. It's a quick snippet of a police shootout scene, and you can see the Mint Museum sign on the right and the historic St. Peter's Catholic Church across the street.


For more details on Banshee, visit www.cinemax.com/banshee, and also check out the cool Gif Shop.

Small towns in the Charlotte area are more prominently used than the Queen City itself in this season of Banshee. "Five towns make Banshee: Monroe, Mooresville, Lincolnton, Gastonia, and Waxhaw," Banshee directing show runner Greg Yaitanes told The Charlotte Observer. "No one town captured everything that Banshee was, but everything existed in that area, and it allowed us to go to a lot of different places and make that town." Additionally, a local watering hole on Old Statesville Road in north Charlotte is used, and sets for select interiors were built on a sound stage in warehouses along Reames Road in Charlotte.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The University of South Carolina Gamecocks football team made all of us alumni extremely proud with an exciting 33-28 victory over the Michigan Wolverines in yesterday's Outback Bowl. The Gamecocks finished the season with an 11-2 record, making it back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time in school history (last season was the first time the football program had ever won 11 games in a season). To understand how happy I am, let me put it into perspective. The Gamecocks have wrapped up two consecutive 11-2 seasons. When I was a student at South Carolina, my freshman year in 1998, the football team had a 1-10 record (under head coach Brad Scott), and in 1999 we finished 0-11 (under head coach Lou Holtz). The records have almost completely reversed!

The Gamecocks celebrate their 2013 Outback Bowl victory Tuesday.
Credit: gamecocksonline.com

Holtz, who inherited a struggling team, would go on to give us exciting seasons during my last two years at school, finishing 8-4 and 9-3 during the 2000 and 2001 seasons (he also delivered the commencement speech at my graduation in spring 2002). But he was never able to build a dominant football program.

Then came along the hiring of Steve Spurrier to replace Holtz in 2005. Spurrier has produced winning records (and one .500 season in 2007) during each of his eight seasons at South Carolina. The first few years were above average, usually equaling about seven victories a season. But over the last three seasons, Spurrier has built a powerhouse football program: 9 wins in 2010, including an SEC Eastern Division Championship, and, as I previously stated, 11 wins each in 2011 and 2012.

Spurrier has created this success by making the University of South Carolina a place where many of the top high school football players in the country want to go. And he's especially succeeded in attracting the top in-state talent. When I was growing up in South Carolina, most of the top football players from the state would choose the other Southern schools like Florida, Florida State, Tennessee, LSU, Georgia, and Auburn. And if they stayed in state, they were most likely to choose Clemson. But not anymore. Spurrier, for example, has recruited four out of the last five South Carolina Mr. Football Award winners, an honor given to the top high school football player in the state (announced each December at the conclusion of the high school season). Four in a row became Gamecocks—2008 Mr. Football Award winner, cornerback Stephon Gilmore; 2009 winner, running back Marcus Lattimore; 2010 winner, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney; and 2011 winner, wide receiver Shaq Roland—until the 2012 winner, wide receiver/running back Tramel Terry signed with Georgia last month (there's still time for him to come to his senses though). Gilmore, Lattimore, and Clowney each have become/became among the top players in college football in their positions.

And it's with Clowney that I will end this boasting. The Rock Hill native, whose signing less than two years ago was the highlight of my Valentine's Day wish, will go into the 2013 season as the best defensive player in college football and will be a Heisman Trophy favorite. He solidified that with his tenacious play throughout the 2012 season, and he summed it up in a single play in the Outback Bowl yesterday.

In the fourth quarter, with South Carolina trailing Michigan by one point, and after a controversial first down call by the officials that went in favor of the Wolverines, Clowney took matters into his own hands, literally, with a ferocious, break-neck speed, helmet-flying-off tackle on running back Vincent Smith that caused a fumble that he also picked up with one hand. The play quickly became an Internet sensation, with SB Nation posting a gif of the sequence within minutes of it happening.

You can watch video of Clowney's unbelievable play.

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