Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Some thoughts on Bruton, Slick Ric

I'm not sure I've ever seen a better "you write the caption" photo than the one on the front page of today's paper:

"My name is Bruton Smith. I just whined and threatened my way to 80 million bucks of government incentives. I'm gonna make a ton of money and the taxpayers are gonna foot the bill! It's great to be a billionaire! Whee!!!"

Three quick things before this story mercifully goes away:

1. Ronald Reagan used to talk about "welfare queens." So does Bruton qualify as a welfare king?

2. When Mecklenburg County spent millions of bucks on the Bobcats Arena, it was against the will of a lot of voters. But at least they got to vote.

3. How, exactly, is what Bruton did any different from what George Shinn did?


This might be the saddest paragraph I've written in a month. Ric Flair wrestled on the WWE card in Charlotte last night. He appears to have a comb-over.

Go here and skip to the second photo. On second thought, don't. It's too depressing.

My dad and I bonded many an hour over Mid-Atlantic Wrestling on TV. My athletic role models growing up were Hank Aaron, Dr. J and Ricky Steamboat. Which probably explains a lot. I never loved Ric Flair -- mainly because he was always the bad guy -- but even as a kid I understood how special he was. No one in has ever been so good on the mic AND in the ring. Ric Flair is, without a doubt, the greatest wrestler of all time.

So it is with love and respect that I say this: I hope he retires. Soon.

Last night he came to the ring in a suit, supposedly to announce his retirement in front of the hometown fans. But instead -- wrestling is full of swerves -- he vowed that he'd NEVER retire. Then the evil CEO Vince McMahon came out to say that the next time Ric loses, his career is over. Then he had to face WWE champ Randy Orton. Of course Flair won (although it wasn't for the title). He finished Orton off with a bolo punch to the gonads, then pulled the trunks for the pin.

I have the 3-DVD Ric Flair collection, so I can say this with some authority: It was a horrible match.

In the spirit of the season, I'll throw out this out there for free -- a storyline that will let Ric go out with dignity and style.

He announces that he's going to make one last run for the world title. Evil Vince McMahon makes him start at the bottom, wrestling the worst of the roster. He has trouble beating even those guys. (Remember, one loss and his career is over.)

But he works his way up the ladder, getting stronger with every win. Every so often we see a training video of Ric getting into peak shape for this one last run and talking about how much the title means to him. Through all the obstacles -- interference from the champ, a hand-picked thug brought in to stop him -- he keeps winning.

Finally, on pay-per-view, Flair gets his last title shot. And at the end of a grueling match, after escaping sure defeat half a dozen times, he locks in the Figure Four for the improbable win. (Wrestling is full of improbabilities.)

The next night on TV, he comes out to a standing ovation. He gives a tearful speech. And then he hangs it up, retiring as champion.

After that he can wear his hair any way he wants.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Give thanks here

This is sort of an open thread to say whatever you're thankful for this year. I'll start, briefly:

I'm thankful for Alix, my favorite wife of all time. I'm thankful for Fred, the best dog there ever was. I'm thankful for all our family and friends -- we both hit the lottery on those.

I'm thankful for the Tosco Music Party and late-night omelets at the Landmark and cool summer mornings on the front porch.

I'm thankful for readers.

And I'm thankful for Charlotte, which used to be the place where we lived, but over the years has turned into our home.

I'm thankful for about six million other things too, but the rest of this space is for y'all. Jump in and fill it up. And have a great Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

First impressions of the Lynx

This morning the Charlotte transit honchos had a media day so newsfolks could ride the Lynx train and, of course, give it some publicity. Because you probably didn't know that we had a new light-rail line about to open.

In other breaking news, the Panthers are pretty bad this year.

I'll have a column Sunday that takes more of a big-picture look at what light rail means to Charlotte. But in the meantime here are some quick first thoughts:

-- They're going to be working on the line right up until opening day a week from Saturday. We couldn't go all the way uptown today because crews were still doing electrical work.

-- The seats are comfortable and roomy, although a few spots -- at the front end of the car and right by the doors -- might be a squeeze for the big-n-tall among us.

-- There are 15 stops, so there's not much room to pick up speed, but the trains can go 55 mph and there's some open space on the south end of the line. I was surprised how fast the train was moving in a couple of spots.

-- Dress warm. The stations are open-air and if the wind's cutting -- like it was this morning -- there's nowhere to hide from it while you wait.

-- CATS must have outsourced the recorded voice that announces the stations. As we approached the Tyvola Road station, the friendly voice told us we were approaching "TIV-uh-luh." (In case you just moved here, it's "ty-VOLE-uh.") Within seconds, one of the honchos was calling the office: "Car 103 is still saying 'TIV-uh-luh.'"

Maybe we should just leave it. Great way to confuse the tourists.

So here's a quick poll about light rail. Are you inclined to:

1. Ride a lot to commute to work
2. Ride a lot for pleasure (Panthers games, etc.)
3. Ride sometimes
4. Ride occasionally
5. Never ride because you don't need it
6. Never ride out of principle (we're spending too much money on it, etc.)

Have at it in the comments. We'll have much more on the Lynx in the paper and online this weekend. Click here for a downloadable Lynx station guide.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Do election calls work?

It's 5 p.m. on Election Day and the phone rings -- a very nice woman named Patricia, who is supporting the school bonds and just wanted me to know I still had time to get out and vote. This marks the last of approximately 62,584 phone calls we got at our house this election season. I'm starting to hear Robin Hayes' voice in my sleep. Believe me, of all the voices I would like to hear in my sleep, Robin Hayes' does not make the list.

That was on top of the vote-for-me cards we got every day in the mail -- an identical pair for each candidate because my wife and I were on the mailing lists separately. If we'd stacked all the cards they would've been three feet high, or nearly half as high as the stack of cards begging us to get Time Warner digital phone service.

We'd listen to a couple of the calls on our answering machine early on, but there were so many toward the end that we deleted the message as soon as we heard a recorded voice. It's possible we won $10 million in a sweepstakes and deleted the call. We can live with that as long as we don't have to hear the mayor checking in with us again.

I do give props to City Council candidate David Romero, who at least called in person. We chatted for a good 20 seconds. I wanted to get off the phone before he offered to come cook us supper.

Here's my question: Does any of this stuff work? Did you learn anything about the candidates or the issues from the phone calls and mailers? Did any of this stuff make you vote a different way? Or do you wish there was a do-not-call list for politicians? Opine in the comments below.

(And by the way, if you're reading this before 7:30 p.m., Patricia's right -- there's still time to vote.)