Amber Nimocks

Producer, "The State of Things"

Amber Nimocks came to The State of Things in January 2009. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a survivor of 15 years in the newspaper business. As a reporter and editor, her posts have included such exotic locales as her hometown of Fayetteville, Robeson County, Wilmington, Raleigh and Fort Worth, Texas.

In her spare time she drinks wine and writes about it for The News & Observer, eats and writes about it for Edible Piedmont, and travels and writes about it for anyone who’s interested. She lives with her husband, her son and two dogs in downtown Raleigh.

Ways to Connect

Before he died last year, Tom Weber spent close to two decades collecting stories about the people who lived in what was once Umstead State Park. A new book called "Stories in Stone" (The Umstead Coalition/2011) collects these oral histories, pictures and maps to paint a picture of what life was like for those who lived along the banks of Crabtree Creek long before the coming of Interstate 40 or Raleigh Durham International Airport.

In 2009, Wake County voters elected a new Republican majority to the county school board. Those board members made it their mission to dismantle a long-standing school assignment plan that emphasized socio-economic diversity. In the ensuing two years, the Wake County school board has seen the resignation of its old superintendent, the hiring of a new one and the ongoing reconfiguration of its assignment plan. Board members have also seen themselves on the national news as police broke up protests at school board meetings and led opponents away in handcuffs.

ACC Logo
Atlantic Coast Conference

The Atlantic Coast Conference recently announced a plan to add Syracuse University and the University of Pittsburgh to its ever-growing roster of schools. Proponents say growth is inevitable, as conferences around the country expand to maximize television contract money. Detractors say more schools means less emphasis on tradition, and that student athletes get lost in the shuffle.

In his new novel, "Nightwoods" (Random House/2011), acclaimed writer Charles Frazier returns to the familiar setting of North Carolina's Appalachian mountains. This time, the action takes place in the 20th century, instead of the 19th, but some familiar themes run through all of Frazier's works. As in "Cold Mountain" and "Thirteen Moons," characters are defined in part by their relationship to the land and their quest for peace in the face of violence.

Architects view the world through a much different lens than most of us. What we see as the squares and rectangles of ordinary buildings, they see as proportion used artfully and skillful design conforming to the needs of modern life. The Triangle chapter of the American Institute of Architects hopes to share this passion for design with its second tour of well-designed residences this weekend.

Main Street movie

When film crews were in Durham a couple of years ago making the movie "Main Street," crowds turned out to glimpse stars including Colin Firth, Orlando Bloom, Ellen Burstyn and Patricia Clarkson. The movie gets its local premiere tomorrow night at Durham's Carolina Theatre. Host Frank Stasio talks with Yvette Bickoff, one of the film's producers, and Reyn Bowman, former head of the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau, about the role the Bull City plays in "Main Street" and Durham's long show-biz career.

A complicated terrorism trial began unfolding in federal court in New Bern last week. Facing charges are Omar Hassan, 24, Ziyad Yaghi, 23, and Hysen Sherifi, 27. The three men are accused of belonging to a home-grown terrorist network, a web that stretches from the rural Wake County hamlet of Willow Spring to the Middle East. At the center of this web is a man named Daniel Boyd. Boyd pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and conspiring to “murder, kidnap, injure or maim” people overseas. The charges carry a possible life sentence.

The key to greater peace and health is as simple as "mindfulness" — the act of paying attention on purpose. However, practicing mindfulness isn't as simple or as easy as it sounds. Dr. Jeffrey Brantley helps patients find their way to mindful living and a stronger connection between their minds and their bodies. He is the director of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program at Duke Integrative Medicine. He is the author of a number of books on mindful living, including "Calming Your Anxious Mind: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You From Anxiety, Fear, and Panic" (New Harbinger Publications/2007) and, with co-author Wendy Millstine, the "Five Good Minutes" series (New Harbinger Publications), which offers bite-size mindfulness exercises to meet the needs of busy people. Host Frank Stasio talks with Dr. Brantley about his life and work.

Given how often we turn to The Weather Channel to find out what to wear, when to wash our cars or whether we should be evacuating in the face of a hurricane, it's hard to believe there was a time when the idea seemed like a joke. But media mogul Frank Batten believed a 24-hour weather network could both save lives and make money. Host Frank Stasio talks with author Connie Sage about Batten's life and his achievements in a new book, "Frank Batten: The Untold Story of the Founder of the Weather Channel" (University of Virginia Press/2011).

Deanna Rose

Composer and violinist Mark O'Connor's newest piece of music recounts the story of the pirate Blackbeard's most famous conquest, the frigate Queen Anne's Revenge. O'Connor was commissioned to create a new overture for the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra, which will debut the piece on Thursday as part of the 17 Days Festival.

Haitian flag

Last year's earthquake turned the eyes of the world to Haiti. In the aftermath, thousands of aid workers rushed to help Haitians whose homes and lives had been devastated, but some types of help are more effective than others. How does understanding the culture and history of a place make it easier for outsiders to aid the people in need? Host Frank Stasio poses the question to Reina Galjour, a Saxapahaw native recently returned from working as a midwife in Haiti; Bonnie Elam, president of the Raleigh-based group The Haiti Connection; Deborah Jenson, professor of French and Romance Studies at Duke University and co-Director of Duke's Haiti Lab; and writer Madison Smartt Bell, author of a trilogy of novels on Haiti's 1791 slave revolution.

James Augustus McLean was a powerful force in North Carolina's art world for most of the 20th century. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and turned down an offer to teach at the prestigious school to return to his home state. His fledgling art school in Raleigh fell victim to the Great Depression, but McLean continued to create and inspire other artists throughout North Carolina until his death in 1989.

District Court Judge Craig Brown retired in 2008 after working for decades in the Durham judicial system. He was first a criminal defense attorney, then took the bench as a district court judge. Brown's career was not without controversy. He often spoke out against the inequities he saw in the judicial system, and some of his decisions drew criticism. Throughout his career, Brown battled an auto-immune disease that eventually left him blind.

History comes alive before Tom Magnuson's eyes. All he has to do is take a walk in the woods. Manguson is a visiting scholar at the University of North Carolina’s Institute for Southern Studies, and founder of the Trading Path Association. The group trains amateur archeology and history enthusiasts how to identify potentially significant historic sites, especially in rural and suburban areas.


Before North Carolinians became Caniacs or Panthers’ fans, back when NASCAR was the only professional sports most Tar Heels cared about, the Charlotte Hornets enjoyed a few seasons in the sun. A new video game from 2K is celebrating the legacy of the 1992/93 Hornets. Host Frank Stasio talks about the new game and the old team with Owen Good, who writes about sports video games for Kotaku, the video game site of Gawker Media, and Dane Huffman, who covered the Charlotte Hornets for The News & Observer in Raleigh.

John Coltrane

In recent years, High Point, NC has come to embrace the legacy of one of its most famous former residents, jazz legend John Coltrane. This weekend, the town will host the first John Coltrane International Jazz and Blues Festival. Coltrane spent his youth in High Point, where he learned to play the clarinet and the saxophone. Host Frank Stasio talks about Coltrane's early life and his music with John Brown, director of the Duke University Jazz Program; Bruce Davis, a member of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners and co-chair of the Friends of John Coltrane committee; and Edith Brady, director of the High Point Museum.

The public mea culpa has become akin to performance art in modern times. It seems a month seldom goes by without a celebrity, public figure or politician begging for forgiveness via the mass media. Repentance and forgiveness have not always been such public, interpersonal matters, however. In the days before the Protestant Reformation, forgiveness was up to God and God alone. In her new book, "Shakespeare and the Grammar of Forgiveness" (Cornell University Press/2011), Duke University English Professor Sarah Beckwith traces the roots of our modern understanding of forgiveness to the language of William Shakespeare's later plays. Host Frank Stasio talks with Beckwith about how we say "I'm sorry."

As early as the late 1800s, the United States already had the highest rate of divorce in the world. It has pretty much maintained its status as a world leader of broken marriages ever since. The advent of no-fault divorces in the late '60s and early '70s only made things worse. Now a generation of people raised by split parents is struggling to forge their way through the uncertain bonds of matrimony. Jonathan Weiler and Anne Menkens are one couple who say they found a way to have a “good divorce.” They wrote about their efforts in a series of articles on the Huffington Post.

Katy Munger

Some fans know her as Gallagher Gray or Chaz McGhee, but those who grew up with mystery writer Katy Munger in Raleigh knew her as one of six children in a large, eccentric family that lived in Cameron Park. Her father was the longtime books editor at The News & Observer, her mother was a political activist who took her children with her to protests and marches. Munger's lively childhood has helped shaped the characters she creates in three sets of mystery series, The Hubbert and Lil books, the Casey Jones series and her latest, the Dead Detective series. Host Frank Stasio talks with Katy Munger, who now lives in Durham, about her life, her work and how her characters interact with the justice system as “The State of Things” begins its annual Law & Order Week.

In the wake of the global economic crisis, it seems Americans agree on at least one thing: the middle class is under siege. But who is the middle class? And what is it that's plaguing them?

Doris Betts

Novelist and short story author Doris Betts' enduring characters have won her favorable comparisons to Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner throughout her long career. Among those characters is Violet, the scarred heroine of "The Ugliest Pilgrim" and “Violet,” the musical that short story inspired. Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy at the Progress Energy Center in Raleigh presents "Violet" this weekend. As part of our continuing series, North Carolina Literary Lights, host Frank Stasio talks about the play with director Eric Woodall and about Betts' literary legacy with Marianne Gingher, professor of English and comparative literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Joe Flora, professor emeritus of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Lynn Veach Sadler, a Betts scholar and former vice president of Methodist University in Fayetteville.

Celia Rivenbark, one of our favorite humor columnists, is out with a new collection of essays, "You Don't Sweat Much for a Fat Girl" (St. Martin's Griffin, 2011). In it, she riffs on yoga, Twitter, sleeping hip-hop stars, cinema and, of course, Aunt Verlie.

Clyde Edgerton's new novel, "The Night Train," focuses on the transcendent power of American music as witnessed in the small, fictional North Carolina town of Starke. In the summer of 1963, protagonists Dwayne, who is white, and Larry Lime, who is African-American, strike up a friendship despite the social mores of the time. Dwayne wants to be James Brown. Larry Lime worships at the altar of Thelonius Monk.

painting by James Augustus McLean

James Augustus McLean was a powerful force in North Carolina's art world for most of the 20th century. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and turned down an offer to teach at the prestigious school to return to his home state. His fledgling art school in Raleigh fell victim to the Great Depression, but McLean continued to create and inspire other artists throughout North Carolina until his death in 1989. McLean is the subject of a new exhibit at Gallery C, which has recently moved from its longtime home in Raleigh's Ridgewood Shopping Center to an historic building downtown.

Demolition came for a Raleigh landmark this week when The Brewery was flattened to make way for classrooms and retail space on Hillsborough Street. During its 28 years in business, The Brewery gave a boost to the careers of bands like Raleigh-born Whiskeytown and, in more recent years, offered a launch pad for pop groups like Paramore and Panic! at the Disco. Up-and-coming local musicians found a home there, too.

Same-sex marriage has long been illegal in North Carolina, but some lawmakers want to take the prohibition a step further. Among the proposed amendments to the North Carolina constitution is one that would outlaw gay marriage. When the General Assembly reconvenes in September, it will consider whether to put that amendment on a 2012 ballot.

Men at Peace

Aug 2, 2011
Peace College

Last month, Peace College announced that, for the first time in its 154-year history, it will begin admitting men to its undergraduate programs. Along with a new approach, the school has a new name: William Peace University. Many alumnae were outraged and caught off guard by the Board of Trustees’ decision. We take a look at the future of Peace and consider the role that single-sex education plays in our increasingly co-ed world. Host Frank Stasio talks with Debbie Cottrrell, Peace University Provost; Omisade “Billie” Burney-Scott, a Peace graduate from the class of 1987; Jane Stancil, higher education reporter for The News & Observer in Raleigh; Jo Allen, president of Meredith College, the lone remaining all-women’s college in Raleigh; and Rosemary Salomone, professor of law at St. John’s University and author of the book “Same, Different, Equal: Rethinking Single-Sex Schooling” (Yale University Press, 2003).

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ousted two leaders of the school's athletic program this week. Football coach Butch Davis was fired and longtime Athletics Director Dick Baddour announced his resignation. It's all fallout from persistent allegations that football players violated NCAA rules regarding academics and gifts.

Questions of racial identity and cultural heritage have long surrounded a group of Appalachians called the Melungeons. In recent years, curiosities have been piqued about this loosely connected group of people, spawning DNA testing, numerous books, Web sites and a documentary film.

Ron Liberti
Ackland Museum

Ron Liberti's screen-printed posters for music shows have been integral to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro scene since Liberti moved here in the 1990s. A musician as well as a visual artist, Liberti has performed with seminal '90s band Pipe and The Ghosts of Rock and designed posters for everyone from Southern Culture on the Skids to Tift Merritt. His work has been shown around the world and is collected in the University of North Carolina's Southern Folklife Collection in the Wilson Library.