I have decided that I want to post five (Arabic numeral 5, Roman numeral V) vaguely Appalachian-themed sites for your consideration. Enjoy them. Or don't.
hazardkentucky.com: Don't let the simple portal page of this website fool you. There are a plethora of great photographs and brief histories of Hazard and Perry Counties in Kentucky. Home of the (former) World's Largest Tulip Tree. And the best (and only) Chinese food I've ever had in Kentucky.
The Knoxville Museum of Art: Pimpin' funkdified fine art.
Western Carolina University's Craft Revival: Quote: This website tells the story of the historic Craft Revival and its impact on western North Carolina. During the revival, North Carolina makers shaped clay, in turn, shaping the attitudes and values that contribute to today’s appreciation of the handmade object. Makers wove cotton, linen, and wool, weaving a sense of community that contributes to a strong sense of place. Craftsmen hammered metal, forging partnerships to effect change. Artisans worked with wood, building a regional economy based on individual talent and entrepreneurship. These activities placed value on quality, individuality, and workmanship. They remain evident in the 21st century in a region that is both dynamic and progressive.
Reed Farmstead Archaeological Site (Hardy County, West Virginia): A nifty little site about an archaelogical dig on a farm in the Mountain State that was established in the late 18th Century.
Fragments of Floyd: Fantastic blog, really, really great. When I first found it, well, I read for about two hours. Addictive.
Friday, September 29, 2006
I have decided that I want to post five (Arabic numeral 5, Roman numeral V) vaguely Appalachian-themed sites for your consideration. Enjoy them. Or don't.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Not long ago my fiance walked into my living room and threw a magazine at me. I picked it up and saw that it was her newest issue of the University of Tennessee - Knoxville's alumni magazine, Tennessee Alumnus. Well, I looked through it, and hot dog if most of the articles aren't on the venerable subject of this very blog. They're all worth a look-see, and lucky for us, they're all online - if you only have time for two, check out the last two, by the way. Consider:
"Home, Sweet Log Home"
A brief essay on log homes in the mountains.
"Tourism the Quiet Way"
An essay on the phenomenon of tourism in Appalachia.
"Through the Lens"
A great little collection of the photos of Don Dudenbostel of Knoxville.
A pity that only one of these little selections comes with the full set of photos from the magazine. . . ah well. Something's better than nothing.
Posted by Eric Drummond Smith at 11:20 PM
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Our friends at Appalshop asked us to review a documentary entitled Up the Ridge recently, before it went on a viewing tour of many eastern Virginia cities. The movie is on the politics, economics, and social issues surrounding the building of the Wallens Ridge State Prison of Big Stone Gap, Virginia in particular and those surrounding the building of Super-Max prisons and the commodization of prisoners. Specifically, my e-mail from Nick Szuberla gave the following overview:
Up the Ridge is a documentary film produced by Nick Szuberla and Amelia Kirby. In 1999, Szuberla and Kirby were volunteer DJ’s for the Appalachian region’s only hip-hop radio program in Whitesburg, KY when they received hundreds of letters from inmates transferred into nearby Wallens Ridge State Prison, the newest prison built to prop up the region’s sagging coal economy. The letters described human rights violations and racial tension between staff and inmates. Filming began that year and, through the lens of Wallens Ridge, the film offers viewers an in-depth look at the United States prison industry and the social impact of moving hundreds of thousands of inner-city minority offenders to distant rural outposts. Up the Ridge explores competing political agendas that align government policy with human rights violations, and political expediencies that bring communities into racial and cultural conflict with tragic consequences.
Fine and dandy, eh? Well, that said, let me talk about some of what I consider to be the good points and bad points of this movie, in no particular order:
1. No matter where you’re from, this movie brings up some key points. How should super-maximum security prisons be used, and for what kind of offenders? The movie, for instance, points out that at the Wallens Ridge facility, educational books are disallowed, ostensibly as a punishment, but that pornographic and “trashy” literature is allowed. Frankly, I don’t know much about this facility, but if this is true, well, I can only say that I think the policy should be exactly the opposite. Plus, one must wonder if the process of deciding who does and does not get shipped to super-max prisons should be both transparent and, perhaps, even include public input in the form of an elected board of some sort.
2. This movie also brings up the enormous absurdity which is drug policy in our nation – punishments for drug-related charges are inordinately strict, stricter than rape and other violent crimes, often. Yet drugs are incredibly prevalent and virtually every American uses at least one illegal drug (or abuses an otherwise legal drug) at some point in their life. The system of dealing with drug use and sales, I think everyone would agree, simply does not work. I won’t go into my recommendations here, but there it is.
3. The movie brings up the fact that by shipping overwhelmingly black prisoners to an overwhelmingly white area, super-max prisons tend to reinforce both black and white stereotypes, increasing stereotypes.
4. What I think is a key point is demonstrated by this film, even if the filmmakers didn’t intend to show it. The families of prisoners and prisoners want protection in place against the culture of silence that prevails in correctional facilities, and understandably. Abuse and punishment are not synonyms. That said, these same people tend to complain about the lack of privacy in these facilities, about the omnipresence of video cameras. This is, frankly, an enormous, massive oxymoron. The one major improvement that could, and probably should, be made, is by making these films fully transparent to the public upon court order, with films stored outside of the prison facilities. Is it embarrassing? Yeah, but so are a great many other things whose utility outweighs their benefits.
5. Big, massive, huge point of the movie – Big Stone Gap, nice place that it is (and it is a nice place) is really far from eastern Virginia, where many of the prisoners come from, and really, really far from Connecticut, where several others, including two prisoners who died not long before the time of the film’s creation, come from. This means that if the families of the prisoners wish to visit prisoners, the cost is quite high – often extraordinary in relative terms when we consider that most people in prison come from families who are economically less successful than average. I haven’t decided how I feel about this in principle, honestly, given that, under the current practical conditions shipping of prisoners is almost a necessary condition, but I can say that I believe some sort of public dialogue is warranted. Do the citizens have a right not only to a trial by their peers but also to a punishment by their peers?
6. This film presents the guards as real human beings, just trying to make a living and improve their economic condition by taking a hard job that most people, frankly, don’t want. These people are, frankly, taking risks. Indeed, even some of the most effective critics of the prisons are former guards. The people of Big Stone Gap, in other words, are presented as people in a coal/tobacco town trying to take advantage of an economic opportunity.
7. I teach my students about “iron triangles,” such as the military-industrial(-elected official-intelligence) complex – political assemblages in which different private and public groups manipulate taxpayer sentiments to guarantee political and economic benefits to everyone in the assemblage at taxpayer expense – not to mention the soldiers who fight the wars. This film adds another intriguing iron triangle – the corrections-industrial(-elected officials) complex.
8. This film’s big failings? Well, they are two-point. First, the film is critical of the prison system, defending prisoner’s rights, without ever bringing up the crimes these prisoners committed either before imprisonment or during their prior imprisonment that justified their being sent to a super-max facility in the first place. This might just matter. Second, the families of prisoners complain about the fact that prisoners are shackled prior to and during meetings and that they are searched as the enter the prison. Frankly, I didn’t see the need to harp on this point – it is a secure facility. That’s just how life is.
In the end I think this is a solid documentary, really worth a gander. You may not agree with all its points, but I’ll make you think about a plethora of important issues, and it’s a great example of how the influx of new wealth into any small town can have radical consequences, for better and for worse.Well, all that said, producer Nick Szuberla asked me to post some locations and dates of screenings. So here are some. Screenings.
Oct. 2nd Newport News, VA (7pm) Christopher Newport University, Ferguson Center for the Arts, 1 University Place
Oct. 3rd Roanoke, VA (7pm) Blue Ridge Public Television, 1215 McNeil Drive
Oct. 4th Charlottesville, VA (7pm) Sojourners United Church of Christ, 1017 Elliot Ave
Oct. 5th Alexandria, VA (to be announced)
Oct. 6th Richmond,VA (7pm) Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, 1720 Mechananicsville Turnpike
Oct. 7th Norfolk, VA (to be announced)
Oct. 8th Harrisonburg, VA (2pm) Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Road
Posted by Eric Drummond Smith at 11:20 AM
I am a political scientist and an artist - it is an odd combination, one that often leads to a logical schizophrenia of, to use the Latin, taco grande proportions. When I wrote my masters thesis at ol' Virginny I had the opportunity to play around with both, writing about the iconography and symbolism in one of the major press/propaganda organs of the People's Republic of
You're wondering where I'm going with this one, aren't you? You're wondering if I'm using the Chewbacca defense. Well, I'm not. So stop fretting.
Well, after talking to our friend Tyler G. Kidd about our respective times in
Johnson City, Tennessee: First, I just want to say that I bookmarked this site as soon as I found it - I can't believe I haven't run across it before, frankly - its Johnson's Depot, which is an absolutely, positively, 100%, wonderful collection of, well, not Americana so much as Johnsonicana. Citycana. Regardless, this site is relevant here largely because it collects images not only of cemetary monuments, but also by virtue of the fact that it collects a plethora of fantastic postcards. Worth, say, seven months of your time.
Posted by Eric Drummond Smith at 12:30 AM
Friday, September 22, 2006
Okay, not a bad start to fall. This morning sky on the first day of autumn was definitely worth pulling off the road to catch.
The autumnal equinox marks the point in the year when the sun crosses the equator and the hours of daylight and darkness are equal. Technically, in our time zone, it will occur a few minutes after midnight tonight.
It seemed like an appropriate time for my first official post on this site.
It’s the time the reds become predominant – staghorn sumac, Virginia creeper, cannas.
The Druids used to burn a wicker human figure as a symbolic sacrifice of the spirit of vegetation. I like that recognition of the cyclic nature of life – birth, death, rebirth.
I even made my first batch of cranberry applesauce this afternoon to mark the new season. I think it may have been the smell of apples and cinnamon simmering that prompted mystic Dame Julian of Norwich to say, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
Posted by CS at 8:28 PM
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion
This past weekend State Street in Bristol VA/TN shook with the sounds of feet hitting the pavement and bluegrass crawling around every hole in the area. Bluegrass techniques ranged from traditional, to old timey, to progressive and every one of them sounded just right under those clear blue mountain skies. I think this venue is probably the perfect place if you want to get down to the grit of music. Since Bristol was the first place to record country music and since groups like the Carter Family likely walked through those same rickety doorways there is no other perfect place to gather and celebrate the true spirit of a song. We sang, danced, drank, ate, listened, bought carving boards, and celebrated with the winner of the great chili cook off. By the way we should congratulate some of our fellow hillbillies for their help in one of the chili booths. How did you guys do? As the day grew with a crisp mountain night chill and the sun setting perfectly at the end of State Street the festivities grew even louder. Artists like Seldom Scene, Darrell Scott, The Del McCoury Band, and one of my best friends Ron Dunbar climbed onto the stage with a fire lit under them. The energy of the weekend could not have been better and the music was gasoline.
I do have to say that I missed seeing Old Crow Medicine Show this year. Last year was a special time for me.
Posted by Our Goblin Market at 9:44 AM
Monday, September 11, 2006
takes place this weekend Sept 15-17, 2006
Located on the State Street line of Bristol Tennessee and Virginia.
Some artist scheduled for the event include;
Seldom Scene, Railroad Earth, The EveryBodyFields,
Hot Buttered Rum, Darrell Scott, The Del McCoury Band,
Wayne Henderson, and so on.
Weekend pass advanced tickets are 30$, at the gate $45
Single day pass tickets are $15
(Children 12 & Under: Admitted Free)
Posted by Our Goblin Market at 11:15 AM
The first and last pics are from near Roan Mountain in Upper East Tennessee. Pic #2 is from the very top of Glenn Falls near Highlands, NC. Pic #3 is looking up at Paint Rock in Greene County, TN. Pics 1,3&4 were taken with a $15 digital camera with no resolution settings, focus, or any other features. I used a Fujifilm 2650 for the Glenn Falls picture.
Posted by CharlesTheKungFuMaster at 2:39 AM
Sunday, September 10, 2006
I spent Friday evening sitting around a campfire, overlooking the New River before it disappears between two steep mountainsides. I was made well aware that the seasons are changing by the coolness in the air once the sun went down. This underdressed camper really enjoyed the campfire.This is, by far, my favorite time of the year. In the next few weeks we’ll get to witness nature’s display of artistry as the green canvas gives way to yellows, oranges, reds and browns. Here in the New River Valley, the locust trees are starting to turn yellow and drop their leaves. The burning bushes aka spindle trees are starting to burst with their red beauty. It won’t be too long before I’ll need to dig through my stash of lawn tools looking for the rakes. Hopefully, the hardwoods will hold on to their leaves long enough for us to have weeks of enjoying their color. Over the past few years we’ve experienced major cold fronts that have swept through the mountains that, almost seemingly overnight leave the trees bare. It’s generally the night before I plan to take pictures of the foliage in the morning. Luckily, I did snap the one below last fall the weekend before one of the big winds came through.With the return of Autumn comes the return of the best culinary concoctions that one probably wouldn’t be eating when it’s 90 degrees outside. My famous chili beans recipe has been dusted off, cranberry relish has a place on the grocery list and hot teas take the place of lemonade as my beverage of choice. For the beer connoisseurs, remember this rule: The darkness of your beer needs to match the darkness of the sky at 6pm.The biggest reason that I love this time of year is for the hiking. Our low-country southern brethren take back their heat and humidity that they have so nicely shared with us since June so climbing mountains is more comfortable of a task. When some of the trees start to lose their leaves, the views that open up are unmatched by any that you find from the comforts of your car. By the time the leaves are gone from the trees, we’re reminded of what has spent the last half year in the shade of the forest, the mountains themselves. Rocky cliffs, caves, spines and the real steepness are exposed. With an unobstructed view from the top, you realize just how much you missed seeing the valleys and streams below you. Just as ready as you are to see old friends at a homecoming football game or welcome family to the Thanksgiving table, I’m ready to reacquaint myself with the mountains of autumn.
Posted by Mike at 5:24 PM
Friday, September 08, 2006
I try, as hard as I possibly can, to respect accents and local languages. It is a very serious thing to me, a matter of respect. That's not to say that I don't make serious accent mistakes sometimes - I do, but I try to learn from my mistakes. That said, I am astounded at the number of people who actually seem to take some pleasure in mispronouncing proper names, and in particular, place names, as a sign of their (supposed) cosmopolitanism. For instance, I accept that many folks outside of Appalachia pronounce the names of the mountains differently than most folks from those mountains (Southern Appalachians, in particular, usually say "app-uh-LATCH-uhn" - if you wonder how we can pronounce the "-ia" at the end as "uh," remember that it is essentially the same sound as at the end of Virginian and Pennsylvanian, with the "y" run into the hard "ch") - such is life. And, indeed, I even accept that they will refer to Appalachia in numerous equally hair-raising ways. That said - when folks come to the mountains and, after repeated corrections, will pronounce their name wrong consciously, well, yeah. Ticks me off. Not as much as it does some of my friends, but you know.
That said, I was listening to XM radio yesterday and heard what is my absolute favorite radio show, This American Life, on XM Public Radio. The episode on was number 138, "The Real Thing." The general premise of the episode, as a whole, is described by XM as such:
Stories of people drawn to some idea, some picture, some "thing" that they just want to be. How some people imitate this "thing" innocently, some less innocently, and how easy it is to slip from one to the other.
Like most This American Life episodes, "The Real Thing" touches on a series of esoteric subjects - men who fake their war credentials, a reporter who starts taking on the traits of the gang she is studying, a professor who discusses what composes "blackness", the concept of true love, and, relevant here, the apparent utter inability of Hollywood and television to effectively portray genuine Southern accents or drawls. It is hilarious - nothing like hearing a New York accent coach's utterly unconvincing Georgia accent or, most hilariously, his "Appalachian" accent. Which is a Georgia lowland accent. With a New York accent overlain. The story is hilarious, all the way around, and though the narrator, Mark Schone, who hails from the Great Dismal of southeastern Virginia mispronounces Appalachia (to my ears, anyway) the entire time, well, I don't mind, because he publically notes the truth of Southern accents - every region of the South (and I would say virtually every hamlet, holler, and neighborhood of big cities) has a different accent.
One key point that is crazy - Schone points out the tendency of Virginians (me included, in college, I fear) to make fun of the way some other Southerners pronounce their "i"s - a soft "i" rather than an "eye" in words like right, light, sight, and fight - indeed, he asserts that accent is nearly gone. Perhaps he should visit East Tennessee - I've been here long enough that now I will frequently drop the soft "i". Damn me for making fun of Lee. For four years.
Regardless, check this out. Its worth a few minutes of your day.
Oh, and Wytheville? Its "With-Ville." And Staunton? Its "Stan-ton."
I am so excited about the comments coming on this one.
Posted by Eric Drummond Smith at 4:47 PM
Thursday, September 07, 2006
This morning as I crawled out of my bed I remembered a story that took place several years. As I sat there thinking about the time my close friends and I went spelunking through the caverns around Debusk Mill I thought of one of the reasons that stirred us to crawl through the earth, treasure. For some reason Sean had told us about a lost silver treasure which was said to be hidden in the hills of Southwest Virginia and for a group of teenage boys that simple thought was enough to send us out looking. Treasure is one of those things for a young boy that stirs in us. To find hidden treasure could mean that you joined the ranks of great pirates, cowboys, and travelers. But, more than that it meant that you were out looking. This feeling is called “The Chase.”
What I remember of the story and with the help of a little research today Sean clued us into the life of a man named George William Swift. Swift was a former mariner born in Salisburg, England, in 1689 and also is said to have been involved in establishing New Orleans. Swift left the sea to become a silver miner in Virginia. After settling in Portsmouth, Swift came onto the opinion of finding and working a silver mine in the Appalachian mountains where he started his trek into the woods. This is the part of the story where the written journal Swift carried documented the journey like a map. But, as you might see the way Swift wrote of his steps could send a treasure seeker anywhere in the Appalachian Mountains. Because of the vague descriptions the Swift treasure hunters spent time in the hills of Georgia, Kentucky, West Virginia along with many treks in Virginia. It is also said that a doctor from North Carolina made his way to Georgia in 1932 to look for this great treasure, but feeling like he was closing in on the loot suffered a heart attack and died.
Swift works the Silver Mine for more than a year but started to get concerned about the growing presence of Indians around the mine and so closed for the time being. Part of the location and the treasure is mentioned in Swift’s journal, “We buried one poney load of silver pig. These pigs was buried just below the Rock House at the small creek and water fall with large stones placed over them. French ladles were buried in sand near smelter, the ore was found in a gray stone or rock and contained iron, silver, and copper and lead with a sand stone ledge lying near by. The mouth of the mine is as large as three French sailor's hogs-heads or barrels and dropping down in the ground ten feet then made on a level….The mine was bounded on the west by a creek and a big blur spring containing Indian heads in various shapes. Bound on the north by a long bald mountain, on the east by a creek and haystack nobs starting in a valley bottom, resembling hay stack. South by a buffalo and deer lick basin. On the south by a gap of haystack or potato knobs laying between the 36th and 38th degrees of latitude. As shown by my French quadrant, it was in a southwestern direction from Kent, a small trading post on the York River on the London Company's grant. Was westward from Portsmouth and due south across to Mocasona, Indian pass or gap in the barren top mountain, south as straight as a crow could fly 20 miles to Mocasonsa.” After several years away from the mine Swift grew blind and lost his sense of direction to the mine he worked so hard in and offered to any partner half of the treasure who could help him retrace his steps and follow the clues he had written.
Many variations of this legend have now appeared and at the time Sean informed us that before Swift left the mine he had hired two men to help him carry part of the treasure out of the mountain pass to burry it in another location. The story goes that he shot and killed these two men that now guard the treasure.
What a story for a kid as Swift suggest, “Boys, don't never quit looking for it. It's the richest thing I ever saw.”
Posted by Our Goblin Market at 11:10 AM
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Adding to Eric's post below, I recently walked my family's farm in Pulaski County, Va. and snapped some pictures of older buildings. My great-grandfather built most of the buildings in the 1940's and 50's. For the most part, the exterior siding is oak, which is as hard as a rock today. The weakness over time comes from the posts, beams and roof purlins that were cut from softer woods. Today, most of the buildings are beyond repair. There are many factors as to why they weren't "kept-up", from family-feuding to lessee neglect to modern replacements. At any rate, they are being allowed to disappear and become a mass of wood and tin in the middle of overgrowth.
[ old corn crib ]
[ cattle loading ramp ]
Posted by Mike at 11:20 PM
Sunday, September 03, 2006
This weekend marks the eighty-fifth anniversary of the Battle of Blair Mountain, an event that culminated when the United States military suppressed a firefight between pro-union miners and coal company owned law enforcement officials. An older gentleman that worked with the youth in the church I grew up in was from Logan County and I remember on several occasions his stories about the day the Army bombed U.S. citizens. I don't think he was old enough to have been born at the time of the battles but the story lives strong with the locals there as well as other mining communities in Appalachia. It also is where the term "Redneck" may have been started as the pro-union fighters wore a red bandanna around their necks.
To mark the occasion, the Roanoke Times has several articles with the details for the uprising, the battle details and first hand histories from people who were there. They also detail the fight of Blair Mountain today, to mine or not to mine. Check out the links on the left side of the story for more articles.
Jeff Bigger's "United States of Appalachia" also details this story briefly, quoting one miner comparing his actions against the opposition with those of John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry.
Posted by Mike at 10:47 PM
Friday, September 01, 2006
I found these pics on the blog of a fellow Knoxvillian, and after a short e-mail, I am sharing them with you. Dig:
Appalachia is just littered with old houses, stores and outbuildings being reclaimed by the earth. Rather than maintaining buildings, people seem to allow them to just go into a gradual decay, until they are swallowed back up by the lush plant life around them. My kids have gotten used to me swerving off the road to snap a photo of the structures, and one of my sons asked me if I intended to post a series of them. I do, and they'll appear here from time to time. I find the wreckage both visually disturbing and starkly beautiful.
Posted by Eric Drummond Smith at 11:49 PM
Virginia Tech's outreach program of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, the Community Design Assistance Center, is working to publish a book featuring 30 once-thriving communities across the Commonwealth that no longer hold the same prestige. Lost Communities of Virginia explores places like Mouth of Wilson, Stonega, Derby and Mendota, all in Appalachia, as well as other towns throughout Virginia. Despite the geographic differences, all of these communities are bound by one demographic theme. At one point, they were the economic and social centers of their localized regions. Today, they are either ghost towns from industry closings, being by-passed by larger travel corridors or the victim of urban sprawl, losing their identity all together.
[Stonega, Virginia; circa 2002; Photo by K. Sparenborg]
The project uses black and white photographs and interviews with long-time residents to introduce the reader to each community. Former CDAC intern, Kirsten Sparenborg, photographed the communities, collected oral histories, and authored the book, which will be published in the Fall of 2007. For now, we only have the touring photographic exhibit (which is not on display at the moment) and postcards featuring the photos.
Be sure to explore some of the CDAC current and other past projects, listed on their web-page, to see what one group is doing to preserve and enhance our region.
Posted by Mike at 5:20 PM