Thursday, November 30, 2006

Football, mountain style


Quietly, the Appalachian State Mountaineers of Boone, North Carolina have held the NCAA Div. 1-AA No. 1 ranking in football since they won the National Championship last December and only lost one game to NC State this season. They put their 11-1 record on the line Saturday when the Bobcats of Montana State visit the Watauga County mountains. If you're too far away to make the game (buy tickets here), it will be on ESPN2 at 4pm. A win Saturday and another one next weekend will land ASU back in the championship game.

Song of the Mountains

For anyone who has access to WSBN (channel 47 for me), a Blue Ridge Public Television station, there is an excellent show that airs usually on Thursday nights. It is Song of the Mountains. The show is simply concerts that have been filmed at the Lincoln Theatre in Marion, Virginia. It features primarily regional talent from Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, at least from what I've seen. More often than not the featured genre is Bluegrass, but I've seen Old-Timey/Mountain Music bands, folksy solo artists and duos, and perhaps even a bit of Celtic influenced music on there (which is as it should be, since Appalachian music is often so deeply rooted there). The show is excellent, and there are many talented folks who have graced that stage, and more importantly, carried the torch for the heritage of our region. Check it out if you have the opportunity and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A brief look at the Adirondacks

The Cedar River, a major head water of the Hudson River near Uncle Joe's place, below.

Indian Lake, looking toward Panther Mountain

With the southeastern parts of the Adirondack Mountains being a historic recreation destination for the urbanites of NYC, us southern Appalachian folk generally do not consider this area to be part of what we call home. What I found out on my one visit to the rural interior of upstate New York is that we both share the love for the Appalachian Mountain Range. These pictures were taken near the community of Indian Lake.

Uncle Joe enjoying the Cedar River.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tuesday Eight: Blogs

Maysville, Kentucky (formerly "Limestone) - circa 1930
(From the Maysville Kentucky Blog, which you'd be wise to read if you're going to be within 1000 miles of the Kentucky/Ohio borderlands)

Okay. So I blew it. I did. I completely forgot to do my weekend five. I know you forgive me. It is all in the spirit of Thanksgiving (and the spirit of the Great Pumpkin, but that's a different story). So I've decided that, to make up for it, I would dig deep (while watching Lord of the Rings on the Dee-Vee-Dee) and pull out some of the finer blogs in, of, by, and about the region that I've come across. Some of them are old, some are new. All are worth at least a weekly look. So prepare for eight blogs. No. Not five. I owe you. Make it eight. That's right. Eight. Prepare to get addicted. . .

1) Al's Rantings
Since June of 2005
I was born and went to school in the heart of the Appalachian mountains, in southern West Virginia. After graduating from college, I got married, and began working in Bristol, TN. I have have various jobs from Tennessee to up state New York and a few points between. Now I work in West Virginia. Some day, I want to live in Alaska.

October 20, 2006
July 18, 2006
May 30, 2006
May 22, 2006
May 3, 2006
March 1, 2006

Sentiment I disagree with: The second part of this sentence, "These are not "The Bridges of Madison County", which was a horrible Clint Eastwood movie. Second in poorness only to "Every Which Way But Loose" movies with Clyde the orangutan."

2) Ashevegas: A Real Mountain Metropolis
Since February of 2005
Some have called it the Paris of the South.The Sedona of the Southern Highlands. An island in a sea of insanity. It is what you make it. And almost everyone agrees that it's a great place to live. I hope this little blog can reflect some of what goes on in our little corner of the world. And you can help. Post a comment, make a suggestion.

August 14, 2005
June 21, 2005
McDowell County

Sentiment I disagree with: That this act should be performed outside of the sanctity of marriage.

3) Blue Ridge Muse

Since February of 2004
A writer and photographer returns home

November 16, 2006
August 6, 2006
April 2, 2006
July 30, 2005
February 11, 2004

Sentiment I disagree with: I constantly mess with tradition in southwest Virginia - though usually that tradition deals with dance.

4) DowntownWV
Since March of 2006
It's not all just mountains. Life in urban West Virginia.

November 21, 2006
October 30, 2006
September 27, 2006
August 31, 2006
May 30, 2006

Sentiment I disagree with: This hat.

Since January of 2006
made a deal with the devil. standard blues musician rapsheet.

September 7, 2006
June 10, 2006
May 5, 2006
March 8, 2006
March 7, 2006
January 26, 2006

Sentiment I disagree with: Porquine auto-mutilation.

6) Maysville Kentucky Blog

Since November of 2005
The Maysville Kentucky Blog is your guide to the beautiful and historic small town of Maysville Kentucky, snuggled into the rolling hills along the Ohio River. We scour the web and local media for news from and about the area, and present a daily digest for our readers. Everyone is encouraged to participate by leaving their own thoughts and comments.

November 26, 2006
November 25, 2006
September 25, 2006
June 30, 2006
May 23, 2006

Sentiment I disagree with: That Jesus would have anything to do with asparagus.

Since July of 2005
I’m Lowell Allen. I live in Asheville, North Carolina with my wife, cat and dog. I work as a designer and Web developer, and this is my photoblog. Rather than use existing software, I decided to write my own system. It’s fairly simple at this point, but I’ll be adding more navigation features as content builds. (Suggestions are welcome.) The general idea is to post a new photo every day.

Norfolk Southern
Orange Mufflers
Fake Child
Traffic Circle

Sentiment I disagree with: There are far too few words on this blog for me to disagree with. I disagree with that.

8) Southern Highlands
Since September of 2004
In the great tradition of Cornwallcam, Lakelandcam, Blue Ridge Blog, and the late lamented SmokyBlog (now reconstituted as Austin Country Limits), this blog will consist of photos from the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountain areas of North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and points north on occasion. As much as I'd love to post several beautiful photos daily, as do Charles Winpenny of Cornwallcam and Tony Richards of Lakelandcam, I expect the best I'll manage is several photos a week. Hope you enjoy them!

July 29, 2006
July 11, 2006
March 4, 2006
October 20, 2005
May 24, 2005

Sentiment I disagree with: That the writing on these stones is unusual - they look an awful lot like my in-class essays in college.

Enjoy and tell your friends.

Appalachia A-La-Carte 11-28-06

Clips from the last few days include:

A good write up about MTR in a nifty little publication out of Georgia called Pine Magazine.

A story from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph on Gov. Tim Kaine's Return to Roots Program.

A news clip from WSAZ-Huntington, WV about the designation of a new Appalachian-American minority at Ohio State University.

Snowfall on Southern Appalachians, courtesy

Monday, November 27, 2006

Response to the Editor

Last week I wrote a response on this blog to Mr. Trejbal's editorial on his opinion that "Southwest Virginia is for haters." A few of our co-writers here asked me to re-write that and send it in as a letter to the Editor of The Roanoke Times. I have been debating whether I would for days, and finally have decided to do so. It should be said that I have always had a high respect for this publication and was quite surprised - not to find the opinions expressed - being a libertine when it comes to social politics I agreed with several of them, and being socially sensitive have wrestled with others at length. What disturbed me was the lack of tact exhibited by Mr. Trejbal, the kind of stereotyping he, I'm sure, intended to argue against. I am going to reprint my response below and ask that we all remember the first law of functioning democratic-republican politics - civility.

To Whom It May Concern:

I have long been a reader of your newspaper whenever the opportunity availed itself – since I have been in graduate school, I fear this has been more infrequently than would like. Imagine my surprise, then, when I logged into a blog I edit with several other gentlemen from Appalachia, to a large extent from Southwest Virginia, and found a link to your Editor Mr. Trejbal’s “Southwest Virginia is for haters,” editorial of November 12th.

There are a thousand ways to comment here, aren't there? I won't go into most of them, because frankly they fall so deep into the realm of stereotyping that it is maddening.

Mister Trejbal, the reason many Southwest Virginians planned on voting for a person who, frankly, I did not, was that this electoral race had what are called "issues". That's right. Issues. Everyone in America knows that if you don't reelect the incumbent senator, for instance, your state suffers in its committee placement and its funding. I know that most voting people in Appalachia know this because I have discussed it while standing in hundreds of grocery store lines, not to mention ubiquitous waiting rooms, classrooms, bars, and restaurants. Plus, like most of America, many Virginians vote on only issues that pertain to them. For people like, say, Burley tobacco farmers, that means Allen and, across the aisle, Boucher.

As for your anti-Civil War things, well, let me see. Do I support the public (read as public funding) flying of "Confederate" flag? Honestly, only in historical settings where it makes sense. Do I support everyone's right to express their private opinions publicly? Hell yes I do. It’s a free nation, and that means I have no right to not be offended by the non-vulgar expressions of my peers. And why are Americans in general, not just Southerners, obsessed with the Civil War? Because it mattered. It devastated the Southern economy and its infrastructure. More Americans (from both sides of the line) died in the Civil War than in all other American wars combined. It is the only large-scale total war fought almost completely in American borders. And, since apparently you don't remember your history, the South in general, especially the upper South, wasn't unanimously pro-rebellion. Southwest Virginia elicited pro-Union sentiments widely, much like the rest of Appalachia. Most of us who had family in the region that long ago probably had some folks wearing both colors (I know I did), and most of the folks just wanted it to end. That's called trauma, Mr. Trejbal. It is the same reason Hungarians still celebrate the fact that they didn't all die at the hands of the Mongol invasion, why Scottish still talk about secession, why the Chinese are still touchy on Taiwan, and so on. Trauma means we hand down the scars to the coming generation, because they matter.

Also, flying a flag or spending a few weeks a year re-enacting hardly counts as "fixation." On the other hand, constantly thinking about people flying a flag or re-enacting might constitute just such an obsession - you know, like the American mass media often does.

I won't discuss the flaws of gay marriage ban, because frankly, I don't believe that the government should be involved in marriage at all, except guaranteeing that it is entered into freely by consenting adults as a civil contract - otherwise it is none of my business. All I'll say is, sure, I disagree with a lot of folks on that, but I also disagree with most of the United States on it too, so quit insinuating it is "just our problem." The disagreements, and that’s what they are, so let’s quit using “hater” hyperbole, on this issue are found in every state in the Union, including, Mr. Trejbal, those states that agree with your political stance.

And guns? Well, we like guns. It is a fact. We hunt in Appalachia - not everyone, but many of us. And for some, but by no means all of us, it’s a matter of having a better life. Remember how there is a high level of poverty here? Hunting is an inexpensive way of radically improving someone’s diet very quickly and, frankly, in a way that is healthier than government sponsored food programs usually are. Also, we're neurotic. That's right. We're nearly as neurotic as folks like Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, all of whom knew that guns play an essential role in constraining government decision-making over very long periods of time. The way I explain it to my students, Mr. Trejbal, is that I support the ACLU because it takes the widest possible stance on the First Amendment - restricting freedoms, even by funding religious initiatives, is always problematic. Following the same argument, I argue for the widest possible interpretation of the Second Amendment - because once you start down the nitpicking road, it is awfully hard to stop. There are costs implicit in wide-interpretation of both, but there are costs to all things that are politically advantageous, aren't there?

Southwest Virginia is not for haters. Are there lots of folks who disagree with your politics, and frankly my own? Sure there are. And most of them will disagree with you or I in the most friendly method possible. But when you alienate good people by insinuating that they are conservative because they "hate" or because they are ignorant, well, you alienate and you isolate. Perhaps some subtlety is in order, rather than tactlessness that makes you sound pretentious and calls to mind, in us gun-toting, civil war-remembering hicks, carpetbaggers. Oh yeah, they had good ideas, and they had all the influence, but by being insultingly aloof and pretentious they aggravated social, political, and economic divisions, rather than allaying them. And this is from a man who believes that Kentucky-born, hillbilly Mr. Lincoln was the greatest president who ever served our Union.

Disagreement is not always hatred, Mr. Trejbal.

Eric Drummond Smith

Knoxville, Tennessee

Mr. Trejbal, when you're in a position of influence, you can use that in a way that actually convinces others (or at least presents valid points) or you can alienate through presumption and tactlessness. Please remember that, and the best of luck to you.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

One outsider's view

The newly hired Roanoke Times-New River Current editor, Christian Trejbal, has managed to upset many of his readers in his short tenure in SWVa. Somehow I missed his latest tirade on us born and bred types until today. Despite your political leanings, left or right, up or down, blue, green, red or yellow, I think that anyone from the region can't be too happy with his stereotypical comments. The readers of the paper sure aren't.

Southwest Virginia is for haters

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Appalachia A-La-Carte 11-19-06

Some of today's headlines:

Mountain homeowners fight mineral claims
Associated Press Writer, Sunday Nov 19, 2006

Appalachian churches joining fight on mining
By Linda B. Blackford
HERALD-LEADER STAFF WRITER, Sunday, November 19, 2006

Coal in the classroom
Opposition to mountaintop removal mining is becoming part of the curriculum at a growing number of colleges and universities.
By Tim Thornton
The Roanoke Times, Sunday, November 19, 2006

Santa's toy ritual stays on track

Alison Krauss aids Appalachian run
By Samira Jafari
Associated Press, Sunday, November 19, 2006

Natural Tunnel, Scott Co., VA

Feature on Food: The Town House Grill

Like many of you, the reader, I am rather fond of fine culinary creations, particularly those served up by independent, ma & pap type eateries. When I am traveling on trips that require overnight accommodations, I’ll stay in a glorified cardboard box in order to be able to eat at one of the city’s finer dining establishments and not break the bank (so long as the cardboard box at least has a bed and shower). Back home, I’m always looking for a new recipe to try or a new restaurant to test. Unfortunately, I live in a growing college town where the restaurants are either those that you would find around any strip mall development across the county or ones that smell of old cigarettes and Lysol from the bar crowd the night before. With that typed, there are a handful of restaurants in the region that I long for a return visit. One such place is the Town House Grill in Chilhowie, Virginia. I believe it to be the best place to pleasure your taste buds west of Roanoke in the Commonwealth.

Located next to the hardware store and across the street from an old typewriter repair shop, the restaurant is in an old store front. The interior has been remodeled for the relaxing upscale dining experience but the ceiling still showcases the hammered tin tiles that you can find in most buildings constructed prior to the invention of the gypsum board dropped ceiling. The tables are new but have been retrofitted with a 3”+ band of flat copper, hammered and welded to wrap the edges of the wood, giving it a elegant but rustic look. As for the food, the menu relies heavily on seafood creations. A Hillbilly would normally need to travel to the low country to find crab cakes as nice as the ones served up at the Town House. Most places that serve crab cakes usually give you more cake than crab. Not so here. (as you can tell, I like this dish). Dinner entrées also feature beef, pork and poultry but I admit that I have stuck with the crab when I hit the restaurant during dinner hours (but I’ve sampled a little of everything from my family members’ plates, it’s all yummy). For lunch, I recommend the Sicilian, (Italian sausage, sautéed red peppers and yellow onions, marinara sauce, melted smoked provolone cheese, and basil aioli on a toasted garlic bread) if you decide on something other than seafood. After eating lunch or dinner, I generally don’t do dessert unless it looks it’s too nice to pass up. Try any of the items that they are offering on the day of your visit.

It’s not everyday in Appalachia that a professionally trained chef opens an eatery in a small town, especially one that isn’t even the county seat. The Town House Grill has made a name for itself by being consistently excellent with their service and their food. The local community appreciates this and appears willing to throw their patronage behind something different than the Applebees and Ruby Tuesdays of today’s Interstate society.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Lonetones

Friday night I went to the Lonetones' CD release party for "Nature Hatin' Blues," their second CD. The band is comprised of Steph Gunnoe (guitar, vocals), Sean McCollough (guitar, banjo, mandolin, vocals), Maria Williams (bass, vocals) and Phil Pollard (drums, xylophone).

We first encountered Sean McCollough several years ago when we went to a children’s show at the Laurel Theater in Knoxville, and loved his warm voice and obvious delight in singing to kids. Then we noticed he seemed to be playing at many of the events we attended: Peace rally at the Y12 bomb plant in Oak Ridge? Check. Vegetarian Festival? Check. Music on Market Square? Check. Last year, we went to a house party for the Lonetones and were introduced to the music of that band. They bill themselves as "Appalachian Americana," and I guess that fits as well as anything.
You can't beat taking in music at Carpe Librum Booksellers in Knoxville, with its personal and laid-back atmosphere. There were refreshments, including wine and some great bread (made by Steph, I'm told). Sort of a folksy communion. From last night's show -
Maria: "There are about four versions of that song, and one of them is stored in my medulla oblongata."
Phil: "Hey, it's a family show."

I was accompanied by a sleepy 9-year-old, and didn't get to stay as long as I'd have liked. Of the songs I heard, I especially enjoyed "Shine On," an endearing song about Knoxville. But I was there long enough to know I'm going to love this new CD. You can check them out yourself at a couple of upcoming shows - both free!:

This Monday, November 20th, 12:00 noon, on the Blue Plate Special at the WDVX Studios, One Vision Plaza on Gay Street.
And Sunday, December 3rd, 4:00 pm, at the Disc Exchange South on Chapman Highway.

For a more thorough and knowledgeable review than I am able to provide, check out this new website: Knoxville520. They offer reviews of various music and arts events, and a calendar of what's happening around the the area.

Paper's Inquiry Finds Serious Flaws in Mine Safety

Melissa Block over at NPR talks with Ken Ward Jr., staff writer at The Charleston Gazette, about his investigation into mine safety.

Ward found that 90 percent of mine deaths could have been avoided if safety regulations had been followed. He says mine managers are ignoring some safety measures, and federal regulators are only charging small fines for breaking the rules.

The 2006 death toll for workers in mines is already the highest since 1995.

Listen to the piece from All Things Considered:

Windows Media Player
Real Player

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Weekend Five: Springs of West Virginia and Virginia

An 172-year pavilion, the only remaining ruin of the former Blue Sulphur Springs resort, just south of Smoot, West Virginia. The resort was burnt down during the American Civil War.
(Image from the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, whose website is worthy of its own blog entry before its all said and done - good work, guys)

I went to a church. I took a wife. Then we went on a Honeymoon. It was awesome. And now it is time for the Weekend Five.

Our honeymoon was a simple one. We went to a place called Bath (or more accurately Bath County, Virginia) and we stayed in a cabin that was rapidly approaching the century mark. We went for walks, we drove around, and we stayed in and took in long fireplaces or sat back watching herds of cattle or horses or the wide, slow Cowpasture River.

Which brings me to this week's Weekend Five. Along the ridgelines that compose the West Virginia/Virginia borderland there are many, many springs, springs that erupt from limestone and other sedimentary stone, in places forming mineral baths. Each of these baths has a unique chemical composition, and each was (and among some folks, still are) believed to have curative properties, first by native Americans, than by the settlers in the back country (including such hillbillies as Presidents Washington and Jefferson), and then ultimately by rich folks who would travel from around the world for the water and, of course, the four- and five-star resorts that conveniently surrounded the water. Now, most of these resorts have gone the way of the dodo, but a few survive, and even in places where those resorts have disappeared, their mark remains.

So, without further ado, from North to South, I would like to kindly introduce you to the springs and baths of the Appalachian Mountains. Huzzah.

Museum of the Berkley Springs
in Berkley Springs, West Virginia: This site has something fantastic - a timeline which details the spring's particular history and, perhaps unintentionally, the general historical pattern of most of the resort towns along the border ridges. There are years, often centuries of native American use and exploitation then early settlement around the springs, usually for pragmatic purposes (i.e. fresh water), followed soon after by a massive boom of tourism and ultimately with the gradual decline of the region's drawing power as the number of tourist distractions in our humble nation explode.

The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia: I love Bath County. It is a good place, full of good people, and there isn't a village or town in the place you'd feel pressed to walk fast in. And nowhere else that I have been combines luxury and rural simplicity as seamlessly. But the link I'm throwing up there for you now, well, that's just the former. I can't describe the Homestead - the scale of the place is utterly astounding. All I can say is, c'mon - its a 240 year-old vacation spot.

The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia: Just when you thought it couldn't get as luxurious as the Homestead, you drive into the Greenbrier, just outside of Lewisburg. It is a good place. Again, this is a domicile I can't do justice to in the description - though I will say you have to read about the bunker.

Yellow Sulphur Springs outside of Blacksburg, Virginia: I don't know much about Yellow Sulphur Springs, at least not much that I didn't learn from the old Blacksburg Bicentennial page I mentioned a few weeks ago. But this website was just tantalizing enough that I wanted to post it and maybe con one of you good readers to hit the joint up for an entry later on. Also, look at the "Events" page - maybe the most fun wedding (other than mine, of course) that's ever been had ever is on that page. Seriously.

And for my grand finale, prepare to diggit, I've got a page, a personal page in fact, that reviews the history of several of the Springs of Virginia and which, awesometastically, provides some great images and some great old texts from the heyday of the springs. It hasn't been updated in about five years, it looks like, but that doesn't detract from the page's handy utility at all. Keep rocking Valerie F. Crook, and throw us some updates. So must-see.


Appalachia A-La-Carte 11-16-06

Taking up the topics of Class, Coal Mining, and a Country Music legend:

Class Struggle

American workers have a chance to be heard.
By Jim Webb
Op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, November 15, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

In Second Coal Rush, New Mind-Set in the Mines
By Dale Russakoff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 16, 2006

Stanley receives national honor
November 9, 2006

The Blue Ridge, Craig Co., VA

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hawai'i, Bluegrass, and Bill Monroe or 'Ukuleles and Moonshine Part One

Oh Vaughn Vaughn Vaughn. . . your conundrums are like intellectual crack.

For those of you who haven't yet scrolled down and seen Mr. Garland's delicious query, well, you should. Don't worry. I'll wait.

So, you're up to speed now, eh? Excellent.

It should be said I am not an expert on any sort of music. Oh, I come from a family steeped in opera and bluegrass and, on road trips especially, Motown. And I love to research music in my spare time, especially those complex points where the streams of bluegrass, country, rock, and jazz intersect. But my understanding is elementary, to say the least - I look forward to Mr. Mason and Mr. Long, in particular, adding a little insight here beyond what I drop, because they are true experts on a the subject. But I will say I had heard that Hawai'ian music, as we generally think of it at least, was related to other American musical traditions, in particular jazz and classical country variants, including bluegrass and mountain music. Indeed, I have often thought in the last year or so that some new-wave bluegrass band should take up the 'ukulele. Seriously - I did. So, when I read Mr. Garland's words, well, I knew I needed to jump at the chance to least scratch the surface here. So, after a few web searches, this is what I found.

First, I found this article in a recent webzine called Dulcimer Session. Its called "Ke Kukima Polinahe Music for the Appalachian Dulcimer." The article details how some European instruments were brought originally from Britain and Portugal by early traders, and how at least a few Appalachian dulcimer players are beginning to adapt Hawai'ian music to their instrument, and vice-versa. The grooviest part, at least for a gross amateur like myself, lies in the fact that there are several mp3's with both samples of this adaptation's elemental parts, as well as a few complete pieces. If you've grown up on bluegrass or its kin, you'll immediately feel at home.

Next, the good, old, multi-billion article Wikipedia dropped me some knowledge on the music of Hawai'i. Specifically it brought to my attention a couple of key points, notably that (1) the 'ukulele and the steel guitar are both Hawai'ian innovations which were the product of Hawai'ians taking European instruments and adapting them to their musical needs/interests, (2) slack-key guitar style was invented in Hawai'i, probably to achieve effects similar to their own native music while also adding in elements from traditional Mexican music (brought by Mexican cowboys in the 19th Century) and the music of sailors from North America and Europe, and (3) that the relationship between continental American forms of music, including classical country, bluegrass, and jazz, began in the second decade of the 20th Century when Hawai'ian musicians began touring the United States. Wikipedia tells us Hawai'ian musicians were essential in helping to create the legendary "Nashville Sound," right along with two of my favorites, the tremendous Chet Atkins and Owen Bradley.

Our peer blog of Hawaiirama (nice site, guys, by the way), has a nice write-up on the Hawaii Slack Key Guitar Festival. This write-up includes a link to the festival's (which looks to be about 23 years old) homepage, here. The write-up asserts that a key difference between bluegrass and Hawaiian slack-key and bluegrass/country slack-key lies is that Hawaiian tends to be smoother and less twangy. I'll leave that one up for debate.

Finally, a site which is destined to become one of my favorites is the homepage of the Bluegrass Hawai'i Traditional & Bluegrass Music Society. The Society seems to already have close to 15 member bands who, I have to say, wear more comfortable looking clothes than any bluegrass band I've ever seen. Several of the bands are linked from the page (I think I'm going to throw them up here, down below, but I'm guessing the list is growing, and thus warrants constant re-checking-out-ed-ness-itude. The page also lists minor and major Hawai'ian bluegrass events, including jam sessions, has a complete set of rocking links, photos, and so forth. . . really a great site.

Alright, that's a start. If you know anything else or know where to find something else, well, if you're a contributor, write it up. If you're not a contributor and want to do a guest piece, well, drop it on us. We're looking forward to it.

Oh, and this picture of the late, great, Bill Monroe was posted on Bluegrass Hawai'i's photo page with the following caption:

September 7, 1981: Bill Monroe got lei'd!
The Hawaiian Country Festival took place on September 7, 1981,and featured several local acts--Melveen Leed, the Fifth String Band (Sam's bluegrass act!), the Country Living Band (a Waimanalo country act), as well as the Father of Bluegrass and country legend Johnny Paycheck. (photo ©Sam Hayakawa, used with permission, many mahalos to Sam!)

I'm afraid I don't know Mr. Hayakawa (though there was a Senator Samuel Hayakawa from California, God rest him), but I want to say thanks to him as well - if he'd like us to take this down, we completely dig, but damn, a picture this good deserves to be seen. A lot.

Post Script - I don't know if anyone else knows, but I am very curious to know what role the US Navy had in the interassociation of these two traditions. Call me crazy, but the ol' USN seems like the perfect means for this transition.

Research Project

I was just speaking to a co-worker this morning about the influence of Hawaiian music in Southern Appalachian songs as early as the 1920’s. A large section of this influenced happened particularly in Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia. I would like to know more. Can anyone explain where and why this happened?

The Future of the Appalachian Trail, Part II

The Roanoke Times has added another article to its series focusing on the A.T.'s mission toward environmental conservation.

Explorer endorses new path for trail

For Part I, click here.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Roan Mountain State Park

Roan Mountain State Park, described in the brochure as a “2006-acre slice of southern Appalachia,” is located near Elizabethton, Tennessee.
We got Cabin 15, one of the nicest cabins we’ve rented at a state park. You can’t get to the cabins by car, so there is no traffic noise. No television, no phones, no internet access. Just quiet woods.

We walked the Peg Leg Mine trail, where iron ore was mined over 100 years ago by the Crab Orchard Mining Company.

The park also includes a nature trail along a wooden boardwalk, through a wooded area and down by a river. It was warm enough on this mid-November Saturday to be out in short-sleeves.

Major entertainment was provided by the wood burning stove. (Particularly during a macabre moment when termites swarmed out of a burning log to meet a fiery death.) The fire was hypnotic, and had to be captured on video. In that incredibly variable way you find in mountainous areas, a bit of snow was falling as we packed up to leave this morning.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Hey Grandpa

What the heck is that?

Do you know what this is?

Yes, the thing on the right is a glove; I put it there to give our readers an idea of the scale of the tool on the left. I actually do know what the old rusty tool is, but I am interested in finding out if this style of implement was used in your area of Appalachia.

You are certainly welcome to guess if you don't know what it is but I am afraid we have no prizes for the winners aside from the universal hillbilly cheer of “Yeah Buddy!” A hint should be that it was used for something that was more commonly associated with Appalachia than the other regions of the country.

If you do know what the items is, please give me some history of its use in your area.



Thursday, November 09, 2006

Weekend Five: Transportation

I'll be hitting the road tomorrow, traveling across the great state of West Virginia en route to Huntington. I'll get to spend 3.5 hours listening to the thump-da-thump of the concrete sections of the West Virginia Turnpike under my tires. Unfortunately, many others will be hearing the same as the road is the one and only route through the state (unless you want to spend 7 hours on route 52, you take the interstate) . Years ago, I may have hopped on a Norfolk and Western J-Class steam locomotive to avoid automobile congestion. So, in longing for the days gone by and transportation solutions, I give you the Weekend Five in Eric's excused absence.

The Virginia Museum of Transportation

Norfolk & Western Historical Photograph Collection of Virginia Tech

Trans Dominion Express

Blue Ridge Soaring Society

88 Miles of Miracle

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Route Eleven North

A few weeks ago, Eric brought us this post which focused on the "old road" between Abingdon, Virginia and Knoxville, Tennessee. The following is part two in the series of the Highway 11 scenery, starting in Abingdon and highlighting landmarks to Dublin, VA.

First , the Baja Cafe` in Abingdon. The building was once home to the town's general store. Now as the Baja, it has become a favorite watering hole of mine when I return to visit old friends. On Friday night, I met the owner of the establishment , who has achieved fame outside of Abingdon. He is known as "The Sheriff" on the Appalachian Trail documentary Trek.

The Chilhowie Tastee-Freez. Once a mainstay in every town in Southwest Virginia, they are few and far between now. Luckily for the residents of Smyth County, this one is still serving up cold and sweet treats.

The Seven Mile Ford Train Station, as it stands today, is a farm equipment shop.

Another sweet stop between Seven Mile Ford and Marion, the Dip-Dog provides its customers with all of the dairy and processed meat products that one would ever want. It is a mighty-fine place to visit with your sweetie!
Marion's Lincoln Theatre, home to the PBS hit show Song of the Mountains.

The road near Atkins.

The Appalachian Trail crosses Route 11 and I-81 near Groseclose. The gas station across the street is the first store hikers come across after leaving the Grayson Highlands on their journey north. Snickers bars and Mountain Dew are big sellers here.

The largest pencil this side of the Mississippi.

Sunset at Draper Mountain overlook outside of Pulaski.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Appalachia A-La-Carte, 11-3-06

Several headlines worth perusing:

A Mine's Still-Toxic Legacy
By David A. Fahrenthold, The Washington Post, November 2

Tiny bug attacking hemlock trees in Ky.

By SAMIRA JAFARI, Associated Press Writer, November 2


Sunset from Dragon's Tooth, near Catawba, VA

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Hoops in unlikely places.

I saw this basketball hoop in a friend’s yard, and had to laugh a little at the thought of playing basketball in the grass. I always think of it as strictly a cement or wooden court sort of game. Apparently I was wrong, because suddenly I started noticing oddly placed hoops everywhere. So, just in time for NBA season, some other baskets (with and without nets) I found locally:


This may be risky in an overwhelmingly male blog (and I know I'm going to hear about it from all you sports fans), but these are my own personal tolerance levels for various televised sports:
Basketball. I can watch a limited amount of basketball because at least it’s fast-paced and the score changes frequently.
Football. About half the Superbowl, if I have something like a magazine or a plate of nachos to distract me.
Nascar. I’m not sure if racing counts as a sport, but as far as I can tell, people drive around and around in a circle, occasionally crash into each other, and die. Sheesh.
Baseball. This game, even live, is purely a narcotic for me.
Soccer. Don’t like this one on TV at all, but the one season my older son played, it was pretty cute to see a group of 5-year-olds running around aimlessly, getting distracted by important things like dandelions. I found myself yelling, “Kick the ball, honey! No, no, the other way!”
Golf. I heard a comedian once say golf is not a sport, it’s men in ugly clothes walking. I’m inclined to agree.