Sunday, August 21, 2011

Parting Gift from the South

While living in the Deep South for the last two years I haven't come across too much blatant racism besides the Civil War deniers who claim that the War of Northern Aggression was fought purely over taxation.

The other day movers were at my house taking my stuff away, and one of them asked me if there had been any problems in the neighborhood. I said no and asked him why he was asking. He said he was wondering because he had seen a lot of "colored folks" around my street. I tried to ignore the comment and not engage in conversation.

My co-worker came up with what should have been my response: one of those colored folk is my mother.

And a few minutes later, I could hear the guy talking to another one of the movers saying "colored folk" over and over again.

I suppose it's a good think that this guy didn't realize that I was Jewish. I assume like everyone else down here, he thought I was Italian, and thus, connected.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Red's: The Final Meal

As my time in the south rapidly comes to an end, I put in my final meal at Red's -- my favorite southern comfort food restaurant.

Much of the fun of going to Red's is the drive there -- it's in the middle of no where: 20 miles down a state highway into farm country, then another 5 miles on county roads (so two lane roads, sometimes you go off the GPS map).

By far the best thing they make is their fried corn bread. I'm sure it's like 500 calories a piece, but it's amazing.

A friend bought me their cookbook so I could make the corn bread myself, and I was surprised to find that that secret ingredient is buttermilk, and apparently, buttermilk is used in everything, including fried chicken. Who knew? (everyone but me).

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why Women Shouldn't Vote

So the local conservative weekly rag, The Alabama Gazette, printed the below Op-Ed (it's a must read):

Here's my exchange with the paper about it:

Sent: Friday, July 15, 2011 4:27 PM
Subject: re: "The People's Voice: In God We Trust," July 8

To the editor:

You should be ashamed for publishing Ed Jone's misogynist diatribe ("In God We Trust," July 8). His claim that women are uninformed voters, that they are swayed by the looks of candidates and not their policies, that their votes have harmed our nation, and thus, giving women the right to vote was a mistake, is offense, unpatriotic, and anti-American.

If there is anyone who is an uniformed fool, it's Jones. In his column he repeatedly says that The Twentieth Amendment established womens suffrage. The Twentieth Amendment is the "lame duck" amendment. The Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote.

The "Gazette" owes its readers an apology.



On Fri, Jul 15, 2011 at 5:35 PM, Loretta Grant <> wrote:

Thank you for your response! Response is what I want from our readers!
'This is a "think" for yourself publication. If only we would all stand up
for our beliefs and issues that just "make up mad".
We are the "People's Voice" and YOU are a thinking reader.

I am a woman. I read this, and knowing Ed as I do, I know he simply thinks
men and women are just made different. I agree! We do think about issues
differently. I am a free thinking woman or I would not own this newspaper.
This did not offend me. I did not completely agree with his slant on the
women voting issues, but it does make us examine ourselves to
find out what makes us vote for a particular person. Most people go to the
polls and "don't have a clue", or are told how to vote! Think...think...think.
Be more informed! That's the point!

Thank you again. Please keep reading The Alabama Gazette and feel free
to comment at any time!
Loretta Grant
Publisher/Managing Editor

To: Loretta Grant <>
Sent: Monday, July 18, 2011 9:34 AM
Subject: Re: "The People's Voice: In God We Trust," REPLY
- Hide quoted text -

Mrs. Grant:

You may know Ed, but I'm guessing most of your readers, including me, don't. All we have to go by is his printed word, and that tells a very different story than the man you may know personally.

I'm also curious that you have no comment on the fact that he repeatedly named the wrong amendment (and that fact checkers did not pick this up).




I will print this email out for him. He does not personally operate a computer.
Thanks for your comments!

Loretta Grant

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Seaside, FL

This past weekend I went to Seaside, FL where The Truman Show was filmed.

Seaside is a master-planned community designed to be an idealized 1950s beech community.

Despite the extremely high level of kitsch, the town is pretty cool -- I'd vacation there.

Seaside is quite compact (there's very little space between homes), it's modeled to be a garden city with trees and brush all over the place, the architecture is diverse and interesting, and it's all very self-contained with lots of retail and restaurants in the town center.

With the exception of going to the supermarket, while there you could park your car and never have to drive -- everything you would need is in walking distance.

(Sand paths like this cut through the blocks so that people can walk from their homes to the beach in bare feet.)

There is one major flaw with the design of the town. Virtually none of the homes have parking on the property line (e.g. a garage or parking space). As a result, all of the streets are lined with cars, and they screw up the picturesque look of the town.

It's either a major oversight, or they grossly underestimated how many cars per home there would be. This website implies that the on-street parking provides a buffer between the street and sidewalk. While this is done in places like NYC -- it goes sidewalk, bike lane, parking, traffic lane, so that the parked cars protect the bike lane from traffic -- unlike NYC, people aren't zooming down the streets of Seaside at 40 mph. Most people were driving slower than I walk.

One other planning mistake was that they didn't put in bike lanes -- and lots of people bike around town.

More pictures:

On the way to Seaside I drove by this mega condo, Emerald Grande:

It's an interesting contrast to Seaside. Both have the same goal of being a self-contained vacation community -- it has its own mall, restaurants, marina -- but its design philosophy is part of our mall culture -- the building is pretty much a stationary cruise ship.

I can understand why some people will like that, but its huge size means it's always going to be congested with people.

The biggest difference between it and Seaside is that there is no where to walk -- walking is a major component of Seaside experience.

I also think buying a unit in a condo like this is a bad investment. Eventually someone is going to build a newer, glitzy condo tower, and next thing you know, you own a unit in a second rate building.

Finally, I spotted this disaster waiting to happen:

This putz is going to get someone killed. What does he think those clam shell type looking things everyone has on their car roofs is for?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

36 Hours in Central Alabama

A friend was in Alabama for a day and a half, so in the spirit of the New York Times travel section's “36 hours in…,” here’s an accounting of our whirlwind day and a half.


9 a.m.
1) Selma

First stop was the tiny but historic city of Selma. We did the usual – walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, went to Brown Chapel and strolled by the homes in the historic neighborhood – and as a first for me, went to Live Oak Cemetery which is a picturesque southern Gothic cemetery overflowing with Spanish Moss.

12:45 p.m.
2) Mobile

Our pursuit of authentic southern food led us to The Brick Pit. It was simply the best Bar-B-Que I’ve ever had. The ribs melted in my mouth.

According to the menu: "We Smoke our chickens for 6 to 8 hours, our ribs for 12 hours and our pulled pork for up to 30 hours all over a blend of Hickory and Pecan."

2:00 p.m.
3) Dauphin Island

On impulse we decided to drive as far South as you can get – Dauphin Island. I’ve been before, but a first for me was going into Fort Gaines. If you’ve seen one Civil War fort you’ve pretty much seen them all, but the exhibits there depicted its role in the Battle of Mobile Bay, and the Fort’s latrine used the tides in a pretty clever way to remove waste.

Here's a fun little plaque about the cause of the Civil War.

Last time I was at Dauphin Island I noted how many oil rigs you could see. This time not only could I see more, but they appeared to be even closer to the island – only a mile or so away.

4 p.m.
4) Mobile.

Back in Mobile we walked around Dauphin St.

6 p.m.
5) Monroeville

For the second year in a row I attend Monroeville’s community product of To Kill a Mockingbird. Last year I sat in the balcony during the courtroom scene (which is staged in the Monroeville courtroom); this year I sat on the main level. While I wanted to go back to the balcony, because it filled up fast so I was forced to sit down stairs. However, I felt it was a more involving experience sitting in the main level. At times it felt like I was watching an actual trial unfolding in front of me.


9 a.m.
6) Montgomery

In the morning we hit the highlights of Montgomery: Civil Rights Memorial, Dexter King Memorial Baptist Church (where MLK was pastor and organized the bus boycott), Court Square (site of the city’s slave market), Capitol Building steps where Jefferson Davis was sworn in, and Hank Williams’ grave.

11 a.m.
7) Red’s Little School House

For an early lunch we went to Red’s where I got in my once a month serving of fried chicken, fried corn bread, fried livers and fried gizzards.

1:30 p.m.
8) Downtown Birmingham

On the way to the airport we swung through downtown Birmingham. As always, I was impressed with its many well preserved turn of the century buildings. If there is any Alabama city that could have a vibrant downtown comparable to a northern city, it’s Birmingham. The infrastructure is there, but people and businesses just need to relocate downtown.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Alabama has a cockfighting lobby?

Sometimes Alabama lives up to its reputation and there is no way to defend the state:

Cockfighting lobby likely to derail bill that would stiffen penalties for crime

Published: Friday, April 15, 2011, 8:00 AM
By George Altman

Alabama's cockfighting lobby appears to be on the verge of blocking yet another bill that would impose stiffer penalties for the crime, the bill's sponsor said.

State Rep. Jim Barton, R-Mobile, said that while House Bill 74, which would elevate the offense from parking-ticket levels to hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars in fines and potential jail time, has passed through committee, it probably won't be considered by the full House.

"The sentiment of the House - particularly a lot of the northern Alabama representatives - (is that they) do not want to deal with it," Barton said. "I think there's been a lot of pressure on those guys."

The pressure, according to Barton, has come from the Alabama Gamefowl Breeders Association, which has helped derail similar bills in recent years.

"Alabama has more important things to worry about than cockfighting," said D'Renda Lewis, the association's secretary.

Not only are the $20 to $50 maximum fines for cockfighting currently on the books sufficient, they shouldn't even apply to most cockfights in Alabama, which are not held in public places and are, therefore, legal, according to Lewis.

"The majority of people who participate in cockfighting in Alabama are not doing anything against the law," Lewis said. [more]

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Philly Invasion

My local Fresh Market supermarket carries Di Bruno Bros. cheese spreads. Incredible!

I saw the containers from a distance and they looked familiar. When I got in close I was blown away. This is Di Bruno Bros. in Ala-freakin-bama!

I'm going to have to talk to the manager about stocking other Di Bruno Bros. food products.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


This past weekend I went to Doo-Nanny. It's an "outsider art folk show" in the middle of nowhere in Alabama (which I define as 40 miles off the interstate).

Artist Butch Anthony hosts it on his 80 acre farm. At the end of the night there is the Doo-Nanny Burn which is modeled after Burning Man.

If it sounds familiar, the New York Times wrote an article on it last year.

It was pretty easy to spot the tourists like me and the people who were really into the spirit of the event.

The permanent exhibit on the compound was the Museum of Wonder.

It featured arrangements of found objects, which I suppose is the definition of "outsider folk art."

There were too many people going in and out to take in all the details. If it wasn't for the fact that it is 1.5hrs away, I'd like to go back.

Elsewhere on the grounds there was the art show which I felt was more people peddling their junk than actual art show. I say junk because for the most part, it lacked the wit of the pieces in the Museum of Wonder.

Perhaps the main attraction of the show is the Doo-Nanney Burn.

Here's the effigy that they burned (yes, it's what you think it is):

Here's Anthony's explanation (from the Times article):
“There’s a 100-foot vagina we’re fixing to burn,” Mr. Anthony remarked recently while filling a garbage can in the back of his battered truck with water, a precautionary measure, one gathered, in case things got out of hand.

But why a vagina? “They’ve got a burning man, why not have a burning woman?”

I didn't stay for the burn because I didn't want to spend the entire day out there -- I got there at 1:30 pm; the burn ends at midnight. And I lacked the motivation to load up my car with food and camping equipment.

This was definitely one of the more interesting uniquely Alabaman experiences I've had.

All of my pictures:

Oh. On the way there, I passed sections of forest that looked to have been hit pretty hard by forest fires.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

It's not racism, it's herritage...and denial aint just a river in Egypt

This past Saturday the Sons of Confederate Veterans celebrated the founding of the Confederacy by reenacting the swearing-in of Jefferson Davis on the Alabama State Capitol steps (where Jefferson Davis was sworn-in 150 yeas ago).

Predictably, their message was that the Civil War was about States Rights and that they were honoring the brave men who fought for this noble idea.

I was thoroughly creeped out from being surround by all of these lunatics -- I was less uncomfortable when I visited the gas chambers at Dachau. I'm not kidding.

Maybe it would be unfair to label them all as racists, but who puts stickers like these on their cars?:

No one threatened me, but one guy came up to me and said, "do they know a Yankee is here?" I wasn't wearing anything to indicate that, but I obviously didn't fit in.

The most lunatic speech came from this guy:

Besides bringing up Harry Potter, he compared his plight -- a white man who is maligned by liberals because he speaks the truth of what the Civil War was really fought over -- to the Civil Rights Movement. He told the crowd that like Rosa Parks, it was time they stood up from the back of the bus and walked to the front. So I guess he must feel like he's living in an apartheid state. And there's no doubt that Rosa Parks' name was invoked because we're in Montgomery, AL, home of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and only several hundred feet away from MKL's church where the boycott was organized.

I was happy that Bill Maher focused on this event in his New Rules segment on Friday's show. My local friends weren't happy that Bill attacked all Southerns, but my response to them is that even though the Sons of Confederate Veterans do not represent the majority of Southerns, the majority is complicit by never speaking out against these Civil War revisionists. There should have been a counter protest, but there wasn't one. And while these guys obviously have a Constitutional right to assemble and say whatever they want, I don't think the State should have allowed them to hold the event on the Capitol steps given that they are slavery deniers.

All my pictures from the day:

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Someone really likes 'The Dukes of Hazzard'

I spotted what appeared to be a near perfect replica of "The General Lee" in town today:

The confederate battle flag was on the roof and "01" was painted on the doors. The only apparent dissimilarity was that the doors did not appear to be welded shut.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Alabama Gov. to non-Christians: Go to hell

Our new Governor, on his first day on the job, speaking at an MLK day event, at MLK's church, had this to say about his non-Christian constituents:
"So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother."
While there is some context to the statement, it's pretty scary that when writing the speech no one thought someone might take issue with telling non-Christians that the Governor is not their "brother."

The good news for the Governor is that there aren't many Jews in Alabama, and I doubt any of them voted for him.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Unsealing Revelation's Mysteries

I received this in the mail the other day:

Unsealing Revelation's Mysteries

Unfortunately I've been out of town during some of the early seminars, but nothing is going to keep me from missing "How to Postpone Your Funeral."

It turns out that this church is local and they have podcasts. Listen to this one and be sure to listen for at least a minute. You'll see why.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Panic at the Supermarket

An inch or so of snow and some freezing rain was predicted for Sunday through today (Monday), and sure enough, on Friday people began clearing out certain items at the supermarket, most notably bread.

It doesn't take much snow to legitimately shut things down here in Alabama -- neither the city nor state have many plows or really any salt stockpiled.

But what I don't get, is the level of fear that is induced when people hear that it could snow.

People react like they're going to be trapped in their homes for days, maybe weeks, and will be completely shut off from food.

Let's pretend for a second that this really could happen. Why is that people think they can subsist on sliced bread? There are a lot of other things in the supermarket that have substantially greater nutrional value as well as a longer shelf life, like canned fruits and vegetables. If I thought that a snow apocolyspse was really imminent, I'd stock up on canned foods, not wonder bread.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Check

Here's a cultural difference I've noticed between the Dixie and the North.

When a group of people receive the check for a meal up north, it's always a single check. In the South, probably 65 to 75 percent of the time the server either asks the table if everyone wants separate checks, or they go ahead and do it without asking. And this seems to be indicative of the people in the South. When I'm out with people and the server gives the table a single check, someone always ask if the table can have separate checks. Up north I find it is very rare that someone asks for separate checks -- almost everyone seems find calculating what they owe.

While I suppose that always having separate checks does make it a lot easier to calculate what you owe, especially when everyone at the table has ordered a lot, there's something anti-social about it. When you ask for the separate check, you're pretty much saying that you don't trust the people you're dining with to properly split the bill.

There have certainly been times where I knew someone calculated wrong and I had to over pay by a few dollars, but my philosophy is that it will all even out in the end. So maybe the folks up north are actually more friendly than people in the South?