“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

UA Press Treasure, Part II: Folk Artist, Remade

Tin Man is a triple play for The University of Alabama Press.

Lucas cov des2.indd

This new book about folk artist Charlie Lucas is a gift, plain and simple, for the eye, mind, and heart. It brings together Lucas’s art, Chip Cooper’s photographs, and Ben Windham’s narrative skills into a visual story of the magic in the human spirit that can redeem a soul, make art, and know life intimately, despite deplorable odds.

Left to right: Cooper, Lucas, Windham, and art

An added bonus in Tin Man is Georgine Clarke’s insights into the art. Clarke is Visual Arts Program Manager at the Alabama State Council on the Arts and founding director of the state’s nationally known Kentuck Festival. Yes, it is “folk art,” but it creates a path to a broader art world through his “formal aesthetic values combined with a consistent vision and purpose.” Yes, it belongs in Alabama’s strong folk art tradition, capturing the state’s diversity and special character, but its thematic foundations “speak to the world as well as to his neighbors” of Pink Lily and Selma, Alabama.

CHARLIE-PINK LILY Charlie Lucas in Pink Lily

We call his materials recycled. He calls himself recycled. His pieces range from small iconic items to sculpture to wall art to life-sized statues to large murals created by discarded metals, paints, whole buildings, garden hoses, picture frames, tools, wheels, wire and fencing, and cloth.



Carrying a Heavy Load


After his serious truck accident, he explains that he had to reinvent himself: “And that’s when I feel I was really free from the old Charlie Lucas. The Tin Man was the new part of myself.”

“I had a professor come down from Yale to study me. I mean, they didn’t come down just because I was a person out in the woods, they wanted to know how could I have this knowledge about stuff when I didn’t go to school and I couldn’t read.”


Cooper’s 150-plus photographs capture the spirit of the art, in some ways better than an exhibition of a limited number of pieces could. The latter section of Tin Man is an art gallery of photos that capture the depth and breadth of Lucas’s work.


Ben Windham, retired journalist and editor with The Tuscaloosa News, currently writes a Sunday column, Southern Lights, for the News: http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/article/20091025/NEWS/910249958/1216/OPINION01?Title=SOUTHERN-LIGHTS-Learning-not-to-accept-some-lessons

Tin Man also showcases a university press working at its best level, offering a first-class book on a sometime overlooked topic, folk art in this case; a book that showcases a treasure unique to this state and of interest to the nation; and a topic as presented through the eyes and ideas of experts.



To order Tin Man on line, go to: http://www.uapress.ua.edu/

To order by phone, call: 800-621-2736 or 773-702-7000; to order by FAX, send it to: 800-621-8476 or 773-702-7212.

To inquire about Charlie Lucas’s folk art pieces, contact Chip Cooper at ccooper@ur.ua.edu, 205-348-8329 or 205-454-2335.


BORNONTHECOLOR Born on the Color

For a broader look into Cooper’s photography, go to Southern Artistry at http://www.southernartistry.org/. Click on “Photography” and find Cooper in the alphabetical listings.

Cuba Revealed: Photos on Exhibit

lone-person-havana-street Photos: Chip Cooper

Although the Obama administration has loosened some restrictions on relations with Cuba, you still can’t just go there. An upcoming exhibit, however, opening Nov. 6 at Patina Gallery in the art community of Fairhope, Alabama, will give viewers a look at Cuba that hasn’t been possible for most  Americans since 1962.

In 2003, The University of Alabama was able to travel to Cuba after receiving an academic travel license to initiate educational development and cooperation. UA photographer Chip Cooper went several times and returned with stunning photos and an agreement to a joint exhibition, “Side by Side,” with Néstor Martí, which has shown in Havana’s Julio Larramendi Gallery in the Hostal Del Havana, and will show at UA next year.


Havana at night

Don’t wait. Travel to the quaint town of Fairhope to see images of Havana, other parts of Cuba, and the “beauty and grace” of the Cuban people as seen through Cooper’s eyes and lens.

CUBA- couple(156)


The Patina Gallery is located on Church Street. For more information, call 251-928-2718. For information on purchasing limited edition photos, contact Chip Cooper at ccooper@ur.ua.edu or 205-348-8329.



Long-range plans include a book-length publication.


Nestor Marti (l) and Chip Cooper “Side by Side”

For information about UA's 2003 Cuba Initiative, go to: http://dialog.ua.edu/2003/02/ua-deansfaculty-explore-opportunities-in-cuba/.

UA Press Treasure, Part I: An Astonishing Ride on Alabama Rivers

Spittin’ Grits’ last post, October 14, promised to feature several treasures published by The University of Alabama Press. Like other Southern university presses, the UA Press is a treasure trove of books for everyone, not just scholarly and research books, but also books of general interest, gorgeous art books, nature field guides, books on the particular presses’ states and regions, great cookbooks, books on off-beat topics, books on overlooked subjects, and books the major publishing houses wouldn’t touch for fear that they wouldn’t contribute to profits.


Headwaters: A Journey on Alabama Rivers is the first of the series of treasures; it combines the features of an art book, a nature guide, and a portrait of Alabama’s natural beauty. Headwaters takes the reader on a breathtaking trip down the abundance of rivers, called metaphorically Alabama's Great River, from the northern part of the state to the fall line, through the coastal plain to the Gulf of Mexico. Truthfully, it is an astonishing ride.

Conservation photographer Beth Maynor Young teamed with John Hall, longtime UA professor, former curator of UA’s Museum of Natural History, and currently curator of the Black Belt Museum at the University of West Alabama, Livingston, to raise awareness of the rivers’ beauty, the wildlife they serve, and the need to continue conservation efforts in Alabama. The Dedication says it all:

“For all of the people: advocates, scientists, teachers, paddlers, fishermen, and agencies; who are working to secure a future for these waters, that our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren may enjoy and be inspired by the mystery of rivers.”

Locust Fork / Cornelius Falls

The Beginnings

Alabama’s “Great River” begins in the state’s northern uplands, particularly in Jackson County – as drops, trickles, seepages, creeks, falls, streams, which transform into the big rivers that all make their way to the Gulf.

“At Cheaha, walk the Chinnabee Silent Trail from Turnipseed to the top of the [Cheaha] mountain. Follow the little stream up on the flank of the mountain to where the little trickles run down and it smells like damp earth and mint and Galax.”

Or start at Lethe Brook in north central Alabama’s Winston County: “Surely the Great River of Alabama must begin in a place like this. Humidity fills the air, and groundwater oozes onto the roots of ferns and mosses. Slowly the trickles gather and begin to flow downhill, five hundred miles, home to the Gulf of Mexico.”

The Falls

Where the waters of the uplands fall from the geologically older granite rocks onto the younger, softer rocks into the coastal plain is the Fall Line. Below that, rivers become slower, lower, more meandering. In Alabama the fall line runs from the Shoals, with Florence being the fall line town, down to just below Tuscaloosa, over to Tallassee at the falls of the Tallapoosa River, into Georgia; after that the waters begin to fall into the Atlantic Ocean, through the Appalachians, and all the way to New Jersey.

The fall line physically demarcates features that can or cannot occur on either the up- or down-side of the line. For example, our Cahaba Lilies (shoals lily) can only survive on the upside of the fall line. The water’s flow must be strong enough to sweep away fine sediments that can smother the lilies’ roots.

Cahaba Lilies / southern experiment in biodiversity

The Exit

The waters of the Great River seep, drain, and spill into the Gulf by way of two major rivers – the Tombigbee, which gathers the western waters, and the Alabama, which gathers the eastern waters; these two rivers merge north of Mobile Bay to form the Tensaw Swamp. Finally fresh water merges with salt water in salt marshes. The journey is then completed.

Headwaters boasts more than 150 full color plates of Young’s inspiring photos, each with descriptive and informative text comprising the captions.

Once readers complete this journey, they have the knowledge and inspiration to ensure the future of Alabama’s Great River. And it’s a trip they can take over and over again.

For a slideshow of a sample of the photographs at Young’s Web site, go to: http://www.kingfishereditions.com/headwaters/phpslideshow.php?directory=.&currentPic=14

To order go to http://www.uapress.ua.edu/.

Options include ordering on line, calling the toll-free number, or faxing an order. Photos reprinted by permission of the UA Press.

By phone: 800-621-2736 or 773-702-7000

To fax: 800-621-8476 or 773-702-7212


Treasures from Southern University Presses

University presses are treasure troves of books for everyone, not just of scholarly and research topics. University presses publish general interest books, gorgeous art books, nature field guides, books on the presses’ state and region, fabulous cookbooks, books on off-beat topics, overlooked subjects, and books the major publishing houses wouldn’t touch because they might not contribute enough to the bottom line. You may not find university press-published books anywhere else.

You may not be aware of these treasures, as the marketing budgets at university presses are extremely limited. If you like books for yourself and for gift ideas, check out University presses. Christmas is creeping up.

Mighty The University of Alabama Press has three winners for fall/winter, and Spittin’ Grits will spotlight these in several future posts.



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Here are links to the major Southern university presses, a few of which have blogs, that hold membership in the American Association of University Presses (AAUP):

l University of Alabama Press (http://www.uapress.ua.edu/  )

*Note the difference in the addresses of the Alabama and Arkansas presses

l University of Arkansas Press (http://www.uapress.com/ )

and blog (http://uapress.blogspot.com/ )

l Duke University Press (http://www.dukeupress.edu/ )

and blog (http://www.dukeupress.typepad.com)

l University Press of Florida (http://www.upf.com/ )

l University Press of Georgia (http://www.ugapress.uga.edu/ )

and blog (http://ugapress.blogspot.com/ )

l University of Kentucky Press (http://www.kentuckypress.com/ )

l Louisiana State University Press (http://www.lsu.edu/lsupress/ )

and blog (http://lsupress.typepad.com/lsu_press_blog/ )

l University Press of Mississippi (http://www.upress.state.ms.us/  )

and blog (http://upmississippi.blogspot.com/ )

l University of North Carolina Press (http://www.uncpress.unc.edu/

and blog (http://uncpressblog.com/ )

l University of South Carolina Press (http://www.sc.edu/uscpress/ )

l University of Tennessee Press (http://utpress.org/ )

l Vanderbilt University Press (http://www.vanderbiltuniversitypress.com/ )

l University of Virginia Press (http://www.upress.virginia.edu/ )

Peter Givler, executive director of AAUP (http://aaupnet.org/ ), wrote in a 2002 article originally appearing in Scholarly Publishing: Books, Journals, Publishers and Libraries in the Twentieth Century, edited by Richard E. Abel and Lyman W. Newman, Wiley, 2002:

The history of university presses in the twentieth century largely has been one of growth: growth in both the number of university presses and the number of books and journals they publish. It has also. . . seen growth against the odds, growth against a pattern of declining support for universities generally. Through this process, university presses have become tough and resourceful, adaptable to changing market conditions.

In perusing university presses on line, a few books caught my eye.

UNC Press

ferris_give Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues by William Ferris, Eminent Professor of History and senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and coeditor of the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. The book is the 2009 Okra Pick: Great Southern Books Fresh Off the Vine, Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. It is illustrated with Ferris's photographs of the musicians and their communities; it includes a CD of original music and a DVD of original film and features interviews that relay narratives about black life and blues music from the American South. Celebrities such as B. B. King and Willie Dixon, along with performers known best in their neighborhoods, express a range of human and artistic experiences.

American Conservatism: Thinking It, Teaching It by Paul Lyons, professor of U.S. history and social policy at Stockton College and author of five books, deals with how a scholar's teaching informs his research, in this case an examination of the nature of American conservatism. In it, Lyons reflects on some of the most difficult issues in higher education today, such as how to handle racism and political passions in the classroom, as well as how a teacher presents his own political convictions.

The UNC Press is also having a half-off fall sale: http://www.uncpress.unc.edu/browse/page/622

LSU Press

hurricanes Hurricanes of the Gulf of Mexico by Barry D. Keim and Robert A. Muller, looks at hurricanes close up. The ominous announcement --

 “The storm has entered the Gulf” can strike fear in the residents all along the Gulf Coast, especially now, after the horrific hurricane strikes in recent years, including Charley and Wilma in southwestern Florida and Ivan, Dennis, Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike along the northern Gulf coast from Panama City to near Galveston. Climatologists Keim and Muller also examine the big picture of Gulf hurricanes—from the 1800s to the present and from Key West, Florida, to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula—providing an extraordinary compilation and interpretation of the entire region’s hurricane and tropical storm history.

Letters to My Father by William Styron and edited by James L. W. West III, is part of the LSU Press Southern Literary Studies series, edited by Fred Hobson. From 1943 to 1953, Styron wrote over one-hundred letters to William C. Styron, Sr., detailing his adventures, his works in progress, and his thoughts on the craft of writing. In 1952 the twenty-six-year-old budding author wrote to his father, “I’ve finally pretty much decided what to write next—a novel based on Nat Turner’s rebellion,” Styron would not publish his Pulitzer Prize–winning The Confessions of Nat Turner until 1967, but this letter undercuts those critics who later attacked the writer as an opportunist capitalizing on the heated racial climate of the late 1960s. Letters to My Father collects this correspondence for the first time, revealing the early, intimate thoughts of a young man who was to become a literary icon.

University Press of Kentucky

HarrisWatson_PaperSample.indd The Oprah Phenomenon by editors Jennifer Harris, assistant professor of English at Mount Allison University, New Brunswick, and Elwood Watson, associate professor of history at East Tennessee State University, looks at Oprah as an icon and as a brand built on her personal style. Contributors examine the origins of her public image and its influence on politics, entertainment, and popular opinion; they also look at criticism from detractors and admiration from supporters. Authors assert that the foundation of Winfrey’s message to her vast audience is her belief in self-actualization, which says that anyone can be a success regardless of background or upbringing.

The Philosophy of Popular Culture Series, edited by Mark T. Conard, assistant professor of philosophy at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City, publishes books that explore philosophical themes and ideas that occur in films of well known directors like Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, the Coen Brothers, Steven Spielberg and others; the series also includes book on football, basketball, science fiction films, and other topics. One goal of the series is to look at how philosophy intersects with popular culture in the entertainment media, such as movies, TV shows, and music. The authors attempt to elaborate on connections between traditional philosophical ideas and the ever-expanding world of popular culture.



The Mast-O-Con Club Card


Vietnam, Lost

Iraq, Costly

War on Drugs, Priceless

The War on Drugs, the Mast-O-Con Club card, is priceless because it has already cost us what the War in Iraq has cost us, yet the Drug War was lost decades ago.



It’s priceless because it will continue to cost at least $50,000,000,000 -- that's $50 BILLION -- a year until we put an end to it. Putting an end to the War part doesn’t mean we can afford to get out of the business of attending to the drug problem in the United States.

The con job is not the huge cost of the Drug War; it’s that we’ve been waging this war for 35 years and gotten NO WHERE. We are not one step closer to putting a dent in it. Therefore, the money you and I continue to spend getting nowhere will continue to get us nowhere.

Yet we have the knowledge to finally get somewhere, to put a dent in this lost war just by shifting focus a bit. But it will take changing the public’s minds and adjusting public policy. The same things are at stake in this Drug War as in the Iraq War – human lives, including yours and mine and the millions of other touched by one individual’s substance abuse and addiction.

One Person

You know someone abusing or addicted to drugs or alcohol. That person has an immediate family of grandparent(s), parent(s) and sibling(s), and in many cases step families. The extended family includes aunts, uncles, cousins. All those immediate and extended members have close friends and acquaintances. There are teachers and classmates, the users’ friends, law enforcement people, attorneys, drug court personnel, counselors, and on and on and on.

The effects roll outward, outward, outward, like a stone in water that creates circles, circles, circles, until you have a wave. The people affected increases exponentially.

Six Degrees of Separation

It is extremely difficult to get an accurate number of drug users/abusers/addicts in the U.S. The primary method of calculating the number is – and I am not making this up – for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to interview, a.k.a., call by telephone, American households. We have to rely on the respondents to tell the truth.



How many winks, I wonder.

The common sense assumption says that the figure of some 20 million Americans has to be a low-ball figure.

Then consider the “six degrees of separation” theory and soon you have the entire American society affected. We’ve looked everywhere for answers.

This Drug War, lasting 35 years, has gone on longer than all America’s wars added together. This one has cost millions of lives, billions of dollars, more than a few Czars, and 11 federal agencies – including the State Department, Justice Department, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, and more. We’ve thrown millions of non-violent drug offenders into jails and prisons, which cost umpteen more dollars.

It’s crazy. As Einstein said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

And now, finally, after looking everywhere, using untold resources, spending billions of dollars, we know where alcohol and drug addiction lives. We finally know. We were staring at it all along, but didn’t have the technology to show it until the recent past. Now we have no more excuses for waging this insane Drug War.

More in later posts.

The Matter of the Harvest Moon 2009

The full moon tonight in the Central and Eastern time zones is the Harvest Moon, not the Hunter’s Moon. On the west coast of the United States, the full moon occurred just before midnight on October 3, last night. That little tidbit has to do with the occurrence of first full moon following the Sept. autumnal equinox. So?

Here is a gorgeous photo taken of the 2009 Harvest Moon last night in Tijeras, New Mexico, by Becky Ramotowski, who posted it (along with several others) on Spaceweather.com at http://www.spaceweather.com/. The moon reaches full stage for me at 1:10 a.m. tonight.


The “so what?” has to do with Time and what means to me these days. Over the international dateline, it’s already tomorrow and I wonder when they saw the Harvest Moon. It’s weird. It requires math, I think.

But here’s why it matters to me. There will not be a true Harvest Moon again until 2017 and then 2020, and it’s cloudy and rainy here, so my granddaughter and I won’t be able to see this year's. (See “The Worm Moon,” Sept. 6, in the Grandparents category.)

The years to come are no longer a given. Depending on what life has in store, in 2017 I’ll be 74 and Joanna Leigh will be 10-1/2. And 2020 promises to be an especially good Moon Year, hosting a Harvest Moon, Hunter’s Moon, and Blue Moon – all in October.

The Difference Between the Harvest Moon and the Hunter's Moon

More often the Harvest Moon is the full moon in September and the Hunter's Moon is the full moon in October. The Hunter's Moon is the full moon that follows after the Harvest Moon; therefore the Hunter's Moon can occur in early November. So an October full Moon is either the Harvest Moon or the Hunter's Moon. In 2020, the Harvest/Hunter’s Moon will appear on Oct. 1; the second full Moon of the month – a Blue Moon -- will appear on Oct. 31.

Time is often compared to a river, constantly flowing, constantly changing. I guess I’m feeling like Time has become a flooded, raging river, moving too fast and dangerously.

So, I will catch all the special natural phenomena I can and hope I don’t fall into the raging river too soon.

Never Seen a Grit

Highfalutin: The theme of My Cousin Vinny is the clash of the familiar with the foreign. The New York Gambinis meet the Alabama Good-ole-boys in the Sac ‘o Suds and in the courtroom.

Regular American: My Cousin Vinny is hilarious. Like many classic comedies, this 1992 movie starring Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei has quite a camp following, and you can see lots of the scenes on YouTube.



One of the funniest is when Vinny (Pesci) meets a grit in the Alabama version of the greasy spoon.




Grits Recipes

I remembered this scene when I ran across a copy of food article featuring grits from a now defunct magazine written by the food writer Lydia Itoi. In it, grits meet Spain and China in two recipes, Striped Grits – Polenta Torta and Nancy’s Chinese Grits. To understate it, they are interesting. Itoi says she likes grits better than polenta, but the recipe pits the two directly against each other. It’s a good brunch dish for a crowd.

The Torta

For the Polenta:

1 ear fresh corn on the cob

2 cups water

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup quick-cooking polenta

For the Grits

2 cups water

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup quick-cooking hominy grits

2 oz. brie cheese, rind removed and cut into small cubes

Butter a 9-inch loaf pan. Wrap the ear of corn in plastic wrap and microwave on high for 1-1/2 minutes. Remove the wrap, hold the ear of corn vertically on a cutting board, and slice the kernels off with a sharp knife. Measure out ½ cup kernels.

Bring the water and salt to a boil and gradually stir in the polenta. Lower the heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes or until polenta is very thick and starts pulling away from the sides of the saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the ½ cup corn kernels. Spread this mixture evenly in the bottom of the loaf pan and set aside.

Bring the water and salt to a boil and gradually stir in the grits. Lower the heat to low, cover and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or until grits are very thick and creamy. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese until it melts and is thoroughly combined. Spread this mixture over the polenta. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 2 hours.

Before serving, slice the torta into thick slices and spread them on an ovenproof serving dish. Broil for 10-12 minutes, or until the top turns lightly golden. Serve warm. Makes 6 servings.

Nancy’s Chinese Grits

3 cups water

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger

¾ cup quick-cooking grits

¼ cup chopped ham, imitation crabmeat, or fish balls

¼ cup peas or sliced snow peas

3 tablespoons chopped green onions or chives

Ground white or black pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, bring the water, salt and grated ginger to a boil. Gradually stir in the grits, ham (or crabmeat or fish balls) and peas and cook according to package instructions. Remove from heat and stir in green onions. Season to taste with pepper and serve hot. Serves 4.

Now, regarding highfalutin or hifalutin or highfaluten or hifaluten:

Mainstream dictionaries agree that it means absurdly pompous or bombastic in style, pretentious, but they disagree on origins. It is very American, however.

The American Heritage dicltionlarly of The English Language, fourth edition, 2000, gives a regional note: “H.L. Mencken, in his famous book The American Language, mentions highfalutin as an example of the many native U.S. words coined during the 19th-century period of vigorous growth. Although highfalutin is characteristic of American folk speech, it is not a true regionalism because it has always occurred in all regions of the country.”

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