The Hunt For Disabled Hillbillies
Posted on 10.07.17 by Danny Glover @ 6:34 pm

Every now and then, journalists in the big city get the urge to head for the hills of West Virginia and hunt stereotypes. They always find their prey. Then they tell stories that misrepresent the reality of life for most West Virginians.

You can call it Hatfields-and-McCoys journalism because the tradition is at least that old. The latest installment comes courtesy of The Washington Post, which sent a reporter hunting for hillbillies as part of the paper’s series on Social Security Disability Insurance.

I have no gripe with the topic. It’s worthwhile to shine a light on the Supplemental Security Income system because of its cost and susceptibility to fraud and abuse. I also have no problem with West Virginia being part of the story because 4 percent of West Virginians get SSI benefits — more than any other state, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. One in five working-age residents in Logan County, which the Post visited, are among them.

What galls me are the predictably cliched portrayals of country folk, and they start with the opening anecdote about digging roots from the hills for money: “For the people of the hollow, opportunity begins where the road ends.”

The implication is that the anecdote represents the norm — not just in that hollow but in all of Logan County and the entire state. Poverty reporter Terence McCoy made that point clear a few paragraphs later when he added, “In West Virginia, getting by means digging roots in the mountains.”

No, it doesn’t! Maybe it’s OK to spout that kind of nonsense when writing the script for a reality television show like “Appalachian Outlaws,” but it’s bad journalism.

I spent most of my first 24 years in the Mountain State and still visit regularly, and the only person I ever knew who dug roots was my paternal grandfather. And he did it as much for the thrill of hunting ginseng, a rare find in his part of the state, as for the money.

Most West Virginians who fall on hard times don’t dig roots to “get by”; they turn to family for support. That’s a bit harder to do when multiple family members are on the government dole and/or are estranged from each other. The Post found a family like that not because it’s the norm but because it fit the false image that urban elites have of the state.

That’s also why the Post repeatedly called attention to the fact that Donna Jean Dempsey, the main character in its tale, lives in a rundown shack without running water. It’s mentioned twice in the story and in two separate photo captions.

The photos further reinforce the ridiculous perceptions that prim-and-proper journalists tend to have of West Virginians. The portraits include: a woman who wears the same filthy flannel and blue jeans for a week; a shirtless, bushy-bearded Bubba sitting on a porch; and a gaunt mountain man who relies on oxygen after five heart attacks and two strokes.

Then there is the closing anecdote. Having survived to another SSI payday, Dempsey treated herself to three six-packs of beer at the local dollar stores. McCoy milked that development for all it was worth, characterizing it as “the best moment of the month” for Dempsey.

“She lit a cigarette, stretched out her legs and opened a beer,” he wrote. And then a few sentences later: “She looked down at her beer and thumbed its lid. She took a sip. The moment could last a while longer, she decided.”

Save for a trip to the still and Dempsey sipping from a moonshine jug, he couldn’t have asked for a better redneck ending to this chapter of yellow journalism about West Virginia.


Filed under: Government and History and Human Interest and Media and People and Photography and Rednecks and West Virginia
Comments: None

The Dog Days Of Spring
Posted on 05.09.17 by Danny Glover @ 8:16 pm

Whenever the whether gets warm, this dog likes to cruise through our city in his master’s hot rod. My walk home from the train station this evening finally coincided with the driver getting stuck in traffic long enough for me to snap a photo.


Filed under: Pets and Photography
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The Myth Of The Impala Mama
Posted on 02.18.17 by Danny Glover @ 1:50 pm

Finnish photographer Alison Buttigieg loves cats. The Internet loves cats. But these days Buttigieg hates the Internet because it’s lying about one of her cat photos.

It all started Feb. 11. Someone who knows her work as a wildlife photographer recognized a cheetah picture of hers online. That wasn’t necessarily a surprise  —  Buttigieg published the “remarkable” photo on her blog, Facebook and Instagram last November after it won an international award. But the flood of messages that started pouring in from strangers that day stunned her.

An intellectual property thief had stolen her photo, invented a feel-good back-story for it, and engineered a viral sensation  —  one that wasn’t exactly flattering to Buttigieg. The tall tale portrayed the three cheetahs in the photo as heartless killers, their impala prey as a self-sacrificial mother and Buttigieg as a fragile soul who sank into depression after documenting a feline feast.

“In the beginning I thought it was absolutely hilarious, even the trolling,” she told me in an email interview six days after the hoax spread. “But then it was suddenly really overwhelming when I realized there wasn’t much I could do.”

Buttigieg is an information technology consultant whose passion for animals and for wild places inspired a foray into photography. She has carried a camera on wildlife journeys around the world for 13 years and started taking the photographic aspect of her observations more seriously about four years ago.

“I see my photos as a means to spread awareness about wildlife and the need to protect them and their habitat,” she said.

Buttigieg has shot pictures on three continents  —  Africa, Asia and South America. Her favorite places include Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in Botswana and South Africa, and the Massai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. In September 2013, she was near the latter location, at the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, when she saw a family of cheetahs trap a lone impala.

Cats of all kinds fascinate Buttigieg because of their beauty and expressive faces. Cheetahs stand out in the felidae species for their speed, quirks and sounds. The guides at the conservancy knew she loved cheetahs, and a mother and two adolescents were near the camp during her visit.

Read the rest of the story at Medium.


Filed under: Blogging and Human Interest and People and Photography and Social Media and Technology and Travel and Wildlife
Comments: 1 Comment

The Deadly Track Of Life
Posted on 01.31.17 by Danny Glover @ 8:46 pm

Here’s a deep thought inspired by the image below, captured during my commute home this evening on Virginia Railway Expressway: Sometimes the track of life is unpleasant.
The Enlightened Redneck Philosopher


Filed under: Photography and Rednecks and Wildlife
Comments: None

Airscape Photography Is Ready For Takeoff!
Posted on 01.21.17 by Danny Glover @ 12:28 pm

The image to the right doesn’t look like much, but what it means is that I passed my remote pilot’s test. I’ll soon be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (where I also happen to work as a contract editor and writer) to fly small unmanned aircraft for clients.

I’m in the process of creating a new brand within my communications company, Tabula Rasa Media, which I organized as a limited liability corporation four years ago. This entails registering the offshoot as a DBA, which is short for “doing business as.”

Under the name Airscape Photography, I will offer drone photography and video services to clients who want to capture aerial images of their homes, businesses or properties. I’ll also shoot photos and videos of scenic landscapes and architectural landmarks to sell individual prints.

I plan to take regular road trips to shoot footage, just like I did with my first professional camera three decades ago. My home state of West Virginia will be a regular destination because the scenery doesn’t get any better than in “Almost Heaven.”

Below are recent pictures from my hometown of Paden City and of New Martinsville, including one of the Wetzel County Courthouse:


Filed under: Aviation and Business and Photography and Technology and Video and West Virginia
Comments: 1 Comment

OneFootWandering Through Life On Instagram
Posted on 01.19.17 by Danny Glover @ 6:16 pm

This is one photo of many posted by a young woman who had to have her foot amputated because of cancer. She kept the foot and now takes it with her as she journeys through Instagram life under the moniker “OneFootWander.”

A photo posted by cancer foot (@onefootwander) on

Kristi Loyall explained the idea behind the foot and how it has helped her cope:

It was my cousin’s friend’s idea. They messaged me on Facebook and said they had an idea that I should start an Instagram for my foot. I wanted to do it to make other people and myself laugh.

I was excited when 100 people were following my foot. A lot of people have left positive and kind comments. I didn’t really expect that. It actually made me feel better about my situation. It’s made my outlook on life more positive. I used to be kind of pessimistic.

She has one twisted sense of humor. I like it.


Filed under: Just For Laughs and People and Photography and Social Media and Technology
Comments: None

The Photog Who Saw Trump As A Phenom
Posted on 12.12.16 by Danny Glover @ 12:24 pm

This is how journalism is supposed to work — you go places and report what you see and hear, even if you don’t like it: “I don’t like Trump, not in the least bit, but I was watching him resonate.”

[Chris] Arnade sought the poor or unfashionable areas in every location, whether Worcester, Mass.; Utica, N.Y.; Bridgeport, Conn.; Baltimore; or El Paso.

By the summer of 2015, shortly after Trump declared his candidacy, something remarkable was happening. “Everybody I talked to wanted to vote for Trump,” he said. “There was a big disconnect between what you’d see in the press and what I’d hear on the ground.”

He kept going: Buffalo. Kingston, Tenn. Milwaukee. Selma, Ala. He would find the McDonald’s in the poor part of town, or the Walmart parking lot, places he described as ad hoc community centers.

Back in May, when many were still pooh-poohing Trump’s chances, Arnade wrote a notable series of tweets: If Trump didn’t win this time around, it would only be because he was such a deeply flawed candidate; but some Trumplike figure soon would capi­tal­ize on people’s anger and disenfranchisement.

The photographer who watched this phenomenon unfold wasn’t a journalist by training. He saw the story the “real” journalists couldn’t because he drove into flyover country with open eyes and an open mind.

The media elites should take the lesson to heart. They won’t.


Filed under: Media and News & Politics and People and Photography
Comments: None

A Farm Called Rougeneck
Posted on 12.09.16 by Danny Glover @ 6:27 pm

I spent many summer weeks of my youth at my grandfather’s property along Indian Creek in West Virginia, and as a teenager I hunted deer there occasionally. My and I have dreamed of owning it for two decades.

As of today, and thanks to generous parents, in life and in death, we do — all 35 acres, a house that probably should be condemned and an old shed assessed belong to us now. I now jointly own outright a piece of “Almost Heaven,” a dream fulfilled for any West Virginian.

It is a bittersweet moment, the transfer of the property coming as the result of my father death at age 78 in July. We’d rather have had him with us a while longer. But I smiled through the tears as we bought back into the family the half of the property that had gone to my uncle’s stepchildren after his death in 2010 and as my mother deeded her half to us.

The place we always called “the farm” henceforth shall be known as Rougeneck. It’s the perfect melding of my wife’s and my Louisiana and West Virginia family histories. (For those who didn’t know, rouge is French for “red” — think of Louisiana’s capital city, Baton Rouge, which means “Red Stick” — so the name of the property is the enlightened way of saying “redneck.”)

Here are a few pictures of the property and my family through the years:



Filed under: Family and History and Hunting & Guns and Photography and Rednecks and West Virginia
Comments: None

David McCullough Likes My Redneck Beard!
Posted on 09.04.15 by Danny Glover @ 2:59 pm

Normally I’d say the highlight of my day yesterday was meeting historian David McCullough, whose latest book “The Wright Brothers” brought him to Federal Aviation Administration headquarters. But the highlight actually was what he said when we met: “Great beard. Whoa.”


Filed under: Aviation and Books and History and People and Photography and Rednecks
Comments: 1 Comment

The First Amendment On Display
Posted on 06.26.15 by Danny Glover @ 9:50 pm

Both the quote and photo are courtesy of the same man in the White House, seven years apart.

Interpret it as you will. I see freedom of religion and freedom of speech on display. Let’s hope both First Amendment values are equally welcome in the America of the future.


Filed under: Government and News & Politics and Photography and Religion
Comments: 3 Comments

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