‘Hillbilly Heroin’ On ‘Law & Order’
Posted on 02.04.17 by Danny Glover @ 1:28 pm

I often start my Saturdays by watching a few episodes of “Law & Order,” and right now I’m watching one from 2002 that I must not have seen before. I would have remembered it if only for the “hillbilly” slam against West Virginia.

The episode, titled “Oxymoron,” is about a murder related to a drug dealer who specializes in the highly addictive narcotic oxycodone. About 15 minutes into the show, the main police characters in the show — Lennie Briscoe, Ed Green and Lt. Anita Van Buren — have a conversation about the drug in question. Here’s an excerpt from the transcript:

Van Buren: Oxycodone?
Green: Yup, they call it “Hillbilly Heroin.” Some genius in West Virginia figured it was easier to get than moonshine.
Briscoe: Yeah. Yuppies and housewives who don’t want to see themselves as users get it from their doctors.
Van Buren: And the insurance companies foot the bill?
Green: Mm-hmm. Until they stop paying. Then they got to go to the guy on the corner.
Briscoe: Pills go for about a dollar a milligram on the street. Eighty-milligram pills, 100 pills to a bottle– that’s 8,000 bucks a bottle.
Van Buren: That’s not a bad profit margin.

I get that opioids are a huge problem in West Virginia, even more now than when “Oxymoron” aired 15 years ago. The epidemic of abuse is so well-known that it appears to have motivated drug manufacturers to flood the state with hundreds of millions of pills, amounting to 433 pain pills for every state resident, regardless of age.

“Hillbilly heroin” also is an actual slang term for describing this scourge in rural America, where people looking to get high can’t afford the drugs of choice for the rich and famous like cocaine. So I have no problem with the writers of “Law & Order” incorporating it into the script.

But the wisecrack suggest that West Virginia is the home of rednecks who either drink moonshine or get their fix from oxycodon was a predictable typecast straight out of Hollywood. Odds are good that whoever wrote that line has never been to the great Mountain State.


Filed under: Culture and Entertainment and Health and News & Politics and Rednecks and West Virginia
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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
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Katherine Johnson: A W.Va. Success Story
Posted on 01.17.17 by Danny Glover @ 8:13 pm

My wife and I watched the movie “Hidden Figures” over the weekend, and the best part was discovering that one of the three main characters, Katherine Johnson, is a West Virginia native.

Here’s what WVU Magazine had to say in a story about Johnson and other “Barrier Breakers“:

You’ve likely heard about the new biographical drama film ‘Hidden Figures,’ about a team of three black female mathematicians who helped calculate flight trajectories for groundbreaking space projects, including the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the moon.

The leader of the group was White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., native Katherine Johnson, also the first black woman to desegregate graduate studies at WVU in 1938. At the time, she was one of three black students, and the only female, to attend graduate studies at WVU following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that required public universities to accept black graduate students if similar courses weren’t available at black colleges.

Although her stay at WVU was brief – she spent just one summer here – Johnson was awarded an honorary degree from the university in 2016 and is widely acclaimed as an American space pioneer. In 2015, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award given by the president. Following a historic career with NASA, Johnson, now 98, lives in Newport News, Va.”

I love learning the stories of famous West Virginians, especially those whose successes shatter the stereotypes of the great Mountain State as the land of hillbillies, rednecks and rubes. You can learn more about Johnson via NASA, which ended its story about her by saying, “Not bad, for a little girl from West Virginia.”

Here’s what President Obama had to say about Johnson when awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, followed by the text of the award citation:

Growing up in West Virginia, Katherine Johnson counted everything. She counted steps. She counted dishes. She counted the distance to the church. By 10 years old, she was in high school. By 18, she had graduated from college with degrees in math and French. As an African-American woman, job options were limited — but she was eventually hired as one of several female mathematicians for the agency that would become NASA.

Katherine calculated the flight path for America’s first mission in space, and the path that put Neil Armstrong on the moon. She was even asked to double-check the computer’s math on John Glenn’s orbit around the Earth. So if you think your job is pressure-packed, hers meant that forgetting to carry the one might send somebody floating off into the Solar System. In her 33 years at NASA, Katherine was a pioneer who broke the barriers of race and gender, showing generations of young people that everyone can excel in math and science, and reach for the stars.

Citation: With her razor-sharp mathematical mind, Katherine G. Johnson helped broaden the scope of space travel, charting new frontiers for humanity’s exploration of space, and creating new possibilities for all humankind. From sending the first American to space to the first moon landing, she played a critical role in many of NASA’s most important milestones. Katherine G. Johnson refused to be limited by society’s expectations of her gender and race while expanding the boundaries of humanity’s reach.


Filed under: Government and History and Movies and People and Technology and Video and West Virginia
Comments: None

Explaining West Virginia
Posted on 12.21.16 by Danny Glover @ 12:42 pm

This is true while also being aggravating and amusing at the same time:

To those of us from West Virginia, it’s highly amusing to hear commentators in Washington and New York attempt to explain why out-of-work coal miners, steelworkers and construction workers voted so overwhelmingly for Donald Trump.

The post-election Washington Post column above follows a reported Post feature from the Mountain State, where the newspaper gave West Virginians a chance to explain for themselves why they voted for Trump. Here are some excerpts:

  • “West Virginians are realists. The mines have been shut down, the railroads have been torn up, the preparation plants have closed. A lot of stuff has been done that can’t be undone. But I’m really looking forward to this president. It’s kind of refreshing to see people come into government who know how business works.”
  • “I like the way he talks — straight, not like that Hillary [Clinton], the way she got up there and shook her finger and said she’d shut every mine down. What would that do to West Virginia?”
  • “Trump was just what people here have always been — skeptical of government, almost libertarian. He’s a West Virginia pipe dream: He’s going to undo the damage to the coal industry and bring back the jobs, and all of our kids down there in North Carolina are going to come home. … If the economy turns around, he’ll get the credit.”

And here’s a piece in Reason magazine, written by a West Virginian, that explores why poverty-stricken people in places like his native McDowell County don’t just leave.

The short answer: It’s complicated. Read the whole story for the long answer. It’s worth it if you’re the least bit interested in understanding the redneck mindset.


Filed under: News & Politics and People and Rednecks and West Virginia
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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
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The Sad Life Of Being A W.Va. Expatriate
Posted on 11.29.16 by Danny Glover @ 7:16 pm

It periodically occurs to me, as it did when I heard this song, that I’ve now lived more of my life outside West Virginia than in it. That makes me sad.


Filed under: Music and Redneck Musical Interlude and Video and West Virginia
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A Voice Of Reason For The Age Of Trump
Posted on 11.12.16 by Danny Glover @ 12:05 pm

On Tuesday, Americans elected Donald Trump as their next president. He won a convincing majority of the Electoral College vote, but Hillary Clinton won more popular votes than Trump.

That reality alone would be enough to irritate Clinton’s supporters under normal circumstances. Now add to that the fact that few political analysts expected Trump to win and that many people rejected Trump as a candidate not only because they disagreed with his political philosophy and policy ideas but also because they deemed him unfit to be president.

That is a recipe for the kind of hostility Americans are seeing in the days since the election, be it in street protests that sometimes turn into riots or bitter and angry online exchanges. Some students were so distraught by Trump’s election that colleges canceled classes. It’s ugly out there right now.

The country needs voices of reason in this atmosphere, and one of them emerged a couple of days after the election in an unexpected place — West Virginia, the heart of Trump territory. Every county in the Mountain State voted for him, with Oklahoma being the only other state where that happened, and 69 percent of West Virginians voted for Trump.

Three days after the balloting, as news of post-election angst and turmoil mounted, West Virginia University president E. Gordon Gee issued a statement to encourage free speech, responsibility, tolerance of all views and open debate in the WVU community. Here’s an excerpt:

Our community must be a safe, supportive home for all Mountaineers. It must be a place where we celebrate the freedom to speak and accept the responsibility to listen and understand.

On our campus, we will come together to argue and rebut, debate and debunk, learn and teach. We can accept nothing else. The only thing we will not tolerate is intolerance.

We will be what a university must be. Not an echo chamber that reinforces fashionable thought. Not a talk-show spectacle where the loudest and most vulgar voices prevail. But an incubator for open and respectful discourse regarding even the most contentious issues.

The statement is full of progressive buzzwords like that aren’t always as open-minded as they sound when uttered within the context of 21st-century academia. “Incivility,” “hatred” and “discrimination” too often are used to describe those with conservative values, for instance, and only conservatives are expected to show “respect” and “empathy” toward those who are different from them.

But the principles are sound if applied fairly across the political spectrum, and America will be a better nation if they are. Let’s hope leaders like Gee mean what they say for a change and model those attitudes for the country.


Filed under: Education and News & Politics and People and Rednecks and West Virginia
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A Postcard From West Virginia’s Past
Posted on 10.23.16 by Danny Glover @ 8:09 pm

Today’s find at an antique store in Frederick, Md. — a postcard of the West Virginia Capitol with a 1942 postmark from Parkersburg, W.Va.

Based on the note, a Mrs. R.L. Kreyling was trading postcards with a Mr. John Howe of Irvington, N.J. She asked him to send her one of New Jersey’s Capitol because that was her favorite to collect.

A side story: I searched the name R.L. Kreyling for Parkersburg and discovered that one Robert L. Kreyling received a patent for an invention that “relates to manufacture of combined paper board and silicate-clay adhesives.” He assigned the patent to Philadelphia Quartz Co. in 1946.


Filed under: Advertising and History and Hobbies and West Virginia
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Felled In A Flash of Lightning
Posted on 08.29.16 by Danny Glover @ 5:16 pm

One of the most interesting yet tragic stories in the news today happened in Norway, where government wildlife officials found more than 300 dead reindeer on the top of a mountain. Here’s the story as told by NPR:

The Norwegian government says 323 reindeer were apparently struck by lightning last week and died. The animals lived on a mountain plateau in central Norway called the Hardangervidda. The rugged alpine landscape is (usually) a good place for a reindeer — delicious lichens grow on exposed rocks, and the area is protected from development because it falls within a national park.

The Norwegian Nature Inspectorate wrote in a press release that officials discovered a field of carcasses on Friday while they were supervising hunters in the area. The agency estimates about 2,000 reindeer live on the plateau each year. Now, about one-sixth of them are dead, including at least 70 calves.

This catastrophe is interesting in its own right because it raises all kinds of questions in people’s minds. But it was even more compelling to me because it reminded me of another incident in West Virginia on July 2, 1990.

I have a notoriously bad memory, so the fact that I can recall a news story from 26 years ago, one that I didn’t even report myself, should tell you something. This story also involved a lightning strike — but the victims were amateur archers who took shelter under a pavilion during a pop-up thunderstorm. Twenty-four of them ended up injured.

I was a reporter at the Dominion Post in Morgantown at the time, but my beat was covering city, state and federal government and political campaigns. Plus the incident happened on a Sunday, when I wasn’t working. But I remember being enthralled by the story upon reading the details when I got to the newsroom the next day.

The reindeer story triggered that memory, so to get the details, I reached out to the Aull Center, a branch of the Morgantown Public Library System that has old copies of the Dominion Post on microfilm. Librarian Gary Friggens was kind enough to look up the front-page story and send me an electronic copy.

“Victims had been tossed into the air and suffered burns, cuts, contusions and internal injuries,” one of the three stories said.

One father said the lightning strike lifted his son off the ground and knocked him 10-15 feet away. He lost his hearing for a few minutes and heard only the groaning and moaning around him when his hearing returned. Another victim, whose heart stopped temporarily, lost feeling in his legs and had burns on his chest.

“All I could see were blue streaks all around us,” said one victim from the Kingwood Pike Coon Hunters Club. “We were all so close together under there that we were touching shoulders. The lightning just passed right through us. I remember the blue streaks, then everything went black.”

A year later, Keith Dalton recounted his experience that day as part of a broader AP story about people who have been struck by lightning:

“I was hanging from a beam when the next thing I knew the lightning picked up my feet and pulled me up toward the roof,” says Dalton, a 24-year-old welder from Morgantown. “It was all lit up,” he says. “It looked like a spark plug coming off the roof and going through everybody’s heads. Everyone had blue sparks coming from them. It was really something to see.”

After the strike, Dalton thought his companions, most of whom lay moaning on the ground, were dead. “It seemed to take a long time, but it was really only a second,” Dalton says. “One guy was choking on his chewing tobacco and turned black.”

All 24 lived. Only one was admitted to a hospital overnight for observation. “It kind of felt like you were in a microwave,” Dalton says. “You got real warm inside. All I wanted to do was drink water afterward.”

Nightmare scenarios like that, along with tales of golfers being struck by lightning and childhood memories of being stuck outside and by myself during thunderstorms, are the reason I am terrified of lightning to this day.

My storm-watching wife loves to tell people about the time, on our honeymoon no less, that I abandoned her because of my fear of lightning. We were in the parking lot at an Outback Steakhouse in Asheville, N.C. A bright light flashed in the sky, a ground-shaking boom followed, and I high-tailed it to the restaurant without her.

To this day, she insists that I jumped so high and bolted so quickly, I looked like Wile E. Coyote running on the air. I think she embellishes the story a little more each time she tells it, but I can’t dispute the basic facts. My terror, which I’ve unfortunately passed along to our youngest child, is that great.

Now my daughter and I have the memory of 323 dead deer to add to our anxiety.


Filed under: History and Human Interest and Media and News & Politics and Weather and West Virginia and Wildlife
Comments: 1 Comment

West Virginia History 101 For Journalists
Posted on 07.02.16 by Danny Glover @ 4:24 pm

The ignorance of the media when it comes to West Virginia never ceases to amaze those of us who are from the Mountain State. We’re impressed when journalists, especially those who cover sports, even know that West Virginia and Virginia are separate states or that Charleston is the name of our state capital, not just a coastal city in South Carolina.

This week, two members of the media (broadly speaking to include Hollywood) displayed their ignorance of West Virginia’s history on the same day, both of them in reference to the state’s birth during the Civil War. The culprits were:

  • Philip Bump, a political blogger for The Washington Post, who referenced West Virginia’s secession from Virginia within the context of a discussion about Britain’s vote to leave the European Union;
  • And Gary Ross, director of the new movie “Free State of Jones,” who isn’t a journalist but who made his faux pas in a video for The Huffington Post about myths of the Civil War.

With their commentaries in mind, now is a good time to revisit one of the most interesting statehood stories in American history. Consider this the CliffsNotes version of West Virginia history for the dummies in the media and entertainment complex.

In fairness to Bump, he was technically correct when he said “Congress consented to the creation of West Virginia as a new American state,” but he left out important context. The Congress that consented included a reconstituted Virginia delegation with a pro-West Virginia slant. The Virginia that existed before the Civil War joined the Confederacy and had no votes in Congress. Neither did any of the Southern states that presumably would have voted against West Virginia statehood.

The war, in other words, created a political and constitutional mess that tilted the balance of power in favor of West Virginia statehood.

Although ardent abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, R-Pa., voted to create West Virginia, he thought it was “a mockery” to say that splitting Virginia was constitutional. President Abraham Lincoln also had doubts. He thought the idea was “dreaded as a precedent” but also “made expedient by a war.” His answer to charges that the Union in effect endorsed secession in one case while going to war over it in another: In West Virginia’s case, it was “secession in favor of the Constitution.”

I understand why Bump didn’t include all of that information. His story was about the potential legality of secession in America today, and West Virginia’s path to statehood was only one aspect of that topic. But his shorthand account of the events could mislead people into thinking West Virginia’s secession from Virginia wasn’t controversial. It was. The Supreme Court didn’t settle the issue until a 6-3 ruling in 1870.

Ross’ gaffe was more egregious than Bump’s. In trying to dispel one myth that “the South was monolithic” during the Civil War, he repeated another one — that “the State of West Virginia broke off from the State of Virginia because they were not in agreement with the goals of the Confederacy.”

That simplistic analysis is similar to arguing that the Civil War was about states’ rights instead of slavery, one of the myths that Ross tackled. Southern rebellion was more of an expediency for western Virginians to accomplish a goal they had long desired than it was a rejection of the Confederacy.

This is evident in the number of West Virginians who fought for the Confederacy — 18,000 of them compared with 32,000 for the Union. The one thing that even those who are ignorant of West Virginia associate with the state is the Hatfield-McCoy feud. What many of them don’t know, or have forgotten, is that the feud has its roots in the Civil War and that “Devil Anse” Hatfield of West Virginia fought for the Confederacy.

The division of the country over slavery in general, and Virginia’s decision to side with the South in particular, just created an atmosphere for a rebellion within the rebellion. West Virginians always were and always will be different from Virginians, and the war gave our ancestors the political clout they needed to create a geographical split that had existed along economical, ancestral and cultural lines for generations. Ross’ myth-busting video for The Huffington Post distorted that reality.

The mistakes that Bump and Ross made weren’t as superficial as getting the name of West Virginia wrong or forgetting about its capital city. But coming as they did only seven days after West Virginia Day, they were worth noting.

Maybe in the future journalists who care enough to research West Virginia history before they write or talk about it will find this blog post and get some much-needed education.


Filed under: Blogging and History and Media and People and West Virginia
Comments: 1 Comment

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