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The Appalachia Issue

Literary/I Want My Dvds

Father Ralph Beiting, who as you may well have noticed figures prominently in this issue of Vice, has written about 30,000 books.
VICE Staff
Κείμενο VICE Staff
1.11.06

A Family of My Own: The Dream I Thought I Missed
Father Ralph W. Beiting Father Ralph Beiting, who as you may well have noticed figures prominently in this issue of Vice, has written about 30,000 books. They are all independently published and are all personal and revelatory in nature. He is basically the Aaron Cometbus of Southern Catholic ministers. For almost 50 years, Beiting has been working like a slave in the Appalachian area to help poor people live their lives with some dignity and comfort. If a few of them end up believing in Mary as the Mother of God and the Sacred Heart along the way, well hey, that’s just Catholic fringe benefits. But really, to be a Catholic priest out in those Baptist hills 50 years ago was to more or less take his life in his hands. And Beiting did so, bravely, stomping right on out to the most remote hollers, knocking on cabin doors, and saying, “Hey, how can I help you?” He gained the trust of the classically suspicious poor of Appalachia and now he is best buddies with everyone in the area, from the poorest mountain man all the way up to mayors and judges. Father Ralph Beiting is as valuable as coal to the people of southeastern Kentucky. JESUS H. CHRIST Appalachian Heritage We stole a few copies of this from Father Beiting’s house because it’s a real gem. How did an obscure mag from a neglected corner of America manage to be as cutting-edge as any hip lit journal you can name right now? And 30 years ago, too! With its perfectly realized mix of prose, photo essays, poetry, interviews, and info, Appalachian Heritage could easily come out now as an art book and nobody would bat an eyelid. In fact, they would all rip it off. In fact, I think I will go ahead and do just that. Right now. JERRY MCPHEERSON Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness
Erik Reece If you give a shit about any of the following: Earth, America, trees, mountains, peace, equality, and goodness, you need to read this book. Erik Reece traced the demise of one particular mountain from its full verdant bloom down to a naked gray hulk. Reece teaches at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, which means he’s kind of a city slicker. Still, he really knocked it out of the park here. He doggedly interviews locals, experts, and activists. He sneaks onto mine sites to log his observations. He even gets to see a flying squirrel. Dude, they really fly and we’re letting them die. Let’s not let the flying squirrels die, OK? WELSH RAREBIT Sludge
Directed by Robert Salyer Robert Salyer, a native of Virginian coal country, made this excellent documentary about the brutal coal slurry spill in Inez, Kentucky, in October 2000. (It’s where we got the stills we used in the story on pages 82-86 of this issue, actually.) It’s really insane to actually see what happened there. You’ll be shocked, grossed out, and massively depressed by the levels of pollution and destruction you see in Sludge. This movie took four years to make, and the depth and commitment really show. You owe it to your fellow Americans down there in Kentucky to watch Sludge, get righteously angry, and then start wondering about where and when the next Inez or, God forbid, Buffalo Creek spill is going to happen. Because it really is just a matter of time. THE NOTORIOUS A.O.G. The Buffalo Creek Disaster
Gerald M. Stern In 1972, a coal-slurry impoundment dam broke in Buffalo Creek, West Virginia. 132 million gallons of slurry flooded 16 different communities as a result, and 125 people were killed. 1,121 people were injured and 4,000 people were left without homes. Four. Fucking. Thousand. Do you understand the awful torture that the coal industry has wrought on Appalachia yet? It’s bewildering how badly one natural resource and the quest to pull it out of the ground has ass-raped this part of America. Read this book, read Lost Mountain, and then watch Sludge and Harlan County, USA. Coal covers all the bases of misery: Financial, emotional, and physical. It’s enough to make you want to go, I don’t know, solar. OLD YELLER Missing Mountains
Edited by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth
Wind Publications Kentuckians for the Commonwealth is a confedration of working-class families that addresses all kinds of local Kentucky issues. Obviously, they are especially vocal about mountaintop removal and stripmining. This book is a compilation that KfC put together. It contains all kinds of writing by Kentuckians about mountaintop removal, but the best things are the heavy facts. Like, for example, there are 60 percent less jobs in Eastern Kentucky now than there were in 1979. That’s because of strip mining—less miners are needed to do it. Here’s another fun fact: 61, 880 acres of valleys have been filled with the detritus of strip mining. Everything that lived in those valleys is now… Anyone? Anyone? The answer is: Destroyed. THE NOTORIOUS A.O.G. Harlan County, USA
Directed by Barbara Koppel
The Criterion Collection We already reviewed this a couple issues back, but that was before we went to Kentucky. So where we used to be content to say something like, “This movie is awesome and the people have cool clothes,” we now would like to amend that by saying, “Fuck big business, fuck capitalism, fuck coal, fuck bosses, fuck strikebreakers, and fuck anybody who doesn’t make a point of seeing this essential American documentary.” Which side are you on? The answer better be right. COALFACE JONES