A welcome to readers

As a resident of this planet for more than four fifths of a century, I have enjoyed both successes and disappointments in a wide variety of vocations, avocations, and life experiences. This blog satisfies my desire to share some thoughts and observations--trenchant and prosaic--with those who are searching for diversions which are interesting, poignant and occasionally funny. I also plan to share recommendations about good/great movies I've watched and books and articles which I've found particularly mind-opening, entertaining, instructive. In addition, I can't pass up the opportunity to reflect publicly on how I am experiencing the so-called Golden Years. Write anytime:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Home cookin' for the soul

A couple of years ago I ran across an interesting, well-written, beautifully designed magazine whose home is the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. I have a strong liking for Arkansas because I visited there a number of times when my sister was being treated at the Arkansas Cancer Research Center in Little Rock.  During those visits, we had a fair amount of free time to drive around, and Conway was one of the places we stopped--for lunch, I think-- at a Cracker Barrel restaurant or the equivalent. At the time, Conway seemed like the middle of no where, and my memory is mostly of logging trucks and pickups and the ever present decals and flags supporting the "Hawgs," the Arkansas Razorback football team.

Imagine my surprise when, a year or two ago, I ran across a high class magazine published through the auspices of the University there. I subscribed for a year because the topics were interesting and diverse, and included special editions which featured such subjects as Southern food, music, and writing. I was pleased by my decision, but did not renew my subscription for economic reasons (mine).

Yesterday, I got an Email from the magazine,  celebrating its first place finish in a national competition including video presentations.  They won out over some elite competitors including the New York Times. The article referenced a link to a web site which contained about a dozen of the award winning videos about "Southern life." Since the NCAA basketball tournament was still a day off, I watched all of the first page of these videos over dinner.  Each one features a different topic, personality and location, not unlike Charles Kuralt's show On the Road.

I was enchanted by the 5-9 minute vignettes, each taking a different subject, but all of which chosen to illustrate various facets of contemporary Southern culture.  There are clips about restaurants and juke joints, a home grown factory and store which designs, makes, and sells high fashion clothing in a small Southern town; there's plenty of folk and rock and roll music, and there's even a clip featuring the last company in the US to produce and sell cast iron cookware, the Lodge Company of southern Tennessee (I have four of their pans in my kitchen right now).

If you're a student of American culture, or simply an interested, occasional observer, I recommend that you check out these visual chapters about American life. Then head for the old fashioned cook stove where you'll find cornbread, collard greens, fried chicken, and top them off with an RC cola and  a Moon Pie. You bet; finger lickin' good.

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The Oxford American today won the National Magazine Award in the Video category for its original video series, SoLost
"The National Magazine Award is the highest honor in our industry," said Warwick Sabin, publisher of The Oxford American. "This recognition not only confirms our standing among the best magazines in the nation, but it also demonstrates that The Oxford American is a leader in presenting content across multiple media formats." 
This is The Oxford American's third National Magazine Award.  Previously the magazine won for Best Single-Topic Issue in 1999 and 2004, and it has been a finalist in numerous categories over the years.
Sabin accepted the award at a ceremony held today at the Hilton New York.  Sponsored by the American Society of Magazine Editors in association with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, the National Magazine Awards were established in 1966 and have long been recognized as the preeminent awards for magazine journalism. 
In winning the award this year, The Oxford American triumphed over four other finalists: The New York Times Magazine, Slate, Entertainment Weekly, and Chow.  This is the second year in a row that The Oxford American's SoLost series has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award in the Video category. 
"When we first outlined the concept for SoLost in 2009, we wanted to translate the mission and sensibility of The Oxford American to a video format," Sabin said.  "That meant creating a series that would be serious, bold, irreverent, playful, and most importantly, an accurate and honest portrayal of the South as it exists today.  If this National Magazine Award is confirmation that we succeeded, then the credit largely belongs to our videographer, Dave Anderson." 
SoLost is directed and photographed by Dave Anderson, who has been recognized as "one of the shooting stars of the American photo scene" by Germany's fotoMAGAZIN and named a "Rising Star" by Photo District News. A multi-talented image-maker, Anderson worked in the Clinton White House and at MTV before discovering photography. His acclaimed first project, Rough Beauty, was the winner of the 2005 National Project Competition awarded by Center, Santa Fe and was published with an essay by Anne Wilkes Tucker. Vince Aletti of The New Yorker has called his work "as clear-eyed and unsentimental as it is soulful and sympathetic." Anderson’s work has been featured in magazines from Esquire to Stern and can be found in the collections of prominent museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans; the Musée de la Photographie, Charleroi; and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 

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