The Polish and Ohio Valley Origins of Hall of Famer Phil Niekro (1939-2020)

This blog promotes the PBS film ‘Moundsville’, and publishes stories about West Virginia and Appalachia. The obituaries for Phil Niekro, who died of cancer at age 81 on Dec. 26, focused on his legendary knuckleball. In the Ohio Valley, the Appalachian mining country southwest of Pittsburgh where “Knucksie” grew up, the Hall of Famer isContinue reading “The Polish and Ohio Valley Origins of Hall of Famer Phil Niekro (1939-2020)”

Downriver from the Moundsville Prison Graveyard: Story of a Lyric

This post has been updated to include information from an email from Mark Kozelek. When singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek was a teenager in the 1980s, he used to visit Moundsville prison. “We’d sit on a curb outside of a residential neighborhood and watch guards enter and exit the front gate,” he wrote me in an email.Continue reading “Downriver from the Moundsville Prison Graveyard: Story of a Lyric”

How Moundsville is Celebrating Christmas in 2020

David Seum, a Moundsville, WV resident we’ve profiled on this blog, walked around his Ohio River town this week taking pictures, and put together this lovely photo essay. Decorating your home in the same way you dress up a Christmas tree is a great American tradition, taken up in towns large and small, from seaContinue reading “How Moundsville is Celebrating Christmas in 2020”

West Virginia’s Neil Diamond Imitator Wants to Heal America with ‘Porcupine Pie’ (and Visit Moundsville)

The Moundsville blog promotes the movie ‘Moundsville’, now on PBS, and collects writing about Moundsville and West Virginia. Neil Diamond turns 80 on January 24, and of course Theron Denson is planning a gig on the great man’s birthday. Denson, who calls himself “Black Diamond”, is one of this country’s great tribute singers. He grewContinue reading “West Virginia’s Neil Diamond Imitator Wants to Heal America with ‘Porcupine Pie’ (and Visit Moundsville)”

10 Reasons Appalachians Love ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ (Even if Critics Hate It)

Hillbilly Elegy, on Netflix, has joined The Shack, See No Evil Hear No Evil, and Saw V as films audiences love and critics hate. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film scores 26% with critics, and 86% with audiences. The split seems to reflect “the two Americas”, as New York Times columnist Ross Douthat has suggested, butContinue reading “10 Reasons Appalachians Love ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ (Even if Critics Hate It)”

West Virginia Officially Loses All 4 of its Minor League Baseball Teams

‘Moundsville’ is a PBS movie about the history of a small town on the Ohio River, and this blog collects articles and essays about the town, and West Virginia. Major League Baseball made it official today: West Virginia, a state with a rich baseball history, is losing Major League Baseball affiliation for all four ofContinue reading “West Virginia Officially Loses All 4 of its Minor League Baseball Teams”

Why This Educated Millennial is Staying in West Virginia

The brain drain from America’s hinterlands to the cities has shaped American economics and politics this century as much as the tech revolution, the opioid epidemic and the war on terrorism. In the last 50 years, as manufacturing has dried up in rural America, millions of Americans have migrated toward brighter lights, an exodus chronicledContinue reading “Why This Educated Millennial is Staying in West Virginia”

When the Hillbilly Shot the Filmmaker: The Genius of ‘Stranger with a Camera’

We’ve been fighting over hillbilly elegies for a long time. Amid the buzz and furor over the Ron Howard movie, I watched Stranger with a Camera, a 2000 doc by Kentucky filmmaker Elizabeth Barret. The Appodlachia podcast team, John Isner and Chuck Corra, published an anthology of books, movies and podcasts about Appalachia, and includedContinue reading “When the Hillbilly Shot the Filmmaker: The Genius of ‘Stranger with a Camera’”

‘America Lost’ Finds Humanity and Redemption in Youngstown, Memphis, Stockton

Church or state: How do we rebuild America’s left-behind communities? NOTE: America Lost is currently available for free here. The 2016 and 2020 elections had different outcomes, but this in common: neither magically reboots America’s diseased neighborhoods. The work of rebuilding, and surviving in, communities crippled by globalization, white flight, crime, drugs, income stagnation andContinue reading “‘America Lost’ Finds Humanity and Redemption in Youngstown, Memphis, Stockton”

Lady Gaga, Star with Roots in Appalachia, Campaigns in Pittsburgh — Mom from West Virginia Town Left for NYC, Part of Rural America Brain Drain

A divided Moundsville watches: “She should wear a Steelers jersey.” On one level, Lady Gaga’s appearance in Pittsburgh tonight with Joe Biden, on the last night of the 2020 election, is a classic celebrity endorsement. Gaga is a globally famous pop star. Politicians seek out props like Lady Gaga all the time. On another, Gaga’sContinue reading “Lady Gaga, Star with Roots in Appalachia, Campaigns in Pittsburgh — Mom from West Virginia Town Left for NYC, Part of Rural America Brain Drain”