The Bitter Southerner

A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

or

Why We Created The Bitter Southerner in the First Place

The essay below was originally published August 6, 2013, the night The Bitter Southerner was launched. In the years since, we have published a few other pieces to clarify the purpose of our publication. A year after our launch, for our first membership drive, we specified our vision and mission statements. After the 2016 presidential election, we promised to go deeper in our coverage, to call out those who would deny the rights of — or commit violence against — anyone they see as “the other.” We pledged to raise hell on the folks who deserve it, and at the same time to try our best to understand our region better, even if that means confronting the distasteful. But the essence of The Bitter Southerner remains exactly as we put it that August night in 2013:
If you are a person who buys the states’ rights argument … or you fly the rebel flag in your front yard … or you still think women look really nice in hoop skirts, we politely suggest you find other amusements on the web. The Bitter Southerner is not for you.
The Bitter Southerner is for the rest of us. It is about the South that the rest of us know: the one we live in today and the one we hope to create in the future.

This whole thing got started because I got pissed off. Bitter, as it were.

Here’s how it happened. My then-fiancée and I spent a week in New Orleans. We spent time with amazing barkeeps like Chris Hannah at Arnaud’s French 75, Kirk Estopinal at Cure and one of the granddaddies of the American cocktail revival, Chris McMillian at Bar Uncommon.

We drank very well. We heard great stories. We learned.

Shortly after we returned, Drinks International released its list of the top 50 bars in the world. Not a single bar in New Orleans — or anywhere in the South — was on the list. I felt a familiar twinge of bitterness. I remembered the first time I moved away from the South, to New York City, and learned that my accent could trigger certain negative assumptions. To my new NYC acquaintances, my twang equaled “dumb” or “backward” or worse. Of course, when people discovered that I was reasonably intelligent and could speak in complete sentences, their assumptions quickly melted away. I learned a lesson: Sometimes, you just gotta show people.

I decided somebody needed to show the world our region’s drinking secrets. So I rounded up a gang of co-conspirators — designers, photographers, videographers, whiskey geeks — with a plan to hunt down the South’s finest barkeeps and ask them to tell their stories. We would give them their due.

Then we started thinking: There’s a larger point here, a bigger story to be told.

You see, the South is a curiosity to people who aren’t from here. Always has been. Open up your copy of Faulkner’s 1936 masterpiece, “Absalom, Absalom!” Find the spot where Quentin Compson’s puzzled Canadian roommate at Harvard says to him, “Tell about the South. What it’s like there. What do they do there. Why do they live there. Why do they live at all.” ― WILLIAM FAULKNER / ABSALOM, ABSALOM!

It always comes down to that last bit: With all our baggage, how do we live at all? A lot of people in the world believe that most folks in the South are just dumb. Or backward. Just not worth their attention.

And you know what? If you live down here, sometimes you look around and think, “Those folks are right.” We do have people here who will argue, in all sincerity, that the Confederacy entered the Civil War only to defend the concept of states’ rights and that secession had nothing to do with the desire to keep slavery alive. We still become a national laughing stock because some small town somewhere has not figured out how to hold a high school prom that includes kids of all races.

If you are a person who buys the states’ rights argument … or you fly the rebel flag in your front yard … or you still think women look really nice in hoop skirts, we politely suggest you find other amusements on the web. The Bitter Southerner is not for you.

The Bitter Southerner is for the rest of us. It is about the South that the rest of us know: the one we live in today and the one we hope to create in the future.

According to Tracy Thompson’s brilliant “The New Mind of the South,”

it’s been only two decades since Southern kids (including the entire Bitter Southerner crew) stopped learning history from censored textbooks, which uniformly glossed over our region’s terrible racial history. Even today, kids are studying texts that Thompson rightfully labels “milquetoast” in their treatment of Southern history.

And recent election results suggest that the Southern mind hasn’t evolved much, that we’re not much different from what we were in 1936, when Faulkner was struggling yet again with the moral weirdness of the South. Almost 80 years later, it’s still too damned easy for folks to draw the conclusion that we Southerners are hopelessly bound to tradition, too resistant to change.

But there is another South, the one that we know: a South that is full of people who do things that honor genuinely honorable traditions. Drinking. Cooking. Reading. Writing. Singing. Playing. Making things. It’s also full of people who face our region’s contradictions and are determined to throw our dishonorable traditions out the window. The Bitter Southerner is here for Southern people who do cool things, smart things, things that change the whole world, or just a few minds at a time.

The world knows too little about these people, which is, alas, another reason to be bitter. But it prompted us to create The Bitter Southerner™.

We’re talking here about people whose work embodies what my old buddy Patterson Hood once called, in a song, “the duality of the Southern thing.” The purpose of The Bitter Southerner is to explore, from every angle we can, the duality of the Southern thing.

Last time I saw Patterson, we sat in his van outside Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, Ga.

We were talking about how his view had changed in the dozen or so years since he’d written that song.

To him, the 2012 election results brought clear evidence that we are moving into a more progressive era, and that our southern home might actually be following, however slowly. “We may actually wind up living in a more enlightened country,” he said, and laughed a little.

Still, the tension — the strain between pride and shame, that eternal duality of the Southern thing — remains. Lord knows, most folks outside the South believe — and rightly so — that most Southerners are kicking and screaming to keep the old South old. But many others, through the simple dignity of their work, are changing things.

“We may actually wind up living in a more enlightened country” ― PATTERSON HOOD of THE DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS


Patterson Hood and the Drive-By Truckers have released the overtly political new album ‘American Band.’
Al Pereira/GettyImages
https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-country/inside-drive-by-truckers-controversial-new-album-american-band-107171/

Drive-By Truckers plays through the new record, American Band, in the opbmusic studio

We’re here to tell their stories. Over time, you’ll see many pieces about bartenders, because a) that’s where we started and b) we very much enjoy a great cocktail. After all, one Southern tradition worthy of honor is the act of drinking well. But we’ll also cover the musicians, cooks, designers, farmers, scientists, innovators, writers, thinkers and craftsmen. We’ll show you the spots that make the South a far better place than most folks think it is. You’ll also see essays, short stories and poems — pieces that Bitter Southerners like ourselves create as we wrestle with our region. And every now and then, we’ll give you a peek at the oddities that seem to happen only down here.

We hope you’ll enjoy The Bitter Southerner and spread the word about it. Help us round up other Bitter Southerners, no matter where they live.

We hope you’ll want to contribute to The Bitter Southerner. In fact, we need you to. Right now, we have no budget and a staff of volunteers, so we’re starting in our hometown of Atlanta. But we know there are others out there like us, people with the skills to capture a good story, or create one. Tell us your ideas. Let us know who you are.

The stories are out there, all over the South. They deserve to be told.

Until we tell them all, we will remain as bitter as Antoine Amedie Peychaud.

Welcome to The Bitter Southerner.

— Chuck Reece, Editor


The Bitter Southerner team Tim Turner, Eric NeSmith, Kyle Tibbs Jones, Dave Whitling, Chuck Reece and Butler Raines.
(Photo by Brinson + Banks)

Check it out @ http://bittersoutherner.com/

Drive-By Truckers’ Top 10 Songs

Ranking The Albums That Made The Drive-By Truckers A True American Band

http://ultimateclassicrock.com/drive-by-truckers-albums-ranked/

Playing Chess in a Hurricane

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster

said yesterday, “We are in a very deadly game of Chess with hurricane Florence.”

The professional liar and unindicted co-conspirator (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman/ct-perspec-chapman-trump-cohen-manafort-guilty-20180823-story.html#) in the Oval Office, Donald poppinJay Trump, when commenting on the hurricane, gave this advice, “Get out of its way. Don’t play games with it.”

When To Use Force

GM Kevin Spraggett writes in his blog post, Never underestimate the basics, dated August 29, 2018, “Despite playing for almost 50 years, I continue to be amazed how when great players lose it almost always has to do with beginner basics. Witness the following game played recently in the Chinese Team Championship, where Black neglects to make luft…” (http://www.spraggettonchess.com/never-underestimate-the-basics/)

This caused me to reflect upon a game from the recent Sinquefield Cup. In round nine Sergey Karjakin and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave battled to a 119 move draw.

Karjakin vs MVL

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Bc4 c5 8. Ne2 Nc6 9. Be3 O-O 10. O-O Bg4 11. f3 Bd7 12. Rb1 Qc7 13. h4 cxd4 14. cxd4 Nxd4 15. Bxf7+ Rxf7 16. Nxd4 Rd8 17. Qb3 Qg3 18. Ne2 Qxh4 19. Bf2 Qf6 20. Rfd1 b6 21. Qa3 e6 22. Rd2 Be8 23. e5 Qf5 24. Rxd8 Qxb1+ 25. Kh2 Rf8 26. Ng3 Bxe5 27. Qxa7 Qb4 28. Kg1 Qb1+ 29. Kh2 Qb4 30. Kg1 Bf6 31. Rd1 Ba4 32. Rf1 Bc6 33. Qxb6 Qxb6 34. Bxb6 Ra8 35. Rf2 Bd5 36. Ne4 Be5 37. Re2 Bxa2 38. Ng5 Bd6 39. Kf2 Bc4 40. Rd2 Be7 41. Be3 Bd5 42. Rc2 h6 43. Ne4 Bxe4 44. fxe4 h5 45. Rc7 Bf6 46. Rc6 Ra2+ 47. Kf3 Ra3 48. Ke2 Kf7 49. Rc7+ Ke8 50. Rh7 Rb3 51. Ra7 Rb2+ 52. Kf3 g5 53. e5 g4+ 54. Ke4 Rb4+ 55. Kd3 Bd8 56. Ra8 Kd7 57. g3 Bc7 58. Bd4 Kc6 59. Bc3 Rb8 60. Ra6+ Rb6 61. Ra8 Rb5 62. Ke4 Rb3 63. Bd4 Bb8 64. Ra6+ Kd7 65. Ra8 Rb1 66. Bf2 Rb4+ 67. Bd4 Bc7 68. Kd3 Rb8 69. Ra7 Rb5 70. Kc4 Ra5 71. Rb7 Kc6 72. Rb3 Bxe5 73. Rb6+ Kd7 74. Bxe5 Rxe5 75. Kd4 Ra5 76. Ke4 Ke7 77. Rb8 Ra3 78. Rh8 Rxg3 79. Rxh5 Ra3 80. Kf4 Ra4+ 81. Kg3 Kd6 82. Rh8 Kd5 83. Rd8+ Ke5 84. Rb8 Rd4 85. Ra8 Re4 86. Ra5+ Kf6 87. Ra8 e5 88. Rf8+ Ke6 89. Re8+ Kd5 90. Rd8+ Kc4 91. Ra8 Kd5 92. Rd8+ Kc5 93. Rc8+ Kd4 94. Ra8 Rf4 95. Re8 Ke4 96. Rg8 Rf3+ 97. Kxg4 Rf1 98. Kh3 Ke3 99. Kg2 Ra1 100. Rg3+ Ke2 101. Rg4 Ke3 102. Rg3+ Kd2 103. Rg4 Re1 104. Ra4 e4 105. Ra2+ Ke3 106. Ra3+ Kf4 107. Kf2 Rb1 108. Ke2 Rb2+ 109. Ke1 Ke5 110. Ra4 Kf5 111. Ra8 Kf4 112. Ra3 Rh2 113. Kf1 Rd2 114. Ke1 Rd3 115. Rxd3 exd3 116. Kd2 Ke4 117. Kd1 Ke3 118. Ke1 d2+ 119. Kd1 Kd3 ½-½

After 22 Rd2 this position was reached:

Because of the poor move, 21 Qa3, played by Karjakin, MVL has an obvious advantage. Black has a couple of FORCING moves.

The most forcing is 22…Bf8, the move I decided upon. Also possible is 22…Bh6. These are the kinds of moves one would probably play in a game with less time. After the game I went to ChessBomb, (https://www.chessbomb.com/arena/2018-sinquefield-cup/09-Karjakin_Sergey-Vachier_Lagrave_Maxime) finding 22…Bf8 is the first choice. The second choice, 22…Rdf8, was a move I had not considered. According to the Fish there is not much difference between the two moves. The third choice is 22…Bh6. The move chosen by MVL, 22…Be8, is the fourth choice of the clanking digital monster.

I continue to be amazed at how often top GMs reject playing the most forcing move. Sometimes it seems they see the move, but reject it for some reason because it is too obvious. Maybe the award winning book by IM John Watson, Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy: Advances since Nimzowitsch, has had a profound influence upon the best current human players.

The book illustrates how modern players reject convention to “break the rules” of Chess. The clanking digital monsters continually point out how often the best move is the the one that follows the rules.

The next position is after 69th move played by black:

Karjakin plays the most forcing move,

70 Kc4. Unfortunately it is also a losing move. It is not always appropriate to play the most forcing move. Stockfish gives 70 Bc3; Ra3; & Ra8 as the best moves, with each leaving black with an advantage of about one and a quarter points.

The last position was reached after white played 80 Kf4:

MVL did NOT follow the cardinal rule of “passed pawns MUST be pushed.” Instead he played the most “forcing” move 80…Ra4+. This “forced” white to move his King. Karjakin moved to the g3 square, blocking the pawn. Go figure…

THE SURROUNDING GAME on Netflix

While putting together the post of February 14, 2018, THE SURROUNDING GAME

(https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2018/02/14/the-surrounding-game/), I was thrilled to see the movie was available on YouTube. After finishing the post I had something to eat and then rested. After a cuppa joe I settled in to watch the movie…Unfortunately it was no longer available due to a copyright infringement.

It has been many years since watching any movie in a theater. Since it would have cost five dollars to watch the movie online I decided to wait until it could be watched free of charge. The movie debuted on Netflix August 30 and I watched it the next day. The focus of the movie was on the young players. This caused me to reflect upon what I consider the best post ever made on this blog, or the earlier BaconLOG, for that matter (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2015/03/10/these-are-my-people/). It matters not what game is being played, or even if a game is being played. It is the same feeling one has when attending a convention of model train enthusiasts, or sports memorabilia fanatics.

When the movie ended I headed to the Internet Movie Data Base (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3973724/?ref_=nv_sr_1) to find it rated 8.1. A few minutes ago I returned to find it now rated 6.8. I liked the movie but am no impartial observer as I was there during the US Go Congress when it was filmed. I was living in Hendersonville, North Carolina at the time and traveled to Black Mountain four times during that week. I did not participate in the tournament because there was a “Meal Plan,” priced at $195, required for all attendees. I kid you not…The organizers did not expect participation by a local and they would not relent.

From the movie one learns there were only two hundred players who were members of the US Go Association a couple of decades ago. The exponential increase in the number of Go players has been phenomenal, and this was before the movie!

The 2006 Go Congress did attract 334 players. It was held at the Blue Ridge Assembly (https://blueridgeassembly.org/), a magnificent venue. I was reminded of the first Land of the Sky Chess tournament held at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina (https://www.biltmore.com/). The majority of my time was spent in the room where books and equipment was sold. Most of the games I played were in that room and were played with those doing the selling. I did, though, play a few games with lower ranking players who were participating in the tournament. Since I was unable to win a game maybe the organizers, without knowing, did me a favor.

I purchased many books about the game of Go, including one, Reflections on the Game of Go : The Empty Board 1994-2004,
by William S. Cobb, that is priced at $125 at Amazon. It appears the price of Go books has increased dramatically since many, if not most, books come in digit form these days.

I had a wonderful time during that week and met many people who were extremely nice to me, even if I was considered to be some kind of curiosity since I was considered a Chess and Backgammon board game player. When it came time to eat I went to a Mexican restaurant in the city of Black Mountain where someone who lives in the area, and whom, per his request, I can never mention again, (this came after my post of July 18, 2018, https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/?s=fuck+you+mr+president) had previously taken me for lunch.

2018 Air Guitar World Championships: MAKE AIR NOT WAR!!

The Air Guitar World Champion 2018 is Nanami “Seven Seas” Nagura

Nanami “Seven Seas” Nagura

took over the stage with her energetic and surprising Cinderella-themed performance, mesmerized the honored judges and made it to the first place of Air Guitar World Championships 2018.

Seven Seas made it to the finals as a Japan’s national champion, traveled all the way from Tokyo, to rock the stage in front of the audience of thousands at Rotuaari square.

Matt “The Airistotle” Burns

from The USA scored the second, and the third place was taken over by Dana “Dana-Saurus Rex” Schiemann from Canada.

http://www.airguitarworldchampionships.com/

https://www.usairguitar.com/

Rick Bragg, The Decatur Book Festival, and the Road That Goes On Forever

The AJC Decatur Book Festival has grown to become the largest independent book festival in the country. It began in 2006 and you can read about it here (https://www.decaturbookfestival.com/).

Today is the third day of the four day event. I attended many of the festivals but cannot recall the exact number. There is one in particular I do recall, though…

In 2002 a conversion van was purchased in order to make a trip around the country to play in Chess tournaments, and to visit with many people scattered over the country, some involved with research into the JFK assassination. One of the stops was in Rolla, Missouri, where the Missouri State Chess Championship was held. The Rolla public library contained one of a very limited number of the many volume “official” US Government Warren Commission Report. Every report ever released can still be obtained from the government of the US except the Warren Report. Think about that for a moment…

Sometime during the week before the tournament I learned the author Rick Bragg

would be signing books at the Left Bank bookstore in St. Louis (https://www.left-bank.com/).

I had read his first book, All Over But the Shoutin′

and liked it so much I read each of his following books, including Ava’s Man,

which brought tears to my eyes. Rick, like me, was born Southern “by the grace of God,” as the saying goes…Rick is from the Great neighboring State of Alabama. His words struck a chord and hit home because we came from a similar background. He could have been writing about my family, which is, I suppose, why he became such a popular author.

I had plans to play in the Indiana state championship the following weekend so had time to attend the event. By the time I arrived almost all the seats had been taken. Taking the last available seat put me in the back row. The younger woman in the seat to my right was very pretty. She had her long brown hair put up, which I’ve always found attractive, brown eyes, and a smile which caused my heart to flutter while wishing I was at least ten years younger…

Rick was introduced and began to speak. He asked a question of the audience and no one spoke, so I spoke. Everyone turned around to look. It was an extremely quiet audience so I continued to speak during the event. Although I cannot recall much of what was said between us that night I do recall Rick talking about eating at the Krystal.

It seems he had a fondness for the “pups,”

blaming much of his extended belly on his fondness for them, and other Krystal “delicacies.”

As soon as he ended I went to the men’s room. As I walked back into the room where Rick was signing books a nice lady stopped me and said, “I sure did enjoy your conversation with Mr. Bragg tonight.” I smiled and thanked her for saying something so nice. The brown-eyed woman who had caused my heart to throb said, “Me too,” and then immediately dropped her eyes as if she could not believe she had spoken. I thought maybe she was the shy type…She had the look of a librarian.

The publicist who was with Rick noticed me heading toward the door and stopped me, asking if I were leaving. “No ma’am, I am headed to the van to grab a cassette tape I want to give Rick.”

“Is it a book?” she inquired. “No ma’am, it’s music. I just thought Rick would appreciate it.”

“Oh that’s great,” she said, “Rick wants to meet you.”

After nabbing the tape I stepped in at the end of the line behind, you guessed it, the lady with the brown hair and eyes. She had two of his books to be signed. I learned she had not read them, but intended on doing so. We were in the central west end, later to be home of the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center.

I asked her if she would like to get something to eat and she said, “That would be lovely.” This caused a heart palpitation!

She made it to the table, Rick signed her book after doing a double take which caused me to understand I was not the only man who found her attractive. She moved to the side as I walked up and he looked at her and said, “You with him?” She nodded, said “Yes,” and I’m certain my chest puffed out several inches. Rick looked at me and said, “You lucky dog.” Then he shook my hand and we talked for a little while, with him relating something about there always being one guy from similar circumstances in the crowd saying, “And tonight you were it.”

I handed the tape to Rick, telling him I had made about a dozen copies and given away most of them to friendly truckers while on the road like the one who asked, “You need a shower?” as he slipped me his pass. Rick got a kick outta that! I asked him if they would like to grab a bite to eat with us, but his publicist said they did not have the time.

Fast forward to 2008. I was working at the Atlanta Chess Center and had taken the day off so as to attend the Decatur Book Festival where Rick Bragg would be presenting and autographing his new book, The Prince of Frogtown.

His lecture was to take place in a church. It was standing room only and during the presentation Rick used the word “fuck,” which is the only time I have ever heard the word uttered in a church. He was reading from the book, but still…I remember thinking no one made a sound when he spoke the word. Back in the day little old Southern ladies would have swooned, and possibly fainted, after hearing such a word spoken in a “house of the Lord.”

I was in the balcony. By the time I made it outside there was a very long line of people waiting to have their book signed, but no Rick, so I hit the head. I walked back outside, went around to the rear of the tent, stepped across a line that could not be crossed, came up behind Rick, just as some festival gentleman with a badge grabbed me by the arm, and said to Rick “The road goes on forever…”

The official began pulling my arm just as Rick turned to look. Seeing it was me he completed the line, saying, “And the party never ends!” Then he asked “What are you doing here?” The festival official was attempting to drag me away as I said, “I live here Rick. Decatur is the city of my birth.” Rick looked at the official and yelled, “Unhand that man!” Then he looked at me and said, “I can’t believe it…after all these years…I LOVED that tape! I wore it out and had to get a new one. Now I’ve got everything Joe Ely has done!” Naturally, this made me smile.

“So you liked Love and Danger, huh?”

“Liked it? Hell no, I LOVED it!”

The people in line were getting restless, so Rick said, “You gonna be around a while.”

“I can be,” I said.

“Wanna grab a beer and maybe something to eat?” he asked.

“I don’t think they serve beer at Krystal, Rick,” was my response. He laughed out loud as he stuck out his hand and said, “I don’t even remember your name.”

“Michael Bacon,” I said.

“Yeah, that Bacon part rings a bell…”

“Must be something to do with food, huh?”

“You got that right!” Rick said.

I stepped back to wait. The official came over and apologized, saying something like, “Sorry. I did not know you were friends.”

“That’s OK, sir. I know you were only doing you job.” He smiled.

After the last book had been signed we walked to the Brick Store pub.

After we ordered Rick looked at me and asked, “I seem to recall you were with a beautiful woman that night.”

“Yeah, I met her at the signing.”

“No shit?” he said, “What happened with her?”

“Gentlemen never tell, Rick,” I said as he broke into a big, wide grin.

Rick’s latest book is:

I have yet to read it, but there is no doubt it will be read soon.