The State of Things

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Pictures from Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia, which partially inspired Null for his book
Matthew Neill Null

Writer Matthew Neill Null calls West Virginia a museum of failed enterprise. He argues that industries like logging, coal mining, oil extraction, and now hydraulic fracturing, have irreversibly marked the state’s history and landscape.

Null has a long personal history with the area—his family has lived there since before it became a state, and his writing aims to explore the lesser-known stories of the land and the people who lived on it.

MillerCoors trucks
MobiusDaXter / Wikimedia Commons

Big beer companies are starting to feel the pressure of a rising thirst for craft beer. There are more than 130 breweries and brewpubs in North Carolina, but MillerCoors announced it is closing the plant in Eden, North Carolina in September of next year.  

Amiri Baraka
The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History

Amiri Baraka, born Everett LeRoi Joins, was a poet, playwright and political organizer whose career spanned more than five decades.

President Richard Nixon greeting Robert and his late wife Sallie Brown in the White House
Robert Brown

In the 1960s, High Point resident Robert Brown worked closely with Martin Luther King Jr. as a fundraiser. Brown has also advised several prominent American politicians, including Senators John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, and Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Rhiannon Giddens
Michael Weintrob

For as long as she can remember, Rhiannon Giddens has been singing. Growing up in Greensboro, she sang in youth choirs, despite not knowing how to read music. But that was okay, because Giddens said she received the best kind of teaching as a child.

Father Michael Lapsley with Desmond Tutu
Institute for Healing of Memories

Father Michael Lapsley is a South African liberation activist and priest who knows firsthand what it is like to experience trauma. In 1990, a mail bomb intended to assassinate him caused him to lose both of his hands, an ear, and an eye.

An image of musician Phil Cook
Middle West Management


Wisconsin native Phil Cook headed south for a new home in North Carolina 10 years ago.  Since then, he has been in a band with Justin Vernon from Bon Iver, formed Megafaun with his brother Brad Cook and drummer Joe Westerlund, and has played on or produced records by everybody from Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls to Hiss Golden Messenger.

Along the way, Phil got married, had a son and settled himself deep in North Carolina's red clay.  Now he's releasing his first solo record called Southland Mission.  Fans of Megafaun will find Cook’s new music to be groovier with a more rootsy vibe than some of that band's work, but there are hints of the past in some of the vocal harmonies and instrumentation. On the whole, the album reflects a passion for southern music that’s been growing in Cook for decades.

"I had the title of the record before I had the songs written. I liked the idea that a title for a record is a theme for your life, a theme for your music, and seems to be the title of the chapter for wherever you’re at," Cook said. "To me, Southland Mission seemed like a great way to sum up being in the South for 10 years now, and longed to be in the South 10 years before that. I had built up quite a mission in my mind about, 'What was I coming down here for?' Well, it was the music."

Judy Wicks
Gene Smirnov

For most entrepreneurs, finding a competitive advantage means a way to beat out the competition. But for restaurateur Judy Wicks, discovering how much clients embraced her sustainable practices made her want to share them with other restaurants.

Host Frank Stasio talks with entrepreneur and author Judy Wicks about her book, “Good Morning, Beautiful Business” (Chelsea Green Publishing/2013) and her ideas about the potential for a compassionate economy.

Ron Rash

Ron Rash is a critically acclaimed novelist who has won many accolades for his five novels, including Serena and World Made Straight.

When Rash penned his most recent work, he began with a single image: dead trout in a stream. From there, he knew he wanted to craft a narrative about hope and he used the relationship between a sheriff and a park ranger to do just that.

Lauren Winner converted to Christianity in an experience she described as "Girl Meets God," the title of her best-selling memoir.

Since then, Winner has rediscovered her faith more than once; she found spiritual solace through community service after her mother died of cancer, and now says she has reacquainted herself with God by exploring Bible passages that equate God and Jesus with everyday images like food, clothing, and laughter.