An Age Old Trade

Letterpress is a relief printing process that uses movable type (wooden or metal) to make an inked impression on paper. Designs and images can also be printed by using linoleum cuts. From around the middle of the 15th century to the 19th century, letterpress was the primary printing form. It wasn’t until offset printing was developed in the 19th century that letterpresses slowly started to disappear. Unfortunately, people started melting down their presses believing with the new technology, there was not a need for the large and heavy presses. Now there are very few presses, so the art has become increasingly valuable. People now use the letterpress printing process for high-end printing jobs like wedding invitations or fancy business cards. The process is also used for posters, stationary, and cards.

Treacherous travels

Sometimes it can seem like driving around Birmingham is little more than circumventing a collection of hazards and obstacles. On most any route through the city you are sure to encounter potholes and pavement bubbles, mistimed lights, heavy traffic and poorly designed intersections.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the American Society of Civil Engineers, 19 percent of Alabama’s roads are in “poor” condition. In metro Birmingham, the number grows to 21 percent. According to Mike D. Smith of Al.com, TRIP estimates that hazards cost Alabama drivers $3.1 billion each year—that’s $1,562 for each driver.

“The road system in Alabama seems to be very poor when compared to that of my home state,” said Barlow Marriott, an Atlanta native studying at Samford University. According to Main Street, who used information from the Reason Foundation and the Federal Highway Administration, Georgia has the 10th -best roads in the country, and the best roads in the nation in some other sub-categories.

“The one thing that bugs me the most about Birmingham roads is the way that traffic coagulates,” Marriott said. “There doesn’t seem to be a lot of lights that are timed properly in Birmingham compared to Atlanta.”

The Highway Trust Fund, a federal program, is most responsible for funding road repairs in the state, but currently there is only enough funding remaining to last through May of 2015.

Even with this uncertainty overshadowing the national fund, Jefferson County is depending on its road budget increasing with time. The budget has shrunk to less than half of what it once was, and overwhelmed with projects, the county has been forced to prioritize its construction and repair projects based on direct impact to the safety of travelers.

Many major improvements in Homewood—such as directional ramps connecting Lakeshore Drive to I-65, a median on Green Springs Highway, and the conversion of Oxmoor Road to a cul-de-sac—were proposed and designed as early as 2007, but few projects have seen completion or even the beginning of work.

Many minor road hazards only receive enough attention for a temporary fix, putting the repair off only to return to later with some time. Potholes on low-traffic roadways, for example, are typically filled with gravel, which is slowly kicked back out onto the pavement by tires. “They don’t fill them, they just put rocks in them,” said Dallas native and Birmingham resident Blake Boyd. “It’s annoying when rocks are everywhere.”

There’s little action motorists can take to improve their road conditions, so hunkering down and coping seems to be the best option for the foreseeable future. Proper vehicle maintenance is crucial, particularly concerning tire pressure and tread.

“Air pressure is critical,” said Wayne Pittman, chief of Samford University’s police department. “The manufacturer’s recommendations are right on the outside of the tire. Follow those recommendations.”

Pittman also advises motorists to check their tire tread routinely. One old trick is to stick an upside-down penny in the tread. “If you can see Abe Lincoln’s head, you need to get new tires,” Pittman said. “Don’t run them too bald, because in rough weather you can lose traction.”

Potholes are arguably the most common hazards that Birmingham drivers encounter, regardless of season. “Usually, if you hit a pothole, you’re going to have a front-end alignment problem,” Pittman said. “If it’s a big pothole, you can also dent a rim. It can do some damage to your vehicle.”

Drivers will often overlook small bumps in their tire walls. Although these bumps are miniscule, they can be a symptom of a significant threat to passenger safety. “More than likely, it’s the cord that’s separated and it’s a bulge come out,” Pittman explained. An expert should inspect such a tire as quickly as possible, and will usually recommend replacement.

Motorists that encounter a new road hazard are encouraged to report it. State highway and interstate issues should be reported to ALDOT, and city-maintained roads should be reported to the corresponding city’s government.

“Interstellar” was pretty stellar

After his work on the acclaimed “Dark Knight” franchise, director Christopher Nolan looked to the stars with his newest film, “Interstellar.” Set in the near future where the Earth has turned into a perpetual dust bowl, the film stars Matthew McConaughey as an aircraft-pilot-turned-farmer, Cooper. Cooper is tapped by an old college professor to pilot a mission to find a new habitable planet for humanity to colonize.

The odd thing about “Interstellar” is that sometimes it feels like a Nolan, and sometimes it feels like something else entirely. Those frustrated with Nolan’s handling of action scenes in the past can rest easy. He handles the film’s action sequences with grace and coherency.

The film is surprisingly emotional at times, thanks to excellent performances from McConaughey and Jessica Chastain. There are a few heartbreaking and emotional scenes.

The film is an incredible experience that demands to be seen in theaters (IMAX, if you can swing it). This is Nolan’s most visually arresting picture. He films his space sequences in a manner similar to the way Stanley Kubrick filmed “2001: A Space Odyssey.” This makes for some awe-inspiring visuals.

In the end, “Interstellar” is a worthy addition to Nolan’s filmography. It proves that he is maturing as a storyteller. The visuals and McConaughey’s performance are alone enough to see the film.

Give More, Receive More: Helping Those in Need During the Holiday Season

Giving

 (Photography by Mary E. Coe)

During my Thanksgiving break, I came across an inspiring story while scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed. With no nearby family or anywhere to go on Thanksgiving, a homeless man was going to spend the holidays alone. He decided to create an online ad that asked merely for company, and nothing else. Hundred of families contacted him, insisting that he spend not only Thanksgiving, but also Christmas in their home, as well.

Overwhelmed by the content of this article, I realized something. Many people, especially the homeless, end up spending a day that is meant for community, friends and family, alone. I also realized something else. During the holiday season, many people find that they have an incredible urge to give back. Sometimes, however, we get stuck and don’t know how to help. I am one of those people. While I’m hanging stocking on the mantle, or indulging in my family’s traditional coffee cake on Christmas morning, I always have an overwhelming desire to give more than I receive. And not just to the people whom I love, but to the hundred of thousands in my community who don’t have someone to share this joyful day with.

While it’s not always possible to welcome a stranger into your home, there are many other ways to give back during the holiday season. Whether you spend your Christmas morning at the soup kitchen, or sponsor a child from an Angel Tree, there are dozens of ways to lend a helping hand. Especially in Birmingham, non-profits can only go so far to help. That’s where we need to step in.

Here are some charitable ways that will inspire you to give back this holiday season.

Sponsor a Child or Family
If you have ever thought about playing Santa, it’s your time. Many businesses, restaurants, and ministries in the Birmingham area set up Giving Trees, which allow you to choose a tag on the tree and purchase a gift for a family or a child. Locally, Chubb’s Grub Station is one of many places in Birmingham to find an Angel Tree. Nationally, The Salvation Army is once again hosting their annual “Gifts for Kids Angel Tree” program. Find out more about Chubb’s at chubbsgrub.com, and learn about how to adopt a child at birminghamsalvationarmy.org

Toys for Tots
Another great way to play Santa is to drop a child’s toy into local Toys for Tots bins. The goal of Toys for Tots is to supply every child with something under their tree on Christmas morning. To bring unwrapped donations to a local drop off box near you, visit http://www.toysfortots.org/

Cards for Hospitalized Kids
It may be a lost tradition to send and receive handwritten letters these days, but it’s one of most sincere ways to let someone know you are thinking of them during the holiday season. The Cards for Hospitalized Kids campaign is a meaningful way to make a sick child in the hospital smile. To learn more visit http://www.cardsforhospitalizedkids.com.

Send a Card to Addie Fausett
While you’re writing letters, make sure to send one to 6-year-old Addie Fausett. Diagnosed with an unknown illness, which caused cerebral atrophy, a degenerative disease, in 2008, Fausett was told that this would most likely be her last Christmas. Her grandparents are hoping to supply Addie with enough cards to last a “lifetime of Christmases.” To learn more about Addie and her family, read her story here.

To send Addie and her sisters a card, please mail it to:

ADDIE LYNN AND SISTERS
BOX 162
FOUNTAIN GREEN , UTAH
84632

Visit the Washington Post article here to read the article that inspired this post.

How are you giving back this holiday season? Tweet us @exodusmagazine

Get Involved: Serve the Homeless

No matter what the time of year, hundreds of homeless people are in need across Birmingham. As Christmas draws near, let us not forget these people. There are many ways for you to get involved and serve the homeless. Rather than you going and handing out food or personal hygiene items to them, we recommend you connect with a nonprofit ministry already serving the homeless. Here are 5 of the most well-known organizations that homeless individuals go to when they are in need.

Salvation Army (Birmingham)

Urban Ministry

First Light (for women)

Firehouse Shelter (for men)

Church of the Reconciler

If you’re interested in learning more about the issue of homelessness in Birmingham, check out OneRoof Birmingham, an organization that coordinates services provided by homeless agencies in central Alabama.

Birmingham brew: Revelator Coffee offers special coffees, unique atmosphere

Need a boost of caffeine to carry you through the holiday season? Look no further than Revelator Coffee, a New Orleans-based shop that arrived in Birmingham this summer. Revelator is expanding its presence and its mission of brewing and selling high-quality coffee in the South. Stores in New Orleans and Chattanooga are set to open soon.

Revelator has a small, frequently-rotating coffee menu and focuses on crafting gourmet coffees for a variety of tastes. According to its website, Revelator “sources green coffees that possess beautiful and unique complexities and profile our roasts to highlight nuance and inherent qualities.”

They also emphasize professionalism and skill in baristas, which adds to the overall coffee experience.

All of Revelator’s equipment is American-made. The company uses a Seattle-made espresso machine that allows for customized roasts. Their mugs are from Kentucky-based pottery studio Louisville Stoneware, and herbal teas are from Flying Bird Botanicals in Bellingham, Washington. No detail goes unnoticed: even baristas’ aprons are custom-designed by New Orleans denim brand Holt McCall.

Revelator has been well-received in the Birmingham community so far. Samford student Elizabeth Mullins said she enjoyed her Revelator experience.

“Their menu is simple but quality,” Mullins said. “They have different brews and types of coffee regularly, and they describe it all based on flavor and aroma instead of strength, which is super unique.”

Mullins added that she was impressed with both regular coffee and specialty drinks.

“I’m a latte girl normally, and they don’t disappoint there either – they’re best paired with the pastries that they get from local bakeries daily for a top-notch breakfast,” she said.

Revelator is located next door to the Lyric Theatre and boasts a renovated interior by up-and-coming design firm Appleseed Workshop, which is also responsible for the design of Bottle and Bone in Uptown and Brick & Tin in Mountain Brook.

Revelator Coffee is located downtown at 1826 3rd Avenue North. The store is open seven days a week, 6:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Find them on Facebook or Instagram @revelatorcoffee.

Alabama adventures: Scuba diving at Dive Alabama

By Sydney Cromwell

When life is feeling stale and you need a break in your routine, the Magic City delivers. From 14,000 feet in the air to hundreds of feet under ground, we found the best adventures in the Birmingham area. This is part six in a six-part series.

Divers prepare for a swim at the Dive Alabama quarry.
Divers prepare for a swim at the Dive Alabama quarry.

Scuba Diving
Dive Alabama
100 Industrial Park Drive, Pelham
Entry: $27 ($24 for student divers)
Diver certification: $450
(205) 663-7428
divealabama.com

You don’t need a set of gills to experience life under the water’s surface. Learn to scuba dive and the world’s oceans are yours to explore.

Dive Alabama is situated on a former mining quarry for I-65. Miners hit a spring in 1973, which filled the 26-acre quarry with water that ranges from four to 140 feet in depth. The dive shop is the only one in the Birmingham area that offers on-site open diving instead of pool diving.

Stefanie Combs, the manager of Dive Alabama, said different quarry owners over the decades have sunk cars, sailboats and a school bus into the water to give divers obstacles to traverse. The water is also full of turtles, tiny freshwater jellyfish and fish, which will swim right up to divers – especially if food is involved.

“You get to see a lot underwater that you wouldn’t normally see, even snorkeling or swimming,” Combs said.

Through an online course and two weekends of diving with an instructor, anyone can become a certified scuba diver. That certification never expires and enables you to dive anywhere in the world, from the Caribbean to China’s underwater city. Combs said already-certified divers can dive freely at the quarry, rent equipment and take more advanced courses, including rescue and instructor training.

In October, an experienced diver died during a solo dive at the quarry. Despite this, Combs said scuba diving is very safe as long as divers know their limits and follow safe practices, such as diving with a buddy. So strap on a mask, tank and fins, and take the plunge.
“It’s just a different world. It’s very unique,” Combs said. “There’s nothing like it that I can think of.”

Arc Light Stories

The sun had just begun to set over the Birmingham skyline as the doors opened, and the line of people that stretched down the sidewalk in front of Urban Standard snaked inside. Guests paid $5 for admission, a small fee for the rich experience that the evening would provide.

The line, now in front of the register, extended across the entire width of the coffee shop. The hum of the espresso machines mixed with the cacophony of voices and music being played softly in the background as people took their seats.

Taylor Robinson, founder of Arc Light Stories, made his way to the single microphone at the front of the room to introduce the evening’s event: Arc Light Stories. The event is held monthly in downtown Birmingham and is a place where ordinary people come to share, according to Robinson, “true, personal stories told in person.”

“Arc Light is something different from the normal ‘night-out’ fare,” explained Story Coach Erin Moon. “It’s very intimate to tell stories in front of strangers. You never know how a line will hit or where the laughs will come or even if you’ll remember the story the way you practiced it. There’s nothing more vulnerable than performing a story live for strangers, and I think people connect with that.”

Each subsequent story is as engaging as the first. As they share their lives, storytellers captivate not only those in the audience but people walking along the sidewalk outside. Those simply passing by are drawn in, slowing down or even stopping to gaze into the front windows and note the events taking place.

As one of the oldest forms of self-expression, nothing brings people together quite like a good story, so it naturally follows that Arc Light routinely accomplishes a profound sense of community. “As humans, we are naturally drawn to tell stories and to hear stories,” said Robinson.

Arc Light is unique, characterized by more than just great stories. There is a sort of magic that happens during these events. Robinson and Moon both agree that the best part of the event happens while watching someone tell a story for the first time.

Moon describes the single moment when something clicks, and a storyteller’s nerves give way to confidence: “They hit that first beat, they feel the audience react, and there’s this grin, like: I did it, and I’m killing it.”

Robinson firmly believes, “You don’t have to be a professional storyteller to tell a great story.” Each person has something to share, to teach or to leave with the audience, and each new story builds a stronger sense of camaraderie among those in attendance.

“We have such great audience members; no one wants you to succeed more than they do. They are always supportive, always kind, and it makes for such a great room,” said Moon. As Arc Light staff, Robinson and Moon are able to see and appreciate the community that the event creates better than anyone.

“You become a little family unit with the other storytellers from your event: cheering each other on and pumping each other up,” said Moon. “The audience even joins in. They are happy to be there, and they’re ready to share in the experience.”

In the future, Robinson hopes that Arc Light Stories will become an established Birmingham staple. While they will continue the monthly, flagship events, he is also expanding the organization to offer storytelling workshops. Having grown so quickly in the five years since its conception, Arc Light’s future is bright.