• The "B" is for Birmingham: A tour of the city we call home

    Brandon Varner - Managing Editor

    Angled view of the VulcanPhoto of The Vulcan by Cooper CrippenBirminghamis a city that rewards people willing to make their own fun. With the Alabama summer bearing down on the city, now is the time to explore.

    I grabbed three local tour guides: David, Chris and Raleigh; and took them and their advice all around the city to get some tips on how to make your own fun throughout Birmingham. The three are local fixtures in the city, with eclectic taste and years of experience in the city’s DIY scene.

    I popped in to their house in Glen Iris sometime around 5 p.m. Show posters and alternative magazines sat all over the big table in the center of the room.

    David and Chris had been in the basement cutting a track that Chris had been trying to get down for a long time. I pulled up just when they had finished the final touches for the day, so I went down to the basement to see how they were doing.

    Chris broke his femur in Cincinnati thanks to a poorly designed venue and a set of unfriendly stairs. Raleigh was upstairs stomping and playing slide guitar.

    I snapped a few photos of the table while the guys tossed around a few ideas of where we could start our journey. I only gave a few directions, which were that I needed a good shot of the city, and our destinations had to me at least moderately safe, which ruled out Chris' suggestion of Ruffner Mine. I'll check it out sometime.

    We hopped in my car, and took off towards the Vulcan Trail for a good view of the city skyline.

    “I slept in my car here once,” said Raleigh. “I woke up to a bunch of joggers staring at me through my windows.”

    We took in the view of the city as the sun began to descend, and decided our next move would be into the city. By happenstance, we ended up at Charlemagne Records in Five Points South.

    Charlemagne Records has been in operation since 1977, according to The building with its unassuming tan awning has been beckoning visitors to 1924 ½ 11th Ave. S for much longer than I can remember. A short jaunt up the steep staircase puts you into one of Birmingham's historical fixtures and musical library.

    I've made several trips to Charlemagne in my day, and I always find myself walking away with at least one or two records. There's something for everybody at Charlemagne. Vinyl and CD's of jazz, rock, blues, pop, and much more are packed tightly into crates that line every wall. For those that are still sort of wary about the place, there are bins of 1, 3, and 5 dollar albums that are sure to entice the bargain conscious. There are always great deals to be had in these boxes.

    I'm kicking myself for not grabbing a dollar copy of Ozzy Osbourne's “Diary of a Madman” when I was in high school. But I picked up Atlantic Starr's self-titled album the last time I went there to shop, along with a record by an artist I had never heard of named Gino Vanelli which was some pretty lush blue-eyed soul. If you've never heard of an artist, check out the instruments listed on the back—if you like what you see, give it a shot.

    Before we left, Raleigh pointed out an album on the shelf: “Scientific Dub,” by The Scientist. He declared it was a great album. I trust his taste. Raleigh knows more about dub than anyone I’ve ever met.

    Since we were in the area, Chris decided Linn Park in Northside would be a great place to go next. It was down 20th street.

    “Everything's off of 20th street to downtown,” said Chris. “All sorts of businesses and cool places.”

    On the way to Linn Park, heading down 20th street, you'll find The Syndicate Lounge which is an up and coming new venue in town. Other music venues call home in this area of downtown, too. Workplay is over on 23rd street if you go down far enough, and it's easy to spot on the way down. Iron City sits on 22nd, and usually has decent shows. In the past couple of months, they’ve hosted favorites like Brand New, The Pixies and Marilyn Manson.

    We reached Linn Park around 6:30. The historic, verdant park is neatly nestled in between City Hall, Jefferson County Courthouse and, perhaps most notably, the Linn-Henley Research Library.

    Linn Park has a few beautiful moments to mention, and maybe most poetically contains a juxtaposition between a stone confederate memorial of old and a relatively new series of markers for Dr. Martin Luther King's marches through the city. Those so inclined can follow the path that the marchers took throughout the city with quotes from prominent leaders placed all along the way.

    The Library is a beautiful work of art with fantastic carvings and a wide selection inside. According to the Birmingham Public Library's website, the library began in 1886 as a collection of books adjoining the office of John Herbert Phillips, the superintendent of the school system at the time. The limestone building on the edge of Linn Park was built in 1927, and heavily renovated in 1985.

    With a totally free library card, you've got the power to not only check out many of the books housed in either the main building or the more modern annex, but you've also got an inside track on many of the free educational events that the Library offers just by virtue of showing up. Educational events, concerts and more await the attentive library patron.

    After Linn Park, we decided to cool off with a more hidden local fixture that I had only heard about couple of times throughout the day.

    The Garage is a small bar and restaurant tucked away in an unassuming old building on 10th Terrace South. The facade of the building is adorned with a rusted old sign and neon beer placards. The Garage has a reputation locally as a haven for Birmingham business elite and it's easy to see why.

    The 21-and-up cash-only establishment is a little hard to find unless you know where to look, but once you do find it, it is truly a sight to behold.

    The most famous feature of The Garage is probably its courtyard. Lush green trees hang low over the brick courtyard, which is lit only by hanging Christmas lights. The former antiques store still boasts some of its most flavorful pieces, a rusted-out 1950s gasoline pump here, a stone sculpture there.

    Aside from its extensive list of beers either on tap or in bottles, the restaurant also serves sandwiches made with Big Sky Bread with fresh ingredients and an array of toppings. Sandwiches can be paired with a soup of the day to add a little variety to your dining experience.

    We left the Garage as the sun was finally going down, and David suggested that we take a ride over to a pho restaurant over on Greensprings.

    Pho Que Huong was an interesting stop. I didn't even know that this restaurant existed, and yet here it was, tucked into a shopping center right next to the Aldi. This place has a pretty expansive menu, almost to the point of giving too many options, but everything looks delicious. They have a wide selection of Pho dishes.

    Pho is a dish that has gotten very popular in the last few years. Vietnamese in origin, it consists of noodles, meat, and various vegetables all cooked in a large bowl of broth and served with fresh vegetables on the side.

    Along with the Pho, there were also several standard Asian-American dishes that most would probably be accustomed to, and many other dishes. We shared a few different selections from the menu, and walked away pretty pleased. All of the dishes hover around the 8-10 dollar mark in price, but you will definitely leave with leftovers if you are eating one plate to yourself.

    We finished eating, and I stood outside to take a couple more pictures. We talked a bit about healthcare and reggae on the short ride back. I thanked the guys for their time and we parted ways.

    We had a very eventful day, and one that would not cost your average young person a pretty penny. You could safely buy a couple of records you've never heard of, check out a library book, have a beer in the beautiful Garage Courtyard, and finish the night with a steaming bowl of pho with a 20 dollar bill in your pocket.

    So go out and see Birmingham. I'm sure it'd be happy to see you..  
  • Confronting body image

    Brandon Varner - Managing Editor

    After my “Growing up Dark Skinned” article was published last semester, I received a volume of positive feedback from readers of all ages and backgrounds. The comments that inspired me the most were those from people who had stories of their own about how they experienced discrimination because of characteristics that made them different. Many wanted to know what changed for me that encouraged me to embrace my differences.

    That change came when I began to develop my own self-perception apart from that of my peers; I recognized that having chocolate skin was more a blessing than something to be ashamed of.

    This adjustment of perception can lead to similar positive results when applied to the issue of body image. Body image is a widespread preoccupation that includes how we perceive our physical appearances, how we feel about those physical appearances, and how we feel other people view our bodies.

    We are given blueprints and feel obligated to conform to lofty ideals to attain “attractiveness.” The media is teeming with products and procedures to aid people in achieving this standard. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Surgery, Americans spent over 12 billion dollars on surgical and nonsurgical procedures. The ASAS reports that the top five procedures for men and women combined are liposuction, breast augmentation, eyelid surgery, tummy tuck and nose surgery.

    Distorted body images are brought about by anxiety about one’s shape and size. A study by Brown University’s BWell Health Promotion program reports that college students with negative body images are shaped by factors such as exposure to images of idealized versus normal bodies and the frequency with which we compare ourselves to others. Negative self-perception may manifest itself as diminished self-esteem, depression and/or eating disorders. Positive body image is possible when there is a realistic perception and understanding that all bodies are attractive and should be loved by their persons.

    A few weeks ago, I came across the Instagram hashtag #EffYourBeautyStandards. With this hashtag, individuals who do not fit “ideal” beauty standards share photos and stories of their journeys to loving their bodies.

    We cannot form our perceptions based on comparisons to others or the opinions of others. We must nurture our inner selves to achieve holistic lifestyles.  
  • Bye bye Bottletree, hello Saturn

    Anna Sims - Copy Editor

    Side view of Saturn with logo in silverPhoto by Cooper CrippenJust as Birminghamians everywhere began to mourn the loss of the music venue, bar and eatery Bottletree Café at the end of March, Saturn entered the scene. Located in the ever-growing Avondale, about a 10 minute drive from the Campus Green, this new venue functions as a coffee shop by day, and a music venue/bar by night. The grand opening of the venue took place on the night of Friday, May 1.

    The venue’s coffee bar, The Satellite, opens at 7 a.m. to serve Latin American, African and Indonesian coffees from Stumptown Coffee Roasters, based in Portland. The Satellite also offers freshly baked pastries daily from Birmingham's own Baking Bandits. With unique coffee and breakfast options in such proximity to campus, The Satellite is a great pit stop for the early-riser before a morning class or for the late-riser to get a midday caffeine kick, with respite from the on-campus bustle.

    By night, Saturn becomes a music venue and The Satellite a bar, where they are scheduled to host mostly indie bands and DJs throughout the month of June. In a city where most of the better bars and venues are 21 and up, UAB students should be happy to know that all of Saturn’s shows scheduled for the month are 18 and up.

    The grand opening featured Mother Falcon, Dead Fingers and Helen of Coi and after show party with DJ Coco. According to Kelsey Stein in an article on, “Before local band Helen of Coi left the stage, the place had almost reached its 500-person capacity.”

    Birmingham-based professional dancer and choreographer, Jessica Bostany, attended the show and told Kscope she found the atmosphere “funky and fitting to the Birmingham vibe,” however was “disappointed with the turnout” as “everyone cleared out once they ran out of beer around 10:30 p.m.”

    “We didn’t care that there was no beer; we just wanted to dance,” Bostany said, and also notes that she “looks forward to spending more nights at Saturn.”

    Owner Brian Teasley is a former Bottletree promoter and has chosen to staff Saturn with several former Bottletree employees, according to Like any budding business, Saturn will learn from its mistakes. With a role model like Bottletree, Saturn is likely to become another iconic Birmingham location in an already transforming corner of the city.
  • Watts announces football’s return

    Mark Linn-News Editor

    Fox 6 Rally June 1

    UAB President Ray Watts announced at a press conference on Monday, June 1 that the UAB football, bowling and rifle programs are to be reinstated in light of broad community and financial support.
    Read more...  
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