Saturday, December 31, 2011

What was your favorite book of 2011?

By my count, I managed to read 46 books during the past year.

While that may seem like a lot (or not very many to some voracious readers), it was still six books shy of my goal of 52 books, that is, one book a week.

You’ll find a list below of the books that I finished this year, and it was easy for me to pick out my favorite book, or shall I say, books of the year. Without a doubt, my hands-down favorites were the first two books in Mark Hodder’s Burton and Swinburne Series – “The Strange Case of Spring Heeled Jack” and “The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man.”

I decided to read “The Strange Case of Spring Heeled Jack” after it won the 2010 Philip K. Dick Award, and I thought that the book was one of the finest, most entertaining novels I’d read in a long time. It was an easy choice to snap up a copy of “the Curious Case of the Clockwork Man” when it hit the shelves.

The third book in the series, “Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon,” will be released in late January, and I’m really looking forward to read it. If it’s as good as the first two, it will be awesome.

Without further ado, here’s the list of books that I read during the past year. Which of these books have you had the chance to read? Which did you like or dislike and why? What was your favorite book from the past year, regardless if it’s on the list below or not? Let us know in the comments section below.

1. “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne
2. “All In” by Gene Chizik and David Thomas
3. “Angels & Demons” by Dan Brown
4. “Anno Dracula” by Kim Newman
5. “Anthill: A Novel” by E.O. Wilson

6. “At the Mountains of Madness: Definitive Edition” by H.P. Lovecraft
7. “The Blue Jacket’s Manual” by Thomas J. Cutler
8. “Christmas Tales of Alabama” by Kelly Kazek
9. “The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man” by Mark Hodder
10. “Duncan’s Ritual of Freemasonry” by Malcolm A. Duncan

11. “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card
12. “Freemasons for Dummies” by Christopher Hodapp
13. “Freemasons: Inside the World’s Oldest Secret Society” by Paul Jeffers
14. “From Hell” by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
15. “Game of Thrones” by George R.R. Martin

16. “The Ghost Hunter’s Bible: Definitive Edition” by Trent Brandon
17. “Ghost Hunting” by Jason Hawes, Grant Wilson and Michael J. Friedman
18. “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad
19. “The Hunt for Red October” by Tom Clancy
20. “Iceberg” by Clive Cussler

21. “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1” by Alan Moore
22. “Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft” by Joe Hill
23. “The Mediterranean Caper” by Clive Cussler
24. “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs
25. “Murder in Amityville” by Hans Holzer

26. “Progressive Blues Harmonica” by William Lee Johnson
27. “Rogue Angel” by Jodi Wehranowicz
28. “Sahara” by Clive Cussler
29. “The Sea Hunters” by Clive Cussler
30. “The Shack” by William P. Young

31. “Shadows Over Baker Street,” edited by Michael Reaves and J. Pelan
32. “The Steampunk Bible” by Jeff Vandermeer and S.J. Chambers
33. “The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack” by Mark Hodder
34. “Sweetness & Blood” by Michael Scott Moore
35. “The Sweet Science” by A.J. Liebling

36. “The Symbolism of Freemasonry” by Albert G. Mackey
37. “The Temple and the Lodge” by Michael Baigent
38. “Thank You Notes” by Jimmy Fallon
39. “Three and Out” by John U. Bacon
40. “A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan

41. “Vixen 03” by Clive Cussler
42. “Whitechapel Gods” by S.M. Peters
43. “Wilderness Medicine” by Thomas Schimelpfenig
44. “Wind, Sand and Stars” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
45. “The Worst Journey in the World” by Apsley Cherry-Garrard
46. “Zoo City” by Lauren Beukes

Daily Weather Observations - Dec. 31, 2011

Temp: 48.0 degrees F (8.9 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches

Humidity: 82 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Low fog with clear skies.

Winds: Calm.

Week to Date Rainfall: 1.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 5.6 inches

NOTE: Tenth day of Winter.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Friday, December 30, 2011

What movie would you say was your favorite movie from the year 2011?

2011 was a great year in movies, and looking back through my posts and NetFlix activity during the past year, I’ve watched 112 movies, by my count, since Jan. 1, 2011. That’s about two movies a week, give or take.

These movies include a wide variety of films that fit into a broad range of categories - action, animation, classics, comedy, comic book-themed, crime, drama, fantasy, horror, martial arts, mystery, science fiction, sports, suspense, sword and sorcery, war and westerns.

Which would be my favorite movie of the year? That’s a hard question to answer, but if I could watch only one of these movies again it would be “The Hangover II.”

Aside from “The Hangover II,” here are some of my other favorites by category:

Animation/Family – Rango (2011)

Classics - The French Connection (1971)

Comedy - 30 Minutes or Less (2011)

Science Fiction/Fantasy - Super 8 (2011)

Sports - The Fighter (2010)

Suspense/Horror - Insidious (2011)

In any event, here’s a list of all the movies I watched during the past year. Which would you say was your favorite? (Maybe it’s one that’s not on the list.) Which of the movies below did you like or dislike and why? Let us know in the comments section below.

1. 13 Assassins (2010)
2. 30 Minutes or Less (2011)
3. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
4. The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
5. All About Eve (1950)
6. All the King’s Men (1949)
7. Amadeus (1984)
8. An American in Paris (1951)
9. Annie Hall (1977)
10. The Apartment (1960)

11. Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
12. The A-Team (2010)
13. Barry Munday (2010)
14. Ben-Hur (1959)
15. Black Swan (2010)
16. The Book of Eli (2010)
17. Braveheart (1995)
18. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
19. Buried (2010)
20. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

21. Chain Letter (2010)
22. Chariots of Fire (1981)
23. A Christmas Carol (2009)
24. Conan the Barbarian (2011)
25. Dances with Wolves (1990)
26. The Deer Hunter (1978)
27. Devil (2010)
28. Drive Angry (1955)
29. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
30. Due Date (2010)

31. Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (2010)
32. Eight Below (2006)
33. The English Patient (1996)
34. The Expendables (2010)
35. The Fighter (2010)
36. Forrest Gump (1994)
37. The Fourth Kind (2009)
38. The French Connection (1971)
39. Friday the 13th (2009)
40. Fright Night (2011)

41. From Here to Eternity (1953)
42. Gandhi (1982)
43. Gigi (1958)
44. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (2009)
45. The Godfather (1972)
46. The Godfather, Part II (1974)
47. Green Lantern (2011)
48. The Hangover II (2011)
49. The Happening (2008)
50. Hatchet II (2010)

51. I Am Number Four (2011)
52. Inception (2010)
53. Insidious (2011)
54. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
55. Into the Wild (2007)
56. I Spit on Your Grave (2010)
57. The King’s Speech (2010)
58. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
59. The Last Emperor (1987)
60. The Last Exorcism (2010)

61. The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu (2009)
62. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
63. Let Me In (2010)
64. Limitless (2011)
65. A Man for All Seasons (1966)
66. Marty (1955)
67. The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)
68. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
69. Monsters (2010)
70. My Fair Lady (1964)

71. My Soul to Take (2010)
72. Oliver! (1968)
73. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
74. On the Waterfront (1954)
75. The Other Guys (2010)
76. Out of Africa (1985)
77. Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)
78. Patton (1970)
79. Piranha (2010)
80. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

81. Platoon (1986)
82. Priest (2011)
83. Rain Man (1988)
84. Rango (2011)
85. Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
86. Restrepo (2010)
87. The Rite (2011)
88. Rocky (1976)
89. Schindler’s List (1993)
90. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)

91. Scream 4 (2011)
92. Season of the Witch (2011)
93. Shutter Island (2010)
94. Skyline (2010)
95. The Social Network (2010)
96. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010)
97. The Sound of Music (1965)
98. Source Code (2011)
99. Stag Night (2009)
100. The Sting (1973)

101. Strangers (2010)
102. Sucker Punch (2011)
103. Super 8 (2011)
104. Terms of Endearment (1983)
105. Thor (2011)
106. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
107. Unforgiven (1992)
108. Valhalla Rising (2009)
109. Vampires Suck (2010)
110. The Ward (2011)

111. Wrecked (2011)
112. Your Highness (2011)

Daily Weather Observations - Dec. 30, 2011

Temp: 47.5 degrees F (8.6 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches

Humidity: 83 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Foggy.

Winds: Light winds out of the Southeast.

Week to Date Rainfall: 1.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 5.6 inches

NOTE: Ninth day of Winter.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The year 1912 was an eventful, exciting year in American, world history

This week’s paper marks the final edition of The Courant for the year 2011, and next week’s paper will be the first edition of the year 2012. Much has taken place in Conecuh County and in the rest of the world during the preceding year, and I’m sure that we’ll be able to say the same this time next year.

Next week, in this space, as I do on the first Thursday of every month, I’ll offer up my monthly review of all the interesting things that were happening in Conecuh County a century ago, way back in January 1912.

The year 1912 was an interesting year in history, and you might be surprised by some of the things that occurred during that leap year a century ago.

The Republic of China, commonly known as Taiwan, was established on Jan. 1, 1912. New Mexico was admitted as the 47th U.S. state on Jan. 6 of that year, and Arizona became the 48th U.S. state on Feb. 14, 1912.

In one of the most famous expeditions of discovery in history, British polar explorer Capt. Robert Falcon Scott and a team of four others became the second group to reach the South Pole. They arrived about three weeks after a team led by famous Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who became the first people to stand on the South Pole on Dec. 14, 1911.

On the trip back to their base camp near the Antarctic coast, Scott and every member of his team died due to the extreme conditions, sometime around March 29, 1912. In addition to the 44-year-old Scott, the team included Henry R. Bowers, a 29-year-old Scottish naval officer; Edgar Evans, a 36-year-old Welsh naval officer; and Edward Adrian Wilson, a 40-year-old English doctor and naturalist.

On April 10, 1912, the British ocean liner, RMS Titanic, left Southampton, England on her maiden voyage for New York City. At 11:40 p.m. on April 14, the Titanic struck an iceberg in the northern Atlantic Ocean. The Titanic sank less than three hours later, at 2:20 a.m. on April 15, and more than 1,500 people died as a result.

Like 2012, the year 1912 was a presidential election year, and on Nov. 5, 1912 Democratic challenger Woodrow Wilson beat Republican incumbent William Howard Taft by a landslide.

The year 1912 was also an active year in the world of sports. Two famous baseball stadiums - Tiger Stadium in Detroit and Fenway Park in Boston – opened on April 20, 1912.

On Oct. 16, the Boston Red Sox beat the New York Giants in extra innings to win the 1912 World Series in a game that is considered one of the greatest baseball games ever played. Two teams shared the college football national championship in 1912, Harvard and Penn State.

The year 1912 was also a notable year in aviation. That year marked the first successful all-metal aircraft flight and on March 1 of that year in St. Louis, Mo., Albert Berry made the first parachute jump from a moving airplane.

Berry’s jump came less than a month after French inventor Franz Reichelt died in a jump from the Eiffel Tower in an attempt to demonstrate his “parachute suit.” That Feb. 4, 1912 incident was caught on film.

Famous books published in 1912 included “The Lost World” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and “Riders of the Purple Sage” by Zane Grey.

Famous people born in 1912 included American painter Jackson Pollock, Hitler’s girlfriend Eva Braun, American actor Karl Malden, German-born physicist and engineer Wernher von Braun, American singer Perry Como, American TV chef Julia Child, American actor Gene Kelly, American humorist Minnie Pearl and former first lady Lady Bird Johnson. Famous people who died in 1912 included American aviation pioneer Wilbur Wright and Irish writer Bram Stoker, who is best known as the author of the famous vampire novel, “Dracula.”

As you can see, 1912 was an eventful year in American and world history. Who’s to say what 2012 will bring, but I’m sure that it will likely be as eventful as that remarkable year a century ago.

The Evergreen Courant's Sports Flashback for Dec. 29, 2011

22 YEARS AGO
DEC. 28, 1989

“Two local players earn Marion Institute letters: Two players from Evergreen who were members of the Marion Military Institute Football Team in 1989 season earned varsity letters. The players are William Simpson and Timothy Stallworth.”

From “The Colyum” by Bob Bozeman – “Monday will wind up the holiday season with New Years.
“This weekend and Monday will also wind up my favorite season of the year, college football season.
“Local fans can take special interest in the Auburn-Ohio State game as local star, Bob Meeks, will be starting for the Tigers. Bob was an outstanding lineman at Evergreen High School and saw lots of playing time last year at offensive tackle as a freshman. He was the starting right tackle for Auburn in this his sophomore season.
“Bob wears No. 70 and is a fine blocker. He doesn’t get the attention he deserves because he plays alongside the highly publicized right guard, No. 67 Ed King, also a sophomore out of Phenix City.
“In the Auburn games I’ve watched on TV I thought Bob’s performances equal to the play of King. Offensive linemen are the unknowns of football as their names are seldom called and they get little publicity.
“Anyway, Bob Meeks is a fine player and a fine young man who brings credit to his family, his high school and his hometown. Here’s hoping you have a great game against the Buckeyes, Bob, and know that your hometown fans are pulling for you 100 percent.”

37 YEARS AGO
DEC. 26, 1974

“Through an oversight this writer failed to offer his congratulations last week to three fine Sparta Academy Warriors football players. The three, Sam Skipper, Bruce Hutcheson and Walker Scott, were named to the 20-member All District III Football Team of the Alabama Private School Athletic Association.
“This is quite an honor for the three players, their teammates, coaches and school. In addition, Walker Scott was also the top rusher of the Class B Schools in the state and was second only to Ryles of Class A Hooper Academy among all state private schools.
“Congratulations, Sam, Bruce and Walker on well-deserved recognition.”

“Mrs. Katherine Brown, wife of Headmaster Richard Brown, presents a trophy to ‘Loretta Wren,’ winner of the Sparta Academy Key Club’s ‘Dirty Dozen Beauty Review’ held in the new auditorium Friday morning. Key Club Advisor Ed Shelton directed the hilarious event with proceeds going into a fund to help purchase a curtain for the stage. ‘Loretta’ is Larry Reid, star Warrior athlete and one of 10 good sports who helped in this fun thing that was enjoyed and also helped in the worthy cause.”

Compiled by Sports Reporter Lee Peacock from past issues of The Evergreen Courant. To read The Courant’s weekly Sports Flashback feature online, visit leepeacock2010.blogspot.com.

Who do you think will win this week's slate of college football bowl games?

If you like college football, this coming week will be one of the best of the year. Nineteen bowl games will be played between today (Thursday) and next Thursday.

With that in mind, and for what it’s worth, here are my predictions for this week’s slate of bowl games.

I like Florida State over Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Citrus Bowl, which will be played today at 4:30 p.m. in Orlando, Fla. (ESPN).

I think that Baylor will beat Washington in the Valero Alamo Bowl, which will be played today at 8 p.m. in San Antonio, Texas (ESPN).

I like BYU over Tulsa in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, which will be played tomorrow (Friday) at 11 a.m. in Dallas (ESPN).

I think that Rutgers will defeat Iowa State in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, which will be played tomorrow at 2:20 p.m. at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y. (ESPN).

I like Mississippi State over Wake Forest in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, which will be played tomorrow at 5:40 p.m. in Nashville, Tenn. (ESPN).

I look for Oklahoma to blow out Iowa in the Insight Bowl, which will be played tomorrow at 9 p.m. in Tempe, Ariz. (ESPN).

I think that Texas A&M will beat Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowl, which will be played Saturday at 11 a.m. in Houston (ESPN).

I like Georgia Tech over Utah in the Hyundai Sun Bowl, which will be played Saturday at 1 p.m. in El Paso, Texas (CBS).

I look for Vanderbilt to win in a close one over Cincinnati in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, which will be played Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in Memphis. Tenn. (ABC).

I think that Illinois will beat UCLA in another close one in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in San Francisco (ESPN).

I like Auburn over Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in Atlanta (ESPN).

I look for Houston to beat Penn State in the TicketCity Bowl, which will be played Monday at 11 a.m. in Dallas (ESPNU).

I think that Georgia will beat Michigan State in the Outback Bowl, which will be played Monday at noon in Tampa, Fla. (ABC).

I like South Carolina over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl, which will be played Monday at noon in Orlando, Fla. (ESPN).

I look for Florida to win a close one against Ohio State in the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl, which will be played Monday at noon in Jacksonville (ESPN2).

I think that Oregon will school Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, which will take place Monday at 4 p.m. in Pasadena, Calif. (ESPN).

I like Oklahoma State over Stanford in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, which will be played Monday at 7:30 p.m. in Glendale, Ariz. (ESPN).

I look for Michigan to beat Virginia Tech in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, which will be played Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in New Orleans (ESPN).

I think that Clemson will take out West Virginia in the Discover Orange Bowl, which will be played Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in Miami (ESPN).

Daily Weather Observations - Dec. 29, 2011

Temp: 37.6 degrees F (3.1 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches

Humidity: 81 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Mostly Clear with a line of distant dark clouds in the south, whispy clouds to the northeast.

Winds: Calm, no wind.

Week to Date Rainfall: 1.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 5.6 inches

NOTE: Light patches of frost on the ground. Eighth day of Winter.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My movie picks this week are 'The Iron Lady' and 'Apollo 18'

It’s Wednesday, so today I give you my weekly list of movies that will open in theatres this week as well as a list of movies that will be released this week on DVD.

I hope this will serve as a useful guide as to what’s going on this week if you happen to be near a movie theatre or if you’re looking for something to drop into your NetFlix queue.

Movies that are scheduled to hit theatres this week include:

Angels Crest (Drama, R): Directed by Gaby Dellal and starring Thomas Dekker, Lynn Collins, Jeremy Piven, Mira Sorvino and Kate Walsh.

The Iron Lady (Drama, PG-13): Directed by Phyllida Lloyd and starring Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Richard E. Grant, Roger Allam and Harry Lloyd.

Pariah (Drama, R): Directed by Dee Rees and starring Adepero Oduye, Charles Parnell, Kim Wayans, Pernell Walker and Sahra Mallesse.

A Separation (Drama, PG-13): Directed by Asghar Farhadi and starring Peyman Moaadi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat, Shahab Hoosseini and Sarina Farhadi.

Ten Year (Drama, PG-13): Directed by Jamie Linden and starring Channing Tatum, Kate Mara, Rosario Dawson, Justin Long and Lynn Collins.

New DVD releases for the week of Dec. 27 include:

Apollo 18 (Science Fiction, Suspense, PG-13): Directed by Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego and starring Warren Christie, Ryan Robbins, Ali Liebert, Andrew Airlie and Lloyd Owen.

Armed and Deadly (Drama, Suspense, R): Directed by Andrzej Mrotek and starring Lisa Varga, Audrey Landers, Diane Ford, Toni Ann Rossi and Ken Stellingwerf.

Brighton Rock (Drama, Crime, R): Directed by Rowan Joffe and starring Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough, Helen Mirren, Pete Postlethwaite and Andy Serkis.

Final Destination 5 (Horror, R): Directed by Steven Quale and starring Emma Bell, Nicholas D’Agosto, Miles Fisher, Courtney B. Vance and Arlen Escarpeta.

The First Grader (Drama, PG-13): Directed by Justin Chadwick and starring Naomie Harris, Tony Kgoroge, Sam Feuer, Nick Reding and Israel Makoe.

Game Time (Drama, PG-13): Starring Phil Haus and Jason Hurt.

Hostel: Part III (Horror, R): Directed by Scott Spiegel and starring Thomas Kretschmann, Kip Pardue, John Hensley, Sarah Habel and Barry Livingston.

Love Crime (Suspense, Crime, Not Rated): Directed by Alain Corneau and starring Ludivine Sagnier, Kristin Scott Thomas, Patrick Mille and Julien Rochefort.

The Pool Boys (Comedy, R): Directed by J.B. Rogers and starring Matthew Lillard, Efren Ramirez, Rachelle Lefevre, Tom Arnold and Robert Davi.

The Tunnel (Suspense, Horror): Directed by Carlo Ledesma and starring Bel Delia, Andy Rodoreda, Steve Davis and Luke Arnold.

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “The Iron Lady,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “Apollo 18.”

In the end, let me know if you get a chance to watch any of the new movies in theatres this week or if you’ve already seen any of the movies that have just been released on DVD. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations - Dec. 28, 2011

Temp: 37.4 degrees F (2.99 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches

Humidity: 80 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Clear.

Winds: Calm, no wind.

Week to Date Rainfall: 1.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 5.6 inches

NOTE: Light layer of fog, possibly smoke, visible in the distance. Light frost on the ground. Seventh day of Winter.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Which is your favorite - the original 'Fright Night' or the 2011 remake?

I watched an entertaining horror comedy movie the other night, the 2011 remake of the 1985 classic horror movie, “Fright Night,” and I’m sure that more than a few of you will find this remake as entertaining as the original, if not more.

Released on Aug. 19, the latest version of “Fright Night” was directed by Craig Gillespie and starred Colin Farrell in the roll of Jerry Dandrige, the vampire next door.

For those of you unfamiliar with the plot of the original and the remake, it’s about a charismatic vampire who moves into a vacant house next door to a high school kid and his single mom. The high schooler eventually learns that there’s a vampire next door, but nobody believes him - at first. After his best friend is turned into a vampire, the high school kid seeks out the reputed vampire expert, Peter Vincent, in hopes that he will help get rid of his undead neighbor.

The 2011 version of “Fright Night” is set in Las Vegas, and the vampire uses a cover story that he’s a nightshift construction worker on The Strip. He supposedly works on a job site at night, which is why he sleeps all day in a big house with blacked out windows.

One of the most interesting things about the remake was Collin Farrell’s appearance in a vampire role. According to the Internet Movie Database, Farrell took the role because he needed the work, but he almost lost the part to Heath Ledger. Ledger had been considered for the role, but that came to an end when Ledger died in January 2008.

Another interesting character in the movie, arguably my favorite character, is “Evil” Ed Lee, who is played in the remake by Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Many of you will be familiar with him because of his roles in such films as “Superbad,” “Role Models” and “Kick Ass.” Stephen Geoffrey played his counterpart, Edward “Evil Ed” Thompson, in the first movie, providing audiences with one of the more memorable performances from the film.

The Peter Vincent character is one of my favorites from both films, but I actually prefer the original version’s Peter Vincent of the two. He was the host of a late night horror movie show and came across as a second rate Abraham Van Helsing. The character in the remake is a Las Vegas magician who bears a striking resemblance to Criss “Mindfreak” Angel.

Anton Yelchin played teenage protagonist Charlie Brewster in the remake and was very believable. Many of you will be familiar with him from his appearances in such movies as 2009’s “Star Trek,” “Hearts in Atlantis” and “Along Came a Spider.”

If I had to pick a favorite between the 2011 and 1985 versions of “Fright Night,” I’d probably say that the remake is my personal favorite. This isn’t to say that the 1985 version wasn’t good. It won a Saturn Award for Best Horror Film. It’s just that I liked the updated, fresh take on the story provided by the remake.

In the end, what did you think about the remake? What did you like or dislike about it? Which was your favorite, the original or the remake? Why? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations - Dec. 27, 2011

Temp: 45.9 degrees F (7.7 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.7 inches

Humidity: 76 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Mostly Cloudy.

Winds: Winds out of the West, Southwest.

Week to Date Rainfall: 1.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 5.6 inches

NOTE: Sixth day of Winter.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Monday, December 26, 2011

How many of Forbidden Planet's '50 SF Books You MUST Read' have you read?

Friday’s post featured Forbidden Planet’s 25 “Best Books of 2011” and while researching that best-of list, I ran across a great recommended reading list called Forbidden Planet’s “50 SF Books You MUST Read.”

Selected by the editors at Forbidden Planet as “the top 50 SF books that you absolutely have to read,” the list includes more than a few titles that you will recognize. Books that made the list include the following titles:

1. Dune by Frank Herbert
2. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
3. The Book of the New Sun: Shadow & Claw by Gene Wolfe
4. Neuromancer by William Gibson
5. Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke
6. The Man In The High Castle by Philip K. Dick
7. Gateway by Frederick Pohl
8. Dispossed by Ursula Le Guin
9. The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
10. Timescape by Gregory Benford

11. Ringworld by Larry Niven
12. Babel 17 by Samuel R. Delany
13. Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
14. Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
15. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
16. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
17. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
18. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
19. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
20. A Canticle For Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

21. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
22. War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
23. Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
24. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
25. Hellonica Spring, Helliconia Summer & Helliconia Winter by Brian Aldiss
26. The Female Man by Joanna Russ
27. Inverted World by Christopher Priest
28. The Death of Grass by John Christopher
29. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
30. Ubik by Philip K. Dick

31. Mars: Book 1: Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
32. Zones of Thought: A Fire Upon the Deep & A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge
33. Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
34. Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
35. Blood Music by Greg Bear
36. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: The Trilogy of Four by Douglas Adams
37. Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg
38. Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan
39. The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks

40. Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison
41. Pavane by Keith Roberts
42. The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard
43. Centauri Device by M. John Harrison
44. The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson
45. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
46. The Reality Dysfunction by Peter F. Hamilton
47. Uplift: Book 1: Sundiver by David Brin
48. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
49. Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
50. Embassytown by China Mieville

For more information about this list and the books mentioned above, visit http://forbiddenplanet.com/picks/50-sf-books-you-must-read.

In the end, how many of the books mentioned above have you had the chance to read? Which did you like or dislike? Which would you recommend and why? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations - Dec. 26, 2011

Temp: 52.5 degrees F (11.4 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.3 inches

Humidity: 72 percent (Normal)

Conditions: Mostly Cloudy.

Winds: Winds out of the East, Northeast.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.3 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 4.9 inches

NOTE: Fifth day of Winter. A lot of birds out and about this morning, more so than usual.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Tom Clancy's new book, 'Locked On,' appears on hardcover best-seller list

It’s Sunday, so that means that it’s time for my weekly review of this week’s Publishers Weekly Best-Seller List. According to the list, there is one new book at the top of the four major best-sellers lists this week.

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson replaced "Love's Justice" by Lara Leigh as the top book on the mass market paperback best-sellers list.

"11/22/63" by Stephen King remained the No. 1 book on the hardcover fiction best-sellers list.

"Steve Jobs: A Biography" by Walter Isaacson remained the top book on the hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list.

"The Help" by Kathryn Stockett retained the No. 1 spot on the trade paperbacks best-sellers list.

There are two books on this week’s hardcover fiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They (along with their place on the list) include "Locked On" by Tom Clancy with Mark Greaney (2) and "The Art of Fielding" by Chad Harbach (14).

There are two books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "Cook's Illustrated Cookbook" by Cook's Illustrated Editors (12) and "The Circle Maker" by Mark Batterson (14).

There are five books on this week’s mass market paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on that list last week. They include "Lawe's Justice" by Lara Leigh (5), "Storm of Swords" by George R.R. Martin (6), "The Shack" by William P. Young (9), "The Confession" by John Grisham (13) and "A Feast for Crows" by George R.R. Martin (14).

There are two books on this week’s trade paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis (14) and "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson (15).

As a reminder, I’m posting these lists each Sunday because they, as a whole, represent a great, contemporary recommended reading list. These lists are initially released each week on Thursday, and if you’re interested in reading them then, visit Publishers Weekly’s Web site at www.publishersweekly.com. Below you’ll find all four of this week’s best-seller lists.

HARDCOVER FICTION
1. "11/22/63" by Stephen King
2. "Locked On" by Tom Clancy with Mark Greaney
3. "The Litigators" by John Grisham
4. "Kill Alex Cross" by James Patterson
5. "Death Comes to Pemberley" by P.D. James
6. "The Best of Me" by Nicholas Sparks
7. "Red Mist" by Patricia Cornwell
8. "Explosive Eighteen" by Janet Evanovich
9. "The Drop" by Michael Connelly
10. "V Is for Vengeance" by Sue Grafton
11. "A Dance with Dragons" by George R.R. Martin
12. "Micro: A Novel" by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston
13. "IQ84" by Haruki Murakami
14. "The Art of Fielding" by Chad Harbach
15. "Zero Day" by David Baldacci

HARDCOVER NONFICTION
1. "Steve Jobs: A Biography" by Walter Isaacson
2. "Killing Lincoln" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
3. "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand
4. "Go the F--k to Sleep" by Adam Mansbach
5. "Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero" by Chris Matthews
6. "Nearing Home" by Billy Graham
7. "Being George Washington" by Glenn Beck
8. "Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible" by Paula Deen with Melissa Clark
9. "Guinness World Records 2012"
10. "Through My Eyes" by Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker
11. "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman
12. "Cook's Illustrated Cookbook" by Cook's Illustrated Editors
13. "Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman" by Robert K. Massie
14. "The Circle Maker" by Mark Batterson
15. "Then Again" by Diane Keaton

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS
1. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
2. "Toys" by James Patterson and Neil McMahon
3. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson
4. "The Land of Painted Caves" by Jean M. Auel
5. "Lawe's Justice" by Lara Leigh
6. "Storm of Swords" by George R.R. Martin
7. "Smokin' Seventeen" by Janet Evanovich
8. "A Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin
9. "The Shack" by William P. Young
10. "Crescent Dawn" by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler
11. "The Perfect Christmas" by Debbie Macomber
12. "Learning to Love: Sugar/Love by Degree" by Debbie Macomber
13. "The Confession" by John Grisham
14. "A Feast for Crows" by George R.R. Martin
15. "Don't Look Behind You: Ann Rule's Crime Files Number 15" by Ann Rule

TRADE PAPERBACKS
1. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett
2. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
3. "Heaven is for Real" by Todd Burpo, Sonja Burpo, Colton Burpo and Lynn Vincent
4. "The Tiger's Wife: A Novel" by Tea Obreht
5. "The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel" by Garth Stein
6. "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot
7. "The Next Always" by Nora Roberts
8. "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese
9. "The Zombie Survival Guide" by Max Brooks
10. "Unlikely Friendships" by Jennifer S. Holland
11. "Sing You Home" by Jodi Picoult
12. "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougal
13. "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell
14. "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis
15. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson

In the end, let me know if you’ve had a chance to read any of these books. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations - Dec. 25, 2011

Temp: 52.0 degrees F (11.1 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches

Humidity: 79 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Overcast.

Winds: Winds out of the Northwest.

Week to Date Rainfall: 3.2 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 4.6 inches

NOTE: Fourth day of Winter. Security lights still on due to darkness.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Horror movie Web site, Fearnet.com, releases its 'Best of 2011' lists

The horror movie Web site, Fearnet.com, released earlier this week its “Best of 2011” lists in a number of categories, including books, comics, movies, video games, music and genre TV.

For those of you unfamiliar with Fearnet.com, it is an online movie site that claims to be the “world’s premiere destination for horror, thriller and suspense.” It’s the web’s No. 1 site for genre movies and was named among PC Magazine’s “15 Best Web Sites for Movie Fans.” Check it out when you get a chance.

Without further ado, here are the works that made each of the aforementioned lists.

Best of 2011 – Books & Comics
1. The Alien Vault by Ian Nathan
2. Aloha from Hell by Richard Kadrey
3. The Complete Drive-In by Joe R. Lansdale
4. Creepy Presents Bernie Wrightson
5. The Hammer Vault by Marcus Hearn
6. The Hidden by Richard Sala
7. The Lives of Sacco and Vanzetti by Rick Geary
8. The Painter, the Creature, and the Father of Lies by Clive Barker (edited by Phil and Sarah Stokes)

Best of 2011 – Movies
1. Attack the Block
2. Bereavement
3. Black Death
4. Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2
5. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
6. Final Destination 5
7. Fright Night
8. Hobo with a Shotgun
9. A Horrible Way to Die
10. Insidious
11. I Saw the Devil
12. Paranormal Activity 3
13. [REC] 2
14. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
15. Rubber
16. The Skin I Live In
17. Super 8
18. Troll Hunter
19. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
20. The Ward
21. We Need to Talk About Kevin
22. The Woman

Best of 2011 – Video Games
1. Alice: Madness Returns
2. Batman: Arkham City
3. Mortal Kombat
4. Shadows of the Damned

Best of 2011 – Music
1. Best Rock Album – Alice Cooper, Welcome 2 My Nightmare
2. Best Metal Album – Septicflesh, The Great Mass
3. Best Electronic Album – Skinny Puppy, Handover
4. Best Original Horror Film Score – Mark Kilian, The Ward
5. Best Use of Music in a Horror Film – Chillerama

Best of 2011 – Genre TV
1. American Horror Story - "Home Invasion" Episode 102 - October 12, 2011
2. Death Valley - "Zombie Fights" Episode 105 - September 26, 2011
3. Fringe - "The Day We Died" Episode 322 - May 6, 2011
4. Supernatural - "The French Mistake" Episode 615 - February 25, 2011
5. Supernatural - "Shut Up, Dr. Phil" Episode 705 - October 21, 2011
6. The Walking Dead - "What Lies Ahead" Episode 201 - October 16, 2011
7. The Vampire Diaries - "The Sun Also Rises" (Episode 221) and "As I Lay Dying" (Episode 222) - May 5, 2011 and May 12, 2011
8. Being Human - "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Me Killing You" Episode 113 - April 11, 2011
9. Dexter - "This Is the Way the World Ends" Episode 613 - December 18, 2011

The editors at Fearnet also released Best of 2011 lists in two other categories, “Non-Genre TV Gets Scary” and “TV Kills.” To read about those lists and for more information about the others mentioned above, including reviews of most of these items, visit www.fearnet.com.

Daily Weather Observations - Dec. 24, 2011

Temp: 44.6 degrees F (7.0 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches

Humidity: 80 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Overcast.

Winds: Winds out of the North, Northeast

Week to Date Rainfall: 3.2 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 4.6 inches

NOTE: Third day of Winter.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Twenty-five books make Forbidden Planet's 'Best Books of 2011' list

December is the best month of the year when it comes to best-of lists, and today I present you with a cool list from Forbidden Planet, the world’s largest and best-known science fiction and fantasy retailer.

I have to admit that I’ve never been to a Forbidden Planet store because they’re all located in large cities in the UK. They have the reputation for being the epicenter of all things sci-fi, fantasy and horror, specializing in the sale of action figures, books, comics, DVDs, graphic novels and toys as well as television and movie merchandise.

Earlier this week, the good folks at Forbidden Planet released their list of Best Books of 2011. Twenty-five titles made the list. Here they are:

1. Kings Of Eternity by Eric Brown
2. Reamde by Neal Stephenson
3. Rivers Of London by Ben Aaronovitch
4. A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin
5. Low Town: The Straight Razor Cure by Daniel Polansky

6. Recollection by Gareth L. Powell
7. Embassytown by China Mieville
8. Rule 34 by Charles Stross
9. Blackout by Connie Willis
10. Heroes by Joe Aberbromie

11. The Kingkiller Chronicle: Book 2: Wise Mans Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
12. Anno Dracula by Kim Newman
13. The Children Of The Sky by Vernor Vinge
14. The Wild Hunt: Book 1: Songs Of The Earth by Elspeth Cooper
15. The Demi Monde: Winter by Rod Rees

16. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
17. Prince Of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
18. Among Others by Jo Walton
19. Snuff by Terry Pratchett
20. Malazan Book Of The Fallen: Book 10: The Crippled God by Steven Erikson

21. The Curious Case Of The Clockwork Man by Mark Hodder
22. Son Of Heaven by David Wingrove
23. Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
24. Dresden Files: Book 13: Ghost Story by Jim Butcher
25. The Walking Dead: Rise Of The Governor by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

For more details about each of the books, visit http://forbiddenplanet.com/log/recommendations/best-books-2011.

During the past year, I read a couple of the books that made this list, “The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man” (21) and “Anno Dracula” (12). Both of these books were really good, and I actually plan to re-read them again at some point.

The latest edition of “Anno Dracula” is actually a reprint of the original 1992 novel with a few extras thrown in. I decided to read it after seeing it on several steampunk recommended reading lists. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes a good “what if” story.

“The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man” is a great book. It’s the second book in Mark Hodder’s very slick “Burton & Swinburne” steampunk series. The third book in the series, “Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon,” is due out next month, and I can hardly wait to get my hands on a copy. If it’s as good as the first two books in the series, it’s going to be awesome.

In the end, how many of the books mentioned above have you had the chance to read this year? Which did you like or dislike? Which would you recommend and why? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations - Dec. 23, 2011

Temp: 50.7 degrees F (10.4 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 1.4 inches

Humidity: 82 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Overcast.

Winds: Winds out of the North, Northeast

Week to Date Rainfall: 3.2 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 4.6 inches

NOTE: Second day of Winter. Darker than normal outside this morning, light-sensitive security lights still on in the neighborhood.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

'Tis the season for Kelly Kazek's new book, 'Christmas Tales of Alabama'

‘Tis the season for Kelly Kazek’s new book, “Christmas Tales of Alabama.”

Published in early November by The History Press, “Christmas Tales of Alabama” contains a number of entertaining “Yuletide yarns from the Yellowhammer State” and it’s the perfect stocking stuffer for the booklover on your Christmas list.

Kazek lives in Madison and serves as the managing editor of The News-Courier newspaper in Athens. In more than 20 years as a journalist, she’s won more than 130 national and state press awards.

In “Christmas Tales of Alabama,” she brings her talents to bear on the subject of Christmas, and the result is one of the best books you’ll ever read about Christmas in our part of the world.

Stories in the book feature an entertaining mix of tales, including the origin of Birmingham native Hugh Martin’s hit Christmas song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”; Helen Keller’s first true Christmas after her breakthrough with teacher Anne Sullivan; Harper Lee’s life-changing 1956 Christmas; and Truman Capote’s Christmases with relatives in Monroeville and how they affected his career.

I especially liked the chapter in which Kazek analyses more than a century of National Climatic Data Center and National Weather Service records to determine if there’s ever been a true white Christmas in Alabama. Meteorologists say that in Alabama there’s less than a five percent chance of snow on Christmas in any given year and those chances decrease the closer you get to the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, according to Kazek’s research, Mobile has never had a true white Christmas because meteorologists only count snow accumulations of one inch or more.

I also liked the chapter that discussed “The Eggnog Riot” at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. in 1826. While this didn’t happen in Alabama, two of the cadets involved in smuggling several gallons of whiskey into the school were from Alabama, Samuel Alexander Roberts and William R. Burnley.

The cadets wanted to add the whiskey to eggnog for a party that night, and while this doesn’t sound like a big deal nowadays, it was a scandal at that time. Before the end of the year, 70 cadets were implicated in the “riot” and 19 were court-martialed and expelled. You may have heard of some of them before. Their ranks included Jefferson Davis, who would go on to graduate from West Point and serve as president of the Confederate States of America.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that Kazek’s book wraps up with a few chapters that discuss New Year’s Eve and Mardi Gras in Alabama. Kazek provides an entertaining history of the origins of the Mobile Moon Pie, Joe Cain Day and similar topics.

In the end, I really enjoyed the book, and I highly recommend it to anyone in the reading audience who’s interested in learning more about our state’s Christmas traditions.

If you like “Christmas Tales of Alabama,” you might want to check out some of Kazek’s other books. They include “Fairly Odd Mother: Musings of a Slightly Off Southern Mom,” “Hidden History of Auburn,” “Forgotten Tales of Alabama,” “Forgotten Tales of Tennessee,” “A History of Alabama’s Deadliest Tornadoes: Disaster in Dixie,” and “Images of America: Athens and Limestone County.”

'Three and Out' will leave you with new respect for Rich Rodriquez, Michigan football

If you’re looking for a last minute gift for that football fan on your Christmas list, I highly recommend one of the finest college football books you’ll ever read, John U. Bacon’s “Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football.”

Released on Nov. 1 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, “Three and Out” ($28) tells the story “of how college football’s most influential coach took over the nation’s most successful program, only to produce three of the worst seasons ever for both Rich Rodriquez and the University of Michigan.”

Many college football fans in Alabama will remember Rodriquez as the highly successful West Virginia coach, who turned down the head coaching job at the University of Alabama in December 2006. Alabama hired Nick Saban instead, and Rodriquez left West Virginia after the next season to take the head coaching job at Michigan.

Rodriquez gave Bacon, a Michigan grad, complete access to the Michigan program with the only condition that Bacon allow Rodriquez to read the final draft of his book for factual accuracy. Over the next three years, Bacon “saw it all, from the meals and the meetings, to the practices and the games, to the sidelines and the locker rooms.” What follows is probably the best book about college football that you’ll ever read.

Bacon makes the argument that Michigan has the greatest college football tradition in the country, something that football fans in our part of the world won’t like to hear. However, Bacon make a strong case, and it’s hard to argue with him at the end of the book. By the time Rodriquez took over the Michigan program, the Wolverines had won more games than any other team in the history of college football, and they had the nation’s longest active bowl attendance streak.

When Rodriquez landed in Ann Arbor he quickly discovered that he had a lot to learn about the traditions at Michigan, and the book shows how he was set up for failure in many ways. From struggles for power among insiders in the school’s athletics department to the controversy over Rodriquez’s $4 million buyout at West Virginia, Rodriquez had to deal with more than a few problems off the field.

In addition to their off-the-field problems, the Wolverines also struggled on the field as young and unsuited players struggled to master Rodriquez’s unique no-huddle, run-oriented spread option offense. Fans of X’s and O’s football will be fascinated by the portions of Bacon’s book that talk about Rodriquez’s invention of the shotgun formation zone-read style of play, which he first developed at Glenville State College in West Virginia.

Of course, anyone who follows college football knows how the story ends. Rodriquez was fired after the 2010 season after leading the Wolverines to three of their worst seasons ever. He spent most of this past season as a football analyst for CBS before the University of Arizona announced on Nov. 21 that they’d hired him to be their next head coach.

In the end, I thought this book was great, and I highly recommend it to anyone in the audience who calls themselves a football fan. The book will leave you with a new respect for football at Michigan and in the Big Ten as well as for Rich Rodriquez.

The Evergreen Courant Sports Flashback for Dec. 22, 2011

13 YEARS AGO
DEC. 24, 1998

“The Sparta Academy Lady Warriors finished in third place in the Monroe Academy Christmas Tournament held Dec. 18-19 in Monroeville. Andrea Ward was named to the All-Tournament Team.
“On Fri., Dec. 18, the Lady Warriors were defeated by the Escambia Academy Cougars, 57-51. Leading scorer for the Lady Warriors was Andrea Ward with 24 points.
“Others scoring were Ashley Hammonds, nine points; Katie Etheridge and Shelley Bell, six points each; Sally Hartley, four points; and Laura Wiggins, two points.
“On Sat., Dec. 19, the Lady Warriors defeated the Jackson Academy Eagles 65-40. Leading scorer for the Lady Warriors was Andrea Ward with 25 points. Also scoring in double figures was Laura Wiggins with 12 points.

“The Sparta Academy Warriors finished in third place in the Monroe Academy Christmas Tournament held Dec. 18-19 in Monroeville. Chad Morris was named to the All-Tournament Team.
“On Fri., Dec. 18, the Warriors were defeated, 83-50, by the Escambia Academy Cougars. Leading scorer for the Warriors was Chad Morris with 26 points.
“Others scoring were Bryant Shipp, Jared Brogden and Derek Faulkner with five points each; Kyle Johnston, four points; Lee Booker and Justin Tranum, two points each; and Seth McIntyre, one point.”

28 YEARS AGO
DEC. 22, 1983

“Johnny Howard killed this big seven-point, 235-pound buck on the Charlie Ward Plantation.”

“Sparta hosts Tournament of Champions: The Sparta Academy Warriors will host the annual Tournament of Champions on Dec. 27, 28, 29 in the school gymnasium. There will be girls and boys divisions.
“Games are scheduled as follows:
“Tues., Dec. 27: 5:30 p.m., girls, Monroe Academy vs. Jackson Academy; 7 p.m., boys, Escambia Academy vs. Jackson Academy; 8:30 p.m., boys, Sparta Academy vs. Minor Academy of Birmingham.
“Wed., Dec. 28, 5:30 p.m., girls, Sparta Academy vs. Hooper Academy; 7 p.m., boys, Hooper Academy vs. Lakeside Academy; 8:30 p.m., boys, Sparta-Minor winner vs. Escambia-Jackson winner.
“Thurs., Dec. 29, 7 p.m., girls championship game; 8:30 p.m., boys championship game.”

58 YEARS AGO
DEC. 24, 1953

“Capt. Sam Cope of the Evergreen High Aggies is shown above as he signed a grant-in-aid athletic scholarship with the University of Alabama. Seated beside him are his parents, Mr. and Mrs. W.S. Cope, and looking on from behind him are Coach Joe Kilgrow of the Crimson Tide and Coach Wendell Hart and Assistant Coach Bill Parsons of the Aggies. Capt. Sam was a standout lineman for the Aggies for four seasons and earned a right tackle berth on the Montgomery Advertiser-Journal All-State Team. He was named on every all-opponents team issued by teams that played the Aggies this year. Last Wednesday night, the honors he has received were capped by the awarding of the D.T. Stuart Sportsmanship Trophy to him at the Quarterback Banquet. He signed with Alabama on Dec. 15.”

“Aggies and ‘Has Beens’ Play Benefit Wednesday: Former stars of E.H.S. will be pitted against the E.H.S. varsity basketball team in a benefit game at Memorial Gym Wednesday night, Dec. 23, at 7:30 p.m. (note: The Courant was published two days early this week due to the Christmas holidays). Admission to the game will be a donation to the March of Dimes Drive.
“The ‘has beens’ will be favored due to their high-scoring 6-4 center, Guerry Moorer. With Moorer in the line-up, they can field a team which will average over six-feet in height. A complete roster is not available, but other stars of years gone by will include Check Ellis, Bobby Snowden, John Greel Ralls, Shirley Frazier, Pace and Dickey Bozeman, John Henry Brantley, Billy Lewis, John Law Robinson and Sammy Hanks. The ‘has beens’ will employ a zone defense and a two-platoon offense, and the game promises to be a high-scoring affair with plenty of friendly rivalry. Coach Hart will start his regular line-up.”

“Twenty-two Aggies Given Letters; Sam Cope Winner of Stuart Trophy: Twenty-two members of the 1953 Evergreen High School football team were awarded letters at the annual football banquet given last Wednesday night by the Evergreen Quarterback Club. The banquet held at the high school cafeteria honored the team that posted the third best record in the school’s history by winning eight, losing one and trying one this year.
“Coach Hart introduced the leaders of next year’s team elected last week by the team, Capt. Richard Taylor and Alt. Capt. Ward Alexander Jr., who also served in this role this year. He awarded letters to the following players:
“Seniors: Capt. Cope (his fourth), Ward, Johnson, Sheffield and Hanks. Juniors: Alt. Capt. Alexander, Wayne Bell, Taylor, Jimmy Frazier, Wayne Douglas, Vernon Purnell, Tommy Melton, Alvin Reeves. Sophomores: Ronnie Edson, Randy White, Buck Lewis, Murray Johnson, Robert Mason, Walter Carrier, Neal Hyde and Eugene Hyde. Freshman, Wayne Frazier.
“Cheerleaders receiving letters were Barbara DaLee, Patricia Alexander, Phylis Cunningham, Janet Mellinger and Eddie Tuggle.”

“Repton High Cagers Have Won 4 Straight: Coach Albert Arnold’s Repton High School Bulldogs are riding the crest of a four-game winning streak an are tabbed as the team to beat for the county championship. The Bulldogs blasted Coach Ray Owens’ defending champion Castleberry quint Friday night, 48 to 34, in Repton to close out the pre-Christmas schedule undefeated.
“Repton opened up with an easy win over McKenzie. Last Tuesday night the Bulldogs had their toughest test to date and won a thrilling, 35-33, decision from J.U. Blacksher High of Uriah.
“Sparking the play of the rampaging Bulldogs are two sharp shooting stars, Paul Brantley and Ray Blackwell, who share the high-scoring honors. Other varsity performers are Billy Farrish, Harry Giles, Eddie Kelly, Roger Kearley, Burt Stacey and James William Baggett.”

73 YEARS AGO
DEC. 22, 1938

“Aggies Trounce Castleberry, 22-15 by Eugene Powell: The Evergreen Aggies packed up their duffel bags last Friday night and trekked off to Castleberry to engage in their first associational basketball game and ‘trucked’ back the holders of a 22-15 victory. The Aggies’ first team, composed of Kelly and Millsap, guards, Fountain and Solomon, forwards, and Wiggins at center, started the fray and put a taboo on the Berries that they were never able to overcome. The Cartermen held the lead only once and that in the opening moments of the game, at which time they led by the narrow margin of 2-1.
“The starters for Castleberry were Griffin and Suddith, guards, Deuel and James, forwards, and Carr at center.
“The high scoring men for the Aggies were Fountain, with the amazing total of 11 points, and Wiggins, who followed closely with eight markers. High scorers for the losers were James, with seven points, and Carr, with six.”

“The Evergreen Town team, otherwise known as the Greenhawks, have also been trying to mold themselves a grade-A quintet. In addition to last year’s players, the Greenhawks have taken on Johnny Harris, the would be ‘clutch hitter’ and ‘Jack of all trades,’ during the recent baseball session.
“The following players showed up for the initial game, against the high school Aggies, Harris, Elder, Johns, Hannah, Binion, Kendall, Murphy, Page and Thornley. The Greenhawks may be dynamite this year so hold your hats for the blast.”

Compiled by Sports Reporter Lee Peacock from past issues of The Evergreen Courant. To read The Courant’s weekly Sports Flashback feature online, visit leepeacock2010.blogspot.com.

Daily Weather Observations - Dec. 22, 2011

Temp: 66.4 degrees F (19.1 degrees C)

Precip (past 24 hours): 1.2 inches

Humidity: 85 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Overcast.

Winds: Wind out of the South, Southeast

Week to Date Precip: 1.8 inches

Month to Date Precip: 3.2 inches

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My movie picks this week are 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' and 'Burke and Hare'

It’s Wednesday, so today I give you my weekly list of movies that will open in theatres this week as well as a list of movies that will be released this week on DVD.

I hope this will serve as a useful guide as to what’s going on this week if you happen to be near a movie theatre or if you’re looking for something to drop into your NetFlix queue.

Movies that are scheduled to hit theatres this week include:

The Adventures of Tintin (PG, Family, Adventure): Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring the voices of Daniel Craig, Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

Albert Nobbs (R, Drama): Directed by Rodrigo Garcia and starring Glenn Close, Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Johnson, Brendan Gleeson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

The Darkest Hour (PG-13, Thriller, Action): Directed by Chris Gorak and starring Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, Rachael Taylor and Joel Kinnaman.

The Flowers of War (Drama, War): Directed by Zhang Yimou and starring Christian Bale, Ni Ni and Paul Schneider.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (R, Suspense, Drama): Directed by David Fincher and starring Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard and Steven Berkoff.

In the Land of Blood and Honey (R, Romance, War): Directed by Angelina Jolie and starring Zana Marjanovic, Goran Kostic, Rade Serbedzija, Branko Djuric and Ermin Sijamija.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (PG-13, Action, Suspense): Directed by Brad Bird and starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton and Josh Holloway.

Miss Minoes (PG, Family, Fantasy): Directed by Vincent Bal and starring Carice Van Houten, Theo Maassen, Sarah Bannier and Pierre Bokma.

Pina (PG, Documentary): Directed by Wim Wendes and starring Regina Advento, Malou Airaudo, Ruth Amarante, Pina Bausch and Rainer Behr.

We Bought a Zoo (PG, Drama, Comedy): Directed by Cameron Crowe and starring Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Elle Fanning, Patrick Fugit and Thomas Haden Church.

New DVD releases for the week of Dec. 20 include:

Blackthorn (R, Western, Action): Directed by Mateo Gil and starring Sam Shepard, Eduardo Noriega, Stephen Rea, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Magaly Solier.

Burke and Hare (Comedy, Horror): Directed by John Landis and starring Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Isla Fisher, Tom Wilkinson and Christian Brassington.

Catch .44 (R, Action, Comedy): Directed by Aaron Harvey and starring Bruce Willis, Forest Whitaker, Malin Akerman, Deborah Ann Woll and Nikki Reed.

Colombiana (PG-13, Action, Crime): Directed by Olivier Megaton and starring Zoe Saldana, Michael Vartan, Jordi Molla, Lennie James and Cliff Curtis.

Dolphin Tale (PG, Family, Drama): Directed by Charles Martin Smith and starring Morgan Freeman, Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson and Nathan Gamble.

Margin Call (R, Drama): Directed by J.C. Chandor and starring Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore, Paul Bettany and Zachary Quinto.

Midnight in Paris (PG-13, Comedy, Romance): Directed by Woody Allen and starring Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Kathy Bates, Rachel McAdams and Marion Cotillard.

Straw Dogs (R, Suspense): Directed by Rod Lurie and starring Kate Bosworth, James Marsden, Alexander Skarsgard, James Woods and Willa Holland.

The Tempest (PG-13, Drama, Romance): Directed by Julie Taymor and starring Helen Mirren, Chris Cooper, Alfred Molina, Djimon Hounsou and Russell Brand.

Warrior (PG-13, Action, Drama): Directed by Gavin O’Connor and starring Nick Nolte, Noah Emmerich, Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Morrison.

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “Burke and Hare.”

In the end, let me know if you get a chance to watch any of the new movies in theatres this week or if you’ve already seen any of the movies that have just been released on DVD. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations - Dec. 21, 2011

Temp: 66.2 degrees F (19.0 degrees C)

Precip (past 24 hours): 0.4 inches

Humidity: 86 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Overcast.

Winds: Wind out of the South, Southeast

Week to Date Precip: 0.6 inches

Month to Date Precip: 1.4 inches

NOTE: Conditions were similiar to yesterday in that it appeared darker than normal outside. The light-sensitive security lights in the neighborhood were still on.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Recommended books from Alabama Alumni Magazine's Winter 2011 'Bookshelf'

Earlier today, the Winter 2011 edition of Alabama Alumni Magazine arrived in my mailbox, and the first thing that I flipped to was their quarterly “Bookshelf” feature.

Regular readers of this blog will know that “Bookshelf” is a regular feature of Alabama Alumni Magazine, and that it provides reviews and descriptions of new books with Alabama connections.

Books mentioned in the latest installment of “Bookshelf” include the following titles:

1. Fighting the Devil in Dixie: How Civil Rights Activists Took on the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama by Wayne Greenhaw

2. God’s Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War by George C. Rable

3. An Interview with Abraham Lincoln by Dr. Wade Hall

4. The Greatest Gift of All by Chandra Sparks Taylor

5. A Bama Primer by Nita Risher McGlawn

6. Unto Us Is Born by J. Benton White

7. A Retired Art Teacher Tells All by Marlene Nall Johnt

8. The Bravest of the Brave, edited by Dr. George G. Kundahl

9. Chalkboards and Clipboards by Tommy Jones

10. Sight Map by Brian Teare

11. Organization Made Easy by Dr. Frank Buck

In case you missed them, books recommended in the Fall 2011 issue included the following titles:

1. Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives by Brad Watson

2. Tuscaloosa: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow by Donald and Hannah Brown

3. Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay by Montgomery J. Granger

4. When Winning Was Everything by Delbert Reed

5. My Journey: A Memoir of the First African American to Preside Over the Alabama Board of Education by Ethel Hall

6. Dynamic Stretching by Mark Kovacs

7. Iron & Steel: A Guide to Birmingham Area Industrial Heritage Sites by James R. Bennett and Karen R. Utz

8. From Janitor to Justice: The Life of Felipe Reyna by Bart Cannon

9. Why Judges Wear Robes by J. Samuel Johnston

10. Water Skiing and Wakeboarding by Ben Favret

In case you missed them, books recommended in the Summer 2011 issue included the following titles:

1. Georgia Bottoms by Mark Childress

2. Steel Magnolias by Debra Shriver

3. Yvon’s Paris by Robert Stevens

4. Dictionary of Louisiana French, contributed to by Dr. Michael D. Picone

5. Stories from the Hart by Anne Hart Preus

6. Butterflies of Alabama, text by Paulette Haywood Ogard, photographs by Sara Bright

7. Mosquito Soldiers by Andrew McIlwaine Bell

8. When Universities Are Destroyed by Dr. Jack Kushner

9. Nature Journal by L.J. Davenport

Books mentioned in the Spring 2011 edition were:

1. “Wings of Opportunity: The Wright Brothers in Montgomery, Alabama” by Julie Hedgepeth Williams

2. “Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family” by Condoleeza Rice

3. “Teddy’s Child” by Virginia Van Der Veer Hamilton

4. “Heart of a Small Town” by Robin McDonald

5. “Bottle Tree” by Jennifer Horne

6. “The Crimson Tide, National Championship Edition” by Winston Groom

7. “If These Stones Could Talk” by Calvin G. Lyons

8. “The Healer’s Apprentice” by Melanie Dickerson

9. “Attached at the Heart” by Lysa Parker and Barbara Nicholson

10. “Encyclopedia of Death and the Human Experience,” edited by Dr. Clifton D. Bryant and Dr. Dennis L. Peck

For more information about Alabama Alumni Magazine, visit alumni.ua.edu/publications/alabama-alumni-magazine.

In the end, how many of the books mentioned above have you had a chance to read? Which did you like or dislike? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations - Dec. 20, 2011

Temp: 62.6 degrees F (17.0 degrees C)

Precip (past 24 hours): 0.2

Humidity: 85 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Overcast with dark clouds.

Winds: Wind out of the Southeast

Week to Date Precip: 0.2 inches

Month to Date Precip: 0.8 inches

NOTE: Appeared darker than normal outside today. The light-sensitive security lights in the neighborhood were still on.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Check out 'The Dangerous Book for Boys' recommended reading list

Many of you will be familiar with the 2007 best-selling book “The Dangerous Book for Boys” by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden, and many of you will know that this great book isn’t just for boys, but it’s also for grown men like me who haven’t completely grown up.

I ordered a copy for my son recently, and while flipping through it earlier tonight, I discovered that this book includes a great recommended reading list for adventurous boys (and men) called “Books Every Boy Should Read.”

What follows is a list of the books and authors that made the cut.

1. 1984 by George Orwell
2. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
3. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
4. Hans Christian Anderson
5. Animal Farm by George Orwell
6. Arctic Adventure by Willard Price
7. Isaac Asimov’s books and short stories
8. The Bachman Books by Stephen King
9. The Belgariad book series by David Eddings
10. The BFG by Roald Dahl

11. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
12. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
13. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
14. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
15. The Discworld book series by Terry Pratchett
16. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
17. Famous Five book series by Enid Blyton
18. The Flashman books by George MacDonald Fraser
19. Fungus the Bogeyman by Raymond Briggs
20. David Gemmell’s books

21. George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl
22. Greek legends
23. Grimm’s Fairy Tales
24. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
25. The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
27. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
28. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
29. The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells
30. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

31. The James Bond books by Ian Fleming
32. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
33. Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
34. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
35. Stephen King’s books
36. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
37. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
38. The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
39. Magician (and its sequels) by Raymond E. Feist
40. Midshipman’s Hope by David Feintuch

41. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
42. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
43. The Sherlock Holmes adventures by Arthur Conan Doyle
44. Sourcery by Terry Pratchett
45. Mr. Standfast by John Buchan
46. Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household
47. Roman legends
48. Rumble Fish by S.E. Hinton
49. Secret Seven book series by Enid Blyton
50. The Short Stories of Roald Dahl

51. Tex by S.E. Hinton
52. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
53. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
54. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
55. The Twits by Roald Dahl
56. Underwater Adventure by Willard Price
57. Waylander by David Gemmell
58. The Willard Price Adventure Series
59. The Winnie-the-Pooh books by A.A. Milne

For more information about these books and authors, check out the print edition of “The Dangerous Book for Boys.” You can buy it in most major book stories and online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The authors have also set up at Web site (www.dangerousbookforboys.com) that’s worth a look.

In the end, how many of the books listed above have you had the chance to read? Which did you like or dislike? Which would you recommend and why? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations - Dec. 19, 2011

Temp: 39.9 degrees F (4.4 degrees C)

Precip (past 24 hours): 0.0

Humidity: 70 percent (Normal)

Conditions: Mostly Cloudy.

Winds: Breeze out of the Northeast.

Week to Date Precip: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Precip: 0.6 inches

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Patricia Cornwell's 'Red Mist' appears on PW hardcover best-sellers list


It’s Sunday, so that means that it’s time for my weekly review of this week’s Publishers Weekly Best-Seller List. According to the list, there are two new books at the top of the four major best-sellers lists this week.

"11/22/63" by Stephen King replaced "The Drop" by Michael Connelly as the No. 1 book on the hardcover fiction best-sellers list.

"Love's Justice" by Lara Leigh replaced "Smokin' Seventeen: A Stephanie Plum Novel" by Janet Evanovich as the top book on the mass market paperback best-sellers list.

"Steve Jobs: A Biography" by Walter Isaacson remained the top book on the hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list.

"The Help" by Kathryn Stockett retained the No. 1 spot on the trade paperbacks best-sellers list.

There are three books on this week’s hardcover fiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They (along with their place on the list) include "Red Mist" by Patricia Cornwell (2), "Death Comes to Pemberley" by P.D. James (4) and "The Snow Angel" by Glenn Beck (15).

There are three books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "Through My Eyes" by Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker (11), "Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back" by Todd Burpo, Sonja Burpo, Colton Burpo and Lynn Vincent (12) and "Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible" by Paula Deen with Melissa Clark (15).

There are four books on this week’s mass market paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on that list last week. They include "Love's Justice" by Lara Leigh (1), "A Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin (9), "Bel Air Dead: A Stone Barrington Novel" by Stuart Woods (12) and "What the Night Knows: A Novel" by Dean Koontz (15).

There are three books on this week’s trade paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "The Tiger's Wife: A Novel" by Tea Obreht (5), "Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen" by Christopher McDougal (14) and "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen (15).

As a reminder, I’m posting these lists each Sunday because they, as a whole, represent a great, contemporary recommended reading list. These lists are initially released each week on Thursday, and if you’re interested in reading them then, visit Publishers Weekly’s Web site at www.publishersweekly.com. Below you’ll find all four of this week’s best-seller lists.

HARDCOVER FICTION
1. "11/22/63" by Stephen King
2. "Red Mist" by Patricia Cornwell
3. "The Litigators" by John Grisham
4. "Death Comes to Pemberley" by P.D. James
5. "Kill Alex Cross" by James Patterson
6. "The Drop" by Michael Connelly
7. "Explosive Eighteen" by Janet Evanovich
8. "The Best of Me" by Nicholas Sparks
9. "V Is for Vengeance" by Sue Grafton
10. "Micro: A Novel" by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston
11. "Zero Day" by David Baldacci
12. "The Scottish Prisoner: A Novel" by Diana Gabaldon
13. "A Dance with Dragons" by George R.R. Martin
14. "IQ84" by Haruki Murakami
15. "The Snow Angel" by Glenn Beck

HARDCOVER NONFICTION
1. "Steve Jobs: A Biography" by Walter Isaacson
2. "Killing Lincoln" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
3. "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand
4. "Go the F--k to Sleep" by Adam Mansbach
5. "Being George Washington" by Glenn Beck
6. "Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero" by Chris Matthews
7. "Guinness World Records 2012"
8. "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman
9. "Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman" by Robert K. Massie
10. "Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmaking Journey" by Bob McCabe
11. "Through My Eyes" by Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker
12. "Heaven is for Real" by Todd Burpo, Sonja Burpo, Colton Burpo and Lynn Vincent
13. "Then Again" by Diane Keaton
14. "Nearing Home" by Billy Graham
15. "Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible" by Paula Deen with Melissa Clark

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS
1. "Love's Justice" by Lara Leigh
2. "Toys" by James Patterson and Neil McMahon
3. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
4. "The Land of Painted Caves" by Jean M. Auel
5. "Smokin' Seventeen" by Janet Evanovich
6. "Learning to Love: Sugar/Love by Degree" by Debbie Macomber
7. "Don't Look Behind You: Ann Rule's Crime Files Number 15" by Ann Rule
8. "The Perfect Christmas" by Debbie Macomber
9. "A Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin
10. "Quinn" by Iris Johansen
11. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson
12. "Bel Air Dead: A Stone Barrington Novel" by Stuart Woods
13. "Crescent Dawn" by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler
14. "Gabriella & Alexander" by Nora Roberts
15. "What the Night Knows: A Novel" by Dean Koontz

TRADE PAPERBACKS
1. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett
2. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
3. "The Next Always" by Nora Roberts
4. "Heaven is for Real" by Todd Burpo, Sonja Burpo, Colton Burpo and Lynn Vincent
5. "The Tiger's Wife: A Novel" by Tea Obreht
6. "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot
7. "Unlikely Friendships" by Jennifer S. Holland
8. "The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel" by Garth Stein
9. "Sing You Home" by Jodi Picoult
10. "The Zombie Survival Guide" by Max Brooks
11. "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese
12. "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell
13. "Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay
14. "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougal
15. "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen

In the end, let me know if you’ve had a chance to read any of these books. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations - Dec. 18, 2011

Temp: 36.6 degrees F (2.6 degrees C)

Precip (past 24 hours): 0.0

Humidity: 74 percent (Normal)

Conditions: Clear.

Winds: Light breeze out of the North.

Week to Date Precip: 0.1 inches

Month to Date Precip: 0.6 inches

NOTE: Half moon almost directly overhead; patchy frost on ground, roof and vehicles.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

B&N Review releases "Year's Best Reading 2011: Editor's Picks" book list

Yesterday morning the editors at Barnes & Noble Review (barnesandnoblereview.com) released a very cool recommended reading list called the “Year’s Best Reading 2011: Editor’s Picks.”

Forty-five books made the list, which was divided into three categories – fiction, nonfiction and “beyond.” What follows is a list of the books that made the list. To read more about these books as well as reviews of each, visit http://bnreview.barnesandnoble.com/t5/Reviews-Essays/Year-s-Best-Reading-2011-Editor-s-Picks/ba-p/6447.

FICTION

“Lost Memory of Skin” by Russell Banks

“Open City” by Teju Cole

“Montecore” by Jonas Hassen Khemiri

“The Sojourn” by Andrew Krivak

“When Tito Loved Clara” by Jon Michaud

“Ghost Lights” by Lydia Millet

“The Call” by Yannick Murphy

“Mr. Fox” by Helen OyeyemI

“The Tragedy of Arthur” by Arthur Phillips

“The Devil All the Time” by Donald Ray Pollock

“Stone Arabia” by Dana Spiotta

“The Barbarian Nurseries” by Héctor Tobar

“Daniel Stein, Interpreter” by Ludmila Ulitskaya

“The Pale King” by David Foster Wallace

“Among Others” by Jo Walton

NONFICTION

“No Regrets: The Life of Edith Piaf” by Carolyn Burke

“Blue Nights” by Joan Didion

“The Beauty and the Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War” by Peter Englund

“The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood” by James Gleick

“The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos” by Brian Greene

“A Book of Secrets: Illegitimate Daughters, Absent Fathers” by Michael Holroyd

“Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark” by Brian Kellow

“Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World” by Michael Lewis

“Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India” by Joseph Lelyveld

“Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention” by Manning Marable

“Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman” by Robert K. Massie

“Harlem Is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America” by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts

“The Birth of Classical Europe: A History from Troy to Augustine” by Simon Price and Peter Thonemann

“Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny” by Nile Rodgers

“Pulphead: Essays” by John Jeremiah Sullivan

BEYOND

“The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adrià” by Ferran Adrià

“The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images” by Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism

“The Adventures of Hergé” by José-Louis Bocquet et al.

“Field Notes on Science and Nature” by Michael R. Canfield

“The Suspension of Time: Reflections on Simon Dinnerstein and the Fulbright Triptych” by Simon Dinnerstein

“Say Her Name” by Francisco Goldman

“The Journals of Spalding Gray” edited by Neil Casey

“Relics: Travels in Nature’s Time Machine” by Piotr Naskrecki

“The Art Museum” by Phaidon Press

“Letter Fountain: The Anatomy of Type” by Joep Pohlen and Geert Setola

“Robertson’s Book of Firsts: Who Did What for the First Time” by Patrick Robertson

“MetaMaus: A Look Inside a Modern Classic, Maus” by Art Spiegelman

“Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead: Journeys into Fame and Madness” by Neil Strauss

“Walking to Hollywood: Memories of Before the Fall” by Will Self

“The Steampunk Bible” by Jeff VanderMeer

In the end, how many of these books have you had the chance to read? Which did you like or dislike? Which would you recommend and why? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations - Dec. 17, 2011

Temp: 46.6 degrees F (8.1 degrees C)

Precip (past 24 hours): 0.1

Humidity: 84 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Overcast, Foggy.

Winds: Wind out of the North, Nortwest.

Week to Date Precip: 0.1 inches

Month to Date Precip: 0.6 inches

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sometimes it's OK to rip up a book in the middle of Wal-Mart, I guess...

One of my down-the-road neighbors broadened my horizons earlier today when he introduced me to his favorite author in an unexpected way.

Before calling it a day, I swung into the local Wal-Mart to pick up a copy of today’s Mobile Press-Register. I don’t go into Wal-Mart often, so I swung over to the book and magazine aisle for a little window shopping.

While I’m standing there, a retiree who lives about a mile from my house rounds the corner and begins looking over the books as well. I have to admit that I don’t know him very well, but he’s a pleasant, nice enough fellow. We often exchange a few words if he’s standing outside when I jog by his house.

“You like books, eh?” he asked me today.

“Yes, sir,” I said. “It’s really about the only hobby that I have.”

“What sort of stuff do you read?” he asked as he adjusted his black, Korean War Veteran cap.

“Oh, I don’t know,” I said. “A little bit of everything.”

He scanned the shelves for a few seconds and then picked up a nice, new paperback. “This guy’s my favorite,” he said, showing me a copy of Dale Brown’s 2010 novel, “Executive Intent.”

He goes on to tell me that he’s been hooked on Dale Brown’s books ever since he read “Flight of the Old Dog,” which was published in 1987. He summarizes the plot of the book as we stand there, and he tells me that I should check it out.

“I hate to say that I’ve never read anything by Dale Brown,” I tell him as we stand there in the aisle.

“He’s written lots of books,” he said. “And they’re all pretty good.” To demonstrate, he opens the cover of the paperback and shows me the first page, which lists all of Dale Brown’s books. Suddenly and without warning, he rips the page right out of the book and hands it to me.

I kind of laugh and all that I could really think of to say was, “You’re going to buy that, right?”

“Yep,” he said, tossing the book into this buggy. He readjusted his hat once more and then disappeared around the corner with a good-natured smile.

When I got home, I examined the torn page more closely to see if I recognized any of the titles or if any of them had been made into movies.

By my count, Brown, age 55, has written or co-written 36 novels. What follows is a complete list of his books in order of publication.

- Flight of the Old Dog (1987)

- Silver Tower (1988)

- Day of the Cheetah (1989)

- Hammerheads (1990)

- Sky Masters (1991)

- Night of the Hawk (1992)

- Chains of Command (1993)

- Storming Heaven (1994)

- Shadow of Steel (1996)

- Fatal Terrain (1997)

- The Tin Man (1998)

- Battle Born (1999)

- Warrior Class (2001)

- Wings of Fire (2002)

- Air Battle Force (2003)

- Plan of Attack (2004)

- Edge of Battle (2006)

- Act of War (2005)

- Strike Force (2007)

- Shadow Command (2008)

- Rogue Forces (2009)

- Executive Intent (2010)

- A Time for Patriots (2011)

Brown is also well known for his “Dreamland” series of novels, which he co-wrote with author Jim DeFelice. The novels in that series include:

- Dreamland (2001)

- Nerve Center (2002)

- Razor's Edge (2002)

- Piranha (2003)

- Strike Zone (2004)

- Armageddon (2004)

- Satan's Tail (2005)

- End Game (2006)

- Retribution (2007)

- Revolution (2008)

- Whiplash (2009)

- Black Wolf (2010)

- Raven Strike (2011)

In the end, how many of you out there are Dale Brown fans? How many of his books have you read? Which did you like or dislike and why? Which would you recommend and why? Let us know in the comments section below.

Dail Weather Observations - Dec. 16, 2011

Temp: 61.9 degrees F (16.6 degrees C)

Precip (past 24 hours): 0.0

Humidity: 83 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Overcast.

Winds: Wind out of the Southwest.

Week to Date Precip: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Precip: 0.5 inches

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

One UFO reported in Alabama during the month of November

It’s the third week of the month, so this week I’m giving you an update on UFO reports in Alabama from the past month, courtesy of the Mutual UFO Network.

A search for UFO reports in Alabama between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30 on MUFON’s website, www.mufon.com, resulted in only one report from within our state.

According to the man who made the report, the sighting occurred on Mon., Nov. 5, but he does not give the exact location of the sighting other than to say that it was in Alabama. He also doesn’t mention the exact time of day that it occurred, other than to indicate that it was at night.

While waiting on friends to come over to play cards, the witness was outside taking pictures of a star that he’d been observing for weeks. The man turned to say something to his wife, who was letting the dog out of the house, and when he looked back up he noticed something unusual in the sky.

“When I first saw the object, I thought, ‘Dang, the star I have been taking pictures of finally moved and was out of its normal place,’” the witness said in his report. “However, I looked over my left shoulder, and it was still there.”

The object looked exactly like the star that the man had been taking pictures of since he first noticed it on Aug. 31. The man noted that the new object was identical to the first star, except that it was bigger and was slightly different in color. The first star had “two white spikes of light coming from the right side” and was reddish and blue-green. The new object was amber in overall color, he said.

“My feelings were, ‘Wow, I can finally get a close-up picture of the star I’ve been watching,’ only this was a different star.”

The man then lost sight of the object before spotting it again as it traveled east about half a mile from his house. The man walked out into the road near his house and watched the object travel at treetop level, slightly to the right of the road, and over a field.

The man had his camera and tried to take a picture of the object, but his camera “died.” The camera displayed a “red, pink, white line” on its screen, he said.

“It doubled in size and just like someone turning a light switch on or off, it was gone, disappeared.”

Once the object disappeared, the man’s camera began working again, he said.

In the end, I’d be very interested to hear from any readers of The Courant who have witnessed a UFO in Conecuh County. I think a lot of other people would be interested in hearing your story too, and I’d be willing to accept your report on an anonymous basis if you’d be more comfortable with that arrangement. You can contact me by e-mail at courantsports@earthlink.net or by phone at 578-1492.

The Evergreen Courant Sports Flashback for Dec. 15, 2011

FOUR YEARS AGO
DEC. 20, 2007

“Sparta Academy’s varsity boys basketball team improved its record to 7-6 overall after splitting a pair of games over the weekend in the Monroe Academy Christmas Tournament.
“On Saturday night, Sparta captured the tournament’s third-place trophy by whipping Escambia Academy, 70-39, in Monroeville.
“In the win over Escambia, Chris Cinereski, a 6-foot-4 senior, led Sparta with 17 points. Mason Black followed with nine points. J.R. Williams finished the game with seven points.”

“Hillcrest High School’s Lady Jags beat previously undefeated J.F. Shields, 44-34, on Tuesday of last week in Evergreen.
“Catorica Floyd led Hillcrest with 12 points. Kemara Bawlson followed with 10 points, and Kawanis Thomas finished the night with nine points.”

“Sparta Academy’s girls basketball team improved its record to 11-2 overall Saturday by whipping Escambia Academy, 60-44, in the Monroe Academy Christmas Tournament in Monroeville.
“BreAnna Pate, a 5-foot-3 junior, scored 20 points to lead the Lady Warriors, who entered the tournament ranked No. 4 in the AISA. Susan Ann Cook followed with 11 points, and Erica Palmer finished the game with 10 points.
“Christin Booker scored seven points. Camarena Godwin recorded five points, and Morgan Harden tossed in four points. Ashton Raines posted two points, and Savannah Brown scored one point.”

19 YEARS AGO
DEC. 17, 1992

“Four Sparta Academy Warriors scored in double figures last Monday night as the Warriors triumphed over Greenville Academy 65-69.
“Senior Bryant Robinson and junior Britt Ward led the scoring with 19 and 18 points respectively. Senior Terry Conway and junior McPherson Cook also scored in the double figure range, each with 10 points. Also scoring during the contest were Chip Gibson with six points and Casey Grant with two.
“According to Sparta Academy Sports Information Director Byron Warren Jr., Sparta was in control for the majority of the game, jumping out to a 22-6 first quarter lead. The Warriors will try to keep their winning streak alive during the Monroe Academy Christmas Tournament tonight (Thursday) and Friday.”

“It’s no secret that bracket racers are a diverse crowd. Drop in on an E.T. racing event and you’ll see everything from rear-engined Econo Dragsters and late-model Camaros and Mustangs to early model muscle cars such as Novas, Barracudas and Chevelles. But an authentic ’50 Chevy C/Gasser? When was the last time anybody saw one of those?
“Competitors and fans at the Division 2 eighth-mile Firestone TNN E.T. Racing Tournament Finals in Atlanta saw a prime specimen from drag racing’s early days in Aubrey Padgett’s Big Iron C/Gas ’50 Chevy; its appearance has remained unchanged for nearly four decades.
“Padgett, of Evergreen, Ala., has raced the car since 1959. He and former partner Dennis Bailey campaigned it as a class-legal C/Gasser until 1965, when they put the car in mothballs. Padgett and son, Allen, 28, brought out the car a couple of years ago and now compete regularly in Atmore Dragway’s Pro class and at various nostalgia events across the South.”

34 YEARS AGO
DEC. 15, 1977

“Mike Windham and Stanley Johnston placed a joint claim on this spike buck deer which they killed late Wednesday afternoon of last week.”

“The Lyeffion High School Yellow Jackets picked up their seventh and eighth wins by defeating Repton in a come-from-behind win, 72-64, and by whipping J.U. Blacksher of Uriah, 61-28.
“Adrian Woods led scoring (against Repton) with 32 points, followed by Willie Hunter with 22. Eric Finklea with 12, Harold Kyser with four, Ricardo Hall with two.
“Harold Kyser led rebounding (against Blacksher) with 14 and also hit 10 points. Adrian Woods had 12 rebounds and topped scoring with 26 points. Willie Hunter had eight points, Ricardo Hall with four, Ricky Johnson and Jerry Johnson with two and Kenny Nevlous with one.”

“Bouncing back from their first loss of the season Thursday night, the Sparta Academy Warriors eased past the South Butler Academy Raiders by a 72-66 count here Friday night in the Sparta Gymnatorium.
“Terry Peacock was the top gunner with 22 points as Sparta had three players in the double figure bracket. Gray Stevens had 19, Bobby Padgett 10, Johnny Ralls 7, Steve Dubose and Tony Raines 6 each, and John Hall 2.”

49 YEARS AGO
DEC. 20, 1962

“The Evergreen Aggies suffered their first basketball loss of the season Friday night at the hands of the taller Atmore Blue Devils. The visitors won the game on their phenomenally hot shooting and tremendous rebounding superiority, especially off their offensive board.
“James Hall pumped in 20 points and Ronnie Horne 12 to pace the Atmore win. Ronnie Jackson led the Aggies with 11 markers.
“Atmore also won the ‘B’ contest by a 33-30 count. Atmore’s James Gunn and Evergreen’s Mike Fields shared high point honors with eight apiece.”

“Two Monroe County high schools meet tonight in the finals of the first annual Evergreen Holiday basketball tournament. Frisco City and Blacksher High of Uriah are the finalists.
“Frisco City advanced into the finals after edging Greenville 52 to 49 in a semi-finals match Tuesday night.
“In the nightcap, Uriah eked out a 41-40 decision over the host Evergreen High Aggies in a real thriller. Uriah had pulled out to a 25 to 16 lead at halftime, but the shorter, battling Aggies came back to almost pull an upset in the final two periods.
“Larry Harris used a strong driving shot to good advantage as he topped the scoring with 23 points. Lassiter had eight points; B. Harris, five; Norris, three; and Steadman, two.
“Jimmy Raines fired 13 points, and Joe Sasser 10 to pace the Aggies. Larry Ellis had six; Sid Lambert, five; Ronnie Jackson, three; Scott Cook, two; and Donnie Jones, 1.

64 YEARS AGO
DEC. 18, 1947

“Coach Harry Engle’s Lyeffion Yellow Jackets grabbed their first win of the current cage campaign by edging past a fast-breaking Excel five 25 to 21 last Friday night.
“The Yellow Jackets gained the victory in the overtime period, the score being knotted at the end of the regular playing time. Played before a capacity crowd at Lyeffion the game was closely contested all the way with a lead changing hands frequently.
“Excel tied the game up 21 to 21 with only seconds remaining in the game after trailing at the half 12 to 10. In the overtime period the Yellow Jackets quickly dumped two field goals through the net and held the Excel team to win.
“Hamp Hardee, Lyeffion center, played an outstanding game both defensively and offensively and led the scoring with 11 points. Heywood Jones, team captain, followed with seven points. Jordan of Excel tallied nine.”

“Coach Wendell Hart’s Evergreen High Aggies opened the 1947-48 cage season here last Friday night by marking down a 36 to 19 win over the W.S. Neal five of East Brewton.
“Gillis ‘Crip’ Jones played an outstanding game under the baskets constantly grabbing the rebounds. Jones, the Evergreen layup ace, tossed in five field goals and two free throws to pace the scorers with 12 points.
“Brown, Aggie center, looked good in the pivot post feeding several shots nicely and playing the rebounds well. Cunningham, southpaw guard up from last year’s junior team, was the most consistent shot on the squad bagging three field goals in six attempts for six points.”

Compiled by Sports Reporter Lee Peacock from past issues of The Evergreen Courant. To read The Courant’s weekly Sports Flashback feature online, visit leepeacock2010.blogspot.com.