Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My movie picks this week are 'Answers to Nothing' and '30 Minutes or Less'

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:

Answers to Nothing (R, Drama, Mystery): Directed by Matthew Leutwyler and starring Dane Cook, Barbara Hershey, Elizabeth Mitchell, Julie Benz and Zach Gilford.

Coriolanus (R, Drama, Suspense): Directed by Ralph Fiennes and starring Ralph Fiennes, Brian Cox, James Nesbitt, Gerard Butler and Jessica Chastain.

I Am Singh (Suspense, Action): Directed by Puneet Issar and starring GulzarInder Chahal, Tulip Joshi, Mika Singh, Brooke Johnston and Rizwan Haider.

Khodorkovsky (Documentary): Directed by Cyril Tuschi.

Knuckle (R, Documentary): Directed by Ian Palmer.

The Lady (R, Drama): Directed by Luc Besson and starring Michelle Yeoh, David Thewlis, Bendict Wong, Jonathan Woodhouse and Susan Wooldridge.

Outrage: Way of the Yakuza (R, Action, Crime): Directed by Takeshi Kitano and starring Takeshi Kitano and Ryo Kase.

Pastorela (R, Comedy): Directed by Emilio Portes and starring Hector Jimenez, Joaquin Cosio, Ana Serradilla, Dagoberto Gama and Carlos Cobos.

Shame (NC-17, Drama): Directed by Steve McQueen and starring Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale, Nicole Beharie and Hannah Ware.

A Warrior’s Heart (PG, Drama, Romance): Directed by Michael F. Sears and starring Kellan Lutz, Ashley Greene, Gabrielle Anwar, Chord Overstreet and Adam Beach.

New DVD releases for the week of Nov. 29 include:

5 Days of War (R, Drama, War): Directed by Renny Harlin and starring Val Kilmer, Andy Garcia, Dean Cain, Heather Graham and Rupert Friend.

30 Minutes or Less (R, Comedy, Action): Directed by Ruben Fleischer and starring Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson and Dilshad Vadsaria.

Another Earth (PG-13, Drama, Science Fiction): Directed by Mike Cahill and starring William Mapother, Brit Marlin, Jordan Baker, Flint Beverage and Robin Taylor.

The Art of Getting By (PG-13, Comedy, Drama, Romance): Directed by Gavin Wiesen and starring Freddie Highmore, Emma Roberts, Alicia Silverstone, Michael Angarano and Elizabeth Reaser.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (G, Documentary, Special Interest): Directed by and starring Werner Herzog.

The Future (R, Drama): Directed by Miranda July and starring Miranda July, Hamish Linklater, David Warshofsky, Isabella Acres and Joe Putterlik.

One Day (PG-13, Drama, Romance): Directed by Lone Scherfig and starring Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Patricia Clarkson, Ken Stott and Romola Garai.

Our Idiot Brother (R, Comedy): Directed by Jesse Peretz and starring Paul Rudd, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, Elizabeth Banks and Rashida Jones.

Snowmen (PG, Drama, Family): Directed by Robert Kirbyson and starring Bobby Coleman, Josh Flitter, Beverly Mitchell, Bobb’e J. Thompson and Doug E. Doug.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (R, Comedy, Horror): Directed by Eli Craig and starring Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss and Philip Granger.

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “Answers to Nothing,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “30 Minutes or Less.”

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 - Nov. 30, 2011

Temp: 36.0 degrees F (2.2 degrees C)

Precip: Trace, less than 0.01 inches

Humidity: 74 percent

Conditions: Overcast, Mostly Cloudy

Winds: Light breeze out of the Northwest

Week to Date Precip: 1.0 inches

Note: Light frost on ground 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.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How many of these '101 Crackerjack Sea Books' have you read?

On Tuesday of last week, I posted a review of Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s famous adventure book, “The Worst Journey in the World,” and a friend read it and sent me the link to an outstanding “best-of” books list that features books very similar to Cherry’s classic tale.

It’s called “101 Crackerjack Sea Books.” (The way the word “crackerjack” is used here is a reference to the old Navy colloquialism meaning “of excellent quality.”)

Compiled by Bookmarks Magazine and published in an article written by Dean King during the summer of 2006, this list includes biographies, classics, first-hand accounts, histories, memoirs and novels.

The compilers, which included a number of sea literature experts, selected these books because they were the “best books, regardless of era or genre, that any good library of the sea should possess.” They were selected based on a number of factors, including historical significance, humor, insight into life on the high seas, originality, plot and readability.

Without further ado, here’s the complete list. The year in parentheses after the title is the year the book was either first published or composed.

1. The Odyssey (ca. 700 BC) by Homer
2. Moby-Dick (1851) by Herman Melville
3. A Conrad Argosy (1942) by Joseph Conrad
4. Master and Commander and the Aubrey-Maturin series (1967-2004) by Patrick O’Brian
5. Kon-Tiki (1950) by Thor Heyerdahl
6. Two Years Before the Mast (1840) by Richard Henry Dana
7. Das Boot: The Boat (1973) by Lothar-Günther Buchheim
8. The Journals of Captain Cook (1768-1779) by James Cook
9. Mr. Midshipman Hornblower and the Hornblower series (1937-1967) by C. S. Forester
10. South (1919) by Ernest Shackleton

11. Mutiny on the Bounty Trilogy (1932-1934) by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
12. The Old Man and the Sea (1952) by Ernest Hemingway
13. The Voyage of the Beagle (1839) by Charles Darwin
14. Robinson Crusoe (1719) by Daniel Defoe
15. Lord Jim (1900) by Joseph Conrad
16. Sailing Alone Around the World (1900) by Joshua Slocum
17. Treasure Island (1883) by Robert Louis Stevenson
18. Endurance: An Epic of Polar Adventure (1931) by Frank A. Worsley
19. In Hazard (1938) by Richard Hughes
20. Journal of a Cruise (1815) by Captain David Porter (Out of Print)

21. Captains Courageous (1896) by Rudyard Kipling
22. The Last Grain Race (1956) by Eric Newby
23. The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea (1997) by Sebastian Junger
24. Percival Keene(1842) by Frederick Marryat (Out of Print)
25. Before the Wind (1999) by Charles Tyng
26. Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea (1998) by Gary Kinder
27. Admiral of the Ocean Sea (1942) by Samuel Eliot Morison
28. The Saga of the Cimba (1939) by Richard Maury
29. Passage to Juneau: A Sea and Its Meanings (1999) by Jonathan Raban
30. The Principall Navigation, Voyages, Traffiques, and Discoveries of the English Nation (1589-1600) by Richard Hakluyt

31. Typee (1846) by Herman Melville
32. The Sea Around Us (1951) by Rachel Carson
33. To the Ends of the Earth: A Sea Trilogy (1980-89) by William Golding
34. Mutiny on the Bounty(1790) by William Bligh
35. Middle Passage (1990) by Charles Johnson
36. By Way of Cape Horn (1930) by A. J. Villiers (Out of Print)
37. The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor (1970) by Gabriel García Márquez
38. Godforsaken Sea: Racing the World’s Most Dangerous Waters(1999) by Derek Lundy
39. The Safe Guard of the Sea (1998) and The Command of the Ocean (2004) by N. A. M. Rodger
40. In the Heart of the Sea (2000) by Nathaniel Philbrick

41. The Cruel Sea (1966) by Nicholas Monsarrat
42. The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783 (1890) by Alfred Thayer Mahan
43. The Pursuit of Victory (2005) by Roger Knight
44. The Long Way (1971) by Bernard Moitessier
45. The Pilot (1823) by James Fenimore Cooper
46. Long John Silver (1995) by Björn Larsson
47. Gipsy Moth Circles the World (1967) by Francis Chichester
48. John Paul Jones: A Sailor’s Biography (1959) by Samuel Eliot Morison
49. Captain Blood: His Odyssey (1922) by Rafael Sabatini
50. Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea (1986) by Stephen Callahan

51. Decision at Trafalgar (1959) by Dudley Pope
52. Tom Cringle’s Log (1829) by Michael Scott (Out of Print)
53. The Toilers of the Sea(1866) by Victor Hugo
54. Looking for a Ship(1990) by John McPhee
55. White Jacket (1850) by Herman Melville
56. The Riddle of the Sands (1903) by Erskine Childers
57. The Caine Mutiny(1951) by Herman Wouk
58. The Sea-Hawk (1915) by Rafael Sabatini
59. The Bounty (2003) by Caroline Alexander
60. A Night to Remember (1955) by Walter Lord

61. Doctor Dogbody’s Leg (1940) by James Norman Hall
62. The Pedro Gorino (1929) by Captain Harry Dean (Out of Print)
63. The Real McCoy(1931) by Frederic F. Van de Water
64. Shadow Divers (2004) by Robert Kurson
65. The Cruise of the Falcon (1884) by Edward F. Knight (Out of Print)
66. Two Years on the Alabama (1895) by Arthur Sinclair
67. Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage (1959) by Alfred Lansing
68. The Golden Ocean (1956) and The Unknown Shore (1959) by Patrick O’Brian
69. Spartina (1989) by John Casey
70. The Cruise of the Nona (1925) by Hilaire Belloc (Out of Print)

71. The Silent World (1953) by Jacques Cousteau
72. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) by Jules Verne
73. Caught Inside: A Surfer’s Year on the California Coast (1996) by Daniel Duane
74. Mr. Midshipman Easy (1836) by Frederick Marryat
75. Sufferings in Africa (1817) by Captain James Riley
76. The Venturesome Voyages of Captain Voss (1913) by John Claus Voss
77. The Pyrates (1983) by George MacDonald Fraser
78. The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst (1970) by Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall
79. The Sand Pebbles (1962) by Richard McKenna
80. The Mirror of the Sea (1906) by Joseph Conrad

81. The Long Ships: A Saga of the Viking Age (1954) by Frans G. Bengtsson
82. Sea of Glory (2003) by Nathaniel Philbrick
83. The Lightship(1960) by Siegfried Lenz (Out of Print)
84. Isaac’s Storm (2000) by Erik Larson
85. Under the Black Flag (1995) by David Cordingly
86. Mr. Roberts (1948) by Thomas Heggen
87. The Hunt for Red October (1984) by Tom Clancy
88. The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838) by Edgar Allan Poe
89. The Black Ship (1963) by Dudley Pope
90. The Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower (1970) by C. Northcote Parkinson

91. Run Silent, Run Deep (1955) by Edward L. Beach
92. Over the Edge of the World (2003) by Laurence Bergreen
93. Lord Cochrane (1947) by Christopher Lloyd (Out of Print)
94. Fastnet, Force 10 (1979) by John Rousmaniere
95. In Harm’s Way (2003) by Doug Stanton
96. Blue Latitudes (2002) by Tony Horwitz
97. Delilah (1941) by Marcus Goodrich
98. The Sea Wolf (1904) by Jack London
99. All Brave Sailors: The Sinking of the Anglo Saxon, 1940 (2004) by J. Revell Carr
100. Island of the Blue Dolphins (1964) by Scott O’Dell
101. Jaws (1974) by Peter Benchley

If you’d like to read more about this list and the books mentioned above, I encourage you to visit www.bookmarksmagazine.com/101-crackerjack-sea-books/dean-king. Not only will you find descriptions of the books above, but you’ll also find information about the most recent editions of each title if you’re interested in tracking down copies for yourself.

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

Daily Weather Observations - Nov. 29, 2011

Temp: 37.9 degrees F (3.3 degrees C)

Precip: 0.2 inches

Humidity: 77 percent

Conditions: Overcast, Mostly Cloudy

Winds: Light breeze out of the South

Week to Date Precip: 1.0 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.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Daytrip to Old St. Stephens offers insight into true-to-life ghost town

On Friday, my brother-in-law - Dr. Kenny Day of Athens - and I took a field trip to a place that I’ve always wanted to visit, the St. Stephens Historical Park in Washington County, Alabama.

Located southwest of Jackson and about an hour north of Mobile, on the banks of the Tombigbee River, St. Stephens was the original site of Alabama’s territorial capital. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s the site of Alabama’s first bank, first school, first state assembly and first steamboat construction. Prior to Alabama becoming a state in 1819, St. Stephens was arguably the most important place in the state, that is, before the state’s capital was moved to Cahaba.

Kenny and I both enjoy hiking, and we were drawn to the park not only for its history, but also for its numerous hiking trails. We weren’t disappointed. The trails, including an “archeology trail,” are well-marked, easy to hike and will take you through some of the finest scenery in southwest Alabama. No trail maps were available (due to budget cuts), but I got the feeling that we only touched the tip of the iceberg during our daytrip.

The trails will take you by on-going archeological digs inside the park, including a large dig at the site of the former Globe Hotel. An information booth near the trail’s entrance tells of the many important finds that have already been made at St. Stephens and tells you who to contact if you’d like to volunteer for an upcoming dig.

I wanted to check out the Old St. Stephens Masonic Lodge building, pictured above, which currently houses the St. Stephens Historical Commission Visitor Center & Museum. It’s located just outside the park’s entrance, and unfortunately, it was closed on Friday probably because it was the day after Thanksgiving. The property does include an interesting historic marker, a newer one-story Masonic lodge and a couple of old, unusual graves behind the St. Stephens Fire Station.

It costs $3 per person to get in the park, but once inside, you’ve got the entire day to check out all the trails, historic markers and other sites. One of the coolest things about the park is that it’s laid out with markers that give you an idea of the scope of the original town, where the streets were, where important buildings and homes were located as well as important events in this ghost town’s history.

Before you leave, be sure to drive down to the park store, which is located about a mile from the start of the archeology trail. Located on the banks of 100-acre Lake St. Stephens, this is where you’ll find horse enthusiasts preparing to take advantage of the park’s many horse-riding trails. A quick glance at some of the automobile tags in the parking lot told me that folks from across the southeast were enjoying the park on Friday.

You might also want to swing around to the river landing and hang a toe into the historic Tombigbee River, which is one of the state’s most important waterways. Near the landing, you’ll find the remains of old quarry and dredging works as well as a lookout point that gives you a wide view of the surrounding scenery.

On the way out, we also parked and headed down the trail to the “Indian Baths,” a site that the lady at the gatehouse told us to check out. The “Indian Baths” weren’t far from the road and consist of a stone waterway that’s probably more impressive at times when the area isn’t suffering through a drought.

In the end, Kenny and I had a good time and weren’t disappointed by the trip. It was neat to see a place that I’d heard and read a lot about over the years. For more information about the St. Stephens Historical Park, visit www.oldststephens.com.

How many of you have been to Old St. Stephens? What did you think about it? What did you like or dislike about it? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations - Nov. 28, 2011

Temp: 43.0 degrees F (6.1 degrees C)

Precip: 0.8 inches

Humidity: 82 percent

Conditions: Overcast

Winds: West, Northwest

Week to Date Precip: 0.8 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, November 27, 2011

Daily Weather Observations - Nov. 27, 2011

Temp: 63.9 degrees F (17.7 degrees C)

Precip: 0.7 inches

Humidity: 84 percent

Conditions: Raining, Overcast

Winds: Southeast

Week to Date Precip: 1.2 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.

Clive Cussler's new 'Devil's Gate' debuts on 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 three new books at the top of the four major best-sellers lists this week.

"Kill Alex Cross" by James Patterson replaced "11/22/63" by Stephen King as the No. 1 book on the hardcover fiction best-sellers list.

"Smokin' Seventeen: A Stephanie Plum Novel" by Janet Evanovich replaced "Crescent Dawn" by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler as the top book on the mass market paperback best-sellers list.

"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 replaced "The Next Always" by Nora Roberts as the No. 1 book on the trade paperbacks best-sellers list.

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

There are five 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 "Kill Alex Cross" by James Patterson (1), "V is for Vengeance" by Sue Grafton (3), "Devil's Gate" by Clive Cussler and Graham Brown (7), "Star Wars" The Old Republic: Revan" by Drew Karpyshyn (12) and "Dollhouse" by Kourtney, Kim & Khloe Kardashian (15).

There are six books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "Throw Them All Out" by Peter Schweizer (2), "Imperfect Justice: Prosecuting Casey Anthony" by Jeff Ashton and Lisa Pulitzer (4), "Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope" by Gabrielle Giffords, Mark Kelly and Jeffrey Zaslow (7), "Then Again" by Diane Keaton (9), "How I Got This Way" by Regis Philbin (13) and "The New New Rules: A Funny Look at How Everybody but Me Has Their Head Up Their Ass" by Bill Maher (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 "Smokin' Seventeen: A Stephanie Plum Novel" by Janet Evanovich (1), "Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin (10), "Secondhand Bride" by Linda Lael Miller (12) and "Not Your Ordinary Faerie Tale" by Christine Warren (13).

There are two books on this week’s trade paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "Room: A Novel" by Emma Donoghue (14) and "An Object of Beauty: A Novel" by Steve Martin (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. "Kill Alex Cross" by James Patterson
2. "11/22/63" by Stephen King
3. "V is for Vengeance" by Sue Grafton
4. "The Litigators" by John Grisham
5. "The Best of Me" by Nicholas Sparks
6. "Zero Day" by David Baldacci
7. "Devil's Gate" by Clive Cussler and Graham Brown
8. "IQ84" by Haruki Murakami
9. "The Alloy of Law" by Brandon Sanderson
10. "The Prague Cemetery" by Umberto Eco
11. "The Snow Angel" by Glenn Beck and Nicole Baart
12. "Star Wars" The Old Republic: Revan" by Drew Karpyshyn
13. "The Christmas Wedding" by James Patterson, Richard DiLallo
14. "Hotel Vendome" by Danielle Steel
15. "Dollhouse" by Kourtney, Kim & Khloe Kardashian

HARDCOVER NONFICTION
1. "Steve Jobs: A Biography" by Walter Isaacson
2. "Throw Them All Out" by Peter Schweizer
3. "Killing Lincoln" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
4. "Imperfect Justice: Prosecuting Casey Anthony" by Jeff Ashton and Lisa Pulitzer
5. "Back to Work" by Bill Clinton
6. "Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero" by Chris Matthews
7. "Gabby" by Gabrielle Giffords, Mark Kelly and Jeffrey Zaslow
8. "Nearing Home" by Billy Graham
9. "Then Again" by Diane Keaton
10. "Catherine the Great" by Robert K Massie
11. "Spontaneous Happiness" by Andrew Weil
12. "No Higher Honor" by Condoleezza Rice
13. "How I Got This Way" by Regis Philbin
14. "SEAL Target Geronimo" by Chuck Pfarrer
15. "The New New Rules" by Bill Maher

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS
1. "Smokin' Seventeen: A Stephanie Plum Novel" by Janet Evanovich
2. "The Guardian" by Sherrilyn Kenyon
3. "Secrets to the Grave" by Tami Hoag
4. "Bring Me Home for Christmas" by Robyn Carr
5. "Crescent Dawn" by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler
6. "The Perfect Christmas" by Debbie Macomber
7. "What the Night Knows" by Dean Koontz
8. "Miracle Cure" by Harlan Coben
9. "The Valcourt Heiress" by Catherine Coulter
10. "Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin
11. "Gideon's Sword" by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
12. "Secondhand Bride" by Linda Lael Miller
13. "Not Your Ordinary Faerie Tale" by Christine Warren
14. "Cross Fire" by James Patterson
15. "Touched by Angels" by Debbie Macomber

TRADE PAPERBACKS
1. "Heaven is for Real" by Todd Burpo, Sonja Burpo, Colton Burpo and Lynn Vincent
2. "The Next Always" by Nora Roberts
3. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett
4. "Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay
5. "Sing You Home" by Jodi Picoult
6. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
7. "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot
8. "The Tiger's Wife" by Tea Obreht
9. "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese
10. "The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel" by Garth Stein
11. "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen
12. "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis
13. "Assholes Finish first" by Tucker Max
14. "Room: A Novel" by Emma Donoghue
15. "An Object of Beauty: A Novel" by Steve Martin

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.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

New York Times '100 Notable Books of 2011' list released on Monday

On Monday, the good folks at The New York Times released its annual Holiday Gift Guide, which includes its annual “notable books” list.

This year’s list, the “New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2011,” includes titles in two broad categories, Fiction & Poetry and Nonfiction. Forty-five books were listed in the Fiction & Poetry category, and the nonfiction category included 55 books.

What follows is a complete list of the books that made this year’s list:

FICTION & POETRY

1. THE ANGEL ESMERALDA: Nine Stories by Don DeLillo
2. THE ART OF FIELDING by Chad Harbach
3. THE BARBARIAN NURSERIES by Héctor Tobar
4. BIG QUESTION by Anders Brekhus Nilsen
5. THE BUDDHA IN THE ATTIC by Julie Otsuka
6. CANTI, written by Giacomo Leopardi and translated by Jonathan Galassi
7. THE CAT’S TABLE by Michael Ondaatje
8. CHANGÓ’S BEADS AND TWO-TONE SHOES by William Kennedy
9. COME ON ALL YOU GHOSTS by Matthew Zapruder
10. 11/22/63 by Stephen King

11. THE FREE WORLD by David Bezmozgis
12. GHOST LIGHTS by Lydia Millet
13. THE GRIEF OF OTHERS by Leah Hager Cohen
14. GRYPHON: New and Selected Stories by Charles Baxter
15. HOUSE OF HOLES: A Book of Raunch by Nicholson Baker
16. THE LAST WEREWOLF by Glen Duncan
17. THE LEFTOVERS by Tom Perrotta
18. LIFE ON MARS by Tracy K. Smith
19. THE LONDON TRAIN by Tessa Hadley
20. LONG, LAST, HAPPY: New and Selected Stories by Barry Hannah

21. LOST MEMORY OF SKIN by Russell Banks
22. THE MARRIAGE PLOT by Jeffrey Eugenides
23. A MOMENT IN THE SUN by John Sayles
24. MR. FOX by Helen Oyeyemi
25. MY NEW AMERICAN LIFE by Francine Prose
26. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
27. OPEN CITY by Teju Cole
28. THE PALE KING: An Unfinished Novel by David Foster Wallace
29. PARALLEL STORIES, written by Peter Nadas and translated by Imre Goldstein
30. SAY HER NAME by Francisco Goldman

31. SCENES FROM VILLAGE LIFE by Amos Oz
32. THE SENSE OF AN ENDING by Julian Barnes
33. SEVEN YEARS, written by Peter Stamm and translated by Michael Hofmann
34. SHARDS by Ismet Prcic
35. SPACE, IN CHAINS by Laura Kasischke
36. STONE ARABIA by Dana Spiotta
37. THE STRANGER’S CHILD by Alan Hollinghurst
38. THE SUBMISSION by Amy Waldman
39. SWAMPLANDIA! by Karen Russell
40. TALLER WHEN PRONE: Poems by Les Murray

41. TEN THOUSAND SAINTS by Eleanor Henderson
42. THIS BEAUTIFUL LIFE by Helen Schulman
43. THE TIGER’S WIFE by Téa Obreht
44. THE TRAGEDY OF ARTHUR by Arthur Phillips
45. TRAIN DREAMS by Denis Johnson

NONFICTION

46. AND SO IT GOES. Kurt Vonnegut: A Life by Charles J. Shields
47. ARGUABLY: Essays by Christopher Hitchens
48. THE ART OF CRUELTY: A Reckoning by Maggie Nelson
49. ASSASSINS OF THE TURQUOISE PALACE by Roya Hakakian
50. THE BEGINNING OF INFINITY by David Deutsch

51. BELIEVING IS SEEING by Errol Morris
52. THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE By Steven Pinker
53. BLOOD, BONES AND BUTTER by Gabrielle Hamilton
54. BLUE NIGHTS by Joan Didion
55. THE BOY IN THE MOON by Ian Brown
56. CARAVAGGIO: A Life Sacred and Profane by Andrew Graham-Dixon
57. CATHERINE THE GREAT: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie
58. CLARENCE DARROW: Attorney for the Damned by John A. Farrell
59. COCKTAIL HOUR UNDER THE TREE OF FORGETFULNESS by Alexandra Fuller
60. DESTINY OF THE REPUBLIC by Candice Millard

61. THE ECSTASY OF INFLUENCE: Nonfictions, Etc. by Jonathan Lethem
62. 1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart
63. EXAMINED LIVES: From Socrates to Nietzsche by James Miller
64. 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created by Charles C. Mann
65. GEORGE F. KENNAN: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis
66. GREAT SOUL by Joseph Lelyveld
67. HARLEM IS NOWHERE by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts
68. HOLDY WAR by Nigel Cliff
69. IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS by Erik Larson
70. INFERNO: The World at War, 1939-1945 by Max Hastings

71. THE INFORMATION: A History. A Theory. A Flood by James Gleick
72. INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY by Janet Reitman
73. IS THAT A FISH IN YOUR EAR? By David Bellos
74. JERUSALEM: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore
75. THE KEATS BROTHERS: The Life of John and George by Denise Gigante
76. KNOCKING ON HEAVEN’S DOOR by Lisa Randall
77. MALCOLM X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
78. THE MEMORY CHALET by Tony Judt
79. MIDNIGHT RISING by Tony Horwitz
80. MOBY-DUCK by Donovan Hohn

81. MY SONG: A Memoir by Harry Belafonte with Michael Shnayerson
82. THE NET DELUSION: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom by Evgeny Morozov
83. ONE DAY I WILL WRITE ABOUT THIS PLACE by Binyavanga Wainaina
84. THE ORIGINS OF POLITICAL ORDER by Francis Fukuyama
85. PAULINE KAEL: A Life in the Dark by Brian Kellow
86. PULPHEAD by John Jeremiah Sullivan
87. THE QUEST by Daniel Yergin
88. RIGHTS GONE WRONG by Richard Thompson Ford
89. RIN TIN TIN: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean
90. [SIC]: A Memoir by Joshua Cody

91. THE STORM OF WAR by Andrew Roberts
92. THE SWERVE: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt
93. THINKING, FAST AND SLOW by Daniel Kahneman
94. TO A MOUNTAIN IN TIBET by Colin Thubron
95. TO END ALL WARS by Adam Hochschild
96. A TRAIN IN WINTER by Caroline Moorehead
97. VAN GOGH: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith
98. WHO’S AFRIAD OF POST-BLACKNESS? by Toure
99. WHY THE WEST RULES – FOR NOW by Ian Morris
100. A WORLD ON FIRE by Amanda Foreman

To read more about the books on this list and to see notable books lists from years past, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/22/books/review/100-notable-books-of-2011.html?_r=2&ref=books.

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 and why? Which would you recommend and why? Are there any books that weren’t on the list that should have been included? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations - Nov. 26, 2011

Temp: 55.4 degrees F (13.0 degrees C)

Precip: 0.0 inches

Humidity: 76 percent

Conditions: Partly Cloudy

Winds: Breeze out of the Northeast

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, November 25, 2011

How many of these 'Picador Travel Classics' have you read?

On Tuesday, I published a post about the classic adventure book, “The Worst Journey in the World” by Apsley Cherry-Garrard. While researching this column, I learned that this book was recently reprinted in 1994 as part of a series of books called the Picador Travel Classics.

I have to admit that I’d never heard of this series of books and was interested to learn that it consisted of 17 hardcover books published by UK publishing house Picador between 1994 and 1997.

Books in the series included the following titles, in order of their release:

- The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

- The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron

- I Came, I Saw by Norman Lewis

- Into the Heart of Borneo by Redmond O’Hanlon

- Old Calabria by Norman Douglas

- The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux

- An Area of Darkness by V.S. Naipaul

- Among the Russians by Colin Thubron

- Eothen by Alexander Kinglake

- A Motor-Flight Through France by Edith Wharton

- Coasting by Jonathan Raban

- Slow Boats to China by Gavin Young

- Rebellion in the Backlands by Euclides da Cunha

- The Middle Passage by V.S. Naipaul

- The Hawaiian Archipelago by Isabella Lucy Bird

- A Visit to Don Otavio by Sybille Bedford

- A Short Walk in Hindu Kush by Eric Newby

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

Daily Weather Observations - Nov. 25, 2011

Temp: 44.4 degrees F (6.9 degrees C)

Precip: 0.0 inches

Humidity: 73 percent

Conditions: Clear

Winds: Light breeze out of the South East

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, November 24, 2011

Daily Weather Observations - Nov. 24, 2011

Temp: 43.5 degrees F (6.4 degrees C)

Precip: Trace, less than 0.01 inches

Humidity: 82 percent

Conditions: Clear

Winds: Light breeze out of the North, North West

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.

Cause of 'mystery boom' late Friday night remains unknown; theories vary

The cause of an extremely loud booming noise that was heard over a wide area in western Conecuh County and eastern Monroe County Friday night remained a mystery earlier this week.

At 11:33 p.m. Friday night, an extremely loud “boom” was heard by witnesses from Repton to Monroeville and as far south as the small communities of Goodway and Wildfork in Monroe County.

Margie Peacock of Repton was among one of the first people to say she heard the sound.

“I heard it too,” she said. “All the way over here on Highway 41 in Repton. It wasn’t a sonic boom, sounded more like an explosion.”

Peacock noted that the she believes that the sound came from somewhere southwest of Repton.

Michael Brooks of Monroeville said that he heard it when he went outside to check his boat batteries. After hearing the sound, he went inside and turned on his police scanner, but never heard anything about it on his radio. He noted that he thought that he heard a similar sound maybe 20 minutes later.

Monroe Journal reporter Josh Dewberry, who lives in the Wildfork community near Excel, said that he also heard the strange sound and another man, who lives further south in the Goodway community, said that the noise was so loud that he heard it while he was taking a shower.

Conecuh County E911 Director Johnny Brock told The Courant on Monday that he reviewed 911 tapes as well as recordings of police radio traffic from that night and 911 callers and police made no mention of the boom sound.

The Courant also made an attempt to contact every volunteer fire chief in Conecuh County on Monday regarding the strange noise and none of them that spoke to The Courant reported knowing about the noise.

Numerous theories circulated earlier this week about the cause of the unexplained sound, but as of Monday afternoon the exact cause remained unknown.

Mobile Press-Register reporter Mark Kent, who is arguably best known for his astronomy news feature in that paper every Sunday, said that the noise was probably a sonic boom caused by an F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet flying out of the Pensacola Naval Air Station (NAS).

“They’re not supposed to do that (cause sonic booms) over land, but they occasionally do,” Kent said.

The Courant contacted officials at Pensacola NAS and Eglin Air Force Base in Niceville, Fla. on Monday, and officials at Pensacola NAS said that no jets from their facility were in the air in the vicinity of Conecuh or Monroe County at that time of night on Friday.

“We had nothing in the air at that time that would have caused a sonic boom,” Public Affairs Officer Harry White said. “And we’ve really got nothing in our training pipeline that could do that.”

White noted that the airfield at Pensacola NAS closed at 11 p.m. on Friday and with the exception of a few transport planes, none of their training aircraft were in the air after 11 p.m.

A request for information about flight activity near Conecuh County out of Eglin Air Force Base on Friday night had not been returned as of press time.

One man suggested that the sound was a land oil crew setting off underground explosions as part of a seismological test. Others say that this is unlikely because these types of tests aren’t typically conducted at that time of night.

In the end, The Courant is encouraging its readers to contact the newspaper with their accounts of the noise or if they know its cause.

The Courant can be reached by phone at 251-578-1492 or by email at courantsports@earthlink.net. To contact The Courant by mail, write The Evergreen Courant, ATTN: Lee Peacock, P.O. Box 440, Evergreen, AL 36401.

The question for Black Friday is 'What do YOU want for Christmas?"

They say that tomorrow – the day after Thanksgiving – is the busiest shopping day of the year, and it brings to mind a question that more than a few of us will hear in the coming weeks: What do you want for Christmas?

That's a question that we all hear each year, and when I'm faced with that question, I never seem to have a good answer. I guess it's because I'm lucky enough to have the few things that I really need. I always end up telling the questioner that if they have to get me something, then for them to get me a book.

That may sound dull, and it probably is, but I'm always caught off guard by the question. If I could wave a magic wand and create the perfect Christmas gift, here are a few of the things that you'd see on my Christmas wish list:

· A prescription windshield.

· An endless cash-dispensing machine.

· A self-loading and unloading dishwasher. It would basically be a machine that would suck the dirty dishes off the dinner table, wash them and then magically put them back in the cabinet.

· A self-replica robot that would get all of my work done, allowing me to hang out at home, read and play Xbox.

· The Millennium Falcon. I'd give it a new paint job and redecorate with more comfortable furniture.

· More aluminum foil. I love that stuff. It's metal, but it's like paper.

· A device that could restore the human body to perfect health and reverse aging. I'd be richer than the Bill Gates, King Saud and the Pope combined.

· Only having one thing in my pocket would be nice. I'd be very interested in having a combination pen-pencil-car keys-wallet-cigarette lighter-pocket knife.

· A nuclear reactor the size of a AAA battery that gives off as much voltage and amperage and lasts for centuries. I hate charging and buying batteries.

----- 0 -----


All jokes aside, we would all do well to be a little more careful on the highways during the holidays. Many of us will take to the roads to go see family and friends for Thanksgiving and this increase in traffic only increases the chance of a serious accident. If you’ve got to get out on the road, take your time, don’t speed, look out for the other fellow and don’t drink and drive.

----- 0 -----


Also during the past week, the National Book Foundation announced the winners of this year’s slate of National Book Award winners. The awards were announced Wednesday of last week and were presented in six categories.

“Salvage the Bones” by University of South Alabama creative writing professor Jesmyn Ward won in the Fiction category, and “The Swerve: How the World Became Modern” by Stephen Greenblatt won in the Nonfiction category.

“Inside Out & Back Again” by Thanhha Lai won in the Young People’s Literature category, and “Head Off & Split” by Nikky Finney won the Poetry category.

With that said, if you’re in the market for a good book, or needing to buy a book-lover a good book for Christmas, you probably won’t go wrong in picking any of the books mentioned above.

The Evergreen Courant's Sports Flashback for Nov. 24, 2011

12 YEARS AGO
NOV. 25, 1999

“Sparta Academy plays host to Cottage Hill: The Sparta Academy Lady Warriors were the only team to come out on top when Cottage Hill came to Sparta Thurs., Nov. 18.
“Lady Warriors 41, Cottage Hill 29: Leading scorer for the Lady Warriors was Ashley Hammonds with 15 points. Also putting points on the board were Katie Etheridge with nine points and Mary Robinson with six points. Rounding out the scoring were Sally Hartley and Jessica Bennett with four points each. Jessica Armuelles, two points, and Laura Wiggins, one point.
“Cottage Hill 72, Warriors 45: Scoring in double figures for the Warriors were Jake Adams and Lee Booker with 11 points each and Kyle Johnston with 10 points. Rounding out the scoring were Justin Tranum with four points; Tyler Petrey, three points; Derek Faulkner, Derrick Williams and Jimmy Hyde with two points each.
“Cottage Hill 51, JV Warriors 20: Leading scorer for the JV Warriors was Chris Garner with 10 points. Also scoring for the JV Warriors were Wiley Cobb with seven points; Thomas Nielsen, two points; and Cole Commander, one point.”

“Deer Season Opens: Sat., Nov. 20, was the magic day for deer hunters across the state – that’s the day Alabama gun deer season opened in most counties.
“Estimated at 1.6 million, Alabama’s herd is among the largest in the nation.”

27 YEARS AGO
NOV. 22, 1984

“The Repton Pee Wee football team captured its second consecutive championship trophy this season with a 7-1 record. Members of the team are James ‘Pop’ Stanton, Leon Thompson, Lawrence Thompson, Mike Lowery, Tim Salter, Lance Turberville, Andy Salter, Johnny Tait, manager Darrell Smith, Shane Reeves, Tracy Andrews, Brian Waters, Jeffrey Lee, Donald Myrick, Ron Grace, Fred Green, Greg Ivey, manager Michael Crosby, Jimmy Stanford, Stan Grace, Derrick Owens, coach J.C. Brantley, Luke Waller, Michael Rudolph, Brian Jordan, Benny Fawley and manager Leon Rudolph.”

“Thomasville ousts Sparta Warriors: Thomasville’s Panthers knocked off Sparta Academy, 21-6, in the first round of the APSA’s championship playoff. The game was played in Thomasville Friday night.
“Jim Marino had a good night running the ball as he picked up 58 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Danny Reed had 16 yards on seven carries; Chad Grace, 15 on four; Mark Rigsby, two on five; and Jeff Walker, lost 10 in two carries.
“Danny Reed completed three of eight passes for 36 yards, but had two interceptions. Jeff Walker completed one of four for 12 yards, but also had an interception.
“Al Etheridge had two catches for 27 yards; Reed, one for 12; and Marino, one for nine yards.
“Marino scored Sparta’s only touchdown on a 21-yard run.”

42 YEARS AGO
NOV. 27, 1969

“Here’s a sight you don’t get to see often, my deer hunting friends tell me, an albino deer. Delan Townson brought this one down over the weekend.”

“These Evergreen High Varsity cagers will play their first home game of the 69-70 season Friday night, Dec. 5, against Red Level. They are John Earl Skipper, Larry Tranum, John Law Robinson, Charles Strong, Warren Stallworth, Larry Peacock, Jimmy Lee Perryman, Sammy Brown, Bob Jones, Ronald Halford, Richard Wilson and Coach Charles Branum.”

“Atmore bounces Aggies 60-50 in season opener: The Atmore Blue Devils combined strong rebounding and a ‘multitude’ of trips to the free throw line to hand the Evergreen Aggies of Coach Charles Branum their first basketball loss of the 1969-70 season. The game, originally scheduled to be played in Evergreen, was played in Atmore due to an inoperative clock at the EHS gym.
“Senior John Earl Skipper led the Aggie scorers with 16 points. He was followed closely by play-making guard John Law Robinson and senior center Bob Jones with 13 points and 10 points respectively. Senior forward Jimmy Lee Perryman hit for seven, and Ronald Halford and Larry Tranum added two each to round out the Aggie scoring.
“In the preliminary game, the Atmore Bees stung the Aggie Bees with a 41-26 defeat. Freshman Johnny Andrews led the Aggie scorers with 13 points, and Ronald Kervin pulled in 14 rebounds to shine a little light on an otherwise dismal evening for the Aggies.”

57 YEARS AGO
NOV. 25, 1954

“Mr. and Mrs. Tal Stuart spent the weekend in Auburn and attended homecoming and the Auburn-Clemson football game.
“Bert Tuggle, Tal Stuart Jr., Eddie and Dickey Tuggle attended the Auburn-Clemson football game in Auburn, Saturday. They were accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. O.B. Tuggle.”

“Panthers Upset Aggies 14-13 To Finish Season: A fired up Georgiana football team took the Evergreen Aggies by complete surprise with an upset 14-13 victory to end the season for both teams in Georgiana last Friday night.
“Evergreen moved 79 yards for their first score in the initial quarter to go in front, 7-0. Ronnie Edson carried the final 10 yards for the score and Frazier sneaked the extra point.
“Evergreen came right back to score on a touchdown by Alexander from two yards out. The play was set up on a pass from Alexander to Eugene Hyde who was downed at the Georgiana 2 after the play covered 49 yards. Frazier failed to make the point and that was the end of the scoring for the night.
“The Aggies passed desperately in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t get started. Star center, Wayne Bell, went out with an injury in the last of the third quarter and definitely hampered the Evergreen offense in the final frame.
“Evergreen dominated play, but had one of their worst nights of the year as they couldn’t get rolling. Except for the Panthers’ two scoring plays, they were held in check for the night, but a lax Aggie defense on those two plays made the difference.”

72 YEARS AGO
NOV. 23, 1939

“Sam Dunn was one of the contestants to climb the greased pole at the Hog Festival held in Monroeville.”

“Miss Frances Reeves spent the weekend in Birmingham and saw the Alabama-Georgia Tech game. They were accompanied by Mrs. J.A. Smith, who had been visiting them for two weeks and Miss Olive Kelley of Montgomery.”

“Mrs. Grace Farmer attended the Alabama-Georgia Tech football game in Birmingham Saturday.”

“ON THE SCREEN AT THE PIX THEATRE: Gridiron Game Calls For Wild Cheers Even From Amateur Fan: Richard Greene saw his first football game recently – on a movie lot.
“The game was played for a sequence in ‘Here I Am A Stranger,’ the 20th Century-Fox picture, starring the handsome young British actor and opening Friday at the Pix Theatre.
“Although Greene has been in Hollywood for a year and a half, he’s been so busy making pictures and soaring to stardom that he just hasn’t gotten around to catching up on American sports.
“However, the script demanded that, in the role of a young undergraduate, he take his newly-found father, Richard Dix, to see Stafford, the Alma Mater of both, win the big game.
“Greene and Dix cheered themselves hoarse and went through all the other motions peculiar to football fans.”

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.

Evergreen's Hillcrest High School remains in Class 4A after reclassification

As it does every two years, the Alabama High School Athletic Association announced its reclassification of schools last week and reports associated with reclassification are always a little interesting.

According to the reclassification numbers, Hoover High School is the largest public high school in the state with an average daily attendance of 1,902 students. That’s counting students in 10-12 grades as well as students held back in the ninth grade.

Hoover is in Class 6A, and there are no Class 6A schools in the immediate vicinity of Conecuh County. The largest Class 5A school in the Conecuh County area is Greenville High School in Butler County, which for classification purposes has 494 students.

Other schools around Conecuh County and their average daily attendance are as follows – Class 4A, Monroe County High School in Monroeville, 408; Escambia County High School in Atmore, 377; Andalusia High School, 338; Class 3A, Opp High School, 309; Straughn High School, 296; W.S. Neal High School in East Brewton, 293; T.R. Miller, 256; Excel High School, 253; Class 2A, Flomaton High School, 220; Class 1A, J.U. Blacksher High School at Uriah, 150; Red Level High School, 140; Pleasant Home High School, 122; Georgiana High School, 119; Florala High School, 90; McKenzie High School, 76; and J.F. Shields High School in Beatrice, 68.

Hillcrest High School in Evergreen, a Class 4A school, has an average daily attendance of 340 students.

John Essex High School near Demopolis is the smallest public school in the state that fields a football team. They have an average daily attendance of 53 students.

Paint Rock Valley High School in Princeton, which is north of Scottsboro, near the Alabama-Tennessee state line, is the AHSAA’s smallest school, with an average daily attendance of 14 students, that is, 1,888 less than Hoover.

It was also interesting to see that two Alabama Independent School Association schools, Prattville Christian Academy and Ellwood Christian Academy in Selma made the jump to the AHSAA. Ellwood Christian will compete in Class 1A, and Prattville Christian will compete in Class 2A.

On paper it looks like the changes will present Hillcrest with tougher schedules in football and basketball, but it’s nothing the Jags can’t handle. Schools have a tendency to rise to their level of competition, and Hillcrest’s current staff of coaches is more than capable of success under the new region and area alignments.

I’ve often wondered about how Sparta Academy would fair if they were to ever make the jump to the AHSAA. They’d likely be put in Class 1A and would likely compete in Region 2 against Geneva County, Red Level, Brantley, Pleasant Home, Kinston, Georgiana, Florala and McKenzie.

In basketball, they’d probably end up in Area 3 with teams like Red Level, Brantley, Georgiana, McKenzie and J.F. Shields. That would be very interesting.

----- 0 -----


I guess I’d be remiss this week if I didn’t make a prediction in the Iron Bowl.
Alabama’s got what’s probably the best defense in the nation this season, but Auburn’s well coached and loaded with talent. It’ll be a close one, but I look for Alabama to pull out the win, 28-21.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My movie picks this week are 'Hugo' and 'Conan the Barbarian'

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:

Arthur Christmas (PG, Comedy, Family): Directed by Barry Cook and Sarah Smith and starring the voices of James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton, Hugh Laurie and Bill Nighy.

The Artist (PG-13, Comedy, Drama): Directed by Michel Hazanavicius and starring John Goodman, Malcolm McDowell, Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo and James Cromwell.

A Dangerous Method (R, Drama): Directed by David Cronenberg and starring Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightley, Vincent Cassel and Sarah Gadon.

Desi Boyz (Not Rated, Action, Comedy): Directed by Rohit Dhawan and starring John Abraham, Deepika Padukone, Akshay Kumar and Chitrangda Singh.

Hugo (PG, Family, Adventure): Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Christopher Lee, Jude Law, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen and Asa Butterfield.

The Legend of Pale Male (Documentary): Directed by Frederic Lilien.

The Muppets (PG, Comedy, Family): Directed by James Bobin and starring Zach Galifianakis, Rashida Jones, Wanda Sykes, Mickey Rooney and Jack Black.

My Week with Marilyn (R, Drama): Directed by Simon Curtis and starring Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench and Dominic Cooper.

Rampart (R, Action, Crime): Directed by Oren Moverman and starring Woody Harrelson, Steve Buscemi, Sigourney Weaver, Anne Heche and Ice Cube.

New DVD releases for the week of Nov. 22 include:

Carjacked (R, Action, Drama, Suspense): Directed by John Bonito and starring Maria Bello, Stephen Dorff, Joanna Cassidy, Catherine Dent and Kristen Kerr.

Conan the Barbarian (R, Action, Fantasy): Directed by Marcus Nispel and starring Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Stephen Lang, Ron Perlman and Rose McGowan.

The Devil’s Double (R, Action, Crime and Mystery, Drama, Thriller): Directed by Lee Tamahori and starring Dominic Cooper, Ludivine Sagnier, Philip Quast, Mem Ferda and Raad Rawi.

The Family Tree (R, Comedy, Drama): Directed by Vivi Friedman and starring Selma Blair, Dermot Mulroney, Hope Davis, Max Thieriot and Chi McBride.

Sarah’s Key (PG-13, Drama): Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner and starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Aidan Quinn, Melusine Mayance, Niels Arestrup and Frederic Pierrot.

Spy Kids: All The Time In The World (PG, Action, Comedy, Family): Directed by Robert Rodriguez and starring Jessica Alba, Joel McHale, Jeremy Piven, Danny Trejo and Mason Cook.

Super 8 (PG-13, Action, Science Fiction): Directed by J.J. Abrams and starring Noah Emmerich, Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler and Ron Eldard.

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “Hugo,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “Conan the Barbarian.”

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 - Nov. 23, 2011

Temp: 60.1 degrees F (15.6 degrees C)

Precip: 0.5 inches

Humidity: 75 percent

Conditions: Partly Cloudy

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, November 22, 2011

How would you have fared on 'The Worst Journey in the World'?

Do you think you’re tough?

If so, I encourage you to read “The Worst Journey in the World” by Apsley Cherry-Garradr and then ask yourself how you think you would have fared on the ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition to Antarctica in 1910-1912.

Cherry-Garrard, called “Cherry” by his colleagues, was 24 years old when he became one of handful of over 8,000 applicants picked to join Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition. The expedition hoped to be the first to reach the South Pole and to collect scientific information about the relatively unknown continent.

Cherry wasn’t in the small group of explorers who pushed on to the pole and that likely saved his life. Scott and four other men reached the pole a month after a Norwegian team led by famed explorer Roald Amundsen became the first people in history to stand on the South Pole. Scott and his entire team died on the way back to their coastal camp, and their bodies were discovered by Cherry and others about eight months later.

Cherry returned to England on a scheduled relief ship and 10 years later, he published “The Worst Journey in the World.” His book is based largely on his diaries and the diaries of the other men on the expedition as well as the numerous reports they put together when they returned home. One of his main goals in writing the book was to help future expeditions by letting them know what worked and what didn’t work on the ground in what’s arguably the harshest, deadliest place on the planet.

The title comes from a chapter in the book in which Cherry and two other explorers complete a daring and highly dangerous overland journey to a hard-to-reach penguin rookery. Their mission was to obtain rare penguin eggs in order to study their embryos in an effort to shed light on the evolution of birds and reptiles.

I’ve wanted to read “The Worst Journey in the World” ever since 1994 when the magazine National Geographic Adventure named the book No. 1 on its list of “The 100 Best Adventure Books of All Time.”

Since then the book has found its way onto numerous “best-of” book lists. It was No. 28 on The Art of Manliness’ “The Essential Adventure Library: 50 Non-fiction Adventure Books.” The book is also among those in Easton Press’ “Greatest Adventure Books of All Time” series. The book was ranked No. 35 on Sports Illustrated’s “Top 100 Sports Books of All Time” list and was tied for No. 2 on Outside Magazine’s list of “Top 25 Adventure Books of the Last 100 Years.”

I really enjoyed this book, and I would rank it among the best books that I’ve ever read. I also thought that it was kind of cool that I happened to be reading the book during the 100th anniversary of some of the important events described in its pages. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in explorers, travel, Antarctica and guys who are tough as coffin nails.

In the end, how many of you have read this book? What did you think about it? What was your favorite part? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations - Nov. 22, 2011

Temp: 63.7 degrees F (17.6 degrees C)

Precip: 0.0 inches

Humidity: 84 percent

Conditions: Foggy, Overcast

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, November 21, 2011

What books would you include in the 'Great Books of the Western World' series?

I read in Saturday’s Mobile Press-Register, in the classified section under “Collectors Items,” that someone had the following item(s) for sale – “54 Volume Great Books of the Western World. Excellent condition REDUCED PRICE! $150 Call 251-…”

Prior to reading this ad, I’d never heard of this book series, so, naturally, this roused my curiosity. According to Wikipedia, this series of books was first published in the U.S. in 1952 by Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. “to present the Western canon in a single package of 54 volumes.” An updated second edition of the series is now available and consists of 60 volumes, so I presume that the books in the ad are from the first series.

What’s meant by the term “Western canon,” you ask? Again according to Wikipedia, that term denotes a “canon of books… that have been the most important and influential in shaping Western culture. As such, it includes the ‘greatest works of artistic merit.’” These works include autobiographical and biographical writings, drama, economics, ethics, fiction, history, mathematics, natural science, philosophy, poetry, politics and religion.

What follows is a select list of the contents of all 54 volumes of the first series. Keep in mind that this is a very, very small sample of what’s contained in the entire series. For the full contents, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Books_of_the_Western_World.

- The Iliad by Homer
- The Odyssey by Homer
- The Oedipus Cycle by Sophocles
- The History by Herodotus
- The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides
- The Republic by Plato
- Poetics by Aristotle
- The Thirteen Books of Euclid’s Elements by Euclid
- The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
- The Aeneid by Virgil
- The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans by Plutarch
- The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
- The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
- The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
- The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
- Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
- A Midsummer-Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
- The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
- Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
- Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
- Hamlet by William Shakespeare
- All’s Well That Ends Well by William Shakespeare
- Othello by William Shakespeare
- King Lear by William Shakespeare
- Macbeth by William Shakespeare
- Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare
- The Tempest by William Shakespeare
- Don Quixote by Cervantes
- Paradise Lost by John Milton
- Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy by Sir Isaac Newton
- Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
- The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
- The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
- The Declaration of Independence
- The Constitution of the United States of America
- The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell
- Moby Dick by Herman Melville
- The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection by Charles Darwin
- War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
- The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud

In the end, how many of you have heard of the Great Books of the Western World series? Which of the works listed above have you had the chance to read? Which did you like or dislike? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations - Nov. 21, 2011

Temp: 60.8 degrees F (16.0 degrees C)

Precip: Trace amount (less than 0.1 inches)

Humidity: 82 percent

Conditions: Foggy, Overcast

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 UTC) 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, November 20, 2011

Weekly Weather Observation Totals - Nov. 14-20, 2011

Average Temp: 58.5°F (15.7°C)

0700 Hours High Temp: 70.9°F (21.6°C)

0700 Hours Low Temp: 36.7°F (2.6°C)

Total Precip: 1.8 inches

Average Precip: .257 inches per day

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

Daily Weather Observations - Nov. 20, 2011

Temp: 63.5 degrees F (17.5 degrees C)

Precip: 0.3 inches

Humidity: 85 percent

Conditions: Foggy, Overcast

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

Latest Stephen King novel tops PW hardcover fiction 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 is one new book at the top of the four major best-sellers lists this week.

"11/22/63" by Stephen King replaced "Zero Day" by David Baldacci as 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.

"Crescent Dawn" by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler retained the No. 1 spot on the mass market paperback best-sellers list.

"The Next Always" by Nora Roberts replaced "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett as the top book 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 "11/22/63" by Stephen King (1), "The Alloy of Law" by Brandon Sanderson (7) and "The Prague Cemetery" by Umberto Eco (9).

There are five books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "Back to Work" by Bill Clinton (3), "Spontaneous Happiness" by Andrew Weil (6), "SEAL Target Geronimo" by Chuck Pfarrer (8), "Catherine the Great" by Robert K Massie (9) and "Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible" by Paula Deen with Melissa Clark (14).

There are two books on this week’s mass market paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on that list last week. They include "The Valcourt Heiress" by Catherine Coulter (11) and "Miracle Cure" by Harlan Coben (12).

There are two books on this week’s trade paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen (8) and "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis (12).

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. "The Litigators" by John Grisham
3. "Zero Day" by David Baldacci
4. "The Best of Me" by Nicholas Sparks
5. "IQ84" by Haruki Murakami
6. "The Christmas Wedding" by James Patterson, Richard DiLallo
7. "The Alloy of Law" by Brandon Sanderson
8. "The Snow Angel" by Glenn Beck and Nicole Baart
9. "The Prague Cemetery" by Umberto Eco
10. "Hotel Vendome" by Danielle Steel
11. "The Marriage Plot" by Jeffrey Eugenides
12. "Lost December" by Richard Paul Evans
13. "The Affair: A Reacher Novel" by Lee Child
14. "Out of Oz" by Gregory Maguire
15. "The Sense of an Ending" by Julian Barnes

HARDCOVER NONFICTION
1. "Steve Jobs: A Biography" by Walter Isaacson
2. "Killing Lincoln" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
3. "Back to Work" by Bill Clinton
4. "Nearing Home" by Billy Graham
5. "Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero" by Chris Matthews
6. "Spontaneous Happiness" by Andrew Weil
7. "No Higher Honor" by Condoleezza Rice
8. "SEAL Target Geronimo" by Chuck Pfarrer
9. "Catherine the Great" by Robert K Massie
10. "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand
11. "Guinness World Records 2012"
12. "Blue Nights" by Joan Didion
13. "Boomerang" by Michael Lewis
14. "Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible" by Paula Deen with Melissa Clark
15. "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?" by Mindy Kaling

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS
1. "Crescent Dawn" by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler
2. "The Perfect Christmas" by Debbie Macomber
3. "What the Night Knows" by Dean Koontz
4. "The Guardian" by Sherrilyn Kenyon
5. "Secrets to the Grave" by Tami Hoag
6. "Cross Fire" by James Patterson
7. "Gideon's Sword" by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
8. "Bring Me Home for Christmas" by Robyn Carr
9. "Touched by Angels" by Debbie Macomber
10. "Holiday in Stone Creek" by Linda Lael Miller
11. "The Valcourt Heiress" by Catherine Coulter
12. "Miracle Cure" by Harlan Coben
13. "The Athena Project" by Brad Thor
14. "Makings Spirits Bright" by Fern Michaels, Elizabeth Bass, Rosalind Noonan & Nan Rossiter
15. "Wyoming Tough" by Diana Palmer

TRADE PAPERBACKS
1. "The Next Always" by Nora Roberts
2. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett
3. "Heaven is for Real" by Todd Burpo, Sonja Burpo, Colton Burpo and Lynn Vincent
4. "Sing You Home" by Jodi Picoult
5. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
6. "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot
7. "Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay
8. "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen
9. "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell
10. "The Tiger's Wife" by Tea Obreht
11. "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese
12. "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis
13. "Assholes Finish first" by Tucker Max
14. "The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel" by Garth Stein
15. "Cleopatra" by Stacy Schiff

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.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Daily Weather Observations - Nov. 19, 2011

Temp: 51.8 degrees F

Precip: 0.0 in

Humidity: 78 percent

Conditions: Overcast

(Readings taken at 7 a.m. Central Standard Time daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, in Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W.)

2011 National Outdoor Book Award winners announced this week

The National Outdoor Book Awards Foundation, Idaho State University and the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education recently announced the winners of this year’s National Outdoor Book Awards.

A total of 12 books were named either winners or honorable mentions in 10 categories, including Classic, Natural History Literature, Outdoor Literature, Nature and the Environment, Design & Artistic Merit, Children’s, History/Biography, Nature Guidebook, Outdoor Adventure Guidebook and Instructional.

Winners of the National Outdoor Book Awards over the years have represented some of the absolute best in outdoor writing, artwork and photography. If you enjoy reading about the outdoors, you probably will not be disappointed by any of the books on this list.

Without further ado, here are the winners of the 2011 National Outdoor Book Awards:

Classic – The Works of John Muir, including titles such as “My First Summer in the Sierra,” “Stikeen,” “Steep Trails” and others

Natural History Literature – “Salvaging the Real Florida: Lost and Found in the State of Dreams” by Bill Belleville

Outdoor Literature – “Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout” by Philip Connors

Nature and the Environment – “Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees” by Nancy Ross Hugo

Design and Artistic Merit – “Raptors of the West Captured in Photographs” by Kate Davis, Rob Palmer and Nick Dunlop

Children’s – “The Secret Lives of Backyard Bugs” by Judy Burris and Wayne Richards

Children’s – “To Market, To Market” by Nikki McClure

History/Biography – “Take a Seat: One Man, One Tandem and Twenty Thousand Miles of Possibilities” by Dominic Gill

Nature Guidebooks – “Naturally Curious: A Photographic Field Guide through the Fields, Woods and Marshes of New England” by Mary Holland

Outdoor Adventure Guidebooks – “The Rio Grande: A River Guide to the Geology and Landscapes of Northern New Mexico” by Paul W. Bauer

Instructional Category – “The Cycling Bible: The Complete Guide for all Cyclists from Novice to Expert” by Robin Barton.

Honorable mention winners included:

History/Biography – “An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science” by Edward J. Larson

Complete reviews of these books, as well as the list of past winners, may be found at the National Outdoor Book Award’s Web site at www.noba-web.org.

This year’s slate of judges included Natalie Bartley of Boise, Idaho; Val Cunningham of St. Paul, Minn.; Dave Devoe of Walhalla, S.C.; Laura Erickson of Duluth, Minn.; Liam Guilar of Queensland, Australia; Steve Guthrie of Lock Haven, Pa.; Jim and Sara Fullerton of St. Simons Island, Ga.; Dale Harrington of Boone, N.C.; Rob Jones of Salt Lake City, Utah; Paul Kallmes of Berkeley, Calif.; Rodney Ley of Fort Collins, Colo.; John Miles of Bellingham, Wash.; Susanne Dubrouillet Morais of Raleigh, N.C.; James Moss of Littleton, Colo.; Tom Mullin of Unity, Maine; Sophie Osborne of Laramie, Wy.; Tammie L. Stenger-Ramsey of Bowling Green, Ky.; Ron Watters of Pocatello, Idaho; and Melanie Wulf of St. Charles, Ill.

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

Friday, November 18, 2011

South Alabama professor wins prestigious National Book Award for Fiction

On Wednesday, the National Book Foundation announced the 2011 National Book Award Winners.

This year’s slate of winners, in four categories, included:

Fiction - “Salvage the Bones” by Jesmyn Ward

Nonfiction - “The Swerve: How the World Became Modern” by Stephen Greenblatt

Young People’s Literature - “Inside Out & Back Again” by Thanhha Lai

Poetry - “Head Off & Split” by Nikky Finney

These four books were selected from 1,223 books nominated for the National Book Awards, including 315 in the fiction category, 441 in nonfiction, 189 in poetry and 278 in young people’s literature.

From these books, judges narrowed them down to five finalists in each category. The non-winning finalists in each category included the following books.

Fiction:
- The Sojourn by Andrew Krivak
- The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht
- The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
- Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman

Nonfiction:
- The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism
- Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution by Mary Gabriel
- Malcolm X: A Life of Revolution by Manning Marable
- Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss

Poetry:
- The Chameleon Couch by Yusef Komunyakaa
- Double Shadow by Carl Phillips
- Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems 2007-2010
- Devotions by Bruce Smith

Young People’s Literature:
- Chime by Franny Billingsley
- My Name Is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson
- Flesh & Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and its Legacy by Albert Marrin
- Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

This year, I found the National Book Awards to be particularly interesting because Jesmyn Ward, the winner in the Fiction category, is a creative writing professor nearby at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. She grew up in DeLisle, Miss. and still lives there today. Her debut novel, “Where the Line Bleeds,” was published in 2008 and won a number of awards. Check out her blog at www.jesmimi.blogspot.com.

Many of you will be familiar with some of the past National Book Award Winners, especially from the fiction category. Past NBA fiction winners include “From Here to Eternity” by James Jones, “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, “The World According to Garp” by John Irving, “Rabbit is Rich” by John Updike, “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker, “All the Pretty Horses” by Cormac McCarthy and “Cold Mountain” by Charles Frazier.

For more information about the National Book Foundation and the National Book Awards, visit www.nationalbook.org.

Daily Weather Observations

Temp: 36.7 degrees F

Precip: 0.0 in

Conditions: Clear

(Readings taken at 7 a.m. Central Standard Time daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, in Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W.)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Six Alabama UFO reports filed with MUFON during month of October

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 Oct. 1 and Oct. 31 on MUFON’s website, www.mufon.com, resulted in six reports from within our state.

The first UFO incident occurred on Oct. 6, and the witness said that they were sitting on a condo balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico when it occurred. The UFO reportedly “flew over the top of the building and proceeded in an arc into the gulf,” the witness said.

The next incident occurred on Oct. 16 between 7:14 p.m. and 7:20 p.m. at Mays Bend, near Pell City.

“It looked like Jupiter, but five times bigger,” the witness said. “I would have thought it was a satellite, but this thing was huge and flew a straight-line path. I saw it cross the whole sky. It was moving very slow.”

The witness noted that he had time to run inside to get his wife, so that she could see it too.

“This thing was very bright and very big with no sound whatsoever. I know others had to see this thing. At 7:20 p.m., it was out of sight, way too big and way too slow to be a satellite, plus it looked like it was flying lower than the planes I saw in the air. I have reported stuff before, but this was by far the strangest thing I have seen yet.”

That same night, another man reported that he was “looking at stars when what looked like different flashing lights, like a camera flash, passed across this star at a very high rate of speed, then slowed down really fast then resumed its fast pace off into the trees.”

The witness said that he often goes outside at night to smoke because he and his wife don’t like their kids being exposed to smoke and that he often looks at the sky while smoking.

“I know what planes are and what the space station looks like when they pass,” he said. “This was different. This object came out of nowhere and passed across this fairly good-sized star and covered it. The lights are what made this object different. They flashed different colors, not like planes do, and I mean flashed. It had many colors.”

The man described it as an amazing sight to see.

“It didn’t last long, but it was beautiful to watch, and by the time I asked my wife to come and look, it was gone,” he said.

The fourth incident occurred on Oct. 21, and the witness described seeing a “flare-like” UFO.

“I saw a light in the sky,” he said. “It was dropping lights out of it. The lights had a long, sparkling trail behind them. I saw four or five of the dropping lights. I don’t know if this was a flare or not, but I have never seen anything like this before and definitely not over a populated area.”

The next reported incident occurred on Oct. 28 between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. about two miles south of Interstate Highway 10.

The witness was “turning onto my street, facing south” when he saw five balls of white light, grouped closely, almost touching and hovering with “welding sparks falling off.”

The group of lights were “slanted from left to right,” with the right side being higher than the left.

“They looked hot,” he said. “And not like a round light, but more of a fire ball. There seemed to be white hot welding sparks dropping from the bottom of the lights on the left side.”

The witness stayed in his vehicle and kept driving until he couldn’t see the object.

“The sighting lasted 20 seconds,” he said. “I have been around aircraft all of my life and in the military. This was not a civilian aircraft and like nothing I’ve seen in the military. I now look in the sky before I go outside at night, every time.”

The last reported sighting took place on Oct. 29, and the witness said he was out jogging at around 6 a.m. when he saw “a triangle-shaped object, about the size of a small house, shooting across the sky.”

The witness stopped jogging to watch the unusual object.

“The object was traveling at a very high rate of speed across the sky,” the witness said. “There was no stream behind the object. The triangle object looked as if it had blinking lights. What surprised me was the quickness it covered the entire sky. There were no clouds and visibility was awesome. The object was very high in the sky. I knew then that we are being visited and no human-made object could travel through the sky at the rate of speed that I witnessed.”

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's Sports Flashback for Nov. 17, 2011


THREE YEARS AGO
NOV. 20, 2008

“Evergreen’s Drew Davis helped lead the way in Alabama’s 32-7 win over Mississippi State Saturday night in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide, ranked No. 1 in the nation, improved to 11-0 on the season and to 7-0 in conference play, thanks in no small part to Davis, who starts at right offensive tackle.”

“Hillcrest High School’s girls basketball team opened the 2008-2009 season with a 49-39 win over Monroe County High School Friday night in Monroeville.
“Charlotte Maye led the Lady Jags with 16 points, and Brittany Smith followed with 12 points. Kawanis Thomas finished the game with seven points, and Shatika Mims scored six points.”

“Hillcrest High School sophomore DeAndre Lyons scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the Jags in their season opener Friday night in Monroeville.
“The undefeated host team, Monroe County High School, came out on top in the end, 48-37.”

“Sparta Academy tipped off its 2008-2009 basketball season on Tuesday night when they took on Wilcox Academy at Richard Brown Gymnasium in Evergreen.
“This season, Sparta’s varsity boys team looks to benefit from the play of four seniors. They are Mason Black, D.J. Buckhault, Michael Morris and Riley Davis.
“Sparta’s varsity girls team features three seniors. They are BreAnna Pate, Mallory Kendrick and Morgan Harden.”

18 YEARS AGO
NOV. 18, 1993

“Going fishing with your grandmother can be great fun and successful as Josh Williams proved on a recent outing. With fishing tips given by his grandmother, Bernadine Williams, he caught 11 bream. Josh is the son of Marc and Sharon Williams of Evergreen.”

“The Iron Bowl: Panel Predicts Auburn Tigers To Beat Tide:
“The annual battle between the University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers have hearts aflutter and blood pressure’s rising. Only a few days away, the hype is in full swing as faithful of each team is wearing their colors and bragging on their teams.
“In an effort to see how the average fan feels how the game will turn out, The Evergreen Courant has selected a panel of 10 citizens to give their predictions. Six of the 10 predict an Auburn victory while four believe in the Crimson Tide. The following is a list of those questioned and their respective predicted scores:
- Felix Andrews, 21-17, Auburn
- Pam Brock, 24-21, Alabama
- Nell Stuart, 35-21, Auburn
- Vivian Fountain, 21-17, Auburn
- Gordon Varner, 28-21, Auburn
- Lynn Taylor, 17-14, Alabama
- Susan Brewton, 20-17, Alabama
- Pam Hammonds, 21-7, Auburn
- Howard Fore, 7-3, Auburn
- Sleepy Johnston, 21-14, Auburn
“The composite score of the game, as determined by our questioned panel of ‘experts,’ is Auburn 18, Alabama 6.”
(Auburn would go on to win the 1993 Iron Bowl , 22-14.)

33 YEARS AGO
NOV. 16, 1978

“The Evergreen High School Aggies will open their 1978-79 basketball season here tonight against the Southern Normal Cyclones of Brewton.
“Charles Branum will begin his tenth years as the Aggie Head Basketball Coach. He has one of the top basketball prep records in the state with 280 wins and 71 losses. He hopes by winning 20 games this season he can reach a milestone in his career with his 300th victory during this season.
“Coach Branum states that his team for the coming season is one of the youngest varsity teams he has every coached, with James Straugh, his only senior starting for the Aggies. At the other guard will be 6-2 sophomore, Horace Smith, Center spot will be Joseph Mitchell, a 6-5 junior. At forwards will be 6-4 Perona Rankins and 6-1 Sanford Moye. Other players that will see action on the varsity this season are Philander Rogers, Johnny Allen, David Crosby, Rydell Samuel, Anthony Williams, Troy Salter, Wendell Parker and David Floyd.”

“The Lyeffion Yellow Jackets open their 1978-79 basketball season at home Fri., Nov. 17, against area foe W.J. Jones High of Pineapple.
“Starters include Adrian Woods 6-4 forward, center, Eric Finklea 6-0 forward guard and Ricky Hall 6-0 guard. Part-time starters from last year’s squad are Ricky Johnson 5-9 guard, James Riley 6-1 forward and Charles Watts 6-1 forward.
“Players coming up from the ‘B’ team that are expected to see action are senior, Mike Brown, junior, Herman Mobley, sophomore Willie Nevlous and freshman Donald Lee.

48 YEARS AGO
NOV. 21, 1963

“Donald Garrett, star Lyeffion halfback, was presented the ‘Sports Illustrated Award of Merit’ at a special ceremony in the radio station WBLO studios Friday morning. The award was presented by Lyeffion Coach Shirley Frazier and Rick Fields emceed the program which was broadcast by WBLO. Also taking part on the program were WBLO manager Hugh Ellington and Lyeffion principal James Cowart. The low silver bowl had inscribed on it ‘Donald Garrett, Sports Illustrated Award of Merit, 11-11-63.’ Don was featured in the magazines ‘Faces in the Crowd’ section recently for his exploits in the Repton game when he gained 350 yards rushing, scored four touchdowns and passed for another. A junior, the 165-pounder is looking forward to next season, although right now he’s at work as forward on the Lyeffion basketball team.”

“Homecoming royalty at Evergreen High are caught by the photographer as they enter the stands following a pre-game ceremony. Miss Homecoming, Susan Blair, and Miss Football, Sandra Brooks, reigned over festivities including a parade and the game with T.R. Miller. Escorts are Conner Warren and Stan Coker. (Photo by Harold Adams)”

“The underdog Evergreen High School Aggies will end their 1963 season here Friday night at 8 o’clock in a postponed tilt with the powerful Monroe County High Tigers of Monroeville.
“Coach John Robinson’s Aggies looked their sharpest of the year in battling a heavily favored Georgiana to a standstill in a heart-breaking, 14-12 loss last Friday.”

63 YEARS AGO
NOV. 18, 1948

“Coach Harry Engle of Lyeffion High School was in the office the first of the week with an announcement the school wanted placed in The Courant. I (Bob Bozeman) couldn’t get much out of Coach Engle as to the prospects of his basketball team, but then it is a little early yet. He hasn’t been able to get his goals up and start practice and is a little worried since the Yellow Jackets open their season in Castleberry Nov. 30.
“Basketball should be better than ever in Conecuh this year. Both Evergreen and Repton have vastly improved courts. I hope Lyeffion can soon have an auditorium-gym sufficient for their needs. Castleberry is pretty well taken care of… and speaking of Castleberry Coach Thomasson will probably have a powerful quintet this year.”

“The Evergreen High Aggies will close their 1948 football season here next Wednesday night in a Thanksgiving Eve battle with Semmes Tech of Mobile. The game was originally scheduled for Nov. 5, but was postponed to the 24th because of heavy rains.
“Semmes Tech has had an up and down season, but has shown improvement from game to game. Sparked by speedster Tex Hadley the Hurricane recently scored twice on unbeaten Bay Minette before losing a close contest.
“The Aggies, of course, are anxious to end the season with a win, and the fact that Tech is a Mobile school would make the victory all the sweeter.


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.

High school basketball has officially tipped off in Conecuh County

High school basketball will officially begin in Conecuh County this week as Hillcrest High School and Sparta Academy’s teams tipped off the season on Tuesday.

All of the teams at both schools will be out to best their records from last season, and they stand a good chance of doing so.

Hillcrest’s varsity boys will be without a few stars from last year’s team, but head coach Warren Roberts is looking to reload and lead the Jaguars back to the state tournament.

Hillcrest’s varsity girls will be under veteran head coach Tommy Dukes, who is returning from a short break from the coaching ranks. Dukes has already won a boys state title at Hillcrest, and the girls stand a good chance of competing for the same under his leadership.

Sparta’s varsity boys, under longtime head coach Russ Brown, look to be improved from last year, but they’ll have their work cut out for them in a tough region.

Sparta’s varsity girls have been rock solid for a number of years, and they just keep reloading. Young and old players with plenty of talent are on this year’s roster, and they’ve got a good chance of winning a state title this year.

Whatever happens, go out and support our local teams. Conecuh County is known for its outstanding high school basketball, and our local players serve as ambassadors for our county wherever they play. They deserve our support at home and on the road.

----- 0 -----


The third round of the state football playoffs is set for tomorrow (Friday) night and a number of teams from this part of the state are still in the running for a state title.

The only team in the vicinity of Evergreen that’s still in the state playoffs is Flomaton, which competes in Class 2A. They’ll be taking on 12-0 Elba in the 2A semi-finals tomorrow night in Flomaton. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Elba is one of a number of undefeated teams still in the playoffs. Other unbeaten teams include Maplesville and Ragland in Class 1A, Tanner in 2A, Handley and Piedmont in 3A; Dadeville, Jackson and Bibb County in 4A; Hueytown and Hartselle in 5A; Mountain Brook and Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa in 6A.

Also on Friday, the Alabama Independent School Association will wrap up the 2011 season when they play their annual Tripleheader State Football Championships at Troy University’s Veterans Memorial Stadium.

The event will begin with the Class 2A title game at 12 p.m. between Edgewood and Patrician. The Class 3A title game between Bessemer Ac. and Glenwood will kick off at 3:30 p.m. The event will close with the Class 1A title game at 7 p.m. between Jackson Academy and Autauga Academy.

----- 0 -----


Here are my picks for this week’s slate of SEC football games. I like Alabama over Georgia Southern, Arkansas over Mississippi State, Auburn over Samford, LSU over Ole Miss, Florida over Furman, Georgia over Kentucky, South Carolina over The Citadel and Tennessee over Vanderbilt.

Last week: 6-1 (.857), Overall: 67-13 (.838).

Daily Weather Observations

Temp: 50.7 degrees F

Precip: 1.1 in

Conditions: Partly Cloudy, Sunny

(Readings taken at 7 a.m. Central Standard Time daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, in Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My movie picks this week are 'Breaking Dawn: Part I' and 'Turtle: The Incredible Journey'

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 Descendants (Comedy, Drama, R): Directed by Alexander Payne and starring George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Matthew Lillard and Judy Greer.

Division III: Football’s Finest (Comedy): Directed by Marshall Cook and starring Andy Dick, Marshall Cook, Bryan Callen, Michael Jace and Mo Collins.

Happy Feet Two (Comedy, Family, Musical, PG): Directed by George Miller and starring the voices of Elijah Wood, E.G. Daily, Alecia Moore, Robin Williams and Brad Pitt.

The Lie (Comedy, Drama, R): Directed by Joshua Leonard and starring Joshua Leonard, Jess Weixler, Mark Webber, Violet Long and Kelli Garner.

Rid of Me (Comedy, Drama, Not Yet Rated): Directed by James Westby and starring Katie O’Grady, John Keyser, Storm Large, Orianna Herrman and Art Alexakis.

Tomboy (Drama): Directed by Celine Sciamma and starring Zoe Heran, Malonn Levana, Jeanne Disson, Sophie Cattani and Mathieu Demy.

Tyrannosaur (Drama, Not Rated): Directed by Paddy Considine and starring Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman, Eddie Marsan, Paul Popplewell and Ned Dennehy.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part I (Drama, Romance, PG-13): Directed by Bill Condon and starring Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene and Jackson Rathbone.

New DVD releases for the week of Nov. 15 include:

Beginners (Comedy, Drama, R): Directed by Mike Mills and starring Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Melanie Laurent, Goran Visnjic and Mary Page Keller.

Bellflower (Action, R): Directed by Evan Glodell and starring Evan Glodell, Jessie Wiseman, Tyler Dawson, Rebekah Brandes and Vincent Grashaw.

Fading of the Cries (Horror, Suspense, Thriller, R): Directed by Brian Metcalf and starring Brad Dourif, Mackenzie Rosman, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Elaine Hendrix and Lateef Crowder.

Flypaper (Comedy, Not Yet Rated): Directed by Rob Minkoff and starring Patrick Dempsey, Ashley Judd, Tim Blake Nelson, Mekhi Phifer and Matt Ryan.

Griff the Invisible (Comedy, Drama, Romance, PG-13): Directed by Leon Ford and starring Ryan Kwanten, Maeve Dermody, Marshall Napier, Toby Schmitz and Heather Mitchell.

Larry Crowne (Comedy, Romance, PG-13): Directed by Tom Hanks and starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Cedric the Entertainer, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Bryan Cranston.

Main Street (Drama, PG): Directed by John Doyle and starring Colin Firth, Orlando Bloom, Amber Tamblyn, Patricia Clarkson and Ellen Burstyn.

The Tree (Drama, Not Rated): Directed by Julie Bertuccelli and starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Marton Csokas, Aden Young and Morgana Davies.

Turtle: The Incredible Journey (Documentary, G): Directed by Nick Stringer and starring the voice of Miranda Richardson.

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “Breaking Dawn: Part I,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “Turtle: The Incredible Journey.”

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.