Saturday, March 31, 2012

What did you think about Martin Scorsese's 2011 movie, 'Hugo'?

I watched a pretty cool movie a few days ago, one that I’ve wanted to see for quite some time, 2011’s “Hugo.”

Directed by Martin Scorsese, the movie stars Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen, Richard Griffiths, Jude Law and Christopher Lee. It was released in theatres on Nov. 23, 2011, and it was rated PG. Its producers included Scorsese and Johnny Depp.

The movie is about a young boy who comes to live in a Paris train station after the death of his father. His uncle, a drunkard, is the clockmaster at the train station, and the boy, Hugo Cabret, learns the job from his uncle. The uncle dies, and the boy is left to fend for himself, while continuing to carry out his dead uncle’s duties. The boy’s only memento of his dead father is an “automaton” that is badly in need of repair. As the story progresses, Hugo befriends a young girl, who happens to be the granddaughter of the automaton’s inventor.

I was interested to learn that this movie was based on Brian Selznick’s 2007 historical fiction novel, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” The winner of the 2008 Caldecott Medal, this 533-page book was published by Scholastic Press.

“The Invention of Hugo Cabret” is actually the first true novel to ever receive the Caldecott Medal, which is given annually to recognize “the most distinguished picture book for children" published in the United States. The hardback edition of the novel contains 284 pictures, which allowed it to be considered for a Caldecott.

Selznick is a 45-year-old writer and illustrator from New Jersey, and “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” is one of five novels he’s written. His other books include “The Houdini Box” (1991), “The Robot King” (1995), “Boy of a Thousand Faces” (2000) and “Wonderstruck” (2011). He’s credited with illustrating 21 books, including “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.”

The film version of the “Hugo” received mostly positive reviews and has won a lot of awards. At the Academy Awards earlier this year, “Hugo” was nominated for 11 Academy Awards (including Best Picture) and won five Oscars, including Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing. Scorsese also won a Golden Globe for Best Director for his work on the film.

“Hugo” fared well at the box office. Shot on a budget of around $150 million, the movie reaped box office revenues of over $177 million. As of this writing, it has made more money overseas than in the U.S. Box office revenues in the U.S. were around $73 million, while overseas revenues were around $103 million.

In the end, I enjoyed this movie and would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good fantasy adventure movie. How many of you out there have seen this movie? What did you think about it? Did you like it or dislike it? Why? Let us know in the comments section below.

For more information about “Hugo,” visit the movie’s official Web site at www.hugomovie.com.

Daily Weather Observations for Sat., March 31, 2012

Temp: 66.2 degrees F (19.0 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.4 inches.

Humidity: 82 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Mostly Cloudy.

Winds: 1.5 mph out of the West (Light Air)

Barometric Pressure: 29.43 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.4 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 7.2 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 19.6 inches

Local Weather Alerts: Local Pollen Alert in effect.

NOTES: Today is the 91st day of 2012 and the 12th day of Spring. There are 275 days left in the year.

And Remember - "A summer fog for fair, a winter fog for rain."

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, March 30, 2012

Richardson's new book details how upbringing prepared him for success

If you haven’t had the chance to pick up a copy of Conecuh County native Fred Richardson Jr.’s new autobiography, “From Nymph to Mobile and Beyond: The Impossible Dream,” I highly recommend that you do so today.

Released on Feb. 13, this 292-page book describes Richardson’s remarkable life. Born in Nymph in 1939 as the fifth of 12 children, Richardson worked hard, applied himself and is now the third highest-ranking official in the City of Mobile. Richardson is currently the District 1 representative on the Mobile City Council, and he also serves as the council’s vice president. In addition to being the chairman of the council’s public safety committee, he also serves on the rules committee and public services committee.

Regular readers of The Mobile Press-Register will be familiar with Richardson, who is arguably best known for being the father of Mobile’s New Year’s Eve “Moon Pie Drop” event.

Much of Richardson’s book details how his upbringing in Conecuh County helped mold him into the leader he would become. His father, Fred Sr., died when Richardson was 16, and Richardson left home shortly after graduating from Conecuh County Training School in 1958. After his first job as a housekeeper at Mobile Infirmary, Richardson got a job as a letter carrier at the Mobile Post Office and went on to retire from the postal service three decades later. Going to school at night, Richardson graduated from Carver State Vocational College, Bishop State Community College and the University of South Alabama.

Richardson’s book also provides an insider’s view of Mobile politics and the Port City’s successful economic development and international industrial recruitment efforts. This book should be mandatory reading for our local public officials and economic developers because it gives a blueprint for what it takes to be successful in the high-stakes game of job creation and economic development.

I think most readers will also enjoy Richardson’s discussion about how Mobile’s “Moon Pie Drop” became a reality. Most folks thought it was a bad idea to begin with, but they changed their tune as the event became bigger and better with each passing year. The success of the event was largely due to Richardson’s resolve to promote Mobile in a unique way.

Much of Richardson’s new book also talks about his close-knit family and his genealogy. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in history, Richardson has researched his family history in detail. His relatives in Conecuh County include members of the Richardson, Ferguson and Dees families, among others, and I’m certain that his relatives will definitely want to get a copy of his book for their personal records.

In the end, if you like Richardson’s new book, you might want to check out some of his other books, including “The Genesis and Exodus of Now,” “The Stone Street Baptist Church, Alabama’s First, 1806-1982,” “Tithing, What Does God Require?” and “Imprints, Tracing Today’s Behavior to Past Events.” If they are as good as his new book, you will not be disappointed. His new book as well as some of his others can be bought online through Amazon.com. Copies of “From Nymph to Mobile and Beyond” are $10.99 each.

Daily Weather Observations for Fri., March 30, 2012

Temp: 66.6 degrees F (19.2 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 84 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Overcast, Foggy.

Winds: 0.1 mph out of the South-Southeast (Calm)

Barometric Pressure: 29.50 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.8 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 19.2 inches

Local Weather Alerts: Dense Fog Advisory in effect until 9 a.m. Local Pollen Alert also in effect.

NOTES: Today is the 90th day of 2012 and the 11th day of Spring. There are 276 days left in the year. First quarter moon tonight.

And Remember - "A sunshiny shower won't last half an hour."

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, March 29, 2012

What caused this mysterious 'track' across a cornfield at Loree?

When Buddy Raines set off for Evergreen from his home in the Loree community last Thursday morning, the sharp-eyed 62-year-old spotted something unusual in a cornfield near his home.

At first, he thought that someone had driven a motorcycle across the corn that he’d planted the previous Sunday, but upon closer inspection, he could tell that it was no motorcycle.

“Whatever it was wasn’t so heavy that it mashed into the soft dirt or messed up the rows very much,” Raines said. “Whatever it was, the track wasn’t there during the day on Wednesday. This was done sometime Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.”

Raines wondered if the track may have been left behind by a large snake like the exotic anacondas and pythons that have begun to plague Florida in recent years.

“I saw a show on TV not too long ago where they killed one of those big snakes down there and when they cut him open, they found a deer inside of him,” Raines said. “He was pretty big.”

The track also made Raines think of a giant snake story that circulated for years in the Loree community.

“For years, I’ve heard different folks and my neighbors tell of the time a woman just down the road was in the pea patch and she saw a snake so big that she refused to go back into the field,” Raines said. “She said that the snake was humongous, as big around as her leg. That happened here fifty or sixty years ago.”

The track stretched all the way across the field and was 12 to 13 inches wide. The track was just deep enough to flatten the tops of the furrows in the field. There also appeared to be a line in the tracks that indicated that it may have been caused by an animal with a tail.

Individuals who examined photos of the unusual track offered up a number of theories about what could have been responsible. Animals mentioned included various snakes, alligators, snapping turtles, gopher tortoises, beavers, peacocks and otters. Most felt that the track was not caused by a snake because the track didn’t have the characteristic wavelike pattern associated with snake tracks.

Monroe Journal reporter Josh Dewberry offered up one of the more interesting theories, saying that the track may have been a trail left behind by a passing dust devil. According to the American Meteorological Society, a dust devil is a small, but vigorous whirlwind that are usually harmless.

Monroeville veterinarian Dr. John Grider said that he didn’t believe the track was caused by a turtle or an alligator.

“I wonder if it was something dragging something,” he said. “Like a bobcat dragging its prey.”

The most unusual explanation for the track came from a man who said that it may have been caused by a “chupacabras,” a legendary creature rumored to inhabit parts of Mexico and the U.S., having been reported as far north as Maine. The word “chupacabras” literally means “goat sucker,” and the creature gets its name from its reported habit of attacking and drinking the blood of livestock, especially goats.

Whatever was responsible for the track at Loree, Raines, who is disabled, said he’s prepared to deal with it, especially if it’s a large snake.

“I might not be able to outrun it in my (motorized) chair,” Raines said. “But this .45 I’ve got with a nine-inch barrel should do the trick.”

Individuals with information about what may have caused the track are asked to call The Courant at 251-578-1492 or e-mail courantsports@earthlink.net.

The Evergreen Courant's Sports Flashback for March 29, 2012

11 YEARS AGO
MARCH 29, 2001

“Old Timer Basketball: There will be an old timer (over the hill) basketball game/tournament on Fri., April 13, at 6:30 p.m. at Evergreen Junior High School. The half-time show will feature the granny cheerleaders and good clean family fun. An all-star line-up includes some of the best from C.C.T.S., Robert Meeks, the Rev. Johnny Atkins, Larry Fluker, Lewis Meeks, Calvin Fluker and many others. Dero Wise will coach the team. Admission is $3 for adults and $1 for children under 12. To register your team and for further information, contact Sherry Atkins.”

“There will be an ASA softball umpire test give on April 1, 2001 at 3 p.m. at the Andalusia Sports Complex building. The fee is $40. For more information, contact Duke Smith.”

26 YEARS AGO
MARCH 27, 1986

“Tommy Dukes nominated for All American Team: Tommy Dukes of Repton High School has been nominated to the 1986 McDonald’s All American High School Basketball Team.
“Dukes is one of 1,000 prep cagers in the nation nominated by McDonald’s All American Basketball Team Selection Committee, a geographically-diverse committee of high school basketball coaches and sportswriters, headed by Morgan Wootten, coach of DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Md., one of the top-ranked high school teams in the country.
“As a nominee, the 6-foot-8 center is in the running to be one of the 25 members selected to the 1986 McDonald’s All American High School Basketball Team. Dukes has a 26-point per game average and leads the Bulldogs in rebounding, points per game and free throws. He is coached by Mr. Hugh Wilson.
“McDonald’s All American Basketball Team was formed in 1977 to recognize and honor outstanding young athletes. The Team is selected by the McDonald’s All American Basketball Team Selection Committee and reviewed by the Advisory Committee headed by John Wooden, legendary coach of 10 national collegiate championships when he was at UCLA.
Former McDonald’s All Americans include such college and pro stars as Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, Mar Aguirre, Ralph Sampson, Michael Jordan, Pat Ewing, Danny Manning and Dwayne ‘Pearl’ Washington.
“The selected members of McDonald’s 1986 All American High School Basketball Team will participate in the ninth annual McDonald’s All American Game to be held in Detroit on April 11 at Joe Louis Arena. Proceeds from this unique ‘East vs. West’ game will be donated to the United Negro College Fund.
“Just by his nomination to this prestigious team, Dukes has secured his place among the top high school basketball players in the country. As a tribute to his exceptional talent, Dukes will be awarded a special certificate of nomination by McDonald’s owner-operator John Rice. Dukes is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Tommy Lee Dukes Sr. of Burnt Corn.”

41 YEARS AGO
MARCH 25, 1971

“Sparta Academy will climax spring football practice by playing in a ‘jamboree’ with three other private schools at Grady this Saturday night at 7:30.
“South Montgomery Academy at Grady is the host team. Other schools taking part will be Pike Liberal Arts School of Troy and Fort Dale Academy of Greenville.
“Coach Mickey Goneke lists the probable starting lineups for Sparta as follows:
“Offense: split end, Bruce Hutcheson; tackles, Len Price and Chestly Miniard; guards, Chuck Neese, Pat Poole or Woody Register; center, George Baggett; tight end, Jeff Nichols, wingback, Danny Baggett, Tom Nielsen or Bobby Johnson; fullback, Walker Scott or Pat Poole; tailback, Wilbur Baggett; quarterback, Buddy Monroe.
“Defense: ends, Nichols and Price; tackles, Neese and Miniard; nose guard, Danny Harper; linebackers, George Baggett, Register and Wilbur Baggett; deep backs, Monroe, Hutcheson, Joe Andrews or Scott.”

“Marvin Ward Wilson, 20 year old former Evergreen resident, has won second place in the Washington State Community College wrestling championships. Marv, as everyone calls him, is in the 150-pound class and posted a 12-0 league record.
“Friends in Evergreen may remember Marv when he attended Evergreen City School and played baseball on the Jr. League Pelicans. He won the 1962 Sportsmanship Trophy for this and it is one of his most prized possessions.

56 YEARS AGO
MARCH 29, 1956

“Butterick Wins Tournament by Beating Lambert, 28-21: The Butterick Junior High School basketball team defeated the Lambert Junior High School 28-21 in the final game of the County Athletic Association two-day basketball tournament held at the County Training School March 16-17. This is the third consecutive year that Butterick has won first place title.”

“Winners of the Boys Basketball Tournament (are) Robert Salter, John H. Lett, John J. Grace, Alphonso Andrews, John D. Nettles, Roosevelt Dailey, Eugene Kyles and Edward Poindexter.”

“China Girls Win Crown in Annual Basketball Tourney: The China Junior High School girls basketball team won the County Junior Championship by defeating Castleberry, 16-12, in the finals of the County Athletic Association two-day basketball tournament held at the Conecuh County Training School Friday and Saturday, March 16-17.
“The China Sextet drew a bye and had only three teams to play in the tournament, Nymph in the quarterfinals, Lambert in the semifinals and Castleberry in the finals. Prior to entering the tournament the China Sextet was undefeated in all conference games, participated in three invitational tournaments and won second and first places.
“The president of the Conecuh County Athletic Association, Mr. James Stallworth, presented the first-place prize to the captain, Katie Mae Booker.”

“Winners of Girls Basketball Tournament (are) Maxine Sumpter, Helen Lee, Evelyn Lee, Coach John Floyd, Mary Virginia Lee, Katie Mae Booker, Viola McCreary, S.T. Grant, Principal.”

71 YEARS AGO
MARCH 27, 1941

From “Castleberry News” - “(Coach) M.C. Thomasson was very much surprised Thursday when members of his faculty called him for consultation. The object of the interview proved to be a birthday cake with all its candles and trimmings, good wishes of the teachers and their gift, an antomatic reel.”

Look for Kentucky to beat Ohio State in the NCAA finals Monday

March Madness is drawing to a close this week with just three more games left in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

The two semi-final round games will be played Saturday with Kentucky taking on Louisville at 5 p.m. and Ohio State playing Kansas at 7:45 p.m. The winners of those two games will play in the championship game Monday at 8 p.m. All three games will be televised on CBS.

I look for Ohio State to down Kansas and for Kentucky to beat Louisville, which will set up a championship game between Ohio State and Kentucky. Kentucky and Ohio State haven’t played each other this season, so it’ll be interesting to see how that game turns out. Personally, I think Kentucky is going to win it all.

----- 0 -----


The start of the Major League Baseball regular season is just around the corner, and I’m already getting the itch to play fantasy baseball again this year.

The regular season technically began yesterday (Wednesday) for the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics, who were scheduled to play two games yesterday and today (Thursday) in Tokyo, Japan. Those games were part of the Japan Open Series 2012.

The first regular season game to be played stateside will feature the St. Louis Cardinals and the Florida Marlins, who will face off on Wed., April 4, on what’s called Opening Night.

Opening Day will be on Thurs., April 5, and will feature a full slate of games across the country. The Atlanta Braves will open on the road against the New York Mets on that day. Atlanta’s first home game will be played on Fri., April 13, when the Braves will play the Brewers.

I’ve been invited to join about half a dozen fantasy baseball leagues this year, and it’s tempting to dive right in. It’s a great way to follow the action, day to day, but it’s also a big drain on a person’s time. Fantasy football isn’t so bad in that regard because most NFL teams will play less than 20 games. On the other hand, Major League Baseball teams will play 162 regular games over a period of six months.

----- 0 -----


And the NBA season still rocks on.

As of Monday, all of the league’s 30 teams have played between 46 and 50 games. The Chicago Bulls had the best record in the NBA (40-10) and were leading the Eastern Conference’s Central Division. The Oklahoma City Thunder had the best record in the Western Conference (37-12) and were leading the Northwest Division.

The Miami Heat (35-12) were leading the East’s Southeast Division, and the San Antonio Spurs (33-14) were leading the West’s Southwest Division. The L.A. Lakers (30-19) were atop the West’s Pacific Division, and the Philadelphia 76’ers (27-22) were leading the East’s Atlantic Division.

I’ve always sort of pulled for the New Orleans Hornets. Predictably, they had the third-worst record in the entire league as of Monday. Their 12-36 record was only slightly better than Washington (11-37) and Charlotte’s (7-39).

Daily Weather Observations for March, 29, 2012

Temp: 64.8 degrees F (18.2 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 83 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Overcast, Foggy.

Winds: 0.0 mph (Calm)

Barometric Pressure: 29.57 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.8 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 19.2 inches

Local Weather Alerts: Dense Fog Advisory in effect until 9 a.m. Local Pollen Alert also in effect.

NOTES: Today is the 89th day of 2012 and the 10th day of Spring. There are 277 days left in the year.

And Remember - "Expect the weather to be fair when crows fly in pairs."

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, March 28, 2012

This week's movie picks are 'Wrath of the Titans' and 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close'

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:

Bully (Documentary, R): Directed by Lee Hirsch.

The Corridor (Horror, Science Fiction, Not Rated): Directed by Evan Kelly and starring Stephen Chambers, James Gilbert, David Patrick Flemming, Matthew Amyotte and Glen Matthews.

Dark Tide (Suspense, Adventure, PG-13): Directed by John Stockwell and starring Halley Berry, Olivier Martinez, Ralph Brown, Luke Tyler and Thoko Ntshinga.

Goon (Comedy, R): Directed by Michael Dowse and starring Sean William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill, Liey Schreiber and Kim Coates.

I Kissed a Vampire (Musical, PG): Directed by Chris Nolan and starring Drew Seeley, Lucas Grabeel, Adrian Slade, Chris Coppola and Mekia Cox.

Intruders (Suspense, R): Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and starring Clive Owen, Daniel Bruhl, Carice van Houten, Kerry Fox and Ella Purnell.

The Island President (Documentary, PG): Directed by Jon Shenk and starring Mohamed Nasheed.

The Legend of Hell’s Gate: An American Conspiracy (Action, Western, PG-13): Directed by Tanner Beard and starring Eric Balfour, Lou Taylor Pucci, Henry Thomas, Jenna Dewan-Tatum and Summer Glau.

Mirror, Mirror (Fantasy, Comedy, PG): Directed by Tarsem and starring Lily Collins, Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane and Robert Emms.

Wrath of the Titans (Fantasy, Adventure, PG-13): Directed by Jonathan Liebesman and starring Sam Worthington, Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson, Rosamund Pike and Bill Nighy.

New DVD releases for the week of March 27 include:

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (Comedy, Family, G): Directed by Mike Mitchell and Jason Lee, Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Amy Poehler and Jesse McCartney.

Bending the Rules (Comedy, PG-13): Directed by Artie Mandelberg and starring Adam Copeland, Jamie Kennedy, Alicia Witt, Jennifer Esposito and Jessica Walter.

Breaking Wind (Comedy, R): Directed by Craig Moss and starring Heather Ann Davis, Eric Callero, Frank Pacheco, Danny Trejo and Alissa Kramer.

Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (Documentary, R): Directed by Alex Stapleton and starring Roger Corman, Robert De Niro, Quentin Tarantino, Jack Nicholson and Martin Scorsese.

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

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Drama, PG-13): Directed by Stephen Daldry and starring Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Thomas Horn, Max von Sydow and Zoe Caldwell.

The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch (Action, Suspense): Directed by Jerome Salle and starring Tomer Sisley, Kristin Scott Thomas, Miki Manojlovic, Melanie Thierry and Karel Roden.

The Kate Logan Affair (Drama, Not Rated): Directed by Noel Mitrani and starring Alexis Bledel, Laurent Lucas, Rick Mabe, Noemie Godin-Vigneau and Bruce Dinsmore.

The Lazarus Papers (R): Directed by Jeremiah Hundley and starring Danny Trejo, Gary Daniels, Krystal Vee, John Edward Lee and Tommy Lister.

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “Wrath of the Titans,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.”

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 for Wed., March 28, 2012

Temp: 57.0 degrees F (13.9 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 82 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Cloudy, Foggy.

Winds: 0.0 mph (Calm)

Barometric Pressure: 29.68 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.8 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 19.2 inches

Local Weather Alerts: Dense Fog Advisory in effect until 9 a.m. Local Pollen Alert also in effect.

NOTES: Today is the 88th day of 2012 and the 9th day of Spring. There are 278 days left in the year.

And Remember - "A wind in the south has rain in its mouth."

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, March 27, 2012

Recommended books from Alabama Alumni Magazine's Spring 2012 'Bookshelf'

A few days ago, the Spring 2012 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. Kearny’s March: The Epic Creation of the American West, 1846-1847 by Winston Groom

2. Eugene Allen Smith’s Alabama: How a Geologist Shaped a State by Aileen Kilgore Henderson

3. My Work Is That of Conservation by Mark D. Hersey

4. Life and Times of a Wayward Geologist by John Craig Shaw

5. American Leader in War and Peace by W. Gary Nichols

6. Keeping the Faith by Wayne Flynt

7. The Authentic Animal by Dave Madden

8. A Storm Came Up by Doug Segrest

9. W.C. Handy by David Robertson

In case you missed them, books recommended in the Winter 2011 issue included 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

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

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

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 for Tues., March 27, 2012

Temp: 59.0 degrees F (15.0 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 77 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Clear.

Winds: 0.0 mph (Calm)

Barometric Pressure: 29.62 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.8 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 19.2 inches

Local Weather Alerts: Local Pollen Alert in effect.

NOTES: Today is the 87th day of 2012 and the 8th day of Spring. There are 279 days left in the year.

And Remember - "If clouds move against the wind, rain will follow."

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, March 26, 2012

FICTION - The Proof - Part II

As soon as I left the police station, I began to feel that I was being watched or followed. I considered returning to the newspaper office, but I wasn’t in the mood to field what would be at least another hour of questions from my editor. He’d want to turn the whole ordeal into a story for the next edition, and I didn’t like the thought of that one bit.

My house was within walking distance, less than a half mile away, so I struck off in that direction. It was a few minutes after six in the morning. The sun was rising, and the city was starting to wake up. I watched one of The Herald’s delivery trucks round a corner and rumble to a stop alongside a bread truck that was stopped at the red light. Just beyond that, a man in a white apron was setting up chairs at a few restaurant tables on the sidewalk. On the other side of the street, a pretty young jogger headed toward the park.

I saw no one else around, but still couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching me or tailing me to see where I would go or who I might talk to. Had Detective Jones placed a tail on me that fast? If so, where were they? Or was it Bagley’s attacker? Did he know that I’d been given a copy of the photo? Was I being watched by the mysterious subject in the photo?

I stopped and looked the streets over again. All the parked cars that I could see appeared empty, and no one was seated on any of the sidewalk benches within my field of view. Next, I scanned the roofline, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. If anyone was there, they were doing a good job of blending in.

I picked up the pace and took solace in the fact that home was on a few minutes away. On the way there, I checked the plate glass windows that I passed in hope of seeing the reflection of my follower. I passed by an assortment of lawyers offices, antique stores, check-into-cash places and clothing stores, but never saw anything out of the ordinary in the windows set in their storefronts. Was it just nerves? Paranoia? Maybe, maybe not.

I finally found myself at the head of the divided residential street that I lived on, Seminary Boulevard. My house was second on the right as you approach Claiborne Junior High School. I jogged up the street, stopped at the curb and opened my mailbox. I grabbed the handful of envelopes and magazines inside, then crossed my front yard and mounted my porch.

I fished out my keys and turned. From the porch, I had a commanding view of the neighborhood. There was no one in sight, but I was almost overwhelmed by the feeling that I’d been followed. All of my internal bells and whistles were going off, but for the life of me, nothing seemed out of place.

I eventually unlocked the door and stepped inside the house. I closed the door behind me and strained my ears, listening. All was quiet, but I still went through every room. Sure that the house was secure, I jumped into the shower. The hot water made me feel better, but it also made me sleepy. I’d been up all night and although the sun was up, my internal clock told me that it was past time to go to bed.

Before hitting the sack, I plopped into down at my desk and looked through the day’s mail. There’d been six envelopes in the mailbox, and the last one made me sit straight up in my chair. It was a plain, white envelope with no stamp, postmark or address on the outside. It was obvious that someone had made a special trip to put it in my mailbox.

I jammed my finger under the sealed flap and tore the envelope open. It contained a note from Bagley and read as follows.

McMorn,
If you still have the photo that I gave you at Burton Park, burn it at once and forget that I ever showed it to you. It’s for your own good. I’ll explain everything later.
Fraternally,
Bagley

What did this mean, I wondered. Bagley had written it and placed in my mailbox sometime between our meeting at Burton Park and my arrival at home. If that’s the case, whose blood-covered clothes had been found by the police? Why did they contain Bagley’s wallet? What was the big deal about the photo and if it was so important, why had he given it to me in the first place?

The good news was that Bagley wasn’t dead. This is something that Detective Jones would like to know. I reached over and lifted the cordless phone from its charger. I didn’t want to dial 911, so I had to fish around in my middle desk drawer for the Claiborne phone book. I lifted the unwieldy volume onto my desk and paused to think.

If I called Jones, what good would come of it? He was probably at home in bed by now, and I’d been up for over 24 hours myself. More than likely, I’d get his fresh and lively dayshift counterpart on the phone, and the end result would be more sleep deprivation for myself. More than likely, they’d send a black and white by the house to escort me back to Metro. Then they’d grill me about the letter, and I’d probably still be sitting in the interrogation room when Jones came back on shift.

Thanks, but no thanks. Bagley was a big boy and despite what people thought about him, he’s smarter than most. He could take care of himself for at least another eight hours. Hell, knowing him, he was asleep somewhere as well.

I took another long look at Bagley’s note before crumpling it in my fist. I gathered up the blank envelope it came in, grabbed the cigarette lighter from my desk drawer and walked to the fireplace. Once done, it was the kind of thing you can’t take back. With that thought in mind, I struck the lighter, ignited the bundle of papers and cast it all into the fireplace.

I stood there for many long moments and watched the paper whither in the flames. In half a minute it was gone, and I was well aware that I may have destroyed something important. Bagley may or may not be out there in the world somewhere, and whatever link that letter may have held to him had died in that small flame.

I yawned and stretched. I knew that as soon as I hit the bed I’d be out like a light. I walked out of my study and flipped off the light as I closed the door. I entered my bedroom and got into bed. Something didn’t feel right, but I was too tired to think much about it. I felt certain that I was alone in the house and safe despite the fact that I didn’t have a security system.

It was a few minutes after eight o’clock, so I set the alarm on my wristwatch for four in the afternoon. After a good day’s sleep, I’d be in the right frame of mind to deal with the Bagley situation. What that thought, I drifted off to sleep.

I have to admit that my sleep was not peaceful. It was filled with dreams, but I can only remember one of them. It was night, the house was dark and I wasn’t a grown up anymore, but a child of about nine. I even had on my old pajamas, the pair that my subconscious mind remembered had been made from a pattern of footballs and baseballs.

I was alone in the house and barefooted. The hardwood floors were cold on my feet. I stepped out of my little boy bedroom and into the hall. The corridor was dark, but was dimly illuminated by a shaft of pale moonlight that shown through the window of our front door, which was just out of sight around the corner.

Just then something stepped around the corner, and I froze in terror. It was a man-thing, dressed in a long overcoat and wearing a hat, like a fedora, which cast a long shadow down over his face. His appearance was such a shock to me that I awoke in my present day bed in Claiborne, a full-grown man again, drenched in bed sweat, my heart pounding in my chest.

I was certain that a noise had awoken me, and I lay there motionless for what seemed like a long time. It was then that I heard it, a sound that someone who hadn’t lived in the house for years wouldn’t have even noticed, the sound of a foot shifting its weight on a panel of the hardwood floor just outside my bedroom door.

(All rights reserved. This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.)

Yesterday's News from The Evergreen Courant for March 26, 2012

TWO YEARS AGO
MARCH 25, 2010

“Randy Brock has announced that he has qualified as a candidate for the office of Sheriff of Conecuh County in the upcoming June Democratic primary.”

“David ‘Mooke’ Thomas of Evergreen announced last Thursday that he has qualified to seek re-election to the District 4 seat of the Conecuh County Board of Education.”

“The Alabama Supreme Court handed down a decision last Friday morning in the year and a half long dispute over the City of Evergreen’s mayoral election between Pete Wolff III and Larry Fluker. The justices affirmed the decision rendered by Judge Edward McDermott on Aug. 24, 2009 that Pete Wolff was duly elected as the Mayor of Evergreen.
“The justices’ decision was a unanimous 8 to 0 with Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb recusing herself from the matter. The entire community believed the issue was settled and Appeals Court Judge Sam Welch gave Wolff the oath of office on the steps of Evergreen City Hall at approximately 3:45 Friday afternoon.
“It was later determined that Mayor Larry Fluker has the option of filing an Application for Rehearing with the court. Fluker’s attorney, Collins Pettaway, notified City Attorney Terry Davis that he intends to file that application before the deadline of April 2.
“If Pettaway does not file the application a Certificate of Judgement will be issued by the Supreme Court and Wolff will rightfully be the mayor.

17 YEARS AGO
MARCH 23, 1995

“Finalists in the 1995 Miss Alpha Pageant of Sparta Academy held Sat., March 11, in the school gym were Landra Padgett, daughter of Linda Padgett and Lyndon Padgett, second alternate; Joy’l Lowman, daughter of James Lowman and Mr. and Mrs. James Baggett, 1995 Miss Alpha and Miss Congeniality; Aundria Griffin, daughter of Debra Griffin and Sawyer Griffin, first alternate; and Janet Kendrick, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Kendrick, third alternate.”

“Tim Covin, brother of the late Tracy Covin, presented the first Tracy Covin Memorial Showmanship Award to Shannon Ballard, the top senior showman. The memorial award will be given each year in honor of Tracy who was a dedicated participant and former grand champion exhibitor in the steer show.”

“Clint Casey exhibited the grand champion at the Golden Anniversary Conecuh County 4-H and FFA Steer Show held Monday morning. His steer was purchased by Farmers Cooperative of Frisco City and Steve Lawson. They paid $1.25 per pound for the steer.”

“The front window of Brantley’s True Value was broken out with a brick sometime early Thursday morning last week. The person or persons took several batteries from the display in the front of the store. The incident is under investigation by the Evergreen Police Department.”

32 YEARS AGO
MARCH 27, 1980

“What? Ole Earl getting mellow?: I have heard the saying all of my life that people get ‘mellow’ as they get older… but, never have associated the saying with The Courant’s sometimes caustic weatherman, Earl Windham. However, even ‘Ole Earl’ seems subject to the mellowing process, if one can judge by the comments he made with the weekly weather report.
“Mr. Windham said: ‘Well, I hope all of you are doing fine. We may never cure poverty, but with prices and taxes the way they are, we’re sure going to cure wealth.’
“Windham reports 1.93 inches of rain on March 17, .11 on March 19 and .65 on March 20.”

“Members of the Board of Trustees of the Evergreen-Conecuh County Public Library have been announced by the Evergreen City Council and the Conecuh County Commission.
“The Library Board elects its own officers and has chosen to re-elect Mrs. William D. (Nancy) Melton as chairman. Vice Chairman is Mrs. Knud (Connie) Nielsen Jr. and Mrs. Byron (Lucy) Warren is secretary-treasurer.
“Other board members and their individual responsibilities are: Mrs. L.W. (Jean) Price Jr., chairman of Memorial Brooks, and Mrs. Virginia Smith Rankins, chairman of Audio-Visual Aids.
“The Library Board is looking forward to moving into the beautiful new library building in May.”

“Mrs. Flora Zellers Peacock, 73, of Liberty Hill Drive, Evergreen, died on Mon., March 24, in a local hospital.”

47 YEARS AGO
MARCH 25, 1965

“News that will be welcomed by the people of this area is the announcement that Marcus J. O’Gwynn has withdrawn his resignation and will return as principal of the Evergreen City School.
“O’Gwynn had tendered his resignation the last of February to accept the position of city superintendent in Atmore.”

“The 20th Annual Conecuh County Fat Calf Show will be held here on Mon., April 19, it is announced today. The show will be in the show ring at Conecuh Cooperative Stockyard.”

“A fire that started in the oven of a gas stove did considerable damage to the Kelley Smith residence on Liberty Hill Drive around 11 o’clock Saturday morning.
“Mrs. Smith was at home when the fire started while her husband was in town. He said that there was a good deal of damage, especially to electric wires which left them without electrical service in part of the house. The blaze also burned through the roof in one place.
“Mr. and Mrs. Smith praised the members of the Evergreen Volunteer Fire Department who answered the alarm promptly. They said not only did the firemen do an excellent job of controlling the blaze, but also were very careful to keep water damage to a minimum.”

“Burglars broke into a local store and the Evergreen High School lunchroom this week, according to Sheriff James Brock who is investigating both break-ins.

62 YEARS AGO
MARCH 23, 1950

“The Evergreen High School Glee Club has been recommended to attend the State Music Festival at Auburn April 20, 21 and 22. The recommendation followed the fine showing of the Evergreen choral group at the district Music Festival in Troy last week.
“Frank Wilkerson, director, states that his group of 58 young singers will definitely go to the Auburn meet.”

“As part of a 12-week training and school program the Evergreen Volunteer Fire Department will hold fire drills on some Wednesday and Friday nights.
“Citizens are warned not to become overly excited if they hear a lot of whistle and siren blowing on either Wednesday or Friday nights – chances are it will only be the firemen going through a drill.”

“Coker Service Store, operated by W. Stanton Coker, has completed an addition to its building on South West Front Street (Highway 31) and announces this week a new service to be operated there.
“H.I. (Hub) Mellinger will operate an engine tune-up and ignition service department in this building.”

“Better look before you park. That’s what Evergreen motorists were learning early this week as the city began enforcing the one-hour parking limits in parking areas in front of stores. Police Chief Harry Riley told a Courant reporter at 2:30 Wednesday afternoon that he had issued some 23 tickets for parking overtime since Monday morning when regulations went into effect.”

Daily Weather Observations for Mon., March 26, 2012

Temp: 57.0 degrees F (13.9 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 81 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Clear.

Winds: 0.0 mph (Calm)

Barometric Pressure: 29.57 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.8 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 19.2 inches

Local Weather Alerts: Local Pollen Alert in effect.

NOTES: Today is the 86th day of 2012 and the 7th day of Spring. There are 280 days left in the year.

And Remember - "If birds fly low, expect rain and a blow."

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, March 25, 2012

New 'Star Wars' novel debuts at No. 2 on best-sellers list this week

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.

"Lone Wolf" by Jodi Picoult replaced "The Thief" by Clive Cussler & Justin Scott as the No. 1 book on the hardcover fiction best-sellers list.

"American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History" by Chris Kyle, Jim DeFelice and Scott McEwen remained the top book on the hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list.

"The Lucky One" by Nicholas Sparks retained its place as the top book on the mass market paperback best-sellers list.

"Fifty Shades of Grey" by E.L. James remained the No. 1 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 "Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi, Apocalypse" by Troy Denning (2), "Monday Mornings" by Sanjay Gupta, M.D. (12) and "Another Piece of My Heart" by Jane Green (15).

There are six books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier" by Ree Drummond (2), "Better than Normal" by Dale Archer, M.D. (8), "Dying to Be Me" by Anita Moorjani (9), "The Righteous Mind" by Jonathan Haidt (10), "Thought Revolution" by William R. Donius (12) and "The 17 Day Diet" by Dr. Mike Moreno (15).

There are three books on this week’s mass market paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on that list last week. They include "A Clash of Kings" by George R.R. Martin (7), "A Storm of Swords" by George R.R. Martin (13) and "44 Charles Street" by Danielle Steel (15).

There are two books on this week’s trade paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "The Harbinger" by Jonathan Cahn (7) and "A Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin (13).

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. "Lone Wolf" by Jodi Picoult
2. "Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi, Apocalypse" by Troy Denning
3. "Kill Shot" by Vince Flynn
4. "The Thief" by Clive Cussler & Justin Scott
5. "Private Games" by James Patterson, Mark Sullivan
6. "Defending Jacob" by William Landay
7. "Victims" by Jonathan Kellerman
8. "The Expats" by Chris Pavone
9. "The Wolf Gift" by Anne Rice
10. "Fair Game" by Patricia Briggs
11. "A Dance with Dragons" by George R.R. Martin
12. "Monday Mornings" by Sanjay Gupta, M.D.
13. "Celebrity in Death" by J.D. Robb
14. "A Rising Thunder" by David Weber
15. "Another Piece of My Heart" by Jane Green

HARDCOVER NONFICTION
1. "American Sniper" by Chris Kyle, Jim DeFelice and Scott McEwen
2. "The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier" by Ree Drummond
3. "Killing Lincoln" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
4. "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg
5. "The Blood Sugar Solution" by Mark Hyman, M.D.
6. "Steve Jobs: A Biography" by Walter Isaacson
7. "Wishes Fulfilled" by Wayne W. Dyer
8. "Better than Normal" by Dale Archer, M.D.
9. "Dying to Be Me" by Anita Moorjani
10. "The Righteous Mind" by Jonathan Haidt
11. "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand
12. "Thought Revolution" by William R. Donius
13. "Quiet" by Susan Cain
14. "Bringing Up Bebe" by Pamela Druckerman
15. "The 17 Day Diet" by Dr. Mike Moreno

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS
1. "The Lucky One" by Nicholas Sparks
2. "The Sixth Man" by David Baldacci
3. "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" by Stieg Larsson
4. "Live Wire" by Harlan Coben
5. "A Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin
6. "New York to Dallas" by J.D. Robb
7. "A Clash of Kings" by George R.R. Martin
8. "The Jungle" by Clive Cussler with Jack Du Brul
9. "Redwood Bend" by Robyn Carr
10. "Love You More" by Lisa Gardner
11. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson
12. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
13. "A Storm of Swords" by George R.R. Martin
14. "Portrait of a Spy" by Daniel Silva
15. "44 Charles Street" by Danielle Steel

TRADE PAPERBACKS
1. "Fifty Shades of Grey" by E.L. James
2. "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" by Stieg Larsson
3. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett
4. "Heaven is for Real" by Todd Burpo, Sonja Burpo, Colton Burpo and Lynn Vincent
5. "The Vow" by Kim & Krickitt Carpenter with Dana Wilkerson
6. "The Lucky One" by Nicholas Sparks
7. "The Harbinger" by Jonathan Cahn
8. "Bossypants" by Tina Fey
9. "The Tiger's Wife: A Novel" by Tea Obreht
10. "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot
11. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
12. "Moonwalking with Einstein" by Joshua Foer
13. "A Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin
14. "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer
15. "Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey" by The Countess of Carnarvon

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 for Sun., March 25, 2012

Temp: 56.8 degrees F (13.8 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 74 percent (Normal)

Conditions: Clear.

Winds: Winds out of the North-Northwest at 0.1 mph (Calm)

Barometric Pressure: 29.47 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 4.7 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.8 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 19.2 inches

Local Weather Alerts: Local Pollen Alert in effect.

NOTES: Today is the 85th day of 2012 and the sixth day of Spring. There are 281 days left in the year.

And Remember - "Evening red and morning gray, two sure signs of one fine day."

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, March 24, 2012

What would Edgar Rice Burroughs have thought of the 'John Carter' movie?

My wife and I traveled to Spanish Fort last Saturday and watched the recently released Disney movie, “John Carter.” I went in expecting to enjoy this science fiction movie and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was even better than I thought it would be.

Released on March 9, the movie was directed by Andrew Stanton and starred Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy and Willem Dafoe.

For those of you who haven’t seen “John Carter,” I would describe it as a mash up of “Star Wars” and “Avatar.” As you might have guessed already, the main character is named “John Carter.” He’s a rough and tough former Confederate cavalry officer, who, while prospecting for gold, is accidentally transported to Mars.

On this version of Mars, the red planet has breathable air, and its low gravity gives Carter superhuman strength and agility. Immediately upon his arrival, Carter finds himself in the middle of a war between three rival groups. He also falls for a beautiful Martian princess, who is about to enter into an arraigned marriage with a super villain in hopes of bringing peace to her planet. I’ll stop right there to avoid spoiling the movie for those of you who haven’t seen it.

The main reason I wanted to see the movie was because it’s based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel, “A Princess of Mars,” which was published in 1917. Burroughs died in 1950, and “A Princess of Mars” was one of 11 novels in what is known as his “Barsoom” series. The complete list of books in the series is as follows:

1. A Princess of Mars (1917)
2. The Gods of Mars (1918)
3. The Warlord of Mars (1919)
4. Thuvia, Maid of Mars (1920)
5. The Chessmen of Mars (1922)
6. The Master Mind of Mars (1928)
7. A Fighting Man of Mars (1931)
8. Sword of Mars (1936)
9. Synthetic Men of Mars (1940)
10. Llana of Gathol (1948)
11. John Carter of Mars (1964)

Burroughs is arguably best known for being the creator of the fictional jungle hero, Tarzan. In addition to his Barsoom series, he wrote 27 novels in his Tarzan series as well as 43 other novels. I thought it was cool that Burroughs was actually a character in the “John Carter” movie. Played by actor Daryl Sabara, this fictionalized version of Burroughs is Carter’s nephew, who plays an important part in the movie. I wonder what Burroughs would have thought of that.

For those of you who enjoyed “John Carter,” you’ll be pleased to hear that there is talk of a sequel and possibly a third movie as well. The second movie will supposedly be based on Burroughs’ second Barsoom novel, “The Gods of Mars.”

In the end, how many of you have seen “John Carter”? What did you think about it? Did you like it or dislike it? Why? How many of you are fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs? Which of his books is your personal favorite and why? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations for Sat., March 24, 2012

Temp: 62.8 degrees F (17.1 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.1 inches.

Humidity: 82 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Partly Cloudy with patches of light, low fog in the distance.

Winds: 0.0 mph (Calm)

Barometric Pressure: 29.48 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 4.7 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.8 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 19.2 inches

Local Weather Alerts: Local Pollen Alert in effect.

NOTES: Fifth day of Spring.

And Remember - "When the dew is on the grass, rain will never come to pass."

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, March 23, 2012

Evergreen native Cam Baker releases new book, 'Writer Without a Cause'

Cam Baker dropped a copy of his new book off at the office last week, and I’m sure that more than a few of our readers will find it interesting to read.

Many of you will know Cam. He grew up in Evergreen, attended Sparta Academy and went on to attend the Alabama School of Math and Science in Mobile. I first got to know Cam when he became the editor of The South Alabama News here in Evergreen. He now lives in Greenville.

Cam’s new book came out on Feb. 11, and it’s titled “Writer Without a Cause: An Urban Survival Guide to Pass Along Culture and to Bequeath Thought and Decrepitude in the Face of Daily Death.” The book’s 116 pages long, and it’s a quick read.

When I first talked to Cam about the book, he said that it was partly an homage to the late, great Hunter S. Thompson. For those of you unfamiliar with Thompson, he was a journalist and author who is considered to be the “Father of Gonzo Journalism.” Gonzo journalism is a “style of reporting where reporters involve themselves in the action to such a degree that they become central figures of their stories.”

Thompson is arguably most famous for his 1971 book “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” which was adapted into a movie in 1998 that starred Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro. Almost all of Thompson’s stories prominently feature alcohol, drugs, guns, theft, gambling and other assorted bad behaviors. With that said, most Thompson experts agree that he largely exaggerated the experiences in his stories for shock value and to promote readership. Thompson committed suicide in 2005. He was 67 years old.

Cam’s book does read like a good Thompson story, and there were more than a few stories between its covers that I found interesting. One of the funniest stories in the book was about the time that he decided to quit his job at a telemarketing outfit in Pensacola. Rather than follow the old, turn in a two-week notice routine, Cam shows up on his final day wearing a full-sized chicken costume. It sounded like he made that day one that his coworkers won’t soon forget.

As I mentioned earlier, I first got to know Cam when he worked at The South Alabama News, so I was especially interested by the parts of the book that talked about his time as that paper’s editor. He entertainingly discusses his efforts to meet deadlines while covering events in Conecuh and Butler counties while dealing with a wide variety of humorous complications.

Before I close this thing out, I feel like I should say that this book might not be for everybody. True to the style of Thompson, it does contain profanity, adult content and material that some readers might find objectionable. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

In the end, if you’re interested in reading a copy of Cam’s book, you can buy in on Amazon.com for $10 a copy.

Daily Weather Observations for Fri., March 23, 2012

Temp: 69.6 degrees F (20.9 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 4.6 inches.

Humidity: 85 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Raining and cloudy. Also lightining.

Winds: Winds out of the South at 1.5 mph (Light Air)

Barometric Pressure: 29.55 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 4.6 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.7 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 19.1 inches

Local Weather Alerts: Flash Flood Watch in effect until 2 p.m. Local pollen alert also in effect.

NOTES: Fourth day of Spring. Security light still on.

And Remember - "If salt is sticky and gains in weight, it will rain before too late."

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, March 22, 2012

The Evergreen Courant's Sports Flashback for March 22, 2012

TWO YEARS AGO
MARCH 25, 2010

“The Sparta Academy Lady Warriors varsity and junior varsity softball squads recorded their first wins of the season last Friday in Jackson against the Lady Eagles of Jackson Academy.
“Miranda Smith took the win on the mound going seven innings while giving up three runs (one earned) on six hits, striking out five and walking one. Sally Matlock went two for three with a double, two runs scored and an RBI.”

“The Hillcrest Lady Jaguars record improved to 4-6 after last week’s play, including a 3-0 win over W.S. Neal in Brewton.
“Victoria Walden, coming off an injury, pitched a complete game against Neal on Thursday. Walden also added a hit during the game to contribute to the Lady Jags win.
“T’kiya Pittman had one hit, one RBI and scored one run in the Neal effort.”

“Kyantrae Lewis banded out two doubles and scored to lead the Hillcrest High School Jaguars in scoring in their game last Thursday, March 18, against the Monroe County High School Tigers.
“Trey Salter also had two doubles for the Jags and scored two runs. Justin Nared had one double and scored a run, and Quentin Simpson had one hit and scored one run.
“Simpson started the game for the Jags and pitched into the fourth inning. He racked up three strike outs in his pitching efforts.
“Tevin Buchanan came in to relieve Simpson and closed out the game with four strike outs.”

17 YEARS AGO
MARCH 23, 1995

“Coach Richard Brown of Evergreen was recently inducted into the Florida Community College Basketball Hall of Fame.
“Coach Brown served seven years at North Florida Junior College as Athletic Director and Men’s Basketball Coach.
“His team averaged over 100 points per game for seven consecutive years (before three-point play). His team was No. 1 in the nation offensively, averaging 114.9 points per game. His 1972 team set a national all-time scoring record, averaging 115.3 points per game, which still stands. Offensively, his team was nationally ranked No. 2 for two seasons, No. 3 for one season and No. 4 and No. 5 for one season.
“Brown was named Florida Junior College Coach of the Year (Men) in 1966. He later took his expertise to the Alabama Southern Community College women’s program in Monroeville, where he earned state Coach of the Year honors in 1990, Southern Division.
“His women’s team was third in the nation offensively, averaging 96.3 points per game in 1990. Ninety-six percent of his college players graduated, 53 of his high school and junior college players went to 33 four-year colleges on scholarship, and 29 former players went into coaching in seven different states.
“Brown has also coached on the high school level at Madison, Lee and Sparta Academy. He was Coach of the Year in three sports in Alabama and Florida at the Conference-Division level (football, basketball and track in high school). He has had two state championships in track, in 1976 and 1977, while coaching the Sparta Academy girls track team.”

32 YEARS AGO
MARCH 27, 1980

“Charles Kast was among the turkey hunters who managed to get a gobbler on the opening day of the season, March 20. This trophy ‘Tom’ weighed 18 pounds and had a 10-1/4 inch beard.”

“Ezra Dees has to go to work early at Vanity Fair in Monroeville, but that didn’t keep the veteran turkey hunter from killing this gobbler last Thursday, the opening day of the season. This ‘Tom’ weighed 17 pounds and had a nine-inch beard.”

“Glen Wilson of McKenzie said he didn’t want his friend Edgar Tatum to get ‘bid-headed’ about winning a field trial event, so he brought his female pointer, ‘Mitchell’s Dixie Bell,’ by to have her picture made. Glen’s ‘Dixie Bell’ won first place in the Northwest Florida Pointer and Setter Club’s Field Trials held March 15 and 16 at the Blackwater State Field Trial Area in Munson, Fla. .There were 53 pointers and setters competing.”

“Terry Frierson got the jump on his friend, Eddie Salter, when he bagged this fine gobbler last Thursday, first day of the season. The ‘Tom’ weighed 17-7/8 pounds and had a 9-1/2 inch beard.”

“There will be an organizational meeting of the Evergreen Junior Baseball League on Monday night, March 31, at seven o’clock at the Evergreen City Hall. All persons interested in helping with the baseball program for youngsters as coaches, managers, umpires, etc. are asked to attend the meeting.”

47 YEARS AGO
MARCH 25, 1965

“John Lowrey holds the trophy he was presented recently as the outstanding back on the Bibb County High School of Centreville team in 1964. The selection was made by the Bibb County Quarterback Club. John started his successful football career as an Evergreen Aggie before his parents moved to Centreville. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. J.F.B. Lowrey Jr. (Buck and Betty).”

“The Evergreen High football stars have linked grant-in-aids with the University of Chattanooga in Chattanooga, Tenn. Alvin Dees and Scott Cook have accepted one-year grants with Coach Scrappy Moore’s Mocassins.
“Cook was the starting quarterback with the Aggies for three years. His play his senior season was limited due to a knee injury suffered early in the season.
“Dees was the outstanding lineman on the local club for the past two seasons. He earned a first team berth on the Birmingham Post’s AA All-State squad in 1963 and 1964. He played tackle and linebacker and was in on most of the tackles for the Aggies.
“The two players and Coach John Law Robinson went to Chattanooga over the weekend, where they boys were signed after a tryout.”

“The beautiful, pine tree-lined fairways of the Evergreen Golf Club will once again be the site of one of South Alabama’s more popular one-day invitational tournaments on Thurs., April 8.
“Some of the area’s better golfers are expected to be here to seek the championship.”

62 YEARS AGO
MARCH 23, 1950

“J.B. Andrews Kills Big Turkey Wednesday: J.B. Andrews, local jeweler, brought home a large turkey Wednesday morning. The gobbler, which Mr. Andrews states never did gobble, weighed 17 pounds and had an 11-inch beard. This was the first turkey to be killed in the county that The Courant has heard of, and it was a nice one.
“Mr. Andrews brought his turkey by The Courant office about 8:30 Wednesday morning. He said that he killed one about the same size last Spring.”

“The Evergreen High School Aggies entered their final week of spring football practice yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon with a heavy scrimmage session. There were about 28 boys on hand going through the spirited ‘knocking’ session.
“Coach Wendell Hart had two backfield units working. One, which may be the starting four next year, had Gillis (Red) Morgan at quarter, Billy Mudge Lee at left half, Ed Hooks at fullback and Bobby (Pistol Pete) Wells and Donahue Edson alternating at right half. The other group had Morgan at quarter, Shirley Frazier at left half, Ward Alexander at full and Gwyn Daniels and John Henry (Gone With The Wind) Brantley alternating at right half.
“Up front Coach John Lockwood had about settled on a group of starters with Capt. Jeff Moorer anchoring the middle at center. Max Pope and Shelton Craig are at the guards and Douglas Potts and Jack Robinson at the tackles. Franklin Williamson had one end and Cleve Robinson and William Stewart are still fighting for the other.”

Look for Kentucky to win it all in the NCAA finals on April 2

The first two rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament are over, and 16 teams are left to battle it out for the national championship.

Teams left to compete in the third round today (Thursday) and tomorrow (Friday) include Baylor (29-7), Cincinnati (26-10), Florida (25-10), Indiana (27-8), Kansas (29-6), Kentucky (34-2), Louisville (28-9), Marquette (27-7), Michigan State (29-7), N.C. State (24-12), North Carolina (31-5), Ohio (29-7), Ohio State (29-7), Syracuse (33-2), Wisconsin (26-9) and Xavier (23-12).

I look for Syracuse, Ohio State, Kentucky, Baylor, North Carolina, Kansas, Michigan State and Marquette to play their way into the Elite Eight.

Teams that I expect to see in the Final Four include Syracuse, Kentucky, North Carolina and Michigan State.

I look for Syracuse to edge by North Carolina and for Kentucky to beat Michigan State in the semifinal round on March 31. This would set up a showdown between Syracuse and Kentucky in the national title game.

Kentucky and Syracuse will be pretty evenly matched, so the big game may be one to remember. In the end, I look for Kentucky to win it all in a very close game.

Of course, we’ll have to wait nearly two weeks to find out because the national title game won’t be played until Mon., April 2, which will leave us plenty of time to debate the outcome.

----- 0 -----


Twelve major contributors to prep athletics were inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame on Monday night.

That’s a great honor, and it’s nice to see those who have worked so hard to be recognized for their accomplishments.

I’ve always thought that the late Wendell Hart would make a fine addition to the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. The selection committee always recognizes someone each year for the Hall’s “old timer” category. This year’s old timer selectee was Roy Knapp, who coach high school football from 1939 to 1981 at schools in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Hart’s sports life in Conecuh County spanned decades. Anyone who’s read our regular Sports Flashback feature over the past several years will have seen that Hart was not only a successful football, basketball and baseball coach, but he also excelled in those sports as a player.

Hart touched many lives, and there are still many of Hart’s former players and teammates in the community and elsewhere who have fond memories of Hart.

With that said, I am also sure that we also have a future hall of famer in our midst as well – current Hillcrest High School athletics director and head football coach, Larry Boykin.

When Boykin came to Hillcrest two years ago he was already one of the most successful prep football coaches in the state’s history, and his impact on Hillcrest’s football program was immediate. His resume features a long list of noteworthy and outstanding accomplishments, and he’ll be a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame when his time comes.

Daily Weather Observations for Thurs., March 22, 2012

Temp: 67.1 degrees F (19.5 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 83 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Cloudy.

Winds: Winds out of the Southeast at 6.7 mph (Light Breeze)

Barometric Pressure: 29.53 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 2.1 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 14.5 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTES: Third day of Spring. New moon.

And Remember - "When the sun shines while raining, it will rain again the same time tomorrow."

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, March 21, 2012

This week's movie picks are 'The Hunger Games' and 'Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy'

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:

4:44 Last Day on Earth (Science Fiction, Drama): Directed by Abel Ferrara and starring Willem Dafoe, Paz de la Huerta, Natasha Lyonne, Shanyn Leigh and Paul Hipp.

Brake (Suspense, Action): Directed by Gabe Torres and starring Stephen Dorff, Chyler Leigh, J.R. Bourne, Tom Berenger and Bobby Tomberlin.

The Deep Blue Sea (Drama, Romance, R): Directed by Terence Davies and starring Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston, Simon Russel Beale, Ann Mitchell and Harry Hadden-Paton.

The Hunger Games (Action, Family, PG-13): Directed by Gary Ross and starring Jennifer Lawrence, Willow Shields, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson and Woody Harrelson.

Musical Chairs (Drama, Romance, PG-13): Directed by Susan Seidelman and starring Leah Pipes, E.J. Bonilla, Priscilla Lopez, Jaime Tirelli and Laverne Cox.

October Baby (Drama, PG-13): Directed by Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin and starring Rachel Hendrix, Jason Burkey, John Schneider, Jasmine Guy and Robert Amaya.

The Raid: Redemption (Action, R): Directed by Gareth Evans and starring Iko Uwais, Doni Alamsyah, Ananda George, Pierre Gruno and Yayan Ruhian.

The Trouble With Bliss (Drama, Comedy): Directed by Michael Knowles and starring Michael C. Hall, Brie Larson, Lucy Liu, Peter Fonda and Chris Messina.

New DVD releases for the week of March 20 include:

Carnage (Comedy, Drama, R): Directed by Roman Polanski and starring Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly and Elvis Polanski.

Creature (Horror, R): Directed by Fred Andrews and starring Serinda Swan, Mehcad Brooks, Sid Haig, Pruitt Taylor Vince and Rebekah Kennedy.

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

Hop (Comedy, Family, PG): Directed by Tim Hill and starring Russell Brand, James Marsden, Kaley Cuoco, Elizabeth Perkins and Hank Azaria.

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

A Lonely Place to Die (Action, Suspense): Directed by Julian Gilbey and starring Melissa George, Ed Speleers, Sean Harris, Karl Roden and Alec Newman.

The Muppets (Comedy, Family, PG): Directed by James Bobin and starring Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones and Zach Galifianakis.

The Sitter (Comedy, R): Directed by David Gordon Green and starring Jonah Hill, Max Records, Landry Bender, Kevin Hernandez and Ari Graynor.

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

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Suspense, Drama, R): Directed by Tomas Alfredson and starring Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Ciaran Hinds.

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “The Hunger Games,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy.”

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 for Wed., March 21, 2012

Temp: 62.2 degrees F (16.8 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 75 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Mostly Cloudy.

Winds: Winds out of the East at 0.1 mph (Calm)

Barometric Pressure: 29.56 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 2.1 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 14.5 inches

Local Weather Alerts: Local pollen alert also in effect.

NOTES: Second day of Spring.

And Remember - "When down the chimney falls the soot, mud will soon be underfoot."

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, March 20, 2012

2012 Bancroft Prize winners for American History writing announced

Book lovers in the reading audience will be interested to hear that this year’s slate of Bancroft Prize winners have been announced.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Bancroft Prize, it is given each year by Columbia University to recognize outstanding books on American history or diplomacy. First awarded in 1948, the Bancroft Prize is generally considered to be one of the most prestigious awards in American history writing.

According to Columbia University’s website, “winners are judged in terms of the scope, significance, depth of research and richness of interpretation they present in the areas of American History and Diplomacy.”

If you enjoy American history, you can bet that if a book has won the Bancroft Prize, it’s pretty good and definitely worth reading.

This year’s winners were:

- “Empires, Nations and Families: A History of the North American West, 1800-1860” by Anne F. Hyde

- “Age of Fracture” by Daniel T. Rodgers

- “Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement” by Tomiko Brown-Nagin

Over 175 books published in 2011 were nominated for the 2012 Bancroft Prize.

As you might imagine, a number of outstanding American History books have received the Bancroft Prize over the years. What follows is a complete list of the all-time winners.

1948:
“Ordeal of the Union” by Allan Nevins
“Across the Wide Missouri” by Bernard DeVoto

1949:
“Roosevelt and Hopkins” by Robert E. Sherwood
“The Rising Sun in the Pacific” by Samuel E. Morison

1950:
“The Great War for the Empire: Volume VII, The Victorious Year, 1758-1760” by Lawrence H. Gipson
“Coronado” by Herbert E. Bolton

1951:
“Our More Perfect Union” by Arthur N. Holcombe
“Virgin Land” by Henry N. Smith

1952:
“Charles Evans Hughes” by Merlo J. Pusey
“Origins of the New South, 1877-1913” by C. Vann Woodward

1953:
“The Era of Good Feelings” by George Dangerfield
“Rendezvous with Destiny” by Eric F. Goldman

1954:
“Seedtime of the Republic” by Clinton Rossiter
“The Undeclared War” by William L. Langer and S. Everett Gleason

1955:
“Great River, The Rio Grande” by Paul Horgan
“The Jacksonians” by Leonard D. White

1956:
“Henry Adams” by Elizabeth Stevenson
“Last Full Measure: Lincoln the President” by J.G. Randall and Richard N. Current

1957:
“Russia Leaves the War” by George F. Kennan
“Wilson: The New Freedom” by Arthur S. Link

1958:
“The Crisis of the Old Order” by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.
“The History of American Magazines, Vol. IV” by Frank Luther Mott

1959:
“Henry Adams, The Middle Years” by Ernest Samuels
“The Colonial Experience” by Daniel J. Boorstin

1960:
“The Age of the Democratic Revolution: A Political History of Europe and America, 1760-1800” by R.R. Palmer
“In the Days of McKinley” by Margaret Leech

1961:
“The Jefferson Image In the American Mind” by Merrill D. Peterson
“Wilson: The Struggle for Neutrality, 1914-1915” by Arthur S. Link

1962:
“The Transformation of the School” by Lawrence A. Cremin
“To the Farewell Address: Ideas of Early American Foreign Policy” by Felix Gilbert
“Charles Francis Adams, 1807-1866” by Martin B. Duberman

1963:
“John Adams” by Page Smith
“Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision” by Roberta Wohlstetter
“The Might of Nations: World Politics in Our Time” by John G. Stoessinger

1964:
“Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1940” by William E. Leuchtenburg
“The Liberator: William Lloyd Garrison” by John L. Thomas
“Power, Freedom and Diplomacy: The Foreign Policy of the United States of America” by Paul Seabury

1965:
“Castlereagh and Adams: England and the United States, 1812-1823” by Bradford Perkins
“Portrait of a General: Sir Henry Clinton in the War of Independence” by William B. Willcox
“The United States and the Far Eastern Crisis of 1933-1938” by Dorothy Borg

1966:
“The Peacemakers: The Great Powers and American Independence” by Richard B. Morris
“Between Two Empires: The Ordeal of the Philippines, 1929-1946” by Theodore W. Friend III

1967:
“Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, 1816-1836, Vol. II” by Charles Sellers
“The Washington Community, 1800-1828” by James Sterling Young

1968:
“A History of Negro Education in the South from 1619 to the Present” by Henry Allen Bullock
“From Puritan to Yankee: Character and Social Order in Connecticut, 1690-1765” by Richard L. Bushman
“The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution” by Bernard Bailyn

1969:
“White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812” by Winthrop D. Jordan
“Woodrow Wilson and World Politics: America’s Response to War and Revolution” by N. Gordon Levin Jr.
“The Brains Trust” by Rexford Guy Tugwell

1970:
“Charles Wilson Peale” by Charles Coleman Sellers
“The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787” by Gordon S. Wood
“Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South” by Dan T. Carter

1971:
“The Image Empire: A History of Broadcasting in the United States, Vol. III – From 1953” by Erik Barnouw
“Birth Control in America: The Career of Margaret Sanger” by David M. Kennedy
“Andrew Carnegie” by Joseph Frazier Wall

1972:
“Neither Black Nor White” by Carl N. Degler
“The Mathers: Three Generations of Puritan Intellectuals, 1596-1728” by Robert Middlekauff
“The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages” by Sameul Eliot Morison

1973:
“Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam” by Frances FitzGerald
“The United States and the Origins of the Cold War” by John Lewis Gaddis
“Booker T. Washington” by Louis R. Harlan

1974:
“Frederick Jackson Turner: Historian, Scholar, Teacher” by Ray Allen Billington
“The Devil and John Foster Dulles” by Townsend Hoopes
“The Other Bostonians: Poverty and Progress in the American Metropolis, 1880-1970” by Stephan Thernstrom

1975:
“Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery” and “Time On the Cross: Evidence and Methods – A Supplement” by Robert William Fogel
“Deterrence in American Foreign Policy: Theory and Practice” by Alexander L. George and Richard Smoke
“Roll, Jordan, Roll” by Eugene Genovese

1976:
“The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770-1823” by David Rion Davis
“Edith Wharton: A Biography” by R.W.B. Lewis

1977:
“Class and Community: The Industrial Revolution in Lynn” by Alan Dawley
“The Minutemen and Their World” by Robert A. Gross
“Slave Population and Economy in Jamaica, 1807-1834” by Barry W. Higman

1978:
“The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business” by Alfred D. Chandler Jr.
“The Transformation of American Law, 1780-1860” by Morton J. Horwitz

1979:
“Allies of a Kind: The United States, Britain and the War Against Japan, 1941-1945” by Christopher Thorne
“Rockdale: The Growth of an American Village in the Early Industrial Revolution” by Anthony F.C. Wallace

1980:
Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932-1945” by Robert Dallek
“Women at Work: The Transformation of Work and Community in Lowell, Massachusetts, 1826-1860” by Thomas Dublin
“Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s” by Donald Worster

1981:
“Walter Lipmann and the American Century” by Ronald Steel
“Alice James: A Biography” by Jean Strouse

1982:
“A People in Revolution: The American Revolution and Political Society in New York, 1760-1790” by Edward Countryman
“Cradle of the Middle Class: The Family in Oneida County, New York, 1790-1865” by Mary P. Ryan

1983:
“Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England” by John Putnam Demos
“Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist” by Nick Salvatore

1984:
“Booker T. Washington: The Wizard of Tuskegee, 1901-1915” by Louis R. Harlan
“The Social Transformation of American Medicine: The Rise of a Sovereign Profession and the Making of a Vast Industry” by Paul Starr

1985:
“The Free Woman of Petersburg: Status and Culture in a Southern Town, 1784-1860” by Suzanne Lebsock
“The Life and Times of Cotton Mather” by Kenneth Silverman

1986:
“Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States” by Kenneth T. Jackson
“Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work and the Family from Slavery to the Present” by Jacqueline Jones

1987:
“A Vigorous Spirit of Enterprise: Merchants and Economic Development in Revolutionary Philadelphia” by Thomas Doerflinger
“Roots of Violence in Black Philadelphia, 1860-1900” by Roger Lane

1988:
“The Rise of American Air Power: The Creation of Armageddon” by Michael S. Sherry
“Unfree Labor: American Slavery and Russian Serfdom” by Peter Kolchin

1989:
“Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877” by Eric Foner
“Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America” by Edmund S. Morgan

1990:
“The Indians’ New World: Catawbas and Their Neighbors from European Contact Through the Era of Removal” by James H. Merrell
“Dark Journey: Black Mississippians in the Age of Jim Crow” by Neil R. McMillen

1991:
“Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939” by Lizabeth Cohen
“A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812” by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

1992:
“Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West” by William Cronon
“The Destructive War: William Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson and the Americans” by Charles Royster

1993:
“Margaret Fuller: An American Romantic Life, Vol. I: The Private Years” by Charles Capper
“A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration and the Cold War” by Melvyn P. Leffler

1994:
“The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788-1800” by Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick
“Tumult and Silence at Second Creek: An Inquiry into a Civil War Slave Conspiracy” by Winthrop D. Jordan
“The Biography of a Race, 1868-1919” by David Levering Lewis

1995:
“The Refiner’s Fire: The Marking of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844” by John L. Brooke
“Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi” by John Dittmer

1996:
“William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic” by Alan Taylor
“Walt Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography” by David S. Reynolds

1997:
“Explicit and Authentic Acts: Amending the U.S. Constitution, 1776-1995” by David E. Kyvig
“Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974” by James T. Patterson

1998:
“Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt” by Christine Leigh Heyrman
“The Clash: A History of U.S.-Japan Relations” by Walter LaFeber
“The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit” by Thomas J. Sugrue

1999:
“Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America” by Ira Berlin
“Black Culture in Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Low Country” by Philip D. Morgan
“The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity” by Jill Lepore

2000:
“Into the American Woods: Negotiators on the American Frontier” by James H. Merrell
“Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II” by John Dower
“The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction” by Linda Gordon

2001:
“Roaring Camp: The Social World of the California Gold Rush” by Susan Lee Johnson
“The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst” by David Nasaw

2002:
“Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory” by David W. Blight
“In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th Century America” by Alice Kessler-Harris

2003:
“Captives and Cousins: Slavery, Kinship and Community in the Southwest Borderlands” by James F. Brooks
“The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South, 1670-1717” by Alan Gallay

2004:
“In the Presence of Mine Enemies: War in the Heart of America, 1859-1863” by Edward L. Ayers
“A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration” by Steven Hahn
“Jonathan Edwards: A Life” by George M. Marsden

2005:
“Israel on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s through the Civil War” by Melvin Patrick
“From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality” by Michael J. Klarman
“Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life and the American South, 1810-1860” by Michael O’Brien

2006:
“Dwelling Place: A Plantation Epic” by Erskine Clarke
“The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times” by Odd Arne Westad
“The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln” by Sean Wilentz

2007:
“Mockingbird Song: Ecological Landscapes in the South” by Jack Temple Kirby
“William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism” by Robert D. Richardson

2008:
“The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America” by Allan M. Brandt
“The Populist Vision” by Charles Postel
“Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America” by Peter Silver

2009:
“Killing for Coal: America’s Deadliest Labor War” by Thomas G. Andrews
“This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War” by Drew Gilpin Faust
“The Comanche Empire” by Pekka Hamalainen

2010:
“Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits” by Linda Gordon
“Abigail Adams” by Woody Holton
“White Mother to a Dark Race: Settler Colonialism, Maternalism and the Removal of Indigenous Children in the American West and Australia, 1880-1940” by Margaret D. Jacobs

2011:
“Ourselves Unborn: A History of the Fetus in Modern America” by Sara Dubow
“The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery” by Eric Foner
“Freedom Bound: Law, Labor and Civic Identity in Colonizing English America” by Christopher Tomlins

2012:
“Empires, Nations and Families: A History of the North American West, 1800-1860” by Anne F. Hyde
“Age of Fracture” by Daniel T. Rodgers
“Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement” by Tomiko Brown-Nagin

In the end, how many of these Bancroft Prize-winning books 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 for Tues., March 20, 2012

Temp: 59.5 degrees F (15.3 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 82 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Mostly clear with a few clouds visible.

Winds: 0.0 mph (Calm)

Barometric Pressure: 29.56 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 2.1 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 14.5 inches

Local Weather Alerts: Local pollen alert also in effect.

NOTES: First day of Spring.

And Remember - "No weather's ill if the wind be still."

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, March 19, 2012

FICTION - The Proof - Part I

“Am I under arrest?”

“No,” Detective Jones said. “Not at this point. You’re being detained for questioning. That’s all.”

I rubbed my wrists. They were still red from where the handcuffs had been moments before.

“Then what’s this all about?”

The detective pulled out a chair and sat. It was just the two of us in the interrogation chamber. A uniformed officer stood outside.

Jones produced a short unlit cigar and planted it in the corner of his mouth. “Tell me about the meeting you had earlier tonight with Talmadge Bagley,” Jones said. “What was it about?”

The question caught me off guard, and I was unsure of how to answer. Bagley was an unusual character and was well known by the police. Among other things, he fancied himself as a self-described ghost and monster hunter. He was also one of the newspaper’s best confidential sources, especially when it came to tips about unusual subjects and off-the-wall events.

When I arrived at the office for work tonight, a little after midnight, I found a note on my desk. Bagley had called earlier and requested that I meet him at Burton Park around three o’clock. Burton Park was one of a number of small parks in the oldest part of Claiborne’s downtown area, just off River Street. It was walking distance from my office at The Herald.

I left the office about five minutes to three and found Bagley sitting alone on a park bench. He looked well enough, but he seemed nervous. He kept looking around as if he thought someone was watching us.

“He said he had some information that I might be interested in,” I told the detective.

Jones nodded and pulled out a small notebook. “Go on,” he said. “What sort of information?”

“I don’t know if I should say,” I said. “I told him that I would keep it confidential, you know, between me and him.”

Jones nodded again and glanced up at the door’s small window. “Mr. McMorn, I’m going to be very honest with you. It will be in your best interest here tonight to tell me, in detail, everything that transpired between you and Mr. Bagley.”

“He wanted to show me a photo,” I said. “That’s all. He thought the paper might be interested in it for a story.”

“Did he actually show you the photo?”

I nodded. “He did.”

Jones scribbled in his notebook. “What was it a picture of?”

“It was a print of a digital photo of what he said was a dark figure with no features. I told him that I didn’t think it would be usable in the paper. It was an interesting photo, but too dark, too grainy.”

“What made it so interesting?”

“His back story about the shot.”

“Which was?”

“Well, I’m sure you know about Bagley and his hobbies.”

“What sort of hobbies?”

“He investigates the paranormal, for one.”

“Go on.”

“He said he’d been researching and tracking the subject in the photo for months. Tonight was the first time that he’d gotten close enough to take a picture of it. He said he was sitting in his car, staking out the corner of Grand Street and the Masonic Bypass, when it entered the street going toward the college. That was around 10 o’clock, he said.”

“He just took the one picture?”

“Yeah, he said it was the only one that turned out. The rest were worse than this one.”

“What else did he say about… the figure?”

“He said it just ran across the road, jumped an embankment and disappeared.”

Jones looked up from his notebook. “There’s only one embankment near that intersection.”

“Yeah, I know,” I said. “I’ve shot a lot of car wreck pics there.”

“How high would you say that embankment is?”

“Twelve to 15 feet would be my guess.”

Jones nodded and chewed on his cigar. “It’s every bit of 15 feet.”

I knew what he was getting at, and I tended to agree with him. No man, that is, no ordinary man could jump from the street to the top of that embankment, which is why I tended not to believe Bagley’s story.

“You want a cigarette or maybe a cup of water or something?” Jones asked.

“I’ll take some water.”

Jones got up, walked to the door and made a tipping motion with his hand to the officer outside. A few seconds later, I heard the gurgle of a water cooler and then the guard stepped in with a small cup of water. “Thanks, Sgt. Adams,” Jones said.

Jones handed me the water and took his seat. “What would you say if I told you that we’ve taken several informal reports this month about a man in a black coat, who has attacked at least three women? All he does is scare them, mess up their clothes a little and then he runs off.”

“I’d wonder why no formal reports were made about it.”

“And I’d say that all the victims were afraid that no one would believe them and the eventually exposure in the press would only embarrass them and their families.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because they all said that the guy had no face,” Jones said, pausing for effect. “We also have reason to believe that there have actually been other victims who’ve yet to come forward.”

I took a sip of my water and leaned forward. “What’s this got to do to with me?”

“Maybe a little, maybe a lot, maybe nothing.”

“How so?”

“We believe that you were likely the last person to see Bagley alive.”

“What?”

“We have reason to believe that Bagley is dead?”

“You don’t sound 100 percent sure.”

“We’re not.”

“What do you mean?”

“One of our beat officers found a pile of clothes on the sidewalk not far from Burton Park. They were about halfway between the park and Bagley’s car. And I mean everything, his shoes, his socks, pants, shirt, undershirt, wallet, rings, everything. All that, plus a lot of blood.”

“Did you check the ER?”

“That was our first call. They’d had a busy night, but no Bagley and no one matching his description.”

“You’re sure it was Bagley’s stuff on the sidewalk?”

“The driver’s license in the wallet was his.”

I sat back in my chair and folded my arms. “What now?”

“Just a few more questions.”

“OK, shoot.”

“How long did your meeting with Bagley last?”

“Ten or 15 minutes.”

“Are you sure?”

“As sure as I can be.”

“Did he say anything to indicate where he might be going next?”

“Not that I remember. I took it that he was headed home, but he didn’t say. He hung out at The Cotton House a lot, maybe he was headed there to grab a beer.”

Jones only nodded. Not looking up, he continued making notes with his tiny golf pencil. “Was he carrying anything?”

I had to stop and think about this one. I gotten a good look at Bagley, but I didn’t know there was going to be a test. “Nothing out of the ordinary. He did have a camera. You know, over his shoulder on a strap.”

“Anything else?”

“Nope. Nothing except the camera and the photo he wanted to show me.”

The officer paused to consider my response. “What did he do with the picture?”

“He gave it to me.”

Jones looked up. “Where’s it at now?”

“Right here.” I reached into my back pocket and removed the photo. It had been printed on heavy photo paper, and I’d folded it in half twice and stuffed it in my back pocket, assuming that it was one of several copies of the original digital image.

Jones motioned for the picture. “Let me see that.”

I handed it to him across the table, and he took it by one corner as if he wanted to keep track of where he put his prints. “Interesting,” was all he said.

I glanced at my watch. It was almost six o’clock. The sun would be up soon, and my editor will be most displeased by the fact that his nightshift reporter and photographer will have nothing to contribute to the next edition of The Herald.

“Are we about done here?” I asked.

Jones looked at me as if he was seeing me for the first time, as if he’d forgotten that I was even in the room. “Yeah, I guess so. You mind if I keep this?” he said, indicating the photo that I’d gotten from Bagley.

“You can have it,” I said. “I’m sure that Bagley will e-mail you copy of the original when he turns up.”

Five minutes later, Detective Jones stood at the third-floor window of his division’s large office. He could see McMorn down on the street. He’d just left the police station and was headed toward The Herald.

Jones turned from the window and looked at Bagley’s photograph once more before feeding it into the paper shredder beside his desk.

(All rights reserved. This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.)