Saturday, June 30, 2012

Which of the two 'Ghost Rider' movies was your personal favorite?

I watched a pretty good comic book-related movie the other day, “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.” Released in February, it’s a sequel to 2007’s “Ghost Rider.” If you liked the first “Ghost Rider” movie, you’ll probably enjoy the sequel.

Directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” is rated PG-13 and is an hour and 35 minutes long. Actor Nicolas Cage returns in his role as Johnny Blaze, aka, the Ghost Rider. The movie also stars Fergus Riordan, Ciaran Hines, Christopher Lambert, Violante Placido and Idris Elba.

In this film, Blaze is living in Eastern Europe, where he’s trying to control the effects of his deal with the devil, which causes him to transform into the Ghost Rider. He eventually finds himself in a battle against dark forces that are trying to kidnap an unusual young boy. Blaze teams up with the boy’s mother, and they work together to prevent the devil from taking human form.

I’ve read that not everyone liked this movie, and that more than a few critics turned their noses up at it. I must admit that I enjoyed the first Ghost Rider movie more than I did “Spirit of Vengeance,” but this isn’t to say that “Spirit of Vengeance” didn’t have some redeeming qualities. The special effects were above average, and the fight scenes were unusual and interesting. Also, despite the negative reviews, the movie performed well at the box office. Against a shooting budget of $57 million, this film raked in box office revenues of over $132 million.

Movies like the Ghost Rider films bring back childhood memories. There was a time when I pretty much read nothing but comic books, and the Ghost Rider comics were among my favorites. Created by writers Gary Friedrich and Roy Thomas and artist Mike Ploog, Ghost Rider first appeared in Marvel Spotlight No. 5, which was released in August 1972. Despite his deal with the devil, what wasn’t there to like about the Ghost Rider? He was superhumanly strong and durable, healed quickly and let’s not forget his trademark flaming motorcycle and “enchanted Hellfire chain.”

I’m not alone in my love for the Ghost Rider. In May 2011, the entertainment website, IGN, which often covers comic book-related topics, ranked the Ghost Rider at No. 90 on its list of “Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time.” (Superman was No. 1 on the list. Batman was No. 2. Go figure.)

If you haven’t seen the first Ghost Rider movie, I recommend it too. It was released five years to the day before “Spirit of Vengeance” and starred Cage, Eva Mendes, Sam Elliott, Peter Fonda and Wes Bentley. The first Ghost Rider movie was also rated PG-13, and Cage, who has a Ghost Rider tattoo, wrote portions of the script.

In the end, how may of you have seen “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”? What did you think about it? Did you like it or dislike it? Why? What was your favorite part? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations for Sat., June 30, 2012

Temp: 78.1 degrees F (25.6 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 80 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Clear with very thin haze. Jet contrails also visible.

Winds: 0.1 mph out of the West (Calm).

Barometric Pressure: 29.48 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.1 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 39.2 inches

Local Weather Alerts: Heat Advisory in effect for Sat. from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

NOTES: Today is the 182nd day of 2012 and the 11th day of Summer. There are 184 days left in the year.

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. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Friday, June 29, 2012

World's Oldest Consecutive Annual Masonic Day Celebration


(I normally post a book review on Friday, but tonight I present with a magazine article that I wrote recently. It appeared on Page 13 of the July 2012 of The Working Tools Masonic Magazine, which was released earlier today. Print copies of the magazine are available for sale, but you can also download a free PDF version of the magazine at the magazine's website. For more information about the magazine, visit its website at www.hawthornefortitude200.com/twtmag.html.)

"World's Oldest Consecutive Annual Masonic Day Celebration"

By Bro. Lee Peacock

Florala, Ala., with a population of less than 2,000, is home to the “World’s Oldest Consecutive Annual Masonic Day Celebration.”

As indicated by the name of this small southern town, Florala is located just north of the Alabama-Florida state line and has been home to an annual Masonic celebration since just after the end of the Civil War.

Also referred to as the “24th of June Celebration,” this event has been held every year in Florala since 1870 to celebrate the important Masonic figures of Saint John the Evangelist and Saint John the Baptist. The 2012 celebration, which marked the event’s 142nd year, officially began on June 1 and wrapped up with a day of events on June 30. It is held annually in honor of St. John’s Day – June 24, 1717 - when the first Grand Lodge, the Grand Lodge of England, was established.

In its early days, Florala’s Masonic Day Celebration was sponsored by three Masonic lodges – Chapel Hill Lodge, Lake City Lodge No. 377 and Fidelity Lodge No. 685 of the Alabama Free and Accepted Masons and Chapter 441 of the Order of the Eastern Star. Over the years, the Chapel Hill Lodge and Lake City Lodge passed out of existence, but Fidelity Lodge No. 685 and OES Chapter 441 are still going strong and continue to sponsor this long-running Masonic event.

This year’s celebration included a wide variety of Masonic-themed events including work in the Master Mason Degree at Fidelity Lodge No. 685, the crowning of a Masonic King and Queen, the naming of the Order of the Eastern Star’s “Sweetheart” and “Mason of the Year,” a dinner served by the Order of the Eastern Star No. 441, a Masonic open installation for Fidelity Lodge No. 685 and visiting lodge officers, a Masonic march through town and a luncheon for visiting Masons, Shriners and their guests.

The celebration, which is free and open to the public, also included a number of non-Masonic activities such as a treasure hunt, a bass tournament, a bicycle race, a womanless beauty pageant, an “anything goes” parade, a “water battle” for children, a beauty pageant, a spaghetti supper, a gospel singing, a sock hop, a street dance, a children’s chalk drawing contest, the 20th Annual Lake Jackson Cruisers Car Show, music on the town square, a parade, arts and crafts, a firefighter skills competition, live music at Lake Jackson, fireworks and the 17th Annual Alligator Trot 5K race and walk.

The annual Alligator Trot 5K road race and walk is remarkable because it is the only 5-K (3.1-mile) race that takes place in both Alabama and Florida. The run starts in Alabama, continues around Lake Jackson and into Florida before reentering Alabama, where the finish line is located. Interestingly, Lake Jackson is named after former U.S. President Andrew Jackson, a famous freemason, who stopped at the lake with a group of soldiers in 1818.

For more information about the annual Masonic Celebration in Florala, visit the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce Web site at tricitieschamberofcommerce.com or the 24th of June Celebration’s Facebook page.

Daily Weather Observations for Fri., June 29, 2012

Temp: 76.5 degrees F (24.7 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 75 percent (Normal)

Conditions: Clear.

Winds: 0.0 mph (Calm).

Barometric Pressure: 29.55 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.1 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 39.2 inches

Local Weather Alerts: A Special Weather Statement has been issued for Monroe County, warning of "dangerous heat possible this weekend."

NOTES: Today is the 181st day of 2012 and the tenth day of Summer. There are 185 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. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Take a few minutes Wednesday to reflect on the nation you call home

This coming Wednesday is Independence Day, that is, the Fourth of July, which will mark the 236th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Many of us will celebrate this national holiday with fireworks and backyard barbecues, and it’s hoped that all of you have a safe holiday.

When you get a few minutes on Wednesday, take time to reflect on the nation that you call home. You’re smart enough to read the newspapers and watch the evening news for yourself, so you know that our nation has many problems. You know that it’s a long way from being perfect.

However, if you’ve ever traveled the world, you’ll know how lucky you are to be an American. If you’ve never traveled the world, then ask somebody who has. They’re likely to tell you that the United States of America is the greatest nation in the world and that you should count your blessings that you’re an American citizen.

Again, if you do read the paper and watch the TV news, you’ll also see that despite our country’s many problems, that there is a nonstop struggle to find solutions to these problems. This struggle, which is often ugly and looks like selfish politics, takes place in the halls of our legislatures, in boardrooms, in places of business and in thousands of other places. This struggle, carried out by free men and women enjoying hard-won personal rights and freedoms, is what makes our country great and a true land of opportunity.

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Speaking of holidays, this coming Monday is World UFO Day, a day in which individuals and groups are encouraged to gather together to watch the skies for unidentified flying objects. This year’s World UFO Day comes almost 65 years after the most famous UFO incident of all time, the 1947 Roswell, New Mexico UFO incident, which sparked enormous public interest in UFOs.

I don’t know about you, but I probably won’t be organizing any “watch the skies” parties. Even though I write about them often, I’m extremely skeptical when it comes to UFOs. Plus, I figure that if I ever saw a real flying saucer, I probably wouldn’t tell anyone for fear that they’d think I’d gone off the deep end. I’d probably just keep it to myself unless there were a few other witnesses around.

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Earlier this week, someone asked about the start date for the Dog Days of Summer.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the Dog Days traditionally run from July 3 to August 11. These are usually the hottest days of the summer and the time in which we receive the least amount of rain.

If the driest days of the summer are still ahead of us, then we might be headed for a severe dry spell. I don’t know about your neighborhood, but there hasn’t been any measurable rainfall at my house since June 15. If that sort of weather is what we’ve got to look forward to, then you’d better get ready to water the lawn. If there’s any upshot to this, you might not have to cut grass as often as you otherwise would.

Andalusia will be forever linked to Paul Finebaum, Harvey Updyke case

If you ever get the chance to hear Paul Finebaum speak, you shouldn’t pass it up.

Finebaum, whose syndicated radio show can be heard on 101.1 FM here in Evergreen, was the keynote speaker last Thursday night at the Lurleen B. Wallace Community College Foundation’s annual scholarship fundraising event.

He spoke for about 30 minutes, and his speech was entertaining and insightful. Finebaum poked fun at himself, noting that he’s often voted as one of the most unsavory people in the sports world, especially in the southeast. He told the crowd that the sports website, DixieFriedSports.com, recently ranked him No. 1 on its list of “10 Most Hated Men in the SEC,” ahead of such figures as Houston Nutt, Harvey Updyke and Cam Newton. He joked that he was surprised that despite that dubious honor, the foundation still wanted him to speak.

Finebaum is a native of Memphis, Tenn. and graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1978. Growing up, he and his family had a negative opinion of former Alabama governor, George Wallace. After Finebaum moved to Alabama, where he worked as a reporter for the Birmingham Post-Herald and launched his career in radio, he learned more about the things the Wallace family had done to improve the education system in the state. He said that he now considered it an honor to speak at a fundraiser for a school that bears the name of George Wallace’s wife, Lurleen Wallace, who also served as the state’s governor.

For over 20 years, Finebaum has been at the center of a number of huge sports stories, especially controversies involving Alabama and Auburn football. He covered the death of Paul Bear Bryant. He broke the Antonio Langham-sports agent story. He was the first to report the firing of Auburn head coach Terry Bowden, etc., etc.

Last Thursday night he said that none of that compares to what he’s seen during the past three years. During that time, Alabama and Auburn have won three national championships in football and have brought home two Heisman Trophies. Then factor in the April 27, 2011 tornadoes across Alabama, his central roll in the ESPN documentary “Roll Tide, War Eagle” and a call to his show that resulted in the Harvey Updyke-Toomer’s Corner tree poisoning case.

Another noteworthy thing about last Thursday’s event is that it will forever link Finebaum and the Harvey Updyke case to Andalusia.

As Finebaum walked into Andalusia’s Kiwanis Community Center last Thursday evening, a Covington County Sheriff’s deputy served him a gag order regarding the Harvey Updyke trial. It seemed to pain the deputy to have to serve the famous radioman with the gag order, but Finebaum was pleasant to the deputy, saying that he knew he was only doing his job. On his radio show the day before, Finebaum remarked that he had heard that there was a gag order out there, but that he hadn’t been officially notified of it. He said later that he’d expected to eventually be served with the gag order, but that he didn’t expect to receive it in Andalusia.

In the end, if you ever get the chance to hear Finebaum speak, take advantage of it. In the meantime, you can continue to tune in to the local radio station to hear his show, which airs from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The Evergreen Courant's Sports Flashback for June 28, 2012

12 YEARS AGO
JUNE 29, 2000

“The Presley-Fluker Babe Ruth baseball team won the Evergreen Babe Ruth League Championship for the fourth year in a row. Larry Fluker, team sponsor, is pictured above with some of the team members. Coach Earnest Boykin has been coaching the team for 15 years. Boykin stated that he will continue to coach the team as long as Mr. Fluker continues to sponsor it.”

“The Evergreen Youth Basketball Program will send a 13 and under basketball team and a 15 and under basketball team to Birmingham this Friday, June 30, to play in the Alabama Sports Festival Basketball Tournament. There will be over 100 teams competing for the state gold, silver and bronze medal. Coach Earnest Boykin says that these young men will give it everything they have and will try to bring a medal back to Evergreen.”

“Jaguar Tiny Mite and Pee Wee Sign-up: The Evergreen Tiny Mite and Pee Wee Jaguar football sign-up will be held Sat., July 15, at Carver Recreation Center from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. All players must have a C average to play in the Southern Alabama Football League this year. You must bring $25 for fees and proof of birth.”

“Jermome Lee ‘Judy’ Sigler, 28, of Repton died Thurs., June 8, 2000 at Evergreen Medical Center.
“Jerome, affectionately called ‘Judy,’ was an active person within his community. He coached a Pee Wee football team in Repton and enjoyed sports himself, whenever possible.”

27 YEARS AGO
JUNE 27, 1985

“Richard Melton and his grandfather, John Richard Miller Jr. of Brewton, are shown with a 385-pound Blue Marlin which Richard caught June 9 while fishing aboard Miller’s boat, Miss Virginia II. The 12-year-old caught this, his first billfish, some 50 miles south of Destin, Fla. and fought the large fish for one hour and 45 minutes before bringing him on board. Richard is the son of Nancy and Billy Melton of Evergreen and the grandson of Virginia and John Richard Miller of Brewton. Joining Richard and his grandfather on the memorable trip were Billy Stimpson of Mobile, Allen Law McCall of Monroeville, Larry Rush, captain, and John Peerson, mate.”

“Winners at the 26th Annual Evergreen Rotary Fish & Wildlife Camp held last week at Tal Stuart’s Pond at Belleville are Bo Bo Pugh, Fly Casting; Neil Samford, Archery; Bradley Sessions, Best Jr. Camper; and Brent Salter, Best Canoeist; and Wayne Cook, Skeet Shooting; Raymond Castillo, Rifle Range; Steven Riley, Bait Casting; Matthew Hartley, Spin Casting; and Daryl Foxx, Best Sr. Camper. A total of 53 boys participated in the two-day and one-night camp, according to Camp Director Mack Billy.”

“There will be a free horse show at the Lyeffion Saddle Club Sat., June 29. The show starts at 4 p.m. Concessions will be served on the grounds. There will be Bar-B-Que plates and sandwiches served along with cold drinks and snacks.”

42 YEARS AGO
JUNE 25, 1970

“These boys were winners at the 12th annual Evergreen Rotary Fish & Wildlife Camp held last week at Tal Stuart’s Pond near Belleville: Brett Gearhart, Jimmy Landon, Mark Chavers and Scott Gearhart; John Cook, Keith Pugh, Leroy Shehan and Greg Crutchfield. They are holding the prizes given them by Evergreen merchants.”

“These junior counselors assisted in staging the Evergreen Rotary Fish & Wildlife Camp last week: Robert Ryland, Kenny Bodiford and Gary Watson; Oliver Garrett, Frederick Stevens and Chuck Neese.”

“Much of the success of the Evergreen Rotary Fish & Wildlife Camp last week can be attributed to the leadership of these senior counselors: Skip Stacey, head counselor; Hillary Harper, Johnny Andrews and Jerry Daniels; Jim Williams, Eddie Reeves and Mike Lanier.”

“A total of 54 boys from over the county attended the two days and a night camp.
“Highlight of the camp was the presentation of awards. Scott Gearhart was named Best Sr. Camper and Keith Pugh was runner-up. John Cook won Best Jr. Camper with Greg Crutchfield in second place. These awards are based on overall performance and a written test given at the conclusion of the camp.
“The winner and second place in the various phases of competition were: Best Rifle Shot, Leroy Shehan, Scott Gearhart; Best Skeet Shot, Brett Gearhart, John Hart Ellis; Best Spin Casting, Mark Chavers, Rusty Rogers; Best Bait Casting, Jimmy Landon, Rusty Rogers; Best Fly Casting, Keith Pugh, Bruce Hutcheson.”

57 YEARS AGO
JUNE 30, 1955

“Lyeffion Takes Double Win From Mixonville: Lyeffion jumped back into the win column in a big way last week by taking a twin win over Mixonville by 12 to 3 and 10 to 5 scores Sunday at Lyeffion. Donald Evers pitched the first game and Robert Dees the second for the winners, with Chester Martin catching. Charles Roberts pitched most of the time for Mixonville with Mixon catching.
“Home runs were hit by Powell, Chavers and Melton for Lyeffion.
“Mixonville will try to avenge the two losses when it plays host to Lyeffion. Paul will invade Garland, and Old Texas will travel to McKenzie in Conecuh County Amateur League Play Sunday.”

“Little League Opened Season Here Monday; Second Game Wednesday: Evergreen’s Little League started the season with a bang Monday as the Red Sox, coached by Ray Helms and Chester Ellis, pounded the Giants, coached by J.W. Weaver and Guy Mason, for 21 hits and 17 runs to win by a score of 17-8. C. Warren went all the way for the Red Sox, allowing only four Giant hits and striking out 14 batters. J. Hyde was charged with the loss as he gave up 21 hits while striking out 10 men.
“The Red Sox were charged with nine errors, and the Giants had 12. An unusual number of errors is expected early in the season, with so little practice, official scorer Wendell Tolbert commented after the game.”

72 YEARS AGO
JUNE 27, 1940

“MONTGOMERY BALL CLUB PAYS VISIT HERE TUESDAY MORNING: The Montgomery Rebels of the Southeastern baseball league honored our fair city with a visit Tuesday morning when they stopped to dine at a local cafĂ©, enroute for a series with the Mobile Shippers. The Rebs are holding down third place in the league standing, and are enjoying the best season they have had in years. More power, we say, to the capital city horsehiders.”

“All Star Game Sunday, June 30, In Montgomery: The Alabama State League will play its third all star game in Cramton Bowl in Montgomery on Sun., June 30.
“The league has been divided into a Northern and Southern division for this game, and the sports writers in the towns of the league have selected the players to represent each club. Greenville, Tallassee and Troy will furnish the players for the Northern squad, while Andalusia, Brewton and Dothan will supply players for the Southern squad. Dick Luckey, Greenville manager, has been selected by the sports writers to manage the Northern team while Yam Yaryan will guide the Southern team.
“The Northern club has a team batting average of .336 while the Southern team has a batting average of .326. This indicates that there will be plenty of power in both lineups.
“In this game to be played in Cramton Bowl at 3 p.m., the heaviest hitters are facing the best pitchers of the league and the fans are assured of a game of thrills. Indications are that Cramton Bowl will be almost filled with fans from South Alabama who are closely following their favorites.”

Daily Weather Observations for Thurs., June 28, 2012

Temp: 76.1 degrees F (24.5 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 70 percent (Normal)

Conditions: Clear.

Winds: 0.0 mph (Calm).

Barometric Pressure: 29.59 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.1 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 39.2 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTES: Today is the 180th day of 2012 and the ninth day of Summer. There are 186 days left in the year.

And Remember - "A wind in the south has rain in her 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. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

This week's movie picks are 'Ted' and 'The Artist'

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:

Beasts of the Southern Wild (Drama, PG-13): Directed by Benh Zeitlin and starring Quvenzhane Wallis and Dwight Henry.

Magic Mike (Drama, Comedy, R): Directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, Alex Pettyfer, Matt Bomer and Joe Mangianello.

Neil Young Journeys (Music, Documentary, PG): Directed by Jonathan Demme.

People Like Us (Drama, Comedy, PG-13): Directed by Alex Kurtzman and starring Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jon Favreau.

Take This Waltz (Drama, Romance, R): Directed by Sarah Polley and starring Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman and Aaron Abrams.

Ted (Comedy, R): Directed by Seth MacFarlane and starring Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel McHale and the voice of Seth MacFarlane.

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection (Comedy, PG-13): Directed by Tyler Perry and starring Tyler Perry, Eugene Levy, Denise Richards, Doris Roberts and Romeo Miller.

Unforgivable (Drama): Directed by Andre Techine and starring Andre Dussollier, Melanie Thierry, Carole Bouquet and Adriana Asti.

New DVD releases for the week of June 26 include:

21 Jump Street (Action, Comedy, R): Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller and starring Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Brie Larson and Rob Riggle.

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

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

Bullhead (Drama, Crime, R): Directed by Michael R. Roskam and starring Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeroen Perceval, Jeanne Dandoy, Barbara Sarafin and Tibo Vandenborre.

The Decoy Bride (Comedy, PG): Directed by Sheree Folkson and starring David Tennant, Kelly Macdonald, Alice Eve, Michael Urie and Federico Castelluccio.

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

Oranges and Sunshine (Drama, R): Directed by Jim Loach and starring Emily Watson, Hugo Weaving, David Wenham, Lorraine Ashbourne and Tara Morice.

The Perfect Family (Comedy, Drama, PG-13): Directed by Anne Renton and starring Kathleen Turner, Emily Deschanel, Jason Ritter, Richard Chamberlain and Michael McGrady.

A Thousand Words (Comedy, PG-13): Directed by Brian Robbins and starring Eddie Murphy, Clark Duke, Kerry Washington, Cliff Curtis and Allison Janney.

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.

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

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., June 27, 2012

Temp: 77.0 degrees F (25.0 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 70 percent (Normal)

Conditions: Clear.

Winds: 0.1 mph out of the North-Northeast (Calm).

Barometric Pressure: 29.44 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.1 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 39.2 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTES: Today is the 179th day of 2012 and the eighth day of Summer. There are 187 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. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

'TKAM,' 'In Cold Blood' named among '88 Books That Shaped America'


On Monday, the Library of Congress released a very cool, book-related “best-of” list called “88 Books That Shaped America.”

This list is part of a “Books That Shaped America” exhibition that’s part of the world famous library’s multiyear “Celebration of the Book.” The list is “intended to spark a national conversation on books written by Americans that have influenced our lives,” Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said.

Without further ado, here’s the complete list, in alphabetical order by book title:

1. “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain (1884)
2. “Alcoholics Anonymous” by Anonymous (1939)
3. “American Cookery” by Amelia Simmons (1796)
4. “The American Woman’s Home” by Catharine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe (1869)
5. “And the Band Played On” by Randy Shilts (1987)

6. “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand (1957)
7. “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Malcolm X and Alex Haley (1965)
8. “Beloved” by Toni Morrison (1987)
9. “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” by Dee Brown (1970)
10. “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London (1903)

11. “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss (1957)
12. “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller (1961)
13. “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger (1951)
14. “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White (1952)
15. “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine (1776)

16. “The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care” by Benjamin Spock (1946)
17. “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan (1980)
18. “A Curious Hieroglyphick Bible” by Anonymous (1788)
19. “The Double Helix” by James D. Watson (1968)
20. “The Education of Henry Adams” by Henry Adams (1907)

21. “Experiments and Observations on Electricity” by Benjamin Franklin (1751)
22. “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury (1953)
23. “Family Limitation” by Margaret Sanger (1914)
24. “The Federalist” by Anonymous (1787)
25. “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan (1963)

26. “The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin (1963)
27. “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway (1940)
28. “Gone With the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell (1936)
29. “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown (1947)
30. “A Grammatical Institute of the English Language” by Noah Webster (1783)

31. “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck (1939)
32. “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
33. “Harriet, the Moses of Her People” by Sarah H. Bradford (1901)
34. “The History of Standard Oil” by Ida Tarbell (1904)
35. “History of the Expedition Under the Command of the Captains Lewis and Clark” by Meriwether Lewis (1814)

36. “How the Other Half Lives” by Jacob Riis (1890)
37. “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie (1936)
38. “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg (1956)
39. “The Iceman Cometh” by Eugene O’Neill (1946)
40. “Idaho: A Guide in Word and Pictures” by Federal Writers’ Project (1937)

41. “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote (1966)
42. “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison (1952)
43. “Joy of Cooking” by Irma Rombauer (1931)
44. “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair (1906)
45. “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman (1855)

46. “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving (1820)
47. “Little Women, or Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy” by Louisa May Alcott (1868)
48. “Mark, the Match Boy” by Horatio Alger Jr. (1869)
49. “McGuffey’s Newly Revised Eclectic Primer” by William Holmes McGuffey (1836)
50. “Moby-Dick; or the Whale” by Herman Melville (1851)

51. “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” by Frederick Douglass (1845)
52. “Native Son” by Richard Wright (1940)
53. “New England Primer” by Anonymous (1803)
54. “New Hampshire” by Robert Frost (1923)
55. “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac (1957)

56. “Our Bodies, Ourselves” by Boston Women’s Health Book Collective (1971)
57. “Our Town: A Play” by Thornton Wilder (1938)
58. “Peter Parley’s Universal History” by Samuel Goodrich (1837)
59. “Poems” by Emily Dickinson (1890)
60. “Poor Richard Improved and the Way to Wealth” by Benjamin Franklin (1758)

61. “Pragmatism” by William James (1907)
62. “The Private Life of the Late Benjamin Franklin, LL.D.” by Benjamin Franklin (1793)
63. “The Red Badge of Courage” by Stephen Crane (1895)
64. “Red Harvest” by Dashiell Hammett (1929)
65. “Riders of the Purple Sage” by Zane Grey (1912)

66. “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)
67. “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” by Alfred C. Kinsey (1948)
68. “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson (1962)
69. “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats (1962)
70. “The Souls of Black Folk” by W.E.B. Du Bois (1903)

71. “The Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner (1929)
72. “Spring and All” by William Carlos Williams (1923)
73. “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert E. Heinlein (1961)
74. “A Street in Bronzeville” by Gwendolyn Brooks (1945)
75. “A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams (1947)

76. “A Survey of the Roads of the United States of America” by Christopher Colles (1789)
77. “Tarzan of the Apes” by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1914)
78. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)
79. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee (1960)
80. “A Treasury of American Folklore” by Benjamin A. Botkin (1944)

81. “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith (1943)
82. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852)
83. “Unsafe at Any Speed” by Ralph Nader (1965)
84. “Walden, or Life in the Woods” by Henry David Thoreau (1854)
85. “The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes (1925)

86. “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak (1963)
87. “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum (1900)
88. “The Words of Cesar Chavez” by Cesar Chaves (2002)

In the end, how many of these books have you read? Which is your personal favorite and why? Which would you recommend and why? Which is your least favorite and why? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations for Tues., June 26, 2012

Temp: 76.8 degrees F (24.9 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 75 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Thin, widely scattered clouds visible.

Winds: 1.7 mph out of the North (Light Air).

Barometric Pressure: 29.22 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.1 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 39.2 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTES: Today is the 178th day of 2012 and the seventh day of Summer. There are 188 days left in the year. Saw a large rabbit in the edge of the yard this morning.

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. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Monday, June 25, 2012

BUCKET LIST UPDATE – No. 177: Meet Paul Finebaum

I scratched another item off my bucket list last Thursday night when I got the chance to meet Paul Finebaum in person.

Finebaum is the most famous and most powerful media personality in Alabama. A native of Memphis, Tenn., he is the long time host of the Paul Finebaum Radio Network, which is based in Birmingham. His show airs weekdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on radio stations across the southeast, including 101.1 FM in Evergreen, as well as on Sirius XM Radio. He cut his teeth as a longtime sports and investigative reporter for the Birmingham Post-Herald and also wrote a very popular twice-weekly column for The Mobile Press-Register. His column now appears on SI.com every Thursday.

In late May, the Lurleen B. Wallace Community College Foundation announced that Finebaum would be the keynote speaker at the foundation’s annual scholarship fundraising event, which was held last Thursday night at the Kiwanis Center in Andalusia. I figured this would be a good chance to meet one of my personal heroes, so I made arrangements to attend.

The event was scheduled to begin at 5:45 p.m., and I pulled up in the parking lot about five minutes late. There were already a few people there, but not as many as I expected. As chance would have it, as I walked up to the entrance of the Kiwanis Center, the only other people around was a group of three that included Finebaum and two of his companions. Since he’d yet to be mobbed by his fans inside, I figured this would be a good opportunity for me to introduce myself to one of the “SEC’s 10 most powerful people.”

Finebaum walked into the building about 20 feet ahead of me, and as I made it through the door my plans were dashed as a Covington County Sheriff’s deputy walked up and handed Finebaum some papers. At first, I thought the deputy had asked for Finebaum’s autograph, but I could tell from the look on Finebaum’s face that this wasn’t the case. When Finebaum told the deputy, “Hey, you’re just doing your job,” I knew that he’d been served with court documents. Initially, I thought Finebaum had been served with a lawsuit, so I felt it wasn’t a good time for me to introduce myself.

A minute or so later, the event’s organizers spirited Finebaum away to a behind-the-scenes VIP reception, and this left me some time to think about what I’d seen. Had it been a lawsuit or was it something else? I’d heard some of his show the day before when Finebaum talked about how he’d heard that there had been a gag order issued in the infamous Harvey Updike-Toomer’s Corner tree poisoning case. While Finebaum had heard about the gag order, he hadn’t been officially notified of the gag order.

It dawned on me that what I’d seen was Finebaum officially being served with the gag order. About 45 minutes later, I got the chance to talk with Finebaum undisturbed for about five minutes, and he confirmed that it was the gag order in the Harvey Updike case. He even went so far as to produce the document from his jacket and showed it to me. The highlight for me was just getting to officially meet Finebaum and shake his hand. The short time that we got to talk was icing on the cake.

In the end, I enjoyed scratching another item off my bucket list. How many of you listen to Finebaum’s radio show? What do you think about it? How many of you have had the chance to meet Finebaum? When and where did you meet him? What were your impressions of Finebaum? Let us know in the comments section below.

Yesterday's News from The Evergreen Courant for June 25, 2012

12 YEARS AGO
JUNE 25, 2000

“Phyllis Lowe announces her anticipation to qualify for the Evergreen City Council District 5 position which is currently occupied by Elizabeth Davis.
“Ms. Lowe is presently employed as a motor vehicle clerk for Conecuh County. She has also served as property tax clerk.”

“Tuesday’s runoff election in Conecuh County ended with the result of more of the same for the county commission.
“Commissioners Jerold Dean and D.K. Bodiford returned to their seats around the commission table with Leonard Millender, Hugh Barrow and Wendell Byrd.”

“At a special meeting held last Wednesday, the Conecuh County Commission voted unanimously to adopt a resolution enabling funds to flow from the Conecuh County Public Building Authority, Inc. to the jail contractor.
“County Attorney Fred Stevens, said the purpose of this resolution is to ‘facilitate the flow of funds to pay off the bond issue.
“At their regular Monday morning meeting, commissioners heard from Billy Mims, chairman of the building authority, on the status of the project.
“According to Mims, as of Friday, June 23, 2000, jail construction was on schedule including site work for retaining walls and footings and paperwork.
“Mims noted, however, that recent rains have hindered workers preparing the site.”

27 YEARS AGO
JUNE 27, 1985

“Mark A. Roberts, son of Judith and Dr. Gerald R. Roberts of Edwina Street in Evergreen, has been awarded the degree of Doctor of Medicine by St. George’s University, School of Medicine.”

“These members of the Castleberry Volunteer Fire Department received eight hours instruction in CPR by Hartin Ambulance Service and all were certified: Greg O’Conner, instructor, Rob Stuart, assistant, Dewey Jackson, Larry Bethune, James Palmer, Joey Croley, Carl Sanders, George Hallford, Brenda Bethune and Jimmy Hartin, instructor and owners of Hartin’s Ambulance Service. Not shown: James Holland, David Smith and Lee Dolihite.”

“Earl Windham reports .74 of an inch of rain on June 18 and that’s all.”

“Jan Coker, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bobby Coker, received the Outstanding Physical Science Award on May 29 at Jefferson Davis State Junior College.”

“ABC Agent Dennis Farr, Evergreen Mayor Pat Poole and Conecuh County Deputy Sheriff Jimmy Lambert are shown with 36 marijuana plants they confiscated on Fri., June 21.”

“The graduating class of 1935, State Secondary Agricultural School, (now Evergreen High School) held its 50th year reunion at the Evergreen Holiday Inn on the evening of June 1.
“There are no plans at present for a reunion 50 years from this date, a committee member said.”

42 YEARS AGO
JUNE 25, 1970

“Greening Lodge elects officers: Officers were elected at the regular annual communication of Greening Lodge No. 53 F&AM held at the Lodge Hall Tuesday night. The following officers were elected: Worshipful Master Robert Glass, Senior Warden A.K. Williams, Junior Warden John Bewley, Treasurer A.C. Owens, Secretary H.A. Deer, Senior Deacon Howard Fore, Junior Deacon Jerry Adams and Tyler French Miller.
“In the incoming, WM appointed these officers: Chaplain Quinton Buras, Senior Steward Bob Bozeman, Junior Steward Melvin Watts and Marshall Earl A. Brown.
“The new officers will be installed at the regular meeting at 7:30 on Tues., July 14. All Master Masons are invited to attend.”

“An Evergreen man has graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School with the degree of doctor of medicine (M.D.). He is John Van-Landingham.”

“The Evergreen City Council named Hugh Morrow Jr. of Watkins, Morrow & Co. of Birmingham as fiscal agent for the improvements on the water system which are now in the planning stage. This action was taken at the meeting Tuesday night.

“Council opened bids on the police car which is being sold and authorized sale of the vehicle to the high bidder, J&B Motors.
“Two building permits were issued: Ervin Middleton to add a room to his residence on Reynolds Avenue and Charles Varner to add a room to his residence on Martin Street.”

57 YEARS AGO
JUNE 30, 1955

“Conecuh County Masonic Conference At Repton: The Conecuh County Masonic Conference will be held at Repton Wednesday, July 6, opening at 9 a.m. All Masons are cordially invited to attend. Dinner will be served.”

“County Soldiers Assigned To Airborne Infantry: FORT JACKSON, S.C. – Pvt. Joseph H. Ryals, 20, husband of Mrs. Arlene Ryals of Repton, Ala., and Pvt. Joe D. Worrell, 18, of Castleberry have been assigned to ‘G’ Company, 501st Airborne Infantry Regiment for basic training.”

“The hours of dancing instructions have been changed, Ray Owens, Recreation Director for the City of Evergreen, said in an announcement today.
“Adult dancing lessons on Wednesday nights will begin at 8 p.m., and lessons for teenage beginners will begin at 7:45 Thursday nights. Advanced teenage lessons will begin at 8:30 p.m. Thursdays.
“Free dancing lessons are being offered to adults each Wednesday night and for students on Thursday nights. The dancing instructor is Miss Lucy Peck.”

“The Merchants Committee of the Evergreen Chamber of Commerce met Thursday afternoon at the Evergreen City Hall and named the holidays for the next 12 months. The first holiday will be on Mon., July 4.
“Chairman of the merchants committee is Liston Lee. Other committee members present at the meeting were Joe Brooks, Bill Suddith and W.T. Wild.”

72 YEARS AGO
JUNE 27, 1940

“EVERGREEN RESIDENT RECEIVES OUTSTANDING LODGE HONOR: W.H. Williamson, Evergreen citizen employed by the Ford Motor Co. of this place, received last Friday a very distinct honor when he was awarded by the Masonic Lodge, Farrar No. 8 of Birmingham, a certificate showing that he has become a lifetime member in that lodge. To be eligible for life membership one has to be a Mason in the lodge for 25 years, a qualification which Mr. Williamson holds.
“In the years of 1920 and 1921, Mr. Williamson bore the distinction of being Worshipful Master in the lodge which was organized in 1821.
“Awarding of life memberships in the Masonic Lodge is not practiced in this section and the fact that we have a life member in Evergreen is something unusual and deserves notice.”

“Irvin R. Hall, farmer of Owassa, Rt. 1, brought into The Courant office Wednesday a turnip that weighed five and three quarter pounds. This was the largest turnip seen in this office this year.”

“THORNLEY WINS FIFTH PLACE AS MEMBER OF COUNCIL: As a result of unusually light voting in the runoff primary election held Tuesday, John S. Thornley defeated Hugh M. Brown for the fifth place on the City Council of Evergreen.
“Other members of the council who were nominated in the primary held May 20 are: J.H. Robison, Leon Salter, J.W. Shannon, Dr. J.R. Brooks.”

Daily Weather Observations for Mon., June 25, 2012

Temp: 72.0 degrees F (22.2 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 81 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Mostly Cloudy.

Winds: 6.2 mph out of the North (Light Breeze).

Barometric Pressure: 29.29 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.1 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 39.2 inches

Local Weather Alerts: Wind advisory in effect until 7 p.m.

NOTES: Today is the 177th day of 2012 and the sixth day of Summer. There are 189 days left in the year. Today is National Catfish Day.

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. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The late Ray Bradbury's 'Fahrenheit 451' reappears on best-sellers list

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

"Calico Joe" by John Grisham replaced "Kiss the Dead" by Laurell K. Hamilton as the No. 1 book on the hardcover fiction best-sellers list.

"Cowards" by Glenn Beck replaced "The Amateur" by Edward Klein as the top book on the hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list.

"Tick Tock" by James Patterson replaced "The Unexpected Husband" by Debbie Macomber as the No. 1s book on the mass market paperback best-sellers list.

"Fifty Shades of Grey" by E.L. James retained its place atop the trade paperbacks best-sellers list for the eleventh week in a row.

There are four 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 "Mission to Paris" by Alan Furst (3), "The Third Gate" by Lincoln Child (5), "Porch Lights" by Dorothea Benton Frank (6) and "Canada" by Richard Ford (12).

There are seven books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "Cowards" by Glenn Beck (1), "Unintended Consequences" by Ed Conard (6), "Not Taco Bell Material" by Adam Carolla (9), "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson (11), "American Sniper" by Chris Kyle (12), "Darth Vader and Son" by Jeffrey Brown (14) and "The Presidents Club" by Nancy Gibbs & Michael Duffy (15).

There was only one book on this week’s mass market paperbacks best-sellers list that wasn’t on that list last week - "Afraid to Die" Lisa Jackson, which was No. 3 on that list.

There are three books on this week’s trade paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "Fifty Shades Trilogy" by E.L. James (4), "Bared to You" by Sylvia Day (5) and "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury (14).

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. "Calico Joe" by John Grisham
2. "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn
3. "Mission to Paris" by Alan Furst
4. "The Storm" by Clive Cussler
5. "The Third Gate" by Lincoln Child
6. "Porch Lights" by Dorothea Benton Frank
7. "The Innocent" by David Baldacci
8. "11th Hour" by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
9. "Stolen Prey" by John Sandford
10. "A Blaze of Glory" by Jeff Shaara
11. "The Bourne Imperative" by Eric Van Lustbader
12. "Canada" by Richard Ford
13. "The Wind Through the Keyhole" by Stephen King
14. "Spring Fever" by Mary Kay Andrews
15. "A Dance with Dragons" by George R.R. Martin

HARDCOVER NONFICTION
1. "Cowards" by Glenn Beck
2. "Killing Lincoln" by Bill O'Reilly & Martin Dugard
3. "The Amateur" by Edward Klein
4. "It Worked for Me" by Colin Powell
5. "The Great Destroyer" by David Limbaugh
6. "Unintended Consequences" by Ed Conard
7. "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed
8. "Cronkite" by Douglas Brinkley
9. "Not Taco Bell Material" by Adam Carolla
10. "The Skinny Rules" by Bob Harper with Greg Critser
11. "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson
12. "American Sniper" by Chris Kyle
13. "The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson" by Robert A. Caro
14. "Darth Vader and Son" by Jeffrey Brown
15. "The Presidents Club" by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS
1. "Tick Tock" by James Patterson
2. "Explosive Eighteen" by Janet Evanovich
3. "Afraid to Die" Lisa Jackson
4. "The Unexpected Husband" by Debbie Macomber
5. "The Kingdom" by Clive Cussler
6. "Big Sky Country" by Linda Lael Miller
7. "Bed of Roses" by Nora Roberts
8. "Eyes Wide Open" by Andrew Gross
9. "The Ideal Man" by Julie Garwood
10. "The Bourne Dominion" by Robert Ludlum
11. "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" by Seth Grahame-Smith
12. "Full Black" by Brad Thor
13. "The Lucky One" by Nicholas Sparks
14. "A Night Like This" by Julia Quinn
15. "Summer Days" by Susan Mallery

TRADE PAPERBACKS
1. "Fifty Shades of Grey" by E.L. James
2. "Fifty Shades Darker" by E.L. James
3. "Fifty Shades Freed" by E.L. James
4. "Fifty Shades Trilogy" by E.L. James
5. "Bared to You" by Sylvia Day
6. "In the Garden of Beasts" by Erik Lawson
7. "The Drop" by Michael Connelly
8. "To Heaven And Back" by Mary C. Neal
9. "Kill Alex Cross" by James Patterson
10. "The Last Boyfriend: Book Two of the InnsBoro Trilogy" by Nora Roberts
11. "State of Wonder" by Ann Patchett
12. "The Book of Burger" by Rachel Ray
13. "Maine" by J. Courtney Sullivan
14. "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury
15. "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" by Seth Grahame-Smith

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., June 24, 2012

Temp: 73.0 degrees F (22.8 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 82 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Mostly Cloudy.

Winds: 1.1 mph (Light Air).

Barometric Pressure: 29.43 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.1 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 39.2 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTES: Today is the 176th day of 2012 and the fifth day of Summer. There are 190 days left in the year. Today is St. John's Day.

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. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

What would you have done if you'd survived the plane crash in 'The Grey'?

I first read about the movie, “The Grey,” several months ago in an issue of Outside magazine, and I’ve been wanting to watch it ever since. I finally got around to watching it the other day, thanks to NetFlix, and I recommend it to anyone out there who likes a good, manly adventure movie.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, “The Grey” is about a small group of oil pipeline workers in Alaska. They board a plane to head back to their respective homes, but bad weather causes the plane to crash in the remote Alaskan wilderness. A number of the oil workers survive the plane crash only to have to deal with their injuries, extremely cold weather and a pack of very territorial grey wolves. One of the oil workers is a professional hunter, and he attempts to lead the survivors back to civilization.

“The Grey” was released in January and is rated R. Directed by Joe Carnahan, “The Grey” stars Liam Neeson (as the professional hunter), Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts and Joe Anderson. The movie’s producers included Carnahan and Ridley Scott.

I was interested to learn that the movie was based on a short story called “Ghost Walker” by Ian MacKenzie Jeffers. He and Carnahan wrote the screenplay together. If you’re hoping to read the original version of “Ghost Walker,” good luck. I’ve spent more time looking for it online than I probably should have and didn’t have any luck. From what I gather, Jeffers eventually expanded the short story (or novella) into a novel, and you can buy it through Amazon as an ebook.

I liked the movie because of its man vs. wild, survival aspects. The wolf pack almost became a character all its own, sort of like the shark in “Jaws.” The movie’s setting also added a lot to the film. It had a very Jack London feel to it. The movie was shot in British Columbia with temperatures dipping down to 40 below zero at times during production. The bad weather scenes were the real deal, not CGI. In fact, the movie’s marketing outfit partnered with The Weather Channel to promote the movie by highlighting the extreme weather conditions that the movie was filmed in.

I did enjoy this movie, but fair warning, you will be required to suspend belief for a while. If you’re the type person who likes to overanalyze movies, you might drive yourself a little crazy watching this one. I’m no survival expert, but there seemed to be a number of things the crash survivors could have done to either get help, aid their rescue, kill the wolves, etc., etc. Of course, if they’d have done any of those things, the movie would have been about 15 minutes long. My advice is to just go with it.

In the end, how many of you have seen “The Grey”? What did you think about it? Did you like it or dislike it? Why? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations for Sat., June 23, 2012

Temp: 80.1 degrees F (26.7 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 72 percent (Normal)

Conditions: Clear.

Winds: 0.0 mph (Calm).

Barometric Pressure: 29.41 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.1 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 39.2 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTES: Today is the 175th day of 2012 and the fourth day of Summer. There are 191 days left in the year.

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. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Is Krakauer's 'Into Thin Air' the greatest adventure book ever written?

“Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster” by Jon Krakauer is arguably one of the finest adventure books ever written, and if you have any interest in adventure expeditions, mountaineering or life on Mount Everest, then I highly recommend that you read this book.

Published in 1997, this best-selling nonfiction book is Krakauer’s first-hand account of the May 1996 Mount Everest disaster in which a dozen people died during bad weather on the mountain, including his two professional guides, Rob Hall and Andy Harris. Krakauer, a professional journalist, was sent to the mountain to write an article for Outside magazine about the commercialization of summit expeditions on Everest. Little did he know that he would become involved in one of the more famous (or infamous) events in the mountain’s history.

I’ve wanted to read this book ever since May 2004, when National Geographic ranked “Into Thin Air” at No. 9 on its list of “100 Best Adventure Books.” The book is also on a number of other “best-of” lists, including the No. 48 spot on Sports Illustrated’s “Top 100 Sports Books of All Time” list. The website, The Art of Manliness, listed “Into Thin Air” on two of its “best of” lists. It’s No. 3 on TAOM’s “Essential Adventure Library: 50 Nonfiction Adventure Books” list and No. 76 on TAOM’s “100 Must Read Books: The Man’s Essential Library” list.

Interestingly, “Into Thin Air” was not included on one of my favorite “best-of” adventure lists, Outside Magazine’s “25 Best Adventure Books of the Last 100 Years” list, which was released in May 2003. I wonder if the editors at Outside didn’t put Krakauer on the list because he wrote “Into Thin Air” while working for them and because he is a frequent contributor to the magazine.

“Into Thin Air” reminded me a lot of Maurice Herzog’s famous mountaineering book, “Annapurna,” which was published in 1951. “Annapurna” is the best-selling mountaineering book of all-time, and is considered by many to be the finest mountain-climbing book ever written. My personal favorite is “Into Thin Air,” but both books are great and will leave you wanting to take up mountaineering.

“Into Thin Air” is a controversial book and has met with criticism. Krakauer addresses this criticism in his book and has much to say in his defense. Much of the criticism regards his descriptions of the actions of Russian climber Anatoli Boukreev. Boukreev wrote his own book about the 1996 incident on Everest called “The Climb.” Not long after his book came out though, the 39-year-old Boukreev died on Christmas Day 1997, killed by an avalanche while trying to climb the south face of Annapurna in Nepal.

If you like “Into Thin Air,” I recommend that you also read Krakauer’s 1996 book, “Into the Wild,” which is almost as good as “Into Thin Air.” “Into the Wild” was included on Outside’s “25 Best Adventure Books of the Last 100 Years” list. His other books include “Under the Banner of Heaven” (2003) and “Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman” (2007).

In the end, how many of you have read “Into Thin Air”? What did you think about it? Did you like it or not? Why? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations for Fri., June 22, 2012

Temp: 77.2 degrees F (25.1 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 68 percent (Normal)

Conditions: Mostly Cloudy.

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

Barometric Pressure: 29.45 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.1 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 39.2 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTES: Today is the 174th day of 2012 and the third day of Summer. There are 192 days left in the year.

And Remember - "When the sun shines while raining, it will rain the same time again 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. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Long-distance paddler, author meets Evergreen residents at Maiben Lake

David Haynes of Blount Springs officially finished paddling the 631-mile Alabama Scenic River Trail last Thursday and one of the most memorable parts of his trip was an encounter he had with two Evergreen residents.

Haynes and two canine companions, a pair of golden retrievers named Bailey and Roscoe, began paddling the ASRT on May 1, and the 57-year-old author and photographer plans to write a book about his trip. The trail begins about 200 yards over the Georgia state line before entering Alabama near Cedar Bluff on the Coosa River. Eventually the trail enters the Alabama River near Wetumpka and meanders south toward the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and the Gulf of Mexico.

Almost from the start of Haynes’ trip, Evergreen residents and outdoor enthusiasts Glenn Brooks and Dalton Campbell began following Haynes’ progress on his blog and Facebook. About 120 miles from the end of his trip, Haynes got to meet Brooks and Campbell for the first time at Maiben Lake, just north of the Claiborne Lock and Dam in Monroe County.

“They’d been following me online almost from the start of the trip,” Haynes told The Courant on Monday. “They commented almost daily about the trip, and while I’d never met them, over time I almost felt like I knew them.”

As Haynes approached the Claiborne Lock and Dam, Brooks called him on his cell phone, telling him to look for a sign he’d placed on a sandbar not far from his camp house at Maiben Lake. A mile or so later, Haynes encountered a sign that read “David Haynes, Welcome to Maiben Lake, 200 yards, GB.”

Haynes followed a creek leading to Brooks’ camp house and met his Facebook friends for the first time as well as their wives. Brooks had prepared lunch for the paddler and as Haynes joined them inside, it dawned on him that he hadn’t enjoyed a meal indoors in over a month.

“It was kind of a weird feeling,” Haynes said. “It felt abnormal to eat inside, but we had a good time. I enjoyed meeting them for the first time. They’re good folks. It was really neat to meet them.”

After their visit, Haynes continued down river with his dogs and claimed a campsite. Just before dark, Brooks and Campbell visited him again and brought him a care package containing drinks, hot dogs, apples, potato chips and cake.

It took Haynes, who paddled the Colorado River down the Grand Canyon 25 years ago, 45 days and 44 nights to paddle the ASRT. He lost 28 pounds during the trip, but he noted that the trip afforded him a lot of time to practice his guitar skills on a carbon filter guitar built by his brother, Bill Haynes of Mount Olive.

“The guitar is impervious to water,” Haynes said. “It probably got soaking wet 20 times or more, but you’d never know it. I practiced at night, and it was a good toy to have with me. I think the dogs loved it too. They didn’t complain even once.”

No one’s ever written a guidebook about the ASRT, and Haynes hopes to publish the first such book through the University of Alabama Press later this year, he said. The book will be somewhat similar to his 2011 book, “Motorcycling Alabama: 50 Ride Loops through the Heart of Dixie,” he said.

For more information about Haynes’ trip, visit his blog at http://paddlinginfo.ua.edu/.

Share your backyard rainfall totals with the world through CoCoRaHS

I know we’ve got a few “weather nuts” in the reading audience, and I ran across something during the past week that some of you weather enthusiasts might be interested in hearing about it.

In Tuesday of last week’s Mobile Press-Register, WKRG News 5 weatherman Alan Sealls mentioned in his weather column that individuals with a rain gauge can join the CoCoRaHS network in order to share their backyard rainfall totals with the world.

“It helps meteorologists and all of society, given the impact of heavy rain,” Sealls said. “That makes it easier for me to talk about your town on TV too.”

CoCoRaHS stands for Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network, and the network is composed of volunteer weather watchers who take daily readings of precipitation and report them online.

The nonprofit network, which is sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation, is also actively seeking volunteers.

“Everyone can participate, both young, old and in-between,” organizers said. “The only requirements are an enthusiasm for watching and reporting weather conditions and a desire to learn more about how weather can affect and impact our lives.”

Meteorologists like Sealls and a wide variety of other organizations and individuals use the data collected by network volunteers. Others who make use of the rainfall information include emergency managers, engineers, farmers, hydrologists, insurance adjusters, mosquito control workers, municipal utility supervisors, outdoorsmen, ranchers, students, teachers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Another side benefit of the network is that it’s educational. Not only will you probably learn more about the weather, but so will others, including any school-age children you have around the house. The network is also developing classroom resources for teachers, so it might be a good way for local educators to develop science coursework using local weather and rainfall totals.

The network, which includes the U.S. and Canada, is organized by state, and Conecuh County is in the network’s Southwestern Alabama region along with Baldwin, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Covington, Crenshaw, Escambia, Mobile, Monroe and Washington counties. Jack Cullen with the National Weather Service’s Mobile-Pensacola Weather Forecast Office in Mobile is the regional coordinator for our part of the state. John R. Christy, the Alabama State Climatologist and Director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, is Alabama’s CoCoRaHS state coordinator.

To participate in the network, you will have to have a high capacity, four-inch, all-weather rain guage that measures rainfall in hundredths of an inch. If you don’t already have a rain gauge of this type, you may be able to find one at a local home and garden store. If not, you can order one online from WeatherYourWay.com for about $25.

For more information about CoCoRaHS or to volunteer, visit the service’s official Web site at www.cocorahs.org. I signed up last Thursday, and it took all of about five minutes. Now, I’ve just got to get my hands on one of those wide-mouthed rain gauges.

Hillcrest's new principal has impressive sports background

Hillcrest High School’s new principal, Rodney Drish, stopped by the office first thing Monday morning, and I was more than impressed with his sports background.

A three-sport athlete at Livingston High School in the early 1990s, the 37-year-old is an experienced coach at multiple levels, including recreation league football and basketball, varsity boys and girls basketball and a stint as an assistant football coach in Covington County.

He said he looks forward to keeping the sports teams at Hillcrest competitive and hopes to build on the success they’ve already had at the school. With the help of the school’s already experienced coaching staff, he noted that he’s looking forward to having a highly successful athletics program at the school.

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Sixty-four days.

That’s how long we’ve got to wait until the start of the high school football season.

Sparta Academy will play its season opener on Fri., Aug. 24, when they play Pickens Academy at Billy McGee Stadium in Carrollton.

Hillcrest High School will play its season opener on Fri., Aug. 31, when they travel to Chatom to take on Washington County High School.

The college football season will kick off on Thurs., Aug. 30, with three nationally televised games featuring South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Washington State, BYU, Texas A&M and Louisiana Tech.

The NFL regular season will start with a game between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants on Wed., Sept. 5, with a full slate of games to be played the following Sunday. Preseason games will start in early August.

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Sports fans in the audience who like a good book will be interested to hear that a sports-related book was listed in this week’s Publishers Weekly nonfiction best-sellers list.

According to the list released last Thursday, "Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness” by Scott Jurek was No. 13 on the list.

Jurek, 38, is one of the most dominant ultramarathon runners in the world. Ultramarathons are footraces that are longer than traditional marathons, which are 26.2 miles long. Some ultramarathons are 50 miles long, while others are 100 miles long or longer. This sport is growing in popularity, and Jurek, a native of Minnesota, is one of the leading American runners in the sport.

According to the publisher, “Eat and Run” describes Jurek’s life as an elite athlete and vegetarian. The book contains a lot of practical advice for runners of all levels and is available through retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble for less than $20 a copy.

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As of Monday, the Miami Heat held a 2-1 edge over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals with Game Four in the series set to take place Tuesday in Miami. Game Five will take place tonight (Thursday) in Miami, and I honestly look for the Heat to win both of those games to take the championship.

If OKC happens to win one or both of those two games, Game Six will be played Sunday in Oklahoma City with Game Seven to follow the following Tuesday in Oklahoma City. The way the Heat played Sunday night, I’ll be shocked if it goes to seven games.

The Evergreen Courant's Sports Flashback for June 21, 2012

THREE YEARS AGO
JUNE 18, 2009

“The Dodgers won this year’s Evergreen Minor League championship. Players on the team include Drimtri Anderson, Octavious Ballard, Kobe Bradley, ShaNaya Grace, Myeshia King, Gill Tyus, Davis Nix, Kavin Randall, Brandon Rudolph, Dorian Simpson, Kylin Taylor, Christion Watson, Yasmine Woods and Jalen Turner. Coaches on the team include Michael Bradley, Cecil Gill and Richard Nix. Willie Rudolph is manager.”

“Conecuh County native Kelvin Davis headed to California this week to take part in a tryout that will hopefully land the 49-year-old on a pro basketball roster.
“Davis, a 1977 graduate of Lyeffion High School who now lives in Atlanta, traveled to Hawthorne, Calif. this week to take part in the third annual NBA Development League Pre-Draft Camp. The camp is scheduled to begin tomorrow and end on Sunday and is being held at the Hangar Sports Xchange, just minutes from Los Angeles International Airport.”

“Evergreen Little League officials released Tuesday morning the names of players selected to this year’s two Little League all-star teams.
“Players on the 11- and 12-year-old All-Star team include Hunter Bolton, Kristin Booker, Corinthian Cunningham, Steven Hamby, Drew Hardin, Johnny Hart, Zane Lambert, Latreal McCreary, Timothy McDonald, Terrell Riley, Keyshawn Roach, Lanse Robbins, Ethan Roberts and Taylor Chavers.”

18 YEARS AGO
JUNE 16, 1994

“Patrick Ray of Evergreen caught this 7-1/2 pound bass on June 8. Patrick said he caught the bass on a cane pole using wigglers for bait.”

“Six clients of the Conecuh Activity Center participated in the State Special Olympics at Fort Rucker on May 20-22. The participants brought home two gold medals, four silver medals and four bronze medals. Those participating were Derry Jones, Freddie Stanton, Gloria Boney, Sherry Smith and Rosa McCreary. They were accompanied by Staff Member Toyal Oliver and Program Coordinator Leonard Millender.”

“A BASEBALL CAMP for children age 9 to 12 will be held Fri., June 24, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Sat., June 25, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Evergreen Municipal Park, Little League field. Coaches from Faulkner State University and Evergreen’s own Lee Wild will be conducting the baseball camp. The fee for the camp is $30, which includes a T-shirt. To reserve your space, call Karen Burns.”

“3RD ANNUAL BLUEBERRY SOFTBALL TOURNAMENT will be held Sat., June 18, at O’Bannon Park in Brewton. Deadline for registration is Fri., June 17. Entry is $110. First through fourth place trophies with individual trophies to championship team. ASA umpires, two homeruns and an out rule applies. For info call Joey Weaver or Jeff Bell.”

33 YEARS AGO
JUNE 21, 1979

“Bill Cope wins Stuart Trophy: Bill Cope, who graduated with the Class of 1979, won one of the most coveted athletic awards at Sparta Academy for the 1978-79 school year when he was presented the D.T. Stuart Jr. Sportsmanship Trophy. The presentation took place during graduation exercises on May 24.
“Bill, son of Mr. and Mrs. Sam Cope, North Main Street, earned letters in football his last four years at Sparta. He played primarily as an offensive lineman until his senior year when he was outstanding on both offense and defense ‘in the trenches.’
“The Stuart Trophy, awarded here for over 30 years, is highly desired because the winner is determined by the vote of members of the football team. His Warrior teammates chose Bill for the high honor.
“It is interesting to recall that Bill’s father, an outstanding two-way tackle on some of Evergreen High School’s better football teams in the 1950s, also won the Stuart Sportsmanship Trophy his senior year.
“Tal Stuart Jr. began awarding the trophy in the late 1940s to encourage hard, but fair, play by local football players.”

“Trip Hendrix and Wayne Harrelson share the honors on this trophy bass. The fish was 24 inches long and weighed 8-1/8 pounds. Trip and Wayne said they caught this big one ‘out of the water.’”

48 YEARS AGO
JUNE 18, 1964

“Despite a six-run Brave second inning, the determined Pirates would not be denied and kept fighting back until they emerged victorious 8-7 Thursday night.
“The big Brave second inning was highlighted by two RBIs by Jud Stinson and a run-scoring triple by Johnny Brown. The Pirates began to roll in the third inning as they pushed across three runs, the big blow of the inning being Eddie Thornley’s triple. In the fifth inning, the Pirates struck for two more runs on Glenn Bolton’s double after Hicks and Thornley had walked.
“The Braves rallied for a run in the sixth as Gray Sullivan reached first base on an error, moved to third and scored on a passed ball. In the seventh inning, the Pirates wrapped it up as Eddie Thornley singled, stole second and third, and came home on a single by Benny Burt. Tommy Chapman started for the Pirates and was relieved by Wayne Hicks in the sixth. Johnny Brown started and took the loss for the Braves. Wayne Hicks got the win.”

“Coach Shirley Frazier, director of the Evergreen Recreation Department’s summer program is asking for instructors for a baseball clinic. Clinic instruction will be on catching, pitching, infield and outfield. Coach Frazier said that the clinic will be held from 8 to 10 on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. Anyone interested in helping with the clinic can contact Frazier at the Evergreen Pool.”

“Gary Faulkner and Ronnie Elliot combined to pitch the Tigers past the Indians as they scattered three hits and provided the difference in a 5-2 Tiger win. The Tigers started their scoring early in the game as Bubba Faulkner was hit by a pitch, stole second and came home on a wild pick-off attempt.”

63 YEARS AGO
JUNE 16, 1949

“Tournament Play Advances Slowly: Play in the City Golf Tournament was slowed considerably this past week by rains; however several matches were played. In the Championship matches, C.T. Ivey beat Dr. Bill Turk and Roy Pace won out over Bayne Petrey in an extended match. Remaining matches are between Bonnie King and C.A. Jones, and L.K. Wiggins and Hub Robison. The winner of the King-Jones match will play Roy Pace, the winner of the Wiggins-Robison match will play Billy Carleton, the winner of the later match playing Knud Nielsen in the semifinals. In the consolation, W.P. Price defeated Truman Hyde and there are no other matches reported.”

“J.J. (Jack) Finklea, principal of Evergreen High School and director of the summer recreation program, announced this week that a sports program for boys from the age of eight through high school will start Monday. All boys interested in participating in this program are asked to meet at Memorial Gym Monday morning, June 30, at nine o’clock.
“The program will include touch football, baseball, basketball, volleyball, tennis and golf. A weekly schedule of games will be worked out Monday for all are interested.”

“The Evergreen American Legion Junior Baseball Team for 16-year-old and under boys has nine more games scheduled on their 14-game season. The local team is sponsored jointly by the Legion and the Evergreen Motor Car Co.”

Daily Weather Observations for Thurs., June 21, 2012

Temp: 74.1 degrees F (23.4 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 68 percent (Normal)

Conditions: Clear

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

Barometric Pressure: 29.56 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.1 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 39.2 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTES: Today is the 173rd day of 2012 and the second day of Summer. There are 193 days left in the year.

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. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

This week's movie picks are 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' and 'Project X'

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:

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Horror, Suspense, R): Directed by Timur Bekmambetov and starring Benjamin Walker, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Dominic Cooper, Alan Tudyk and Anthony Mackie.

Brave (Family, Adventure, PG): Directed by Brenda Chapman and Mark Andrews and starring the voices of Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Waters and Kevin McKidd.

The Invisible War (Documentary, Not Rated): Directed by Kirby Dick.

Kumare (Documentary): Directed by Vikram Gandhi.

Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World (Comedy, Romance, R): Directed by Lorene Scafaria and starring Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Connie Britton, Melanie Lynskey and T.J. Miller.

Stella Days (Drama): Directed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan and starring Martin Sheen, Stephen Rea, Alan Curran, Gail Fitzpatrick and Amy Huberman.

To Rome With Love (Comedy, Romance, R): Directed by Woody Allen and starring Ellen Page, Woody Allen, Jesse Eisenberg, Penelope Cruz and Alec Baldwin.

New DVD releases for the week of June 19 include:

Attenberg (Comedy, Drama, Not Rated): Directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari.

Big Miracle (Drama, Family, PG): Directed by Ken Kwapis and starring Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski, Kristen Bell, Ted Danson and Dermot Mulroney.

Cat Run (Action, Comedy): Directed by John Stockwell and starring Paz Vega, Janet McTeer, Christopher McDonald, Tony Curran and Scott Mechlowicz.

And Everything Is Going Fine (Documentary): Directed by Steven Soderbergh.

The FP (Comedy, R): Directed by Brandon Trost and Jason Trost and starring Jason Trost, lee Valmassy, Art Hsu, Caitlyn Folley and Nick Principe.

Jeff Who Lives At Home (Comedy, Drama, R): Directed by Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass and starring Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon, Judy Greer and Rae Dawn Chong.

Project X (Comedy, R): Directed by Nima Nourizadeh and starring Thomas Mann, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Oliver Cooper, Miles Teller and Nichole O’Connor.

Seeking Justice (Action, Suspense, R): Directed by Roger Donaldson and starring Nicolas Cage, January Jones, Guy Pearce, Jennifer Carpenter and Harold Perrineau.

Wanderlust (Comedy, R): Directed by David Wain and starring Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd, Malin Akerman, Justin Theroux and Lauren Ambrose.

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “Project X.”

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., June 20, 2012

Temp: 72.7 degrees F (22.6 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 73 percent (Normal)

Conditions: Clear with thin clouds in the East.

Winds: 0.2 mph out of the East (Calm)

Barometric Pressure: 29.63 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.1 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 39.2 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTES: Today is the 172nd day of 2012 and the first day of Summer. There are 194 days left in the year.

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. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Which of these 2012 Locus Award-winning books is your favorite?

Locus Magazine, the “Magazine of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Field,” announced the winners of the 2012 Locus Awards Saturday in Seattle.

This year’s slate of winners were as follows:

Best Science Fiction Novel - “Embassytown” by China Mieville

Best Fantasy Novel - “A Dance with Dragons” by George R.R. Martin

Best First Novel - “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern

Best Young Adult Book – “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making” by Catherynne M. Valente

Best Anthology – “The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-eighth Annual Collection,” edited by Gardner Dozois

Best Collection – “The Bible Repairman and Other Stories” by Tim Powers

Best Non-fiction – “Evaporating Genres: Essays on Fantastic Literature” by Gary K. Wolfe

Best Art Book – “Spectrum 18: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art” by Cathy Fenner and Arnie Fenner

Best Magazine – Asimov’s

Other winners this year included:

Best Novella – “Silently and Very Fast” by Catherynne M. Valente

Best Novelette – “White Lines on a Green Field” by Catherynne M. Valente

Best Short Story – “The Case of Death and Honey” by Neil Gaiman

Best Publisher – Tor

Best Editor – Ellen Datlow

Best Artist – Shaun Tan

The other finalists in the Best Science Fiction Novel category included
- “Leviathan Wakes” by James S.A. Corey
- “11/22/63” by Stephen King
- “Rule 34” by Charles Stross
- “The Children of the Sky” by Vernor Vinge

The other finalists in the Best Fantasy Novel category included
- “Snuff” by Terry Pratchett
- “The Wise Man’s Fear” by Patrick Rothfuss
- “Deathless” by Catherynne M. Valente
- “Among Others” by Jo Walton

The other finalists in the Best First Novel category included
- “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline
- “God’s War” by Kameron Hurley
- “Soft Apocalypse” by Will McIntosh
- “Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti” by Genevieve Valentine

The other finalists in the Best Young Adult Book category included
- “Planesrunner” by Ian McDonald
- “Akata Witch” by Nnedi Okorafor
- “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs
- “Goliath” by Scott Westerfield

The other finalists in the Best Non-fiction Book category included
- “In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination” by Margaret Atwood
- “Becoming Ray Bradbury” by Jonathan R. Eller
- “Musings and Meditations” by Robert Silverberg
- “Sightings: Reviews 2002-2006” by Gary K. Wolfe

The other finalists in the Best Anthology category included
- “Welcome to Bordertown,” edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner
- “Steampunk!” edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant
- “Eclipse Four,” edited by Jonathan Strahan
- “Engineering Infinity,” edited by Jonathan Strahan

The other finalists in the Best Collection category included
- “Sleight of Hand” by Peter S. Beagle
- “The Collected Stories of Carol Emshwiler, Vol. 1” by Carol Emshwiler
- Two Worlds and In Between” by Caitlin R. Kiernan
- After the Apocalypse” by Maureen F. McHugh

Established in 1971, the Locus Awards are presented to the winners of the magazine’s annual readers’ poll. The award was initially established to provide Hugo Awards voters with recommendations and suggestions. Since 1971, the Locus Awards have become more prestigious and now draws more voters than the prestigious Hugo and Nebula awards combined.

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 and why? Let us know in the comments section below.