Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Which of this year's Saturn Award winners was YOUR personal favorite?

The 38th Annual Saturn Awards were awarded by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films last Thursday, and a number of films and television series were recognized for being among the best of the best in genre entertainment.

Last Thursday, six films were recognized in categories for science fiction, fantasy, horror/thriller, action/adventure, international and animated films. This year’s winners and nominees were:

Best Science Fiction Film - Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Winner)

The other nominees in this category included:
- The Adjustment Bureau
- Captain America: The First Avenger
- Limitless
- Super 8
- X-Men: First Class

Best Fantasy Film - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (Winner)

The other nominees in this category included:
- Hugo
- Immortals
- Midnight in Paris
- The Muppets
- Thor

Best Horror/Thriller Film - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Winner)

The other nominees in this category included:
- Contagion
- The Devil’s Double
- The Grey
- Take Shelter
- The Thing

Best Action/Adventure Film: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Winner)

The other nominees in this category included:
- Fast Five
- The Lincoln Lawyer
- Red Tails
- Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
- War Horse

Best International Film - The Skin I Live In (Winner)

The other nominees in this category included:
- Attack the Block
- The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch
- Melancholia
- Point Blank
- Troll Hunter

Best Animated Film – Puss in Boots (Winner)

The other nominees in this category included:
- The Adventures of Tintin
- Cars 2
- Kung Fu Panda 2
- Rango
- Rio

Other awards given included:

- Best Actor – Michael Shannon (Take Shelter)

- Best Actress – Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia)

- Best Supporting Actor – Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)

- Best Supporting Actress – Emily Blunt (The Adjustment Bureau)

- Best Performance by a Younger Actor – Joel Courtney (Super 8)

- Best Director – J.J. Abrams (Super 8)

- Best Writing – Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter)

- Best Music – Michael Giacchino (Super 8)

- Best Editor – Paul Hirsch (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol)

- Best Costume – Alexandra Byrne (Thor)

- Best Make-Up – Dave Elsey, Fran Needham, Conor O’Sullivan (X-Men: First Class)

- Best Production Design – Dante Ferretti (Hugo)

- Best Special Effects – Dan Lemmon, Joe Letteri, R. Christopher White, Daniel Barrett (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)

The ASFFHF also handed out its yearly slate of awards for excellence in television. Awards were given in nine categories. They included:

- Best Network Television Series – Fringe

- Best Syndicated/Cable Television Series – Breaking Bad

- Best Television Presentation – The Walking Dead

- Best Youth-Oriented Television Series: Teen Wolf

- Best Actor on Television – Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)

- Best Actress on Television – Anna Torv (Fringe)

- Best Supporting Actor on Television – Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)

- Best Supporting Actress on Television – Michelle Forbes (The Killing)

- Best Guest Star on Television – Tom Skerritt (Leverage)

In the end, how many of the movies mentioned above have you watched? Which did you like or dislike and why? Which is your favorite? Which of the TV series mentioned above is your favorite and why? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations for Tues., July 31, 2012

Temp: 75.6 degrees F (24.2 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.1 inches.

Humidity: 84 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Light rain, overcast, thundering.

Winds: 0.1 mph out of the Southeast (Calm)

Barometric Pressure: Unknown, battery dead on barometer.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.1 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 7.5 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 46.7 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

Alabama River Stage at Claiborne Lock and Dam:
Today: 6.08 feet
Yesterday: 5.66 feet
Change: +0.42 feet
Flood Stage: 42.0 feet

NOTES: Today is the 213th day of 2012 and the 42nd day of Summer. There are 153 days left in the year. Today is the 29th day of Dog Days.

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

Monday, July 30, 2012

BUCKET LIST UPDATE – No. 61: Release a message in a bottle

This bucket list item was inspired by a story by Ben Raines that ran in the Jan. 7, 2012 edition of The Mobile Press-Register. Titled “Note place like home: Messages in bottles find their way back to original owner,” the story was about a message in a whiskey bottle that washed up on Sand Island.

According to the story, this message in a bottle was released on Dec. 29, 2011 by Bruce Reynolds of Clinton, Miss. It was found about a week later on Jan. 5, 2012. As it turned out, this bottle was one of about 50 that Reynolds has released since the 1950s. He began releasing messages in a bottle ever since he found one himself as a small boy. In all, he’s gotten responses from about 30 of them, and some of them made it as far away as the Texas-Mexico border and Boca Raton, Fla. He noted that he often places a dollar inside the bottle with his message.

I spent about a week preparing my message in a bottle. The first problem I faced was selecting a bottle. I eventually settled on an empty Miller High Life beer bottle with a metal screw-down cap. To make sure that it would float, I tested the bottle by placing it in a kitchen sink full of water. It passed with flying colors.

I then used a dishrag and my wife’s nail polish remover to scrub off the label. All of it wouldn’t come off though, despite my best efforts. The industrial-strength adhesive was just too strong. I ended up having to use my trusty pocketknife to scrape off the rest of the label, giving the bottle a nice, clean look.

After typing up my message on an 8-1/2 by 11-inch piece of paper, I folded it and sealed it inside of a small, waterproof Ziplock bag. I then tight-rolled the message and bag and slipped it inside the bottle. The message bag unrolled a bit, but not much.

Next, taking a cue from Reynolds, I slipped a $5 bill inside the bottle. From my way of thinking this serves two purposes. It makes the bottle more eye-catching and will hopefully cover the costs of the finder getting in contact with me.

I then placed the cap on tightly and observed my handiwork. It was then that it dawned on me that the bottle’s metal cap could corrode away over time and could cause the bottle to sink. To prevent this scenario, with the cap firmly on, I dipped it in melted candle wax five or six times over the course of about two hours. I hope that this will provide a good watertight seal over the cap, but not a seal so strong that someone can’t get inside the bottle.

In the end, this was a fun, little project. How many of you have ever prepared and released a message in a bottle? How did you do it? How did you prepare the bottle? When and where did you release it? Did you ever get a response? Let us know in the comments section below.

Yesterday's News from The Evergreen Courant for July 30, 2012

FIVE YEARS AGO
AUG. 2, 2007

“Larry Davis, 51, of Lenox harvested this 79-pound watermelon Monday of last week from his farm at Lenox. Although he declined to divulge the secret to growing a giant watermelon, he did say that he learned how to do it from his father-in-law, Albert Burch of Lenox. Davis told The Courant that he planned to carve up the melon, save some seeds and eat the rest.”

“Warrick Maye of Evergreen visited with Governor Bob Riley at the Annual Alabama Education Technology Conference in Birmingham during the week of June 9, 2007.”

“CSX Railroad employees Jerry Watkins and Bobby Watkins display old-fashioned railroad spikes and other railroad memorabilia to children during a program last Thursday at the Old L&N Train Depot in Evergreen. The program was part of the Evergreen-Conecuh County Public Library’s Summer Reading Program.”

“It just got a whole lot easier to get to the Castleberry Nutrition Center.
“Castleberry Mayor J.B. Jackson announced Tuesday that the town’s new 15-passenger van was scheduled to begin servicing the town’s elderly yesterday.
“Nutrition Center Manager Veronica “Ronda” Stokes, who has been at the center for about two years, will drive the bus along an established route, picking up individuals who are registered to take part in programs at the center, she said.”

20 YEARS AGO
AUG. 6, 1992

“Weatherman Harry Ellis reports .60 of an inch of rain on July 27, .05 on July 28, .72 on July 29, .01 on July 31 and .09 on Aug. 2. Total rainfall for July was 9.83 inches.”

“Automated weather system is activated at airport: Area residents are now able to take advantage of an emergency weather system that will give up-to-the-minute broadcasts of what is happening in the skies around Conecuh County.
“Area officials announced the completion of the latest phase of the Automated Surface Observing System at the Evergreen Airport. It is described as ‘a modern array of sensors, computers and communications ports engineered to bring you weather observations accurately, continuously and automatically.’
“Evergreen’s airport is one of three of the state’s 338 airports to house this $200,000 equipment combination.”

“Alton Henderson has announced his candidacy for mayor of Castleberry in the pending Aug. 25 election.
“Henderson was born and raised in the Hamden Ridge community near Castleberry. After serving in the military and retiring from the Federal Defense Department, Henderson returned to Castleberry in 1985.”

“The Conecuh County Commission announced Tuesday that Fred Stevens has been named as the new County Attorney.
“Stevens, an Evergreen native, spent a career as an agent of the F.B.I. in the northeastern states. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama, the F.B.I. Academy and holds the degree of Doctor of Jurisprudence from Jones School of Law of Faulkner University.”

35 YEARS AGO
AUG. 4, 1977

“The week was marked by one very pleasant day and almost daily showers. Earl Windham reports that the mercury reached a pleasant high of only 80 degrees Saturday. He recorded rainfall as follows: .13 of an inch on July 27, .10 on July 28, .28 on July 29, .56 on July 30 and one inch on July 31.”

“Fob James, the former Auburn All-American halfback who in only 15 years developed a basement business into a $50 million-a-year success story, will be the guest speaker Aug. 11 at the regular meeting of the Evergreen Rotary Club.
“James, 42, is founder, president and board chairman of Diversified Products Corporation, makers of consumer physical fitness and recreation products as well as industrial products.
“More than 1,000 people are employed at the plant in Opelika, which is the home office of Diversified Products, with other plants located in Los Angeles and in Toronto, Canada.
“It seems appropriate that a man with a glory-filled athletic background should become a successful manufacturer of goods designed to keep other Americans fit.”

“Conecuh County schools will begin the fall term on Thurs., Aug. 25, it is announced today by the Board of Education. Teachers will meet at Repton on Aug. 23 and will report to their assigned schools on Aug. 24, according to Superintendent of Education Wayne Pope.”

50 YEARS AGO
AUG. 2, 1962

“One of five lovely young ladies will be chosen Conecuh County’s 1962 Maid of Cotton here Saturday during the Conecuh County Farm Bureau’s annual meeting at the Courthouse.
“The five contestants include two college students and three career girls who are vying for the crown now worn by Miss Marilyn Dees of Evergreen.”
The contestants included Miss Ann Coker, Miss Barbara Edson, Miss Elizabeth Cook, Miss Juliana Lee and Miss Gerry Seales.

“The first open boll of the 1962 cotton crop was received Saturday morning by The Courant. H.W. Ward Sr., well known farmer and agricultural leader of the Fairview community, brought the open boll in to the office.
“He said the boll was from the field of Cleve Millender of Rt. E, Evergreen. Cleve in past years has had the first bloom, first boll and first bale in the county.”

“An alert Alabama Highway Patrolman had a wanted Texas man in the Conecuh County Jail within hours after the crime was committed.
“Patrolman C.B. Cargile of the Evergreen station arrested Edward Lamar Nelson, white 21-year-old, around 6 p.m. last Thursday. The arrest was made at Evergreen Motel where Nelson had rented a room.
“Houston, Texas police had put an alert out for Nelson with the tag number of the car he was driving after he burglarized his employer’s place of business there Wed., July 25.”

65 YEARS AGO
AUG. 7, 1947

“Bids for the construction of an auditorium at Repton and additions to the Evergreen White Elementary School were opened at the meeting of the Board of Education Aug. 1, but no award was made as the bids were unusually high.
“Mr. H.G. Pate, County Superintendent of Education, stated that none of the bids were within what the board considered a reasonable price range.”

“Conecuh County Schools will open the 1947-48 session Mon., Sept. 8, it was announced by H.G. Pate, Superintendent of Education.”

“The first open boll of cotton of the 1947 season to be brought to The Courant office came in Thurs., July 31, and was from the farm of C.A. Barfield of the Paul community. Mr. Barfield says that he has about eight acres and it is in pretty good cotton. He feels sure of at least one half bale to the acre.”

“At a joint meeting July 21 the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and Conecuh County veterans discussed the ways and means of securing funds to erect a veterans clubhouse for all the county’s ex-servicemen. It was decided to approach each veteran in the county and ask him to contribute 10 dollars towards the erection of the clubhouse.”

“There will be a meeting of Alma Martin Post No. 50, American Legion, Friday night, Aug. 8, at the Armory for the purpose of electing officers for the coming year. All members are urged to attend this important meeting.”

Daily Weather Observations for Mon., July 30, 2012

Temp: 78.8 degrees F (26.0 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 82 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Partly cloudy; dew on the ground.

Winds: 0.1 mph out of the Southwest (Calm)

Barometric Pressure: 29.64 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 7.4 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 46.6 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

Alabama River Stage at Claiborne Lock and Dam:
Today: 5.66 feet
Yesterday: 6.23 feet
Change: -0.57 feet
Flood Stage: 42.0 feet

NOTES: Today is the 212th day of 2012 and the 41st day of Summer. There are 154 days left in the year. Today is the 28th day of Dog Days.

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.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

2004 Patricia Cornwell novel, 'Trace,' 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 is new book at the top of the four major best-sellers lists this week.

"The Fallen Angel" by Daniel Silva replaced “Shadow of Night” by Deborah E. Harkness as the No. 1 book on the hardcover fiction best-sellers list.

“Wild by Cheryl Strayed remained the top book on the hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list for the second week in a row.

“The Litigators” by John Grisham remained the No. 1 book on the mass market paperback best-sellers list for the fourth week in a row.

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

There are four books on this week’s hardcover fiction best-sellers list that weren’t on that list last week. They (along with their place on the list) include "The Fallen Angel" by Daniel Silva (1), "Creole Belle" by James Lee Burke (6), "The Sandcastle Girls" by Chris Bohjalian (9) and "Close Your Eyes" by Iris Johansen (11).

There are six books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "A Year Up" by Gerald Chertavian (2), "The Mobile Wave" by Michael Saylor (5), "Eat More of What You Love" by Marlene Koch (6), "How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything...in Business (and in Life)" by Dov Seidman (7), "The Communist" by Paul Kengor (11) and "Out of the Blue" by Victor Cruz (12).

There are two books on this week’s mass market paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "Lethal" by Sandra Brown (3) and "Trace" by Patricia Cornwell (15).

There are two books on this week’s trade paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "On the Island" by Tracey Garvis Graves (14) and "Maine" by J. Courtney Sullivan (15).

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

HARDCOVER FICTION
1. "The Fallen Angel" by Daniel Silva
2. "I, Michael Bennett" by James Patterson, Michael Ledwidge
3. "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn
4. "Shadow of Night" by Deborah E. Harkness
5. "Backfire" by Catherine Coulter
6. "Creole Belle" by James Lee Burke
7. "The Next Best Thing: A Novel" by Jennifer Weiner
8. "Wicked Business" by Janet Evanovich
9. "The Sandcastle Girls" by Chris Bohjalian
10. "A Dance with Dragons" by George R.R. Martin
11. "Close Your Eyes" by Iris Johansen
12. "15 Seconds" by Andrew Gross
13. "Calico Joe" by John Grisham
14. "Summerland" by Elin Hilderbrand
15. "Bloodline: A Sigma Force Novel" by James Rollins

HARDCOVER NONFICTION
1. "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed
2. "A Year Up" by Gerald Chertavian
3. "Killing Lincoln" by Bill O'Reilly & Martin Dugard
4. "The Amateur" by Edward Klein
5. "The Mobile Wave" by Michael Saylor
6. "Eat More of What You Love" by Marlene Koch
7. "How" by Dov Seidman
8. "The Skinny Rules" by Bob Harper with Greg Critser
9. "Cowards" by Glenn Beck
10. "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson
11. "The Communist" by Paul Kengor
12. "Out of the Blue" by Victor Cruz
13. "Dream Team" by Jack McCallum
14. "The Great Destroyer" by David Limbaugh
15. "It Worked for Me" by Colin Powell

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS
1. "The Litigators" by John Grisham
2. "Safe Haven" by Nicholas Sparks
3. "Lethal" by Sandra Brown
4. "Split Second" by Catherine Coulter
5. "Private Games" by James Patterson
6. "Savor the Moment" by Nora Roberts
7. "Family Affair" by Debbie Macomber
8. "The Silent Girl" by Tess Gerritsen
9. "Gun Games" by Faye Kellerman
10. "Explosive Eighteen" by Janet Evanovich
11. "Summer People" by Elin Hilderbrand
12. "Midnight Promises" by Sherryl Woods
13. "Summer Nights" by Susan Mallery
14. "Afraid to Die" Lisa Jackson
15. "Trace" by Patricia Cornwell

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. "Bared to You" by Sylvia Day
5. "To Heaven And Back" by Mary C. Neal
6. "The Litigators" by John Grisham
7. "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern
8. "Private Games" by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan
9. "In the Garden of Beasts" by Erik Lawson
10. "A Stolen Life: a Memoir" by Jaycee Lee Dugard
11. "Rules of Civility" by Amor Towles
12. "A Discovery of Witches" by Deborah E. Harkness
13. "Farenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury
14. "On the Island" by Tracey Garvis Graves
15. "Maine" by J. Courtney Sullivan

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., July 29, 2012

Temp: 78.1 degrees F (25.6 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.05 inches.

Humidity: 80 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Thin, scattered clouds; dew on the ground; bees and birds could be heard.

Winds: 0.1 mph out of the Southwest (Calm)

Barometric Pressure: 29.63 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 1.35 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 7.4 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 46.6 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

Alabama River Stage at Claiborne Lock and Dam:
Today: 6.23 feet
Yesterday: 5.9 feet
Change: +.33 feet
Flood Stage: 42.0 feet.

NOTES: Today is the 211th day of 2012 and the 40th day of Summer. There are 155 days left in the year. Today is the 27th day of Dog Days. Today is International Tiger Day.

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.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Let me introduce you to the only feature film about Tasmanian Tigers

I watched a pretty cool movie the other day, 2011’s “The Hunter,” and I’d recommend to anyone who likes suspenseful movies with an outdoorsy twist.

Released on Oct. 6, 2011, this R rated movie was directed by Daniel Nettheim and stars Willem Dafoe in the lead role along with Frances O’Connor, Sam Neill and Callan Mulvey.

The movie’s about a mercenary hunter, Martin David, who’s been hired by a biotech company to travel to Tasmania to “collect samples" from a Tasmanian Tiger. In other words, he’s supposed to kill one, possibly the last one in the world, and bring back tissue samples from the dead animal. He travels to an area where there have been two reliable sightings of the supposedly extinct animal. He tells the locals that he’s a university professor there to study Tasmanian Devils.

When he’s not out tracking the Tasmanian Tiger, which looks like a hyena with tiger stripes on its back, he boards in a cabin owned by a single mother and her two kids. Their father went missing in the bush eight months earlier under mysterious circumstances. David also finds himself in the middle of a conflict between local loggers and protesting environmentalists, who are holding up their work and paychecks. When David doesn’t find the Tasmanian Tiger in a timely manner, the sinister biotech company, Red Leaf, sends in another mercenary and bullets fly.

This movie, while it wasn’t a blockbuster, was cool on a number of levels. First, I was surprised to learn that the Tasmanian Tiger is a real animal, that is, it was a real animal until it went extinct in the 1930s. It was native to continental Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea. Intensive hunting, diseases, nonnative dogs and loss of habitat are all believed to have contributed to its extinction. Interestingly though, sightings of the animal are still reported, and there have been nearly 4,000 sightings of the animal since the late 1930s. The Tasmanian Tiger is also called the Tasmanian Wolf, and it was a carnivorous marsupial.

The movie also seemed extremely realistic. Shot almost entirely in Tasmania, it featured scenes shot at Battery Point, Hobart International Airport, Mount Wellington and the Upper Florentine Valley. The scenes showing Dafoe setting traps and tracking the wanted animal were also well done and edgy. I read somewhere that Dafoe studied under an outback survival expert to prepare for the role. It showed.

Nettheim wrote the screenplay for the film, but the movie was actually based on a 1999 novel of the same name by Julia Leigh. “The Hunter” is one of two novels written by the 42-year-old Leigh. Her other book is called “Disquiet.” In addition to being an author, she’s also a movie director and screenwriter.

In the end, how many of you have seen “The Hunter”? What did you think about it? What was your favorite part? How many of you have read Leigh’s novel, “The Hunter”? What did you think about it? Let us know in the comments section below.

For more information about the movie, visit its official website at http://www.thehuntermovie.com/.

Daily Weather Observations for Sat., July 28, 2012

Temp: 75.7 degrees F (24.3 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.6 inches.

Humidity: 83 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Mostly cloudy, dew on the ground, bees noticeably loud in the grass, water standing in puddles from recent rain.

Winds: 0.0 mph (Calm)

Barometric Pressure: 29.67 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 1.3 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 7.35 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 46.55 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTES: Today is the 210th day of 2012 and the 39th day of Summer. There are 156 days left in the year. Today is the 26th day of Dog Days.

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.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Book discusses theorized connections between Jack the Ripper, freemasonry

My friend Gilbert Harden of Evergreen loaned me a really cool book recently called “101 Secrets of the Freemasons: The Truth Behind the World’s Most Mysterious Society.”

Written by Barb Karg and John K. Young, this 256-page book on freemasonry was published in August 2009. It’s jam-packed with information and touches on scores of Masonic topics, including the origins of freemasonry, the Knights Templar, the Crusades, Jacque de Molay, the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, the history of the Grand Lodge of England, freemasonry in Colonial America, the William Morgan scandal and famous Masons.

I especially enjoyed the sections that dealt with the theories that connect freemasonry with the Jack the Ripper murders, which occurred in London’s Whitechapel district in 1888. I’ve always considered myself an armchair “Ripperologist,” and some of the theories out there linking the fraternity and Jack the Ripper are interesting. For the record, most experts think there is no connection whatsoever. It’s still interesting to read about nonetheless.

The book’s most interesting feature is its “Appendix A” in which the authors provide readers with a great recommended reading list that includes 31 books and one magazine article. I’ve read a few of the books on the list already and there are more than a few on the list that I’ve been meaning to read for some time.

What follows is the complete recommended reading list from the back of “101 Secrets of the Freemasons.”

1. “The Book of Hiram: Freemasonry, Venus and the Secret Key to the Life of Jesus” by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas (2003)

2. “Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry” by John J. Robinson (1989)

3. “The Brotherhood: The Secret World of the Freemasons” by Stephen Knight (1986)

4. “The Builders” by Joseph F. Newton (1973)

5. “Clausen’s Commentaries on Morals and Dogma” by Henry C. Clausen (1974, 1976)

6. “Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia” by Henry Wilson Coil (1996)

7. “The Complete Jack the Ripper” by Donald Rumbelow (1975)

8. “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown (2003)

9. “A Dictionary of Freemasonry” by Robert Macoy (2000)

10. “Freemasonry: A Journey Through Ritual and Symbol” by Kirk MacNulty (1991)

11. “Freemasonry and the Birth of Modern Science” by Robert Lomas (2003)

12. “Freemasonry in American History” by Allen E. Roberts (1985)

13. “The Freemasons: A History of the World’s Most Powerful Secret Society” by Jasper Ridley (1999, 2001)

14. “Freemasons: Inside the World’s Oldest Secret Society” by Paul Jeffers (2005)

15. “The Hiram Key” by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas (1996)

16. “The History of Freemasonry: Its Legendary Origins” by Albert G. Mackey (1966)

17. “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” by Michael Baigent and Henry Lincoln (1983)

18. “Inside the Brotherhood: Further Secrets of the Freemasons” by Martin Short (1990)

19. “Introduction to Freemasonry I: Entered Apprentice” by Carl H. Claudy (1931)

20. “Introduction to Freemasonry II: Fellowcraft” by Carl H. Claudy (1931)

21. “Introduction to Freemasonry III: Master Mason” by Carl H. Claudy (1931)

22. “Is It True What They Say about Freemasonry” by Arturo de Hoyos and S. Brent Morris (2004)

23. “Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution” by Stephen Knight (1976)

24. “Living the Enlightenment: Freemasonry and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Europe” Margaret Jacob (1991)

25. “Mackey’s Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry” (1912)

26. “Morals and Dogma” by Albert Pike (2004)

27. “Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper – Case Closed” by Patricia Cornwell (2003)

28. “The Regius Manuscript” by Frederick M. Hunter (1952)

29. “The Revolutionary Transformation of American Freemasonry, 1752-1792” by Stephen C. Bullock (William and Mary Quarterly 37, 1990)

30. “Sacred Sites of the Knights Templar” by John K. Young (2003)

31. “The Secret History of Freemasonry: Its Origins and Connection to the Knights Templar” by Paul Naudon (1991)

32. “Uriel’s Machine” by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas (2001)

In the end, I enjoyed reading “101 Secrets of the Freemasons.” How many of you have read this book? What did you think about it? How many of the books on the recommended reading list have you read? Which would you recommend? Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations for Fri., July 27, 2012

Temp: 80.7 degrees F (27.1 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.7 inches.

Humidity: 80 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Scattered, thin clouds, dew on the ground.

Winds: 0.1 mph out of the Southwest (Calm)

Barometric Pressure: 29.57 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.7 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.75 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 45.95 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTES: Today is the 209th day of 2012 and the 38th day of Summer. There are 157 days left in the year. Today is the 25th day of Dog Days.

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.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Which of Rick Bragg's seven books is YOUR all-time, personal favorite?

According to my trusty calendar, today (Thursday) is the birthday of one of Alabama’s most famous authors, Pulitzer Prize-winner Rick Bragg.

Bragg, 53, was born in Piedmont on July 26, 1959 and grew up in the Possum Trot community near Jacksonville in Calhoun County. Bragg got his start as a writer by working at a number of newspapers, including the New York Times. I have to admit that I’ve never read any of Bragg’s books, but I’ve always wanted to. I met him a number of years ago at an event in Gulf Shores and have been a big fan of his work ever since.

As of today, Bragg has published seven books. If you’re interested in reading all of them, they include:

- “All Over But the Shoutin’” (1999)

- “Wooden Churches: A Celebration” (1999)

- “Somebody Told Me: The Newspaper Stories of Rick Bragg” (2001)

- “Ava's Man” (2002)

- “I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story (2003)

- “The Prince of Frogtown” (2008)

- “The Most They Ever Had” (2009)

----- 0 -----

Also this week, the good folks at the state tourism department released its Top 10 list of events for the month of August. If you’re looking for something fun to do next month, you might want to check out some of these events.

Events that made the cut include the following – Alabama Restaurant Week, Aug. 17-26; the 26th Annual World’s Longest Yard Sale in Forth Payne, Aug. 2-5; the 19th Annual Buckmasters Expo in Montgomery, Aug. 17-19; the Franklin County Watermelon Festival in Russellville, Aug. 17-18; the Stokin’ the Fire BBQ Festival in Birmingham, Aug. 18; the Gadsden Etowah Cobbler Festival, Aug. 24-25; the 14th Annual Moving Picture Festival in Birmingham, Aug. 24-26; the Bridgeport Jubilee in Bridgeport, Aug. 25; the Black Belt Folk Roots Festival in Eutaw, Aug. 25; and the Fort Mims Re-Enactment and Living History Weekend in Tensaw, Aug. 25-26.

The only event on the list above that I’ve ever been to is the Fort Mims Re-Enactment and Living History Weekend. It’s definitely worth going to see if you’ve never been.

Many of you will remember from your Alabama History class that the Battle of Fort Mims was an important event in American history. Located about 35 miles north of Mobile, Fort Mims was the site of the most brutal Indian massacre in U.S. history. Almost 200 years ago, on Aug. 13, 1813, a group of Creek Indians swept down on the fort and slaughtered 517 settlers and militiamen.

This event touched off the Creek Indian War of 1813-14 and drew Col. Andrew Jackson into the fight, which ended with the Battle of Horseshoe Bend on March 27, 1814 near Dadeville.

Also on the list you’ll see the Alabama Restaurant Week, which is a new promotion that the state tourism department has organized this year. It spotlights 232 restaurants in 57 cities in 30 counties across the state. The only restaurant in the vicinity of Evergreen taking part in this promotion is David’s Catfish House in Monroeville. David’s is known for its cole slaw, cheese grits and catfish, but I’m especially partial to their hamburger steak and gravy, which is mighty fine.

2012 prep football season is just around the corner for local schools

You know that football season is just around the corner when sports writers across the state begin sharing notes about the teams in their coverage areas to get ready for the first prep football poll of the season.

The Alabama Sports Writers Association will release its annual preseason football poll in a few weeks, and writers have already begun gathering information for their ballots. That information is often shared between members of the ASWA, and based on some of the reports I’ve been getting, it looks like this season is shaping up to be a good one.

Here are just a few nuggets of information about some of Hillcrest High School and Sparta Academy’s opponents this upcoming season that some of you might be interested in reading.

Hillcrest will open the season on Aug. 31 in Chatom against Washington County High School. Washington County will have lots of talent this season and could make a state title run. Many of you know that they went 9-4 last year and made it all the way to the Class 3A quarterfinals before losing to eventual state champion, Handley.

The following Friday night Hillcrest will travel to Mobile to play UMS-Wright. UMS will likely field a good team again this year. They made it all the way to the Class 4A semifinals last year before losing to eventual state champs, Jackson High School.

In Hillcrest’s home opener on Sept. 14, the Jaguars will take on Andalusia. The Bulldogs should be pretty decent this year. Most folks feel like the Bulldogs should be ranked somewhere between No. 6 and No. 10 in 4A.

While Hillcrest is playing Andalusia that night in Evergreen, Sparta will be across town, hosting Escambia Academy. Escambia has hired veteran coach Hugh Fountain, and EA should be better this year compared to last year.

The following Friday night, Hillcrest will travel to Grove Hill to take on Clarke County High School. Sports writers are thinking that Clarke County will not be a Top 10 team this season because they will field a very young team this season.

The next Friday night, Hillcrest will travel to East Brewton to play W.S. Neal. Neal went 1-9 in Class 4A last year under new head coach Doug Hoehn. They’re in 3A this year and won’t have to play UMS, Jackson or Thomasville. They should have a better season in Hoehn’s second year, but they’re probably not a Top 10 team.

On Oct. 5, Sparta will play Jackson Academy in Evergreen. Jackson Academy graduated 13 seniors from last year’s state championship team. Jackson Academy will still be pretty good, but it’ll be hard for them to defend their state title.

The next week, Hillcrest will travel to Thomasville to play Thomasville High School. Thomasville lost Alabama signee Tyler Hayes to graduation, but they will return one of the top players in the state, Tevin Waters. The Tigers won’t likely be as strong as they’ve been the past few years, but they’ll probably still be one of the best Class 4A teams in the state.

In the end, keep in mind that you should take preseason predictions for what they’re worth. While you can make an educated guess, you can never predict things like this with 100 percent accuracy and you can rest assured that there will always be a few surprises.

The Evergreen Courant's Sports Flashback for July 26, 2012

22 YEARS AGO
JULY 26, 1990

“Bill McGehee Memorial Tourney winners are told: On Tues., July 17, the Sixth Annual Bill McGehee Memorial Junior Tournament was held at the Evergreen Golf Club. Twenty-seven boys participated in the event.
“The tournament champion for the second year was 16-year-old Scott Stephens of Rose Hill, Ala. Other winners in the age divisions were: 10 and under-1st, Josh Gardner, Greenville; 2nd, Terry Hammonds, Evergreen; and 3rd, Caleb Gardner, Greenville.
“11 and 12-1st, Wade Warren, Birmingham (son of Connor Warren and grandson of Mrs. Byron Warren); 2nd, Walton Hickman, Greenville; and 3rd, Chris Waller, Greenville.
“13 and 14-1st, John Hart, Brewton; 2nd, Jeff Sellers, Andalusia; and 3rd, Scott Sikes, Greenville.
“15 and 16-1st, Scotty Stephens, Rose Hill; 2nd, Patrick Padgett, Andalusia; and 3rd, Clark Cameron, Andalusia.
“17 and 18-1st, Brian Dassinger, Brewton; 2nd, Boyd Robinson, Monroeville; and 3rd, Matt Moorer, Monroeville.”

“The Evergreen Aggies Tiny Mite and Pee Wee football registration will be held Sat., July 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the old Alfa Insurance Office on South Main Street. This is the team with the green jerseys.
“If you live north of Reynolds Avenue, thru north Pierce Street, including all of Route C, Route D and east of the railroad in the Route 3 area, this is the team you sign with.”

37 YEARS AGO
JULY 24, 1975

“District III 4-H Horse Show set Lyeffion, Aug. 1: District III 4-H Horse Show will be held Aug. 1 at the Lyeffion Arena. Registration will begin at 8 a.m. There will be around 150 horses and young people there to compete for a chance to go to the state show at the Coliseum in Montgomery and on to the Southeastern Regional Show that will be held in Mississippi in late August.
“In order to participate, you must obtain a liability release statement, that must be signed by parents, from the County Agent’s office in Evergreen.
“The public is invited to attend free of charge, so come on out and enjoy the fun.”

52 YEARS AGO
JULY 28, 1960

“Alabama Boys State Lt. Governor Billy Melton, Governor George Stewart and Cliff Harper, one of the Directors of Boys Nation, are taking part in the American Legion Boys Nation Program in Washington, D.C.
“George Stewart, Sylacauga High School, will be president of the student body at Sylacauga High from 1960-61 and will play fullback on Sylacauga football team next year.
“Billy Melton is president of the student body of Evergreen High School for 1960-61 and will play left halfback on Evergreen’s football team next year.
“Both Governor Stewart and Lt. Governor Melton are outstanding students and are very active in all phases of extra curriculum of their respective schools.”

Daily Weather Observations for Thurs., July 26, 2012

Temp: 78.3 degrees F (25.7 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 79 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Clear skies, dew on the ground.

Winds: 0.1 mph out of the West (Calm)

Barometric Pressure: 29.51 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.05 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 45.25 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTES: Today is the 208th day of 2012 and the 37th day of Summer. There are 158 days left in the year. Today is the 24th day of Dog Days. First Quarter Moon tonight.

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.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

This week's movie picks are 'The Watch' and 'Silent House'

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:

- Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (Documentary, R): Directed by Alison Klayman and starring Danqing Chen, Ying Gao, Changwei Gu, Tehching Hsieh and Huang Hung.

- Big Boys Gone Bananas!* (Documentary): Directed by Fredrik Gertten.

- Falling Overnight (Drama, Romance, Not Rated): Directed by Conrad Jackson and starring Parker Croft and Emilia Zoryan.

- Iron Sky (Action, Science Fiction, R): Directed by Timo Vuorensola and starring Christopher Kirby, Julia Dietze, Udo Kier, Stephanie Paul and Peta Sergeant.

- Killer Joe (Crime, Drama, NC-17): Directed by William Friedkin and starring Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Thomas Haden Church and Gina Gershon.

- Klown (Comedy, R): Directed by Mikkel Norgaard and starring Frank Hyam, Caspar Christensen, Marcuz Jess Petersen, Mia Lyhne and Iben Hjejle.

- Ruby Sparks (Comedy, Romance, R): Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and starring Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Chris Messina, Elliott Gould and Antonio Banderas.

- Searching for Sugar Man (Documentary, Music, PG-13): Directed by Malik Bendjelloul.

- Step Up Revolution (Drama, Romance, PG-13): Directed by Scott Speer and starring Kathryn McCormick, Ryan Guzman, Stephen Boss, Chadd Smith and Megan Boone.

- The Watch (Comedy, Science Fiction, R): Directed by Akiva Schaffer and starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade and Billy Crudup.

New DVD releases for the week of July 24 include:

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

- Budz House (Comedy, R): Directed by Cameron Casey and starring Faizon Love, Wesley Jonathan, Luenell, Jorge Diaz and Ashley Dyke.

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

- Footnote (Drama, PG): Directed by Joseph Cedar and starring Lior Ashkenazi, Yuval Scharf, Shlomo Bar-Aba, Alma Zack and Nevo Kimchi.

- Jiro Dreams of Sushi (Documentary, PG): Directed by David Gelb.

- Meeting Evil (Suspense, Drama, R): Directed by Chris Fisher and starring Luke Wilson, Samuel L. Jackson, Peyton List, Leslie Bibb and Ryan Lee.

- My Way (Drama, Action, R): Directed by Je-Kyu Kang and starring Dong-gun Jang, Jo Odagiri, Bingbing Fan, In-kwon Kim and Seung-hyeon Han.

- The Monitor (Horror, Suspense, R): Directed by Pal Sletaune and starring Noomi Rapace, Kristopher Joner and Henrik Rafaelsen.

- On the Inside (Suspense, Drama, R): Directed by D.W. Brown and starring Olivia Wilde, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Dash Mihok and Nick Stahl.

- Silent House (Horror, R): Directed by Chris Kentis and Laura Lau and starring Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer Stevens and Julia Taylor Ross.

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

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., July 25, 2012

Temp: 78.3 degrees F (25.7 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 78 percent (Humid)

Conditions: A few scattered thin clouds, light dew on the ground.

Winds: 0.1 mph out of the West-Southwest (Calm)

Barometric Pressure: 29.55 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.05 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 45.25 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTES: Today is the 207th day of 2012 and the 36th day of Summer. There are 159 days left in the year. Today is the 23rd day of Dog Days.

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

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

'Witches on the Road Tonight' wins Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel

The winners of the 2011 Shirley Jackson Awards were announced on July 15 in Burlington, Mass. and “Witches on the Road Tonight” by Sheri Holman received top honors for Best Novel. The awards were presented during Readercon 23: Conference on Imaginative Literature.

For those of you unfamiliar with the relatively new Shirley Jackson Awards, they are given each year to recognize “outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror and the dark fantastic” from works published in the preceding calendar year. The winners are chosen by a panel of award advisors, critics, editors, scholars and writers. Awards are given in six categories – Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Single-Author Collection and Edited Anthology.

The Shirley Jackson Awards are named after the late Shirley Jackson, who died at the age of 48 in 1965. An influential author and novelist, Jackson is best remembered for her short story, “The Lottery,” and her 1959 horror novel, “The Haunting of Hill House.” Her other novels include “The Road Through the Wall” (1948), “Hangsaman” (1951), “The Bird’s Nest” (1954), “The Sundial” (1958) and “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” (1962).

The complete list of this year’s winners in the three “book categories” are as follows:

NOVEL:

Winner – “Witches on the Road Tonight” by Sheri Holman

Finalists:
- “The Devil All the Time” by Donald Ray Pollock
- “The Dracula Papers” by Reggie Oliver
- “The Great Lover” by Michael Cisco
- “Knock Knock” by S. P. Miskowski
- “The Last Werewolf” by Glen Duncan

SINGLE-AUTHOR COLLECTION:

Winner – “After the Apocalypse: Stories” by Maureen F. McHugh

Finalists:
- “The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares” by Joyce Carol Oates
- “Engines of Desire: Tales of Love & Other Horrors” by Livia Llewellyn
- “The Janus Tree” by Glen Hirshberg
- “Red Gloves” by Christopher Fowler
- “What Wolves Know” by Kit Reed

EDITED ANTHOLOGY:

Winner – “Ghosts by Gaslight,” edited by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers

Finalists:
- “Blood and Other Cravings,” edited by Ellen Datlow
- “A Book of Horrors,” edited by Stephen Jones
- “Supernatural Noir,” edited by Ellen Datlow
- “Teeth,” edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
- “The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities,” edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

The first Shirley Jackson Awards were presented in July 2007. The Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel is arguably the most prestigious of all the Shirley Jackson Awards and a number of outstanding novels have received this award over the years. What follows is a complete list of the all-time winners in that category.

2007 – “Generation Loss” by Elizabeth Hand
2008 – “The Shadow Year” by Jeffrey Ford
2009 – “Big Machine” by Victor LaValle
2010 – “Mr. Shivers” by Robert Jackson Bennett
2011 – “Witches on the Road Tonight” by Sheri Holman

For more information about the Shirley Jackson Awards, including information on the winners in the other categories this year, visit http://www.shirleyjacksonawards.org/.

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

Daily Weather Observations for Tues., July 24, 2012

Temp: 76.8 degrees F (24.9 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 80 percent (Humid)

Conditions: A few scattered thin clouds, dew on the ground.

Winds: 0.1 mph out of the West (Calm)

Barometric Pressure: 29.64 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.05 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 45.25 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTES: Today is the 206th day of 2012 and the 35th day of Summer. There are 160 days left in the year. Today is the 22nd day of Dog Days.

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.

Monday, July 23, 2012

BUCKET LIST UPDATE – No. 103: Climb to the top of the clock tower at the Old Monroe County Courthouse

I scratched another item off my bucket list on Friday when I climbed to the top of the clock tower at the Old Monroe County Courthouse in Monroeville, Ala.

This is something that I’ve wanted to do for almost a decade. Between 2000 and 2006, I worked as a reporter at The Monroe Journal newspaper in Monroeville. During that time, I wrote a story about Tommy Chandler, who was retiring as Peterman’s postmaster. In addition to being a long-time postal employee, Chandler was also the go-to guy for maintenance on the old clock at the Old Monroe County Courthouse, which was constructed in the early 1900s on Monroeville’s downtown square.

The historic building, which is known as “the most famous courthouse in America,” now houses the Monroe County Heritage Museums. The building is visited by thousands of tourists each year and is the home of an annual stage play of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The building was the model for the courthouse used in the big screen adaptation of that novel, which starred Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. When I interview Chandler, he told me that the clock tower is accessed by a series of old steps and that only a few people had ever been up there because you’ve got to be a little agile to pull it off.

Early last week, I contacted Museum Executive Director Stephanie Rogers to ask for permission to climb the old clock tower, and she gave me the go-ahead right away. I visited the museum on Friday, and Rogers took me to the clock tower’s access point, which is a set of fold-down, attic-style stairs on the courthouse’s balcony-level floor. Using a hook on the end of a long pole, I managed to pull down the accordion-like stairs and began the climb.

The clock tower consists of three levels, and the first set of stairs takes you into the first level. If you’re looking at the building from the outside, it’s the level just below the tower’s row of windows. This level contains air conditioning ductwork, and its most prominent feature is a set of narrow stairs that takes you to the second level.

The second level offers a lot to see. Aside from numerous structural supports and braces, this level features six tall windows that allow nice views of Monroeville’s downtown area. Rogers told me earlier that when the late Anne Farish was younger she enjoyed climbing to this level and “people watching” from the town’s highest perch. Farish, who died in January 2010 at the age of 83, was a larger-than-life personality who served as Monroeville’s mayor 16 years. I remember her well from my time at The Journal, and I know that she is dearly missed by all who knew her.

The second level also features the clock tower’s iconic bell, which chimes periodically to mark the passage of time. It didn’t dawn on me until after I’d left that the bell didn’t go off while I was up there, so I have no first hand details about how ear-shatteringly loud it could be for someone standing in close proximity to it. The inscription on the bell, which hangs from the top of the second level, reads “McShane Bell Foundry, Baltimore, Md., 1903.” This foundry, which was founded in 1856, is still in business and was featured on the Discover Channel TV show, “Dirty Jobs” a while back.

This level also features a set of narrow steps that’ll take you up to the third and final level of the clock tower. The third level features the actual clock, which keeps the time that is displayed on the four clock faces that project from the top of the building for viewers on the ground. Compared to the lower two levels, the third level was extremely dark. Only by the light of my trusty penlight could I see that the clock faces are backlit at night by a bank of fluorescent light fixtures that appear to be rigged to a timer.

I have to admit too that the third level does register high on the creepy scale. During my short time on the third level, I couldn’t help but recall some of the more popular ghost stories I’d heard about the courthouse. Longtime, award-winning Monroe Journal columnist George Thomas Jones, who also used to be my next-door neighbor, wrote a column once called “The ghost of the Old Courthouse.” In this spooky tale, he told of how many believe that there’s a ghost roaming Monroeville’s most famous landmark. Jones went on to say that many former museum employees believe that the ghost is the spirit of the late Probate Judge E.T. “Short” Millsap. For the record, while the third level of the clock tower is pretty creepy, I had no ghostly encounters during my visit.

From there, it was back down the steps to the courthouse’s balcony level. I have to admit that there was definitely a physical element to this adventure, and it wouldn’t be for everyone. I was drenched in sweat when I made it back down because of the hot, humid conditions in the tower. And I wouldn’t recommend the stairs to the extremely young or old. I wouldn’t call the path to the top of the tower dangerous, but the trip up wouldn’t be for everyone.

In any event, this was one of the coolest bucket list items that I’ve done, and of course, it would have been impossible without the permission of the museum staff. Special thanks to Rogers and the rest of the museum’s management for allowing me access to the clock tower. They could have shot me down with a quick “no,” but instead were extremely gracious hosts. I really appreciate them taking the time to humor me on this little project. It was a lot of fun and something that I’ll always remember.

In the end, I enjoyed scratching another item off my bucket list. How many of you have ever climbed to the top of the Old Courthouse? When did you do it? Who were you with? What did you think about it? Let us know in the comments section below.

Yesterday's News from The Evergreen Courant for July 23, 2012

22 YEARS AGO
JULY 26, 1990

“Weatherman Harry Ellis reports .22 of an inch of rain July 20 and .13 on July 22.”

“Six young ladies, who will be high school seniors this fall, will compete for the coveted title of Conecuh County Young Woman of the Year 1991 tomorrow night.
“The Young Woman of the Year Awards (formerly the Junior Miss Program) is sponsored by the Pilot Club of Evergreen and will be held Friday night at eight o’clock in the Wiley Salter Auditorium at Ed Reid State Technical College.
“The contestants are Pam Jones, Sparta Academy; Jennifer Janes and Pam Higdon, both of Monroe Academy; and Melissa Dillard, Cynthia Pugh and Stacey Sims, all of Hillcrest High School.”

“An unidentified vehicle ran into the side of the Conecuh County Court House last Wednesday night or early Thursday morning of last week and left this gaping hole under the office of Tax Assessor Delma Bowers. Anyone with any information concerning this incident should contact the Evergreen Police Department.”

“The Department of the Army has announced that Col. John M. Watkins Jr. will assume command of the U.S. Army Information Systems Engineering Command later this summer.
“A native of Evergreen, Ala., the colonel was commissioned through the Reserve Officers Training Corps at Tuskegee University, where he graduated in 1966 with a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering.”

37 YEARS AGO
JULY 26, 1975

“Mrs. Kathryn Tucker Windham enthralled a large group of youngsters and adults Wednesday of last week at the Conecuh County Public Library during ‘Story Hour.’ Mrs. Windham, noted author, told four ghost stories, related one historical item and gave out three old Alabama recipes. Her newest book, scheduled for publication in November, will be entitled ‘Alabama; One Big Front Porch.”

“Earl Windham reports .3 of an inch of rainfall on July 16 and .4 on July 20.”

“District Governor Paul Felts of Dothan will pay his official visit to the Evergreen Rotary Club today. He will speak to the club at the noon meeting at the Evergreen United Methodist Church.”

“A memorial service in honor of the late Dr. Cecil E. Price will be held Sunday afternoon, Aug. 10, at 2:30 o’clock at the Conecuh County Hospital. At that time a memorial plaque and a portrait of the loved physician will be unveiled.”

“This was ‘one of those weeks’ at The Courant. First, Harold Adams was on vacation which means that this writer (Bob Bozeman) had to be the Linotype operator. While most of the type for The Courant is now set on the Compugraphic, the type for ads, headlines and job work is still set on the Linotype.”

52 YEARS AGO
JULY 28, 1960

“A heroic rescue by a 12-year-old saved the life of a friend at the Castleberry swimming pool last Friday. The lad pulled a drowning youngster from the deep waters of the pool.
“Hero of the rescue was Rankin Green, son of George Green of Mobile and grandson of Mayor H.G. Green of Castleberry. He saved the life of Michael Waldrop, nine-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Vance Waldrop who live about five miles east of Castleberry.
“Michael, a non-swimmer, was jumping from the pool’s diving board into deep water, using an inner tube to stay up after he hit the water. He missed the tube in his jump, landed in the deep water and did not come up.
“Rankin then jumped into the water, swam beneath it and found Michael, and towed him to the pool’s edge. This was not only a heroic effort, but also quite a task for the slender 12-year-old.
“Mayor Green and Bill Seales administered artificial respiration and brought the unconscious Michael to.
“Needless to say, Michael’s parents are very grateful to Rankin and the people of Castleberry are very proud of him. As for Rankin, he is just happy that he was able to rescue Micahel.”

“Funeral services for Harold Rencher Betts, 84, Burnt Corn, were conducted from the Burnt Corn Methodist Church at four o’clock Monday afternoon, July 11.
“A native and lifelong resident of Burnt Corn, Mr. Betts was a member of the Burnt Corn Methodist Church and the Masonic Lodge.”

67 YEARS AGO
JULY 26, 1945

“Circuit Solicitor Ralph Jones of Monroeville has resigned and Escambia County Solicitor A.H. Elliott of Brewton has been named to succeed him.
“The circuit – the 21st – is composed of Escambia, Monroe, Conecuh and Baldwin counties.”

“Cpl. T-5 Fred D. Kay, husband of nee Mildred Kirkland, who has been overseas for 15 months in Italy, is spending a 30 days furlough here. Cpl. Kay was wounded in Italy, received the Purple Heart and participated in three major battles.”

“Clyde McInnis, who has served 15 months in the South Pacific with the 31st Division, has returned home with an honorable discharge.”

“Cpl. Frank Ray Cobb is enroute home from the European Theater of Operations with the veteran ‘Bloody Bucket’ Division, which in eight months saw vicious combat action from Normandy’s hedgerows to the heart of the Reich.
“Cpl. Cobb is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Cobb of Brooklyn, Ala.
“He holds the following decorations: Combat Infantry Badge, European Theater Ribbon with five battle stars and Good Conduct Medal.”

“Mrs. Allie Post recently received a letter from Maj. Gen. Leonard F. Wing, Commanding General of the 43rd Inf. Division, informing her that her son, Hugh Sims was recently awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious achievement in connection with military operations against the enemy on Luzon, Philippine Islands during the period from Jan. 9 to Feb. 12, 1945.”

82 YEARS AGO
JULY 24, 1930

“Battery ‘C’ 117th Field Artillery returned early Sunday morning from Camp Beauregard at Alexandria, La., where the annual camp and training period was spent.”

“In a hotly contested election which was held Tuesday, P.M. Skinner was elected Mayor of Castleberry over A.N. Riggs by a majority of nine votes.”

“Rutland Hardware Co. is making preparations for conducting a demonstration of Westinghouse Electric Ranges at their store next week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, July 29, 30, 31. Miss Gladys Baker, expert demonstrator of these ranges, will be in charge.”

“Hon. Files Crenshaw of Montgomery is scheduled to deliver an address to the voters of this county at the court house in Evergreen Saturday morning at 10 o’clock in the interest of the candidacy of Judge B.M. Miller, candidate for Governor.”

“Dr. A.F. Harman, State Superintendent of Education by appointment to succeed R.E. Tidwell and a candidate for the nomination to this office in the primary election to be held on Aug. 12, spoke to a number of voters of this county at the courthouse Monday afternoon at three o’clock.
“Dr. Harman made a splendid impression upon those who heard his address and no doubt won a number of supporters.”

Daily Weather Observations for Mon., July 23, 2012

Temp: 73.6 degrees F (23.1 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 82 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Clear skies, dew on the ground.

Winds: 0.1 mph out of the Southeast (Calm)

Barometric Pressure: 29.71 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.05 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 45.25 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTES: Today is the 205th day of 2012 and the 34th day of Summer. There are 161 days left in the year. Today is the 21st day of Dog Days.

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.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

'Batman: Earth One' debuts at No. 8 on new best-selllers 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 two new books at the top of the four major best-sellers lists this week.

"Shadow of Night" by Deborah E. Harkness replaced "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn as the No. 1 book on the hardcover fiction best-sellers list.

"Wild" by Cheryl Strayed replaced "Leadocracy: Hiring More Great Leaders into Government" by Geoff Smart as the top book on the hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list.

"The Litigators" by John Grisham remained the No. 1 book on the mass market paperback best-sellers list for the third week in a row.

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

There are eight books on this week’s hardcover fiction best-sellers list that weren’t on that list last week. They (along with their place on the list) include "Shadow of Night" by Deborah E. Harkness (1), "I, Michael Bennett" by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge (2), "Backfire" by Catherine Coulter (4), "The Great Escape" by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (7), "Batman: Earth One" by Geoff Johns (8), "The Prisoner of Heaven" by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (10), "15 Seconds" by Andrew Gross (11) and "Night Watch" Linda Fairstein (14).

There are five books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "Dream Team" by Jack McCallum (4), "Cupcakes and Cashmere" by Emily Schuman (9), "Mick" by Christopher Andersen (10), "It's the Middle Class, Stupid!" James Carville and Stan Greenberg (11) and "Six Weeks to OMG" by Venice A. Fulton (12).

There were no new books on this week’s mass market paperbacks best-sellers list. The same 15 books made the list. They were just in a different order. That doesn’t happen very often with any of the lists. I’d say it usually occurs about once a year, twice at the most.

There was only one books on this week’s trade paperbacks best-sellers list that wasn’t on the list last week - "A Discovery of Witches" by Deborah E. Harkness, which was No. 12 on the list.

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. "Shadow of Night" by Deborah E. Harkness
2. "I, Michael Bennett" by James Patterson, Michael Ledwidge
3. "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn
4. "Backfire" by Catherine Coulter
5. "The Next Best Thing: A Novel" by Jennifer Weiner
6. "Wicked Business" by Janet Evanovich
7. "The Great Escape" by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
8. "Batman: Earth One" by Geoff Johns
9. "A Dance with Dragons" by George R.R. Martin
10. "The Prisoner of Heaven" by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
11. "15 Seconds" by Andrew Gross
12. "Calico Joe" by John Grisham
13. "Summerland" by Elin Hilderbrand
14. "Night Watch" Linda Fairstein
15. "Bloodline: A Sigma Force Novel" by James Rollins

HARDCOVER NONFICTION
1. "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed
2. "The Amateur" by Edward Klein
3. "Killing Lincoln" by Bill O'Reilly & Martin Dugard
4. "Dream Team" by Jack McCallum
5. "The Skinny Rules" by Bob Harper with Greg Critser
6. "Cowards" by Glenn Beck
7. "The Great Destroyer" by David Limbaugh
8. "It Worked for Me" by Colin Powell
9. "Cupcakes and Cashmere" by Emily Schuman
10. "Mick" by Christopher Andersen
11. "It's the Middle Class, Stupid!" James Carville/ Stan Greenberg
12. "Six Weeks to OMG" by Venice A. Fulton
13. "American Sniper" by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice
14. "The President Club" by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy
15. "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS
1. "The Litigators" by John Grisham
2. "Safe Haven" by Nicholas Sparks
3. "Split Second" by Catherine Coulter
4. "Savor the Moment" by Nora Roberts
5. "Private Games" by James Patterson
6. "Family Affair" by Debbie Macomber
7. "The Silent Girl" by Tess Gerritsen
8. "Samurai Game" by Christine Feehan
9. "Midnight Promises" by Sherryl Woods
10. "Gun Games" by Faye Kellerman
11. "Summer People" by Elin Hilderbrand
12. "Explosive Eighteen" by Janet Evanovich
13. "Summer Nights" by Susan Mallery
14. "Afraid to Die" Lisa Jackson
15. "Moonshell Beach: A Shelter Bay Novel" by JoAnn Ross

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. "Bared to You" by Sylvia Day
5. "The Litigators" by John Grisham
6. "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern
7. "Private Games" by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan
8. "To Heaven And Back" by Mary C. Neal
9. "In the Garden of Beasts" by Erik Lawson
10. "A Stolen Life: a Memoir" by Jaycee Lee Dugard
11. "Rules of Civility" by Amor Towles
12. "A Discovery of Witches" by Deborah E. Harkness
13. "Farenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury
14. "Home Again" by Kristin Hannah
15. "The Last Boyfriend: Book Two of the InnsBoro Trilogy" by Nora Roberts

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., July 22, 2012

Temp: 74.1 degrees F (23.4 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.05 inches.

Humidity: 83 percent (Humid)

Conditions: A few whispy clouds overhead, dew on the ground.

Winds: 0.1 mph out of the South (Calm)

Barometric Pressure: 29.64 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.35 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.05 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 45.25 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTES: Today is the 204th day of 2012 and the 33rd day of Summer. There are 162 days left in the year. Today is the 20th day of Dog Days.

And Remember - "When the sun shines down 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.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

'The Innkeepers' is one of the best 'ghost hunter' movies ever

I watched a good horror move the other day, a relatively obscure movie that some of you may not have heard of, but one that you might want to check out if you enjoy horror movies. It’s called “The Innkeepers” and a few of you will remember when it was released in theatres back in February.

“The Innkeepers” was written and directed by Ti West. The cast included Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis, George Riddle, Lena Dunham, Brenda Cooney and John Speredakos. The movie is rated R and is an hour and 41 minutes long.

Here’s the plot in a nutshell. “The Innkeepers” is set in an old New England hotel, which is about to close for good. In fact, the movie takes place during the very last weekend that the old hotel, the Yankee Pedlar Inn, will ever accept guests. The owner is out of town on vacation and the hotel is being manned by two young employees, Luke and Claire.

Luke and Claire are amateur paranormal investigators, and Luke maintains a Web site about the hotel’s haunted history. In their spare time, while running the hotel in shifts, they investigate the hotel for evidence of the supernatural. For some time, they’ve unsuccessfully tried to photograph a ghost or capture EVP evidence of ghostly communications.

They’ve especially tried to make contact with the spirit of Madeline O’Malley, a Victorian era bride who hung herself after her husband abandoned her during their honeymoon at the hotel. The story goes that after the hotel owners discovered O’Malley’s body, they buried her in the basement. Ever since, her ghots has supposedly haunted the hotel.

A few days before the closing of the hotel, in comes one of its final guests, Leanne Rease-Jones, a psychic medium, who warns Claire to stay out of the basement. Of course, Luke and Claire do just the opposite, and they learn more than they ever want to know about the hotel’s haunted history. I’ll stop right there to keep from ruining the movie for those of you who haven’t seen it.

I liked this movie for a couple of reasons. First, I love movies that feature paranormal investigators. Some of my all-time favorites are “Poltergeist,” “Ghostbusters,” “The Mothman Prophecies,” “The Haunting,” “White Noise” and “1408.”

I also enjoyed the old hotel vibe of “The Innkeepers.” It was especially well done and had a strong “1408/The Shinning” feel to it. Hotels, especially old hotels, are some of the creepiest places you’ll ever visit. If you take into account all the people who’s stayed there over the years, including those who have used the rooms for morbid purposes like murders and suicides, they’re ripe for the supernatural. I never really appreciated this aspect of hotels though until I read “The Shinning” by Stephen King, which I also highly recommend. You'll never look at hotels and motels the same after reading "The Shinning."

In the end, how many of you have seen “The Innkeepers”? What did you think about it? Did you like it or not? What would you have done had you been in Luke and Claire’s shoes? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations for Sat., July 21, 2012

Temp: 72.9 degrees F (22.7 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 83 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Overcast, foggy, dew on the ground.

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

Barometric Pressure: 29.55 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.3 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.0 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 45.2 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTES: Today is the 203rd day of 2012 and the 32nd day of Summer. There are 163 days left in the year. Today is the 19th day of Dog Days.

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.

Friday, July 20, 2012

What did YOU think about 'Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter'?

OK. I admit it. I read it, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, it was pretty good, and I kind of enjoyed it.

A few days ago, I finished reading “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” by Seth Grahame-Smith. Judging the book by it’s cover, I thought the premise behind the book was pretty ridiculous. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, the President who freed the slaves and led the country through the Civil War, that Abraham Lincoln, as a vampire hunter. Pretty ridiculous, right?

I probably would have never even considered reading the book if not for the recently released movie based on the book. After seeing a few trailers, I thought, well, maybe the book’s worth checking out. I’m glad I had a change of heart because I was not disappointed.

Published in March 2010, “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” is based on fictional “secret diaries” kept by Lincoln. At a young age, Lincoln learns that his grandfather and mother were killed by vampires, and he makes a vow to kill as many vampires as he can. He later witnesses a slave auction in New Orleans and learns that vampires are buying slaves for food. At that point, Lincoln vows to fight slavery to rob vampires of an easy food source. He eventually begins his political career and meets Edgar Allan Poe before getting elected President. The Civil War starts and Confederate vampires play a big role in how the war plays out. As you probably guessed, real life Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth is a vampire in the novel too.

All in all, I thought the novel was pretty good. Grahame-Smith did an artful job of realistically weaving vampires into many of Lincoln’s real life events. It didn’t come across as forced or unbelievable, and it made me want to read Grahame-Smith’s other books. His other books include:

- The Spider-Man Handbook: The Ultimate Training Manual

- How to Survive a Horror Movie: All the Skills to Dodge the Kills (2007)

- Pardon My President: Fold-and-Mail Apologies for 8 Years (2008)

- Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009)

- Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (2010)

- Unholy Night (2012)

I have to admit that I have not seen the “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” movie, but if it’s as good as the book then it’ll be pretty good. Grahame-Smith wrote the screenplay, and the movie was directed by Timur Bekmambetov. The movie stars Benjamin Walker and Abraham Lincoln, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Mary Todd Lincoln, John Rothman as Jefferson Davis, Jaqueline Fleming as Harriet Tubman and Alan Tudyk as Stephen A. Douglas. As far as I can tell, Poe is not in the movie, which I find somewhat disappointing. The movie was released on June 22, and it’s grossed over $69 million in revenues as of this writing.

In the end, how many of you have read “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter”? How many of you have seen the movie? What did you think about them? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations for Fri., July 20, 2012


Temp: 71.6 degrees F (21.99 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.1 inches.

Humidity: 83 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Overcast, dew on the ground.

Winds: 0.1 mph out of the Southwest (Calm)

Barometric Pressure: 29.58 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.3 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 6.0 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 45.2 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTES: Today is the 202nd day of 2012 and the 31st day of Summer. There are 164 days left in the year. Today is the 18th day of Dog Days.

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.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

You asked the questions and the Magic Eight Ball gives the answers

It’s the third Thursday of the month, so what better time to whip out my Magic Eight Ball and ask it a few “yes or no” questions.

This month’s set of questions came to me via e-mail and Facebook. Below you’ll find the unedited questions and answers to the questions that I asked my Magic Eight Ball on Monday.

Juliette asked: Will a hurricane make landfall on our stretch of the Gulf this season?
Answer: Ask again later.

John asked: Will the NAACP and the ADC be successful in their effort to have the City of Evergreen’s redistricting plan overturned?
Answer: My sources say no.

Mason asked: Will a horse arena and equine center ever be built at Evergreen Municipal Park like it said in last week’s paper?
Answer: No way!

Shannon asked: Will the new railroad crossing barrier at King’s Crossing save lives there in the future?
Answer: Yes.

Latoya asked: Will anyone get killed there before they actually put the safety barrier up?
Answer: Absolutely!

William asked: Will Evergreen’s mayoral race be as heated this year as it was four years ago?
Answer: My sources say no.

Donald asked: Will the Evergreen mayor’s race be worse than the recent circuit judge’s race?
Answer: No way!

Johnny asked: Will there be a big lawsuit over the election’s result like there was last time?
Answer: Definitely.

Craig asked: Will all of the incumbents on Evergreen’s city council get reelected?
Answer: Maybe.

Kevin asked: Will any of the newcomers or challengers get elected to the council in Evergreen?
Answer: Absolutely!

Peter asked: Will there be new mayors in Castleberry or Repton?
Answer: Definitely!

Samuel asked: Should the city have left the stop signs up at Rural and Court streets instead of replacing that old traffic light?
Answer: My sources say no.

Robert asked: Will Obama get reelected in November?
Answer: Maybe.

Tyler asked: Will Sparta have a better football team this year than they had last year?
Answer: Outlook not so good.

Sammy asked: What about Hillcrest?
Answer: My sources say no.

Michael asked: Will Alabama repeat as national champions in football?
Answer: My sources say no.

James asked: Will Auburn be any good in football this year?
Answer: My sources say no.

Will asked: What about Troy?
Answer: Definitely.

Walter asked: Will anybody on Alabama’s team win the Heisman Trophy this year?
Answer: Ask again later.

Howard asked: Will the Braves make the MLB playoffs this year?
Answer: Maybe.

Dwight asked: Will they make the World Series?
Answer: Yes.

Bob asked: Will they win the World Series?
Answer: My sources say no.

I asked: Should readers take the above questions and answers seriously?
Answer: No way!

With that said, I guess I’ll give my old Eight Ball a rest for a few weeks and close this thing out until the third Thursday in August.

In the meantime, if you’ve got a question you want me to ask my Magic Eight Ball, e-mail it to me at courantsports@earthlink.net, and I’ll publish the answers in the Aug. 16 edition of The Courant.