Saturday, August 31, 2013

What did YOU think about the motion picture adaptation of 'On the Road'?

I read Jack Kerouac’s 1957 beat novel “On the Road” over a decade ago and a few days ago I watched the 2012 movie adaptation of the book. I thought the movie was OK, and while it wasn’t an entirely faithful adaptation of the book, it was not without its merits. If you’ve read the book, you’ll probably like the movie.

Published by Viking Press in September 1957, “On the Road” is based on Kerouac’s travels throughout the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Although Kerouac changed many of the names in his book, real-life characters described within its pages included William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. The book was ranked No. 55 on the Modern Library’s 1998 list of Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century and was also included in Time Magazine’s list of 100 Best English Novels published between 1923 and 2005.

The motion picture adaptation of the book was released in December 2012 and was directed by Walter Salles. Jose Rivera wrote the screenplay, and the cast included Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen and Steve Buscemi. It’s rated R and 124 minutes long.

Fair warning, this book and movie probably aren’t for everybody, especially the movie, which was a lot more graphic than the book. If you’ve read “On the Road” and liked it, you might want to check out some of Kerouac’s other books, many of which were published after his death in 1969. They include:

- And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks (2008)
- Atop an Underwood: Early Stories and Other Writings (1999)
- Beat Generation (2005)
- Big Sur (1962)
- Book of Dreams (1960)
- Desolation of Angels (1965)
- The Dharma Bums (1958)
- Doctor Sax (1960)
- Good Blonde & Others (1993)
- Lonesome Traveler (1960)
- Maggie Cassidy (1959)
- Orpheus Emerged (2002)
- Pic (1971)
- Satori in Paris (1965)
- The Sea is My Brother (1942)
- Some of the Dharma (1997)
- The Subterraneans (1958)
- The Town and the City (1950)
- Tristessa (1960)
- Vanity of Duluoz (1968)
- Visions of Cody (1960)
- Visions of Gerard (1963)
- Wake Up: A Life of the Buddha (2008)

The first time I ever heard about “On the Road” was in the Jim Morrison biography, “No One Here Gets Out Alive.” Kerouac had a huge influence on people like Morrison, who was the lead singer for The Doors, and other writers like Hunter S. Thompson and musicians like Bob Dylan and Tom Waits. In my opinion, Thompson was a better writer than Kerouac (more entertaining, if nothing else), but you can see Kerouac’s heavy influence in many of Thompson’s works. “On the Road” also reminded me a lot of John Steinbeck’s travel classic, “Travels with Charley,” which was also highly entertaining.

In the end, how may of you have read Kerouac’s novel? How many of you have seen the movie adaptation of the book? What did you think about them? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations for Sat., Aug. 31, 2013

Temp: 74.7 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Humidity: 81 percent (High)

Conditions: Mostly Cloudy skies; security lights still on in the distance; birds and bees audible and visible; dew on the ground.

Wind: 0.1 mph out of the West-Northwest

Barometric Pressure: 29.45 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 4.25 inches

Summer to Date Rainfall: 8.80 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 39.35 inches

NOTES: Today is the 243rd day of 2013 and the 72nd day of Summer. There are 122 days left in the year.

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.

Alabama High School Football Statewide Scores from Week 1

AHSAA interclass
A.L. Johnson 44, R.C. Hatch 14
Addison 20, Ider 8
Akron 20, Greene County 18
Albertville 27, Arab 14
Andalusia 12, Straughn 6
Anniston 25, Greenville 20
Ardmore 25, Elkmont 14
Athens 22, Decatur 0
Auburn 65, Valley 0
Baker 35, B.C. Rain 12
Barbour County 52, Bullock County 0
Berry 32, Northside 28
Bessemer City 60, Sumter Central 20
Billingsley 20, Prattville Christian 14
Blount 44, LeFlore 0
Brookwood 7, Hale County 0
Buckhorn 27, Scottsboro 13
Calera 69, Holt 0
Carroll 9, Ashford 0
Center Point 26, Huffman 16
Central-Clay County 16, Trinity Presbyterian 14
Central-Florence 31, Red Bay 14
Charles Henderson 34, Bayside Academy 21
Cherokee 41, Vina 0
Choctaw County 19, Red Level 13
Citronelle 54, McIntosh 34
Cleburne County 44, Weaver 20
Colbert County 41, Colbert Heights 0
Cottonwood 40, Pleasant Home 0
Curry 42, Carbon Hill 14
Dale County 51, Houston County 21
Daleville 39, Headland 7
Dallas County 54, Calhoun 0
Demopolis 35, American Christian 0
Deshler 20, Russellville 17
Etowah 14, Alexandria 7
Eufaula 35, Abbeville 14
Fairhope 22, St. Paul's 18
Flomaton 34, Monroe County 20
Florala 40, Central-Hayneville 28
Fort Payne 46, North Jackson 0
Francis Marion 30, Ellwood Christian 12
Fultondale 41, Montevallo 0
Geneva County 34, Wicksburg 6
Georgiana 38, Ariton 29
Geraldine 20, Fyffe 14
Glencoe 29, Westbrook Christian 12
Hanceville 35, Fairview 33
Hartselle 14, Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa 11 (OT)
Hatton 20, R.A. Hubbard 19
Houston Academy 32, Geneva 22
Isabella 35, Central-Coosa 6
James Clemens 14, J.O. Johnson 6
Jay (Fla.) 18, Cottage Hill Christian 12
Keith 28, Wilcox Central 12
Lamar County 41, South Lamar 0
Lanett 30, Autaugaville 6
Lauderdale County 34, Wilson 12
Lawrence County 40, East Lawrence 26
Lee-Huntsville 52, Columbia 20
Leeds 12, Lincoln 6
Leroy 14, Linden 6
Lexington 28, Shoals Christian 21
Loachapoka 19, LaFayette 0
Locust Fork 26, New Hope 20
Madison County 24, East Limestone 21
McAdory 49, Tarrant 13
McGill-Toolen 49, UMS-Wright 35
McKenzie 16, Highland Home 14
Midfield 12, Wenonah 6
Mobile Christian 42, St. Luke's 0
Montgomery Academy 28, St. James 13
Montgomery Catholic 24, St. Jude 14
Murphy 54, Williamson 14
Notasulga 29, Beulah 15
Oakman 29, Parrish 28
Opelika 21, Benjamin Russell 7
Opp 42, Elba 6
Pelham 28, Paul Bryant 0
Pickens County 18, Fayette County 13
Piedmont 57, Cherokee County 13
Pike County 49, Goshen 13
Pinson Valley 25, Oneonta 18
Plainview 28, Crossville 6
Randolph 41, Danville 15
Saks 37, Walter Wellborn 14
Samson 33, Kinston 29
Sand Rock 20, Pisgah 7
Sardis 41, Sylvania 22
Selma 34, Southside-Selma 8
Spanish Fort 19, Daphne 17
Springville 14, Ashville 0
T.R. Miller 50, Escambia County 18
Tallassee 42, B.T. Washington 6
Thomasville 35, Sweet Water 13
Thompson 37, Shelby County 0
Thorsby 34, Verbena 19
Vestavia Hills 34, Homewood 14
Victory Christian 28, Alabama School for the Deaf 26
Vincent 26, West Blocton 20
W.S. Neal 36, Holtville 0
Washington County 35, Hillcrest-Evergreen 12
West Limestone 44, Clements 6
Westminster Christian 24, Pope John Paul II Catholic 7
White Plains 23, Ohatchee 6
Cold Springs 34, Decatur Heritage 0
Ranburne 20, Mount Zion (Ga.) 12
Talladega 14, Talladega County Central 8
Lynn 47, Winston County 28

Class 6A
Bob Jones 48, Northridge 20
Carrollton (Ga.) 35, Oxford 14
Clay-Chalkville 56, Hewitt-Trussville 14
Dothan 28, Jeff Davis 12
Florence 28, Gadsden City 7
Foley 20, Alma Bryant 12
Gardendale 14, Minor 7
Hoover 24, Colquitt County (Ga.) 10
Huntsville 28, Sparkman 8
Jackson-Olin 13, Woodlawn 7
Carver-Montgomery 20, Prattville 7
Robertsdale 45, Mary G. Montgomery 21
Shades Valley 38, Oak Mountain 15
Smiths Station 34, Enterprise 28
Spain Park 23, Austin 14
Theodore 38, Baldwin County 19
Tuscaloosa County 13, Mountain Brook 6
Wetumpka 34, Lee-Montgomery 7

Class 5A
Cullman 13, Walker 10
Gulf Shores 34, Satsuma 20
Pleasant Grove 42, Mortimer Jordan 26
Saraland 52, Faith Academy 12
Sylacauga 35, Hayden 3
West Point 25, Brewer 18

Class 4A
Beauregard 56, Handley 28
DAR 6, Douglas 0
Elmore County 41, Alabama Christian 10
Haleyville 48, Oak Grove 30
Munford 27, Corner 6

Class 3A
Cleveland 29, J.B. Pennington 0
Vinemont 40, Brindlee Mountain 28

Class 2A
G.W. Long 55, Zion Chapel 0
Gaston 27, Randolph County 15
Providence Christian 35, New Brockton 33

Class 1A
Appalachian 38, Meek 22
Collinsville 34, Coosa Christian 0
Falkville 49, Southeastern 0
Fayetteville 53, Spring Garden 7
Holy Spirit 13, Waterloo 0
Hubbertville 48, Phillips 14
Jacksonville Christian 40, Woodville 24
Maplesville 59, Winterboro 6
Marion County 61, Hackleburg 31
Sumiton Christian 40, Shades Mountain Christian 13
Sunshine 27, John Essex 6
Valley Head 20, Donoho 12

Alabama Independent School Association
Abbeville Christian 34, Ashford Academy 6
Autauga Academy 21, Coosa Valley Academy 12
Bessemer Academy 55, Glenwood 17
Clarke Prep 52, Lowndes Academy 22
Crenshaw Christian 43, Chambers Academy 10
Edgewood Academy 49, Evangel Christian-Montgomery 18
Fort Dale Academy 32, Escambia Academy 26
Jackson Academy 48, Eastwood Christian 0
Kingwood Christian 56, Hooper Academy 34
Macon-East 56, Lyman Ward 0
Monroe Academy 35, Patrician Academy 0
Pickens Academy 24, Sparta Academy 8
Restoration Academy 54, Lakeside Academy 7
South Montgomery County Academy 42, Cornerstone Christian 20
Sumter Academy 47, Meadowview Christian 0
Tuscaloosa Academy 43, Lee-Scott Academy 27
Wilcox Academy 41, Southern Academy 7

Friday, August 30, 2013

What did YOU think about J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Children of Hurin'?

I finished reading J.R.R. Tolkein’s “The Children of Hurin” a few days ago, and I highly recommend it to fans of “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Hobbit” and “The Silmarillion.”

“The Children of Hurin” was originally written by J.R.R. Tolkein almost 100 years ago, but the novel itself wasn’t published until 2007 after his son Christopher Tolkein edited his father’s manuscripts into a coherent story. Illustrated by Alan Lee, this 320-page book centers on the family of Hurin Thalion, the Lord of Dor-lomin, a man who is said to be one of the greatest warriors on Middle Earth. He and his wife, Morwen Eledhwen, have two children, a son named Turin and a daughter named Lalaith, who are the subject of the book.

This book reminded me a lot of “The Silmarillion,” which I read a few months ago, but I would say that “The Children of Hurin” is a lot more readable. Both books left me wondering if the guy who actually wrote these could have been the same guy who wrote the truly awesome fantasy masterpieces, “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit.” For me, “The Silmarillion” was a lot most unreadable due to its complexity. That’s not to say that it isn’t good, it’s just really dense.

“The Children of Hurin” also reminded me of a number of other books, including “Beowulf” and “Robin Hood.” Also, at times, scenes from “The Children of Hurin” also reminded me of scenes from George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, which I’ve been reading my way through in recent months. At other times, I also sensed the influence of Shakespeare and Norse mythology in “The Children of Hurin.”

“The Children of Hurin” was very similar to “The Silmarillion,” but it was more entertaining. The story had battles, trickery, romance, elves, dwarves, orcs and a lot of other elements that made it hard to put down. Turin is arguably the book's main character and you follow him from boyhood until the day he dies. He’s a sympathetic character and you’re left rooting for him right up to the end.

I think fans of Tolkein will enjoy this book for the simple novelty of it. Published 34 years after the author’s death, it gives Tolkein fans something to enjoy when they’re not re-reading “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit.” I’d also venture to say that most hardcore Tolkein fans will enjoy “The Children of Hurin” more than “The Silmarillion.”

“The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” have also been made into major motion pictures, and I think that “The Children of Hurin” would make a good movie too. It could even be billed as a prequel since the events all take place centuries before the events in “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit.” I’m not sure who I’d cast in “The Children of Hurin,” but the options are wide open.

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

Daily Weather Observations for Fri., Aug. 30, 2013

Temp: 71.1 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Humidity: 81 percent (High)

Conditions: Partly Cloudy skies; moon visible; security lights still on in the distance; birds and bees audible and visible; cows audible; dew on the ground.

Wind: 0.1 mph out of the West.

Barometric Pressure: 29.53 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 4.25 inches

Summer to Date Rainfall: 8.80 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 39.35 inches

NOTES: Today is the 242nd day of 2013 and the 71st day of Summer. There are 123 days left in the year.

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, August 29, 2013

What became of the World War II 'Pride of Conecuh' B-25 Mitchell Bomber?

'Pride of Conecuh' B-25 Mitchell Bomber
Whatever happened to the “Pride of Conecuh”?

That’s a question I couldn’t help but ask last week when I saw a photo that was published in the paper 70 years ago this week. In the Aug. 26, 1943 edition of The Courant, the front page featured a large photo of a North American B-25 Mitchell Bomber that had been named the “Pride of Conecuh.” The War Department’s Bureau of Public Relations sent the photo to The Courant because the plane had been bought with funds raised during a war bond sale in Conecuh County in 1942.

“It was bombers of this type which blasted Tokyo, Rommel and is dreaded by the enemy on all fronts,” the caption beneath the photo said. “A Mitchell was the first U.S. bomber to sink a U-Boat. Conecuh citizens will follow with more than ordinary interest, the exploits of ‘Pride of Conecuh’ as it takes its place at battle front.”

According to Boeing Company’s Web site, the North America B-25 Mitchell was a twin-engine bomber that was widely used by Allied Air Forces during World War II. Nearly 10,000 of these extremely versatile planes were produced between 1939 and 1945. They were used as fighter planes, for high- and low-level bombing runs, photoreconnaissance, strafing and submarine patrols. A typical crew consisted of a pilot, bombardier, radio operator and gunner.

These planes became the most heavily armed planes in the world during World War II. Some of them were armed with 75-mm cannons and machine guns as well as over a dozen .50-caliber guns in the bombardier’s compartment. Some of these planes were also equipped with eight .50-caliber guns in the nose of the plane. Its normal bomb capacity was 5,000 pounds.

B-25 Mitchells were 53-feet long and were powered by two 1,700-horse power Wright Cyclone engines. They were also fast, capable of flying over 300 miles per hour with a range of 3,000 miles. They had a wingspan of just over 67-1/2 feet.

After seeing the photo of the “Pride of Conecuh” bomber last week, I’ve looked high and low for more information about this plane, but have yet to find a single mention of it elsewhere. It’s very possible that the plane was scrapped after the war, but it’s also possible that it’s sitting in a museum, on a military base or at a military monument or display somewhere today. Of course, it’s also possible that it’s sitting at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean or nothing but a pile of wreckage in a European forest somewhere today. In any event, I think the people of Conecuh County would be interested to learn what became of the plane that bore the county’s name during World War II.

In the end, if anyone out there has any information about the “Pride of Conecuh,” please let me know. You can reach me by phone at The Courant by calling 251-578-1492 or you can write me at The Evergreen Courant, ATTN: Lee Peacock, P.O. Box 440, Evergreen, AL 36401. If you’d rather contact me by e-mail, my e-mail address is

Another season of high school football kicks off tomorrow in Conecuh Co.

Another season of high school football will kick off tomorrow (Friday) in Conecuh County and across the great state of Alabama. Sparta Academy will be playing its 43rd season of varsity football this year, and Hillcrest High School will be playing its 25th season of varsity football. Every kid on both teams should keep in mind that they are part of teams that have long-running histories, and that they have an opportunity to make a mark this year that will be remembered for years to come.

It’s often said that a school’s sports teams are the “front porch” of the school, that is, while the purpose of the school is to educate young men and women, sports is a thing that generates a lot of interest in the school among the general public. This is true at home and on the road, where our players, coaches and fans serve as ambassadors of our community. Everyone here at The Courant is hoping that both schools will have outstanding, memorable and injury-free seasons. Nothing would please us more than for both teams to go undefeated.

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The college football season will kick off today (Thursday) and there will be a full slate of Southeastern Conference football games for fans to enjoy today, tomorrow and Saturday.

For what it’s worth, here are my picks for this week’s round of SEC games. I like Alabama over Virginia Tech, Auburn over Washington State, South Carolina over North Carolina, Ole Miss over Vanderbilt, Kentucky over Western Kentucky, Oklahoma State over Mississippi State, Arkansas over UL-Lafayette, Georgia over Clemson, LSU over TCU, Texas A&M over Rice, Florida over Toldeo, Missouri over Murray State and Tennessee over Austin Peay. Last week: 0-0. So far this season: 0-0.

The NFL regular season schedule will officially kick off next Thursday, Sept. 5, and this year I’ll also be predicting the outcomes of those games throughout the season. Look for those predictions to start in next week’s edition of The Courant along with my college football picks.

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For those of you in the audience who enjoy reading a good sports-related book, you might want to check out “Like Any Normal Day: A Story of Devotion” by Mark Kram Jr. It was recently announced the Kram’s book was named the winner of this year’s PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing. This prestigious award is given each year to the best nonfiction book on the subject of sports published during the previous calendar year. The winner receives $5,000.

“Like Any Normal Day” was among four finalists for this award. The other finalists were “Over Time” by Frank Deford, “Road to Valor” by Aili and Andres McConnon and “Floyd Patterson” by W.K. Stratton.

The PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing is a relatively new award and was first awarded in 2010. Past winners of the award include “A Terrible Splendor” by Marshall Jon Fisher (2010), “Play Their Hearts Out” by George Dohrmann (2011) and “Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption and Baseball’s Longest Game” by Dan Barry (2012).

The Evergreen Courant's Sports Flashback for Aug. 29, 2013

AUG. 25, 1988

“Blue Devils open season Friday night: The Conecuh County High School Blue Devils will open their 1988 football season tomorrow night against the Loachapoka Indians. Kickoff Friday night at M.C. Thomasson Stadium in Castleberry will be at 7:30.
“The Blue Devils, defending 1A Area 3 champions, are showing a lot of promise in preseason drills. They have 11 returning starters from last year’s championship team and hopes are high among Castleberry fans.”
Conecuh County High School’s varsity football schedule that year was as follows – Aug. 26, v. Loachapoka; Sept. 2, v. Repton; Sept. 9, at Century, Fla.; Sept. 16, v. McKenzie (homecoming); Sept. 23, at Dozier; Sept. 30, at Southern Normal; Oct. 7, at Vernon, Fla.; Oct. 14, at Wicksburg; Oct. 21, Open Date; Oct. 28, at Excel.

“Warriors whip Escambia; play here Friday: The Sparta Academy Warriors tuned up for their season opener Friday night with an easy, 14-0 decision over Escambia Academy in Canoe last Friday night. It was the last preseason practice, game style scrimmage for both teams.
“Last Friday, the Warriors dominated the Cougars on their home field. Jamie Deason scored the first Sparta touchdown on a 13-yard run. Jeff Carrier plunged over from the one for the second touchdown. Bobby Johnson kicked the extra point after each score.”
Other standout Sparta players in that game included Jamie Atkins, Toby Baggett, Craig Blackburn, Kenny Bledsoe, Robbie Bolton, Russell Colvin, Jerry Cotten, Chris Davis, Steven Gall, Eugene Hooks, Joey McKeough, Chris Owens, Kelvin Salter, Lynn Salter, Richard Weaver and Lee Wild.

AUG. 30, 1973

“Evergreen Aggies open the season: The Evergreen High Aggies will open the 1973 football season tomorrow night when they meet the powerful Georgiana High Panthers in Georgiana at 7:30.
“The Aggies are hoping for better things this season under their new head coach Buddy Davis. Coach Davis graduated from Red Level High School and Livingston State University. He has coached at McKenzie High School the past two seasons and had competitive teams both years.
“Coach Davis has an assistant coaches Charlie Branum and George Armstrong.”
“Sparta Warriors meet Greenville: The Sparta Academy Warriors will open the 1973 season here Friday night when they meet Greenville Academy in Stuart-McGehee Field.
“Head Coach Richard Brown and assistant Jimmy Hart and ‘Check’ Ellis are hoping to improve on last season’s 5-5 record.
“Returning starters are Walt Lee Ward, fullback; Buddy Monroe, quarterback; Greg McKenzie, Will Ward and George McKenzie, guards; Sam Skipper and Walker Scott, halfbacks; Tubby McInvale, tackle; Larry Reid, center; and Bruce Hutcheson, end and quarterback.
“Other players being counted on are Eddie Hooks, end; Danny Joyner, Larry Darby and Ronnie Pugh, guards; Woody Register and Dennis Culbreth, tackles; Johnny Cook, center; Joe Andrews, quarterback; and Danny Baggett and Bobby Johnson, halfbacks.”

AUG. 28, 1958

“Quarterbacks Plan Junior Grid Team: The Evergreen Quarterback Club is making plans to sponsor a junior high school football team this season. The QB’s extend a special invitation to fathers of boys in the seventh and eighth grades to meet with them tonight at 7:30 at Evergreen High School.
“The Quarterbacks held their first meeting Thursday night with only a few attending. A nominating committee was appointed and is to report tonight and election of new officers will be held.
“Plans for the sponsorship of the junior team and details of equipment, coaching, practice, etc. will be discussed tonight. Fathers of the boys who will be involved in the program should attend and lend their support to the program according to J.W. Weaver, president.
“Weaver said: ‘The QB Club has discussed the possibility of sponsoring a junior football team. Much interest has been expressed by many people in the junior program and the club would like to have more people present at tonight’s meeting, especially the fathers of juniors.
“Weaver also said the membership drive for 1958 will get underway with tonight’s meeting. Membership cards will be distributed to those conducting the drive. The QB’s ask all citizens interested in the athletic program to join the club and lend their support to its projects.”

AUG. 26, 1943

“Hunters May Retain Their Game 45 Days: Montgomery – Hunters may retain game birds and animals, or any edible portion thereof, for 45 days after the close of the season on such game bird or animal, according to a new regulation promulgated by Conservation Director Ben C. Morgan for the 1943-44 hunting season which opens this fall. This 45-day holding period applies to resident game, a similar one being in effect for the possession of federally controlled migratory birds.
“’We feel that permitting our hunters to hold their game longer will aid somewhat in alleviating the meat situation,’ said Mr. Mogran.”
“Vernon Millsap arrived home Sunday after having received his B.S. degree at Washington & Lee University Aug. 21. While a student there he received numerous honors including membership in Omicron Delta Kappa, national honorary society for leadership, president of spring dances 1943, manager of varsity basketball, president Kappa Sigma fraternity 1942 and dean’s list first term of summer 1943.”

AUG. 30, 1928

“Coach Abe Robinson returned Saturday to take up his duties at the State Secondary Agricultural School beginning Mon., Sept. 3.”

“Sportsman’s Headquarters: Everything you need for Fishing and Hunting; Winchester Shells, Ranger Smokeless, 3-1 1/8, 75 cents, Repeater Smokeless, 3-1/8, 85 cents; - Peters – Target Smokeless, 3-1/8, 90 cents; Special price on single barrel shot guns, $7.50; Be sure and see this gun before you buy; WILD BROTHERS HARDWARE CO., Evergreen, Alabama.”

Daily Weather Observations for Thurs., Aug. 29, 2013

Temp: 69.1 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Humidity: 81 percent (High)

Conditions: Mostly Cloudy skies; security lights still on in the distance; birds and bees audible and visible; cows audible; dew on the ground.

Wind: 0.0 mph (No wind)

Barometric Pressure: 29.58 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 4.25 inches

Summer to Date Rainfall: 8.80 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 39.35 inches

NOTES: Today is the 241st day of 2013 and the 70th day of Summer. There are 124 days left in the year.

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, August 28, 2013

Historical marker describes Monroe County's Buena Vista community

Buena Vista, Ala. historical marker
This week’s featured historical marker is the “BUENA VISTA” marker that’s located in the small community of Buena Vista in the northern part of Monroe County, Alabama. This marker looks relatively new, but it doesn’t indicate who erected the marker or when.

This marker is located on the north side of Monroe County Road 56, a few miles north of the intersection of that road and State Highway 265, north of the Town of Beatrice. There’s text on both sides of this marker, but both sides are identical. What follows is the complete text from the marker.

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“BUENA VISTA: Buena Vista was not always known by this name. The village was named Germany by the first settler in the area, Andrew Rikard, who arrived here in 1818 with his family from South Carolina. Mr. Rikard was of German descent. His son, Jake, established Rikard’s Mill, which is still operating today approximately two miles east on Flat Creek. In 1846 the name was changed by J.W. Perrin who had fought in the Battle of Buena Vista (Beautiful View) in the Mexican-American War. In 1847, Mr. Perrin became the first permanent postmaster of Buena Vista and served until 1861. Other early families in the area were Middletons, Kearleys, Nettles, Lindseys, Dukes and Laceys. Also, at that time, the James Finklea family migrated to the area.

“During the Civil War, John James ‘Jack’ Finklea, James Finklea’s son, kept store for Capt. Malcolm Patterson, who was killed in service. After the war, with $140.00 his father had left him, Jack rented the Patterson store, married and eventually became Postmaster. The post office was operated between 1846 and 1976. Jack Finklea descendants are active in restoration of many of the dwellings in the town. “In 1977, Buena Vista was placed on the Alabama Historical Register.”

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This marker is interesting for a number of reasons, especially the bit about Rikard’s Mill. If you ever visit Buena Vista, be sure to check out the old mill. It’s currently managed by the Monroe County Heritage Museums, which operates it as a working history site. A few years ago around Halloween, two friends and I actually spent the night there as part of a ghost hunt. It’s pretty creepy.

I was also especially interested in the tidbit about the Battle of Buena Vista, which occurred in February 1847. In this battle, the U.S. Army, under the command of future U.S. President Zachary Taylor, took on a larger Mexican Army force in northern Mexico and won thanks to the use of heavy artillery. Over 3,700 Mexicans died in the battle against 746 Americans who lost their lives. It was said to have been Taylor’s greatest victory of the war, which ended a year later in February 1848.

In the end, visit this site next Wednesday to learn about another historical marker. I’m also taking suggestions from the reading audience, so if you know of an interesting historical marker that you’d like me to feature, let me know in the comments section below.

This week's movie picks are 'Closed Circuit' and 'The Great Gatsby'

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 or pick up at the local Redbox.

Movies that are scheduled to hit theatres this week include:

- Afternoon Delight (Comedy, Drama, R): Directed by Jill Soloway and starring Kathryn Hahn, Juno Temple, Josh Radnor, Jane Lynch and Jessica St. Clair.

- American Made Movie (Documentary, G): Directed by Nathaniel Thomas McGill and Vincent Vittorio.

- Closed Circuit (Suspense, Crime, Drama, R): Directed by John Crowley and starring Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Jim Broadbent, Ciaran Hinds and Riz Ahmed.

- Getaway (Action, Crime, Suspense, PG-13): Directed by Courtney Solomon and Yaron Levy and starring Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez, Jon Voight and Rebecca Budig.

- I Declare War (Drama, Comedy, Not Rated): Directed by Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson and starring Siam Yu, Gage Munroe, Michael Friend, Aidan Gouveia and Mackenzie Munro.

- Instructions Not Included (Comedy, Drama, PG-13): Directed by Eugenio Derbez and starring Eugenio Derbez, Jessica Lindsey, Loreto Peralta, Daniel Raymont and Alessandra Rosaldo.

- Lifeguard (Comedy, Drama, R): Directed by Liz W. Garcia and starring Kristen Bell, Mamie Gummer, Martin Starr, Joshua Harto and John Finn.

- One Direction: This is Us (Music, Documentary, PG): Directed by Morgan Spurlock and starring Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne.

- Our Nixon (Documentary, Not Yet Rated): Directed by Penny Lane.

- Passion (Suspense, R): Directed by Brian De Palma and starring Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace, Paul Anderson, Karoline Herfurth and Rainer Bock.

New DVD releases this week include:

- At Any Price (Drama, R): Directed by Ramin Bahrani and starring Zac Efron, Dennis Quaid, Kim Dickens, Heather Graham and Clancy Brown.

- The Great Gatsby (Drama, PG-13): Directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton and Isla Fisher.

- Pain & Gain (Comedy, Action, Crime, R): Directed by Michael Bay and starring Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub and Ed Harris.

- Pawn Shop Chronicles (Action, Comedy, R): Directed by Wayne Kramer and starring Norman Reedus, Elijah Wood, Paul Walker, Brendan Fraser and Vincent D’Onofrio.

- The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Suspense, Drama, R): Directed by Mira Nair and starring Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Live Schreiber, Kiefer Sutherland and Adil Hussain.

- Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s (Documentary, PG-13): Directed by Matthew Miele and starring William Fichtner, Mary-Kate Olsen, Ashley Olsen, Joan Rivers and Candice Bergen.

- Stranded (Science Fiction, Suspense, Horror, Not Rated): Directed by Roger Christian and starring Christian Slater, Brendan Fehr, Amy Matysio and Michael Therriault.

- Super Buddies (Childrens, Family, G): Directed by Robert Vince and starring John Ratzenberger, Jason Earles, Colin Hanks, John Michael Higgins and Atticus Shaffer.

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

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., Aug. 28, 2013

Temp: 68.0 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Humidity: 82 percent (High)

Conditions: Mostly Cloudy skies; security lights still on in the distance; birds and bees audible and visible; cows and dogs audible; dew on the ground.

Wind: 0.1 mph out of the Northwest.

Barometric Pressure: 29.58 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 4.25 inches

Summer to Date Rainfall: 8.80 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 39.35 inches

NOTES: Today is the 240th day of 2013 and the 69th day of Summer. There are 125 days left in the year.

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, August 27, 2013

How many of Elmore Leonard's 49 novels have YOU read?

Elmore Leonard
Best-selling novelist Elmore Leonard passed away Tuesday of last week at his home in Michigan three weeks after suffering a stroke. He was 87 years old.

Born in New Orleans in 1925, Leonard was a Navy veteran and he also held degrees in English and philosophy. He had a long-running career as a writer and many of his novels and short stories were made into movies, including “3:10 to Yuma,” “Jackie Brown” and “Get Shorty.” Stephen King once called him “The Great American Writer.” He’s survived by his wife, five children, 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

By my count, he published 49 novels and what follows is a complete list of those books in alphabetical order. I’ve put an asterisk beside those that have been made into movies.

1. 52 Pick-Up (1974)*
2. Bandits (1987)
3. Be Cool (1999)*
4. The Big Bounce (1969)*
5. The Bounty Hunters (1953)
6. Cat Chaser (1982)*
7. City Primeval (1980)
8. Comfort to the Enemy (2006)
9. A Coyote’s in the House (2004)
10. Cuba Libre (1998)
11. Djibouti (2010)
12. Escape from Five Shadows (1956)
13. Fire in the Hole (2001)
14. Forty Lashes Less One (1972)
15. Freaky Deaky (1988)*
16. Get Shorty (1990)*
17. Glitz (1985)*
18. Gold Coast (1980)*
19. Gunsights (1979)
20. Hombre (1961)*
21. The Hot Kid (2005)
22. The Hunted (1977)
23. Killshot (1989)*
24. La Brava (1983)
25. Last Stand at Saber River (1959)*
26. The Law at Randado (1954)*
27. Maximum Bob (1991)
28. The Moonshine War (1969)*
29. Mr. Majestyk (1974)*
30. Mr. Paradise (2004)
31. Naked Came the Manatee (1996)
32. Out of Sight (1996)*
33. Pagan Babies (2000)
34. Pronto (1993)*
35. Raylan (2012)
36. Riding the Rap (1995)
37. Road Dogs (2009)
38. Rum Punch (1992)*
39. Split Images (1981)*
40. Stick (1983)*
41. Swag (1976)
42. The Switch (1978)*
43. Tishomingo Blues (2002)
44. Tonto Woman (1998)
45. Touch (1987)*
46. Unknown Man No. 89 (1977)
47. Up in Honey’s Room (2007)
48. Valdez Is Coming (1970)*
49. When the Women Come Out to Dance (2002)

Leonard’s only nonfiction book was “Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing,” which was published in 2007. In addition to that book and his nearly 50 novels, he also wrote scores of book introductions, book reviews, collections, essays, screenplays and short stories. Of all the books he published, he said that “Tishomingo Blues” was his favorite, followed by “Freaky Deaky.”

I have to admit that I’ve never read any of Leonard’s books, but he’s a writer that I’ve always been interested in. His books are still in print, and you can find just about all of them in all major bookstores. Also, if you’re not interested in paying full price, you can also find most of his books for cheap in used bookstores.

In the end, how many of Leonard’s books have you read? Which was your personal favorite? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below. (For more information about Leonard, visit his official Web site at

Daily Weather Observations for Tues., Aug. 27, 2013

Temp: 63.9 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Humidity: 81 percent (High)

Conditions: Partly Cloudy skies; moon visible; birds and bees audible and visible; cows audible; dew on the ground.

Wind: 0.0 mph (No wind)

Barometric Pressure: 29.64 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 4.25 inches

Summer to Date Rainfall: 8.80 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 39.35 inches

NOTES: Today is the 239th day of 2013 and the 68th day of Summer. There are 126 days left in the year.

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, August 26, 2013

LIFE LIST UPDATE – No. 169: Eat a funnel cake

Saturday's Flomaton, Ala. funnel cake
For one reason or another I made it over 37 years in this world without ever having eaten a “funnel cake,” that is, until this past Saturday when I seized the opportunity to eat one for the first time ever. The chance to eat a funnel cake doesn’t come along everyday, and about the only time that I can remember ever seeing them for sale is when the fair comes to town. Because of its relative rarity and due to the fact that I’ve never tried one, I added “Eat a funnel cake” to my “life list” a while back after seeing it a year or so ago on a list of unusual foods.

Funnel cakes originated in Pennsylvania, and they’re made by pouring batter in a circular pattern into hot cooking oil. This disc of batter is then deep-fried until it’s ready to eat. After it’s removed from the oil, it can be eaten plain or you can add toppings to it. The most common topping is powdered sugar, but you can also add all sorts of other stuff like jam, jelly, fruit, cinnamon, chocolate and syrup.

I got the chance to eat a funnel cake Saturday afternoon at a youth football jamboree in Flomaton, Ala. During a break in the action, the public address announcer invited the crowd to visit the concession stand, where they could find all sorts of refreshments, including funnel cakes. Opportunity was knocking, so first chance I got I got in the long line at the concession stand and bought a funnel cake. Grand total, $3.

Actually, the way it worked was that you paid the person at the concession stand, and they gave you a ticket to take to a table off to the side, where three people were preparing funnel cakes. Keep in mind that it’s late August in Alabama and that funnel cakes are served piping hot, so there was only one person in front of me in line at the funnel cake table. I watched as they poured the batter into what looked like a fish cooker of boiling oil and a few minutes later they served it to me on a white paper plate, complete with a generous serving of confectioners sugar. I’d say it took them three to four minutes to prepare this tasty treat.

I made my way back to the visitors’ side bleachers, sat down and prepared to dig in. I did offer some of the funnel cake to one of my kids, but he turned his nose up at it, so I ate it all myself, washing it down with an ice cold Coke. It was good, and the buttery taste reminded me of a doughnut. Of course, I couldn’t help but wonder about how many calories, cholesterol and saturated fat the funnel cake contained, but I didn’t let that keep me from enjoying the experience.

In the end, how many of you have ever eaten a funnel cake? What did you think about it? What sort of toppings do you like to eat on yours? Let us know in the comments section below.

The Evergreen Courant's News Flashback for Aug. 26, 2013

'Pride of Conecuh' B-25 Mitchell Bomber
AUG. 25, 1988

“Harry Ellis reports a ‘deluge’ of 2.52 inches of rain during the violent thunder and lightning storm early Saturday night. He also reports two nice showers, .18 of an inch on Aug. 18 and .56 on Aug. 22.”
He reported a high temperature of 94 on Aug. 22 and low temperatures of 70 on Aug. 21 and Aug. 22.

“Repton Mayor George Armstrong easily won re-election in Tuesday’s election. He polled 109 votes to 31 for Vernon E. ‘Rip’ Bowling.
“Incumbent council members Willie Anderson, Ransom English, Lois McMillian and Grady Busby were re-elected without opposition. Also unopposed was Bruce Hayes who will replace Councilman Chester Fawley, who did not seek re-election.”

“Castleberry’s voters re-elect Mayor L. Ryals: Mayor Lawrence Ryals won re-election to a second term of office rather handily as he polled 202 votes to 127 for Alton Henderson and 14 for Wilbur Rabon.
“James Ball received 22 votes to eight for Jerry L. Garrett to win District 1.
“Incumbent councilman Bill Moncrease was unopposed in District 2.
“Phelan Findley Sr. won a rather narrow victory in his bid for re-election in District 3. He received 42 votes to 25 for Clayton Barlow and 10 for Jefflyn Wilcox.
“The only runoff is set in District 5 where incumbent councilwoman Carolyn Laster will face challenger Tommy Jones. Laster had 37 votes and Jones 26 to emerge as leaders in a four-way race. James Varner received nine votes and Joe Rabon, seven.”

AUG. 30, 1973

“Chuck Neese was awarded the Eagle Scout Badge, highest award of the Boy Scouts, in a program at Evergreen Rotary Club last Thursday. Present for the awarding of the badge were Chuck’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Glenn Calder.”

“Firemen did a good job of controlling this fire which was discovered a little after 6 p.m. Monday. The firemen kept the blaze confined to the area above Harper’s Furniture Co. and the Drapery Outlet. The upstairs area was gutted including Jerry’s Barber Shop and Bill Register’s office as well as furniture owned by Harper. The downstairs area of Harper’s and Drapery Outlet suffered extensive water and smoke damage. Elmore’s had some smoke and water damage and Wild Bros. Hardware Co. had some damage from smoke. Firemen from Monroeville and Andalusia and the U.S. Navy firefighters from Middleton Field helped the Evergreen Volunteer Fire Dept.”

“Charlie Wade Kelsoe, 45, died Wed., Aug. 22, in the Veteran’s Hospital in Montgomery after a short illness.
“Mr. Kelsoe was retired from the U.S. Navy and served overseas during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.”

“Henry Steven Dunn, 84, a former resident of Evergreen died Mon., Aug. 27, in a nursing home at Creola, Miss.
“Mr. Dunn was a longtime employee of the City of Evergreen and prior to his retirement was superintendent of the Streets and Sanitation Department for a number of years.”

AUG. 28, 1958

“Car Strikes Child Early Tuesday A.M.: Laurine Jackson, 11-year-old girl, apparently suffered only cuts, bruises and scratches when struck by a car early Tuesday morning. The child, daughter of Will Jackson of Evergreen, was still in the hospital under observation at noon Wednesday. She had no broken bones.
“The child was injured about 6:50 a.m. Tuesday according to Police Chief John Andrews who investigated.
“Andrews said the girl was standing behind a large truck in front of Cotton Tractor Co., waiting to cross the highway toward the bus station. After a southbound car had passed she darted into the path of a northbound car and was knocked down and dragged for some distance, but the car wheels did not run over her.
“The car was driving by Mrs. Luverne Davis, Repton. Andrews said the accident was unavoidable and no charges were made against Mrs. Davis. He said his investigation revealed that Mrs. Davis was driving at a very slow speed, probably less than 25 mph.”

“Matron Jumps Clear Before Train Hits Car: Mrs. Multon White, Evergreen, was scared but uninjured after her car was hit by an L&N freight train Tuesday morning. The car was hit at 6:55 a.m. only five minutes after a child was struck by a car only a few hundred feet away.
“Mrs. White’s car stalled on the main tracks of the L&N at the Belleville St. crossing. She told Police Chief John Andrews that she made several unsuccessful attempts to start it before she heard the whistle of the northbound freight and realized her danger. She leaped from the car before the train hit it.
“The train engine pushed the car about 150 feet after striking it without the automobile leaving the tracks or being turned over. Andrews said the car was a ‘total loss.’
“Andrews said that W.H. Palmer, engineer of the train who lives in Montgomery, made every effort to stop the train after he saw the car, but was not able to do so.”

AUG. 26, 1943

“Above is a photo of the North American B-25 Mitchell Bomber, ‘Pride of Conecuh,’ which was released recently by the Bureau of Public Relations, War Department. Conecuh County citizens made possible this bomber through the purchase of War Bonds during the month of December 1942.
“It was bombers of this type which blasted Tokyo, Rommel and is dreaded by the enemy on all fronts. A Mitchell was the first U.S. bomber to sink a U-Boat.
“Conecuh citizens will follow with more than ordinary interest, the exploits of ‘Pride of Conecuh’ as it takes its place at battle front.”

“Purple Heart Awarded to James C. Gaston: The medal of the Purple Heart has been awarded posthumously by President Roosevelt to Pfc. James C. Gaston for ‘military merit and wounds received in action resulting in his death Nov. 3, 1942.
“Young Gaston, son of Mr. and Mrs. Willie J. Gaston formerly of Belleville, now of Loxley, was killed in action in the Solomon Islands. He enlisted in the Marines over two years ago before his death.
“Mr. and Mrs. Gaston also have a memorial award from Gov. Chauncey Sparks.
“In April of this year, Lewis Gaston, a younger brother of James Gaston, enlisted in the Marines and is now in training. His father says that Lewis wanted to get into the Marines and take his brother’s place and is anxious for the opportunity to come when he can be assigned to service and avenge his elder brother’s death. He is now wearing around his neck a 25 cent piece which was taken from James’ body, as a constant reminder and inspiration to him to go forward and complete the service so nobly begun by his brother.”

AUG. 30, 1928

“First Bale Ginned Last Friday P.M.: Arthur Coleman was the first to have a bale of 1928 cotton ginned here. The bale was ginned last Friday by the Evergreen Manufacturing Co. It was an unusually small bale, weighing less than 300 pounds. The second bale came from R.F. Croom’s farm Saturday morning and was grown by Mr. Henderson. Mr. Croom’s bale was sold and brought 18 cents per pound. The other did not sell.
“Both of the gins are running some each day this week. If the weather permits picking, they will be running full time by the last of the week.”

“Evergreen Schools Open Monday, Sept. 3: The new school year is very near at hand and whether we are ready or not, it behooves us to approach the opening with a fine spirit.”

Daily Weather Observations for Mon., Aug. 26, 2013

Temp: 66.7 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Humidity: 78 percent (High)

Conditions: Clear skies; moon visible; birds and bees audible and visible; dogs audible.

Wind: 0.1 mph out of the North-Northeast.

Barometric Pressure: 29.72 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 4.25 inches

Summer to Date Rainfall: 8.80 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 39.35 inches

NOTES: Today is the 238th day of 2013 and the 67th day of Summer. There are 127 days left in the year.

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, August 25, 2013

COMIC BOOK OF THE WEEK – “Quasar” #1 (October 1989)

This week’s “Comic Book of the Week” is “Quasar” #1, which was published by Marvel Comics in October 1989. This comic was the first issue in a series that lasted five years with a complete run of 60 issues that wrapped up in July 1994. The title of “Quasar” #1 was “The Price of Power!” and the creative team included Mark Gruenwald, story; Paul Ryan, breakdowns; Danny Bulanadi, finishes; Janice Chiang, letters; Paul Becton, colors; Howard Mackie, edits; and Tom DeFalco, chief. Paul Ryan was the cover artist for this issue, which sold for $1 at newsstands.

“Quasar” #1 gives us the origin story of Quasar, a.k.a. “The Cosmic Avenger.” The story opens with S.H.I.E.L.D. Col. Nick Fury giving a briefing at Stark Enterprises on the late Robert Grayson, the son of a German rocket scientist who wielded a pair of powerful bracelets and fought criminals and communists under the name Marvel Boy. Marvel Boy had a stellar crime-fighting career until one day he unexpectedly disappeared. Years later, out of the blue, he reappeared and “was missing a few marbles.”

Marvel Boy proceeded to go on a rampage, and the Fantastic Four stepped in to bring him under control. During this battle, Marvel Boy’s bracelets went haywire and disintegrated Marvel Boy. His bracelets were the only things left behind, and Reed Richards, the leader of the Fantastic Four, took custody of them in hopes of learning how they worked.

For “international security reasons,” Reed turned the bracelets over to S.H.I.E.L.D. and the purpose of Fury’s briefing at Stark, which was attended by Tony Stark (Iron Man) and scientists Dr. Gilbert Vaughn, Dr. Stanley Zane and Dr. Madeline Reznek, was to encourage them to study the bracelets. Their specialty is the study of extraterrestrial objects, and S.H.I.E.L.D. wants them to figure out how the bracelets work. At the end of Fury’s presentation, Stark agrees to a six-month contract with S.H.I.E.L.D. to study the bracelets.

As it turns out, Dr. Vaughn’s son, Wendell Vaughn, is almost finished with his training to become a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and at the end of his training, he’s assigned to duty at Stark International’s research facility in Pittsburgh, Pa., where his scientist father is studying Marvel Boy’s bracelets. Wendell believes he’s been given the assignment because his dad pulled some strings, but his father actually had nothing to do with the duty assignment. Despite their best efforts, Stark’s scientists are having a hard time figuring out how the bracelets work, and readers also learn that Reznek is actually a spy for the high-tech terrorist group, A.I.M., which is short for “Advanced Idea Mechanics.”

Enter William Wesley, a S.H.I.E.L.D. test pilot who has agreed to wear the power bracelets, so that the scientists can run further tests on their capabilities. They put him through all manner of tests, from shooting light rays through brick walls to flying and lifting cars. Wesley meets his end though when they try to remove the bracelets at the end of the tests, and he gets disintegrated like the original Marvel Boy.

Suddenly and without warning, a large A.I.M. ship loaded with a host of assault droids arrives to steal the power bracelets. Wendell Vaughn and other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents fight back, and Wendell puts on the power bracelets to keep them safe. Having watched the bracelet tests with William Wesley, Wendell has a rough idea of how to make them work, and he repels the A.I.M. attack and keeps the droids from stealing the bracelets.

At the end of the battle, Wendell begins to feel overwhelmed by the power of the bracelets, and he fears that he’s going to be disintegrated like Wesley and Marvel Boy. To avoid hurting anyone and to keep his father from witnessing his death, he flies high above the Earth and relaxes, accepting his fate. It’s at that point, the energy buildup fades, and Wendell realizes that he’s figured out something about how the bracelets work.

In the end, he returns to Stark’s Pittsburgh facility, where Col. Fury invites him to enroll in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s new Super Agent Program, where he receives “special powers training in the company of other special operatives.” He also continues to work with his father to unravel the mystery behind the bracelets. To boot, he’s given a facsimile of Marvel Boy’s original uniform and adopts the superhero name “Quasar.”

This comic (unless I’ve sold it) and others are available for purchase through Peacock’s Books on If you’re interested in buying it, search for it there by title, issue number and date of publication.

Mark Levin's 'The Liberty Amendments' debuts atop best-sellers list

Today is Sunday, so that means that it’s time for my weekly breakdown of this week’s Publishers Weekly Best-Sellers Lists. According to those lists, there are two new books at the top of the four major best-sellers lists this week.

"The Liberty Amendments" by Mark R. Levin replaced "Zealot" by Reza Aslan as the No. 1 book on the hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list.

"The Casual Vacancy" by J.K. Rowling replaced "Burn" by Maya Banks as the top book on the trade paperbacks best-sellers list.

"Mistress" by James Patterson and David Ellis remained the No. 1 book on the hardcover fiction best-sellers list for the second straight week.

"The Inn at Rose Harbor" by Debbie Macomber remained the top book on the mass market paperback best-sellers list for the third week in a row.

There was only one book on this week’s hardcover fiction best-sellers list that wasn’t on that list lat week - "Rose Harbor in Bloom" by Debbie Macomber, which came in at No. 3 on the list.

There were three books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They (and their places on the list) included "The Liberty Amendments" by Mark R. Levin (1), "The Butler" by Wil Haygood (11) and "Daring Greatly" by Brene Brown (14).

There were no new books on this week’s mass market paperbacks best-sellers list. It was the same list of 15 books, just in a slightly different order. This doesn’t happen often, but it does happen a few times a year.

There was only one book on this week’s trade paperbacks best-sellers list that wasn’t on the list last week - "The Silent Wife" by A.S.A. Harrison, which came in at No. 11 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 Below you’ll find all four of this week’s best-seller lists.

1. "Mistress" by James Patterson and David Ellis
2. "The Cuckoo's Calling" by Robert Galbraith
3. "Rose Harbor in Bloom" by Debbie Macomber
4. "Inferno" by Dan Brown
5. "And the Mountains Echoed" by Khaled Hosseini
6. "First Sight" by Danielle Steel
7. "Hotshot" by Julie Garwood
8. "The English Girl" by Daniel Silva
9. "The Last Witness" by W.E.B. Griffin
10. "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" by Neil Gaiman
11. "William Shakespeare's Star Wars" by Ian Doescher
12. "The Husband's Secret" by Liane Moriarty
13. "Second Honeymoon" by James Patterson and Howard Roughan
14. "Hidden Order" by Brad Thor
15. "The White Princess" by Philippa Gregory

1. "The Liberty Amendments" by Mark R. Levin
2. "Zealot" by Reza Aslan
3. "Happy, Happy, Happy" by Phil Robertson
4. "Lean In" by Sheryl Sandberg
5. "The Duck Commander Family" by Willie Robertson, Korie Robertson and Mark Schlabach
6. "This Town" by Mark Leibovich
7. "Lawrence in Arabia" by Scott Anderson
8. "Life Code" by Phil McGraw
9. "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls" by David Sedaris
10. "Jerusalem: A Cookbook" by Yotam Ottolenghi
11. "The Butler" by Wil Haygood
12. "These Few Precious Days" by Christopher Andersen
13. "The Legend of Zelda" by Shigeru Miyamoto
14. "Daring Greatly" by Brene Brown
15. "Dad Is Fat" by Jim Gaffigan

1. "The Inn at Rose Harbor" by Debbie Macomber
2. "Low Pressure" by Sandra Brown
3. "Webster's New World Dictionary" by Michael Agnes
4. "The Tombs" by Clive Cussler and Thomas Perry
5. "Ready to Die" by Lisa Jackson
6. "University of Chicago Spanish-English Dictionary" by David Pharies
7. "Calculated in Death" by J.D. Robb
8. "I, Michael Bennett" by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
9. "Castaway Cove" Joann Ross
10. "Friends Forever: A Novel" by Danielle Steel and Nick Podehl
11. "Three Little Words" by Susan Mallery
12. "Forever" by Nora Roberts
13. "Heart of Texas, Vol. 2" by Debbie Macomber
14. "Defiance of Eagles" by William W. Johnstone
15. "Never Let Go" by Sherryl Woods

1. "The Casual Vacancy" by J.K. Rowling
2. "Alex Cross, Run" by James Patterson
3. "Proof of Heaven" by Eben Alexander
4. "Burn" by Maya Banks
5. "The Panther" by Nelson DeMille
6. "Joyland" by Stephen King
7. "Chesapeake Blue" by Nora Roberts
8. "Inquebrantable: Mi Historia, A Mi Manera" by Jenni Rivera
9. "Beautiful Ruins" by Jess Walter
10. "I Declare" by Joel Osteen
11. "The Silent Wife" by A.S.A. Harrison
12. "Entwined with You" by Sylvia Day
13. "DSM-5" by American Psychiatric Association
14. "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed
15. "The Secret Keeper" by Kate Morton

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., Aug. 25, 2013

Temp: 70.7 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.20 inches

Humidity: 83 percent (High)

Conditions: Overcast skies and dark; security lights still on in the distance; birds and bees audible and visible.

Wind: 2.4 mph out of the East.

Barometric Pressure: 29.70 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 1.40 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 4.25 inches

Summer to Date Rainfall: 8.80 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 39.35 inches

NOTES: Today is the 237th day of 2013 and the 66th day of Summer. There are 128 days left in the year.

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, August 24, 2013

'Cloud Atlas' movie is mind-blowing, will make you want to read the book

I watched Cloud Atlas for the first time the other day, and this is one sci-fi movie that blew my mind.

Directed by Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, this movie is about how the actions of one’s ancestors influence the actions of someone in the present and in the distance future. This movie moves back and forth in time and is set in the South Pacific Ocean in 1849, the United Kingdom in 1936, San Francisco in 1973, the UK in 2012, Korea in 2144, a post-apocalyptic scene after that and then at an off-Earth colony several decades later. The movie’s rated R and was nearly three hours long.

Released in October 2012, this movie featured an all-star cast, including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving and Hugh Grant. Shot on a budge of $102 million, it was one of the most expensive independent films ever made. This movie was nominated for numerous awards, including the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film.

This movie was based on the 2004 novel by the same name written by David Mitchell, and this movie will definitely make you want to read the book. Published by Sceptre, this 544-page book won the British Book Awards Literary Fiction Award and was nominated for a Nebula Award and an Arthur C. Clarke Award. “Cloud Atlas” is one of five books written by Mitchell. The others include “Ghostwritten” (1999), “number9dream” (2001), Black Swan Green (2006) and “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet” (2010).

In the end, how many of you have watched “Cloud Atlas”? How many of you have read the novel? What did you think about them? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations for Sat., Aug. 24, 2013

Temp: 70.7 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Humidity: 82 percent (High)

Conditions: Partly Cloudy skies; moon visibile; birds and numerous bees audible and visible; dew on the ground.

Wind: 0.0 mph (No wind)

Barometric Pressure: 29.60 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 1.20 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 4.05 inches

Summer to Date Rainfall: 8.60 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 39.15 inches

NOTES: Today is the 236th day of 2013 and the 65th day of Summer. There are 129 days left in the year.

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.

'Off Magazine Street' character has strong ties to Southwest Alabama

I finished reading “Off Magazine Street” by Ronald Everett Capps the other day, and this book was everything that I expected it to be. Published in January 2005 by MacAdam/Cage, this 401-page book is about two well-educated alcoholics who take a teenage, high school dropout under their wing. Not only do they help her finish high school, but they also help her get into Tulane University.

Many of you will be familiar with this book because it was the basis for the 2004 motion picture, “A Love Song for Bobby Long.” Released in 2004, this movie was directed by Shainee Gable and starred John Travolta as Bobby Long and Scarlett Johansson in the roll of the teenage dropout. This movie and Capps’ novel are both set in New Orleans.

I saw the movie soon after it came out, and I’ve wanted to read Capps’ novel for a long time due to its strong connections to Southwest Alabama. Capps is a native of East Brewton and now lives in Fairhope. The Bobby Long character in the novel and movie is based on a now-deceased native of Brewton, who taught school all over Alabama, including at Evergreen High School, Monroe County High School in Monroeville and elsewhere. In fact, he was one of my dad’s high school English teachers.

The main characters in the novel and movie are both former teachers. Long has a PhD from Auburn University and his sidekick Byron Burns has a master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Alabama. With that said, “Off Magazine Street” is full of literary references, and I made a note of as many of them as I could spot when I went through the book. I’ve posted a list of them below in what I'm calling the “Off Magazine Street Reading List.” Enjoy.

- "Bernice Bobbed Her Hair" by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- The Bible
- "Cannery Row" by John Steinbeck
- The Dahmmpada
- "The Diary of Anne Frank"
- "Fiddler Jones" by Earl Lee Masters (poem)
- "A Field of Blue Children" by Tennessee Williams (short story)
- "Girls in Their Summer Dresses" by Irwin Shaw
- "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" by Carson McCullers
- "Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain
- "Lilith" by J.R. Salamanca
- "Look Homeward, Angle" by Thomas Wolfe
- “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
- "A Member of the Wedding" by Carson McCullers
- "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville
- "Our Town" by Thornton Wilder
- "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" by James Joyce
- "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner (short story)
- "A Streetcar Named Desire" by Tennessee Williams
- "Teddy" by J.D. Salinger
- "Their Lonely Betters" by W.H. Auden (poem)
- "Three Players of a Summer Game" by Tennessee Williams
- "Tom Sawyer" by Mark Twain
- "A White Rose" by John Boyle O’Reilly (poem)
- "Winter Dreams" by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- "With Rue My Heart is Laden" by A.E. Housman (poem)

Other authors that are specifically mentioned in the novel include Adam Smith, D.H. Lawrence, Flannery O’Connor, Lao Tse and Sherwood Anderson.

In the end, how many of you have read “Off Magazine Street”? How many of you have seen the movie, “A Love Song for Bobby Long”? What did you think about them? How many of you knew Bobby Long? Let us know in the comments section below.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Daily Weather Observations for Fri., Aug. 23, 2013

Temp: 70.9 degrees F

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Humidity: 83 percent (High)

Conditions: Overcast skies; Heavy fog, visibility about 1/4-mile; birds and bees audible and visible; dew on the ground; small patches of spider webs visible in the grass.

Wind: 0.0 mph (No wind)

Barometric Pressure: 29.54 inHg

Week to Date Rainfall: 1.20 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 4.05 inches

Summer to Date Rainfall: 8.60 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 39.15 inches

NOTES: Today is the 235th day of 2013 and the 64th day of Summer. There are 130 days left in the year.

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, August 22, 2013

Historic walking tour would bring tourists to downtown Evergreen

In the course of my job I often hear people talk about things that would attract people to Evergreen and Conecuh County. This subject often comes up at public meetings, and our local elected officials and business leaders have a lot of good ideas when it comes to ways to attract visitors to our area.

For what it’s worth, I thought I’d throw in my two cents this week to talk about something that would be inexpensive and could bring a few tourists to Evergreen - a self-guided historic walking tour of downtown Evergreen.

Evergreen has a rich, unique and interesting history and a tour of this type would attract history-minded tourists to Evergreen’s downtown area. Other towns in our area, including Monroeville, Camden and Selma, have walking tours of this type. These tours are self-guided, that is, there’s no need for a tour guide. On those tours, you just follow a brochure-style map that describes the historic locations on the tour.

According to Evergreen historian Sherry Johnston, Evergreen has no historic walking tour of this type, but the idea has been discussed in the past. It never got beyond the discussion phase though, which I think is unfortunate.

I think that the establishment of a historic walking tour in Evergreen would be relatively inexpensive. As far as I can tell, the biggest expense would be the printing of a brochure that would map out and describe the sites on the tour. Printing costs could be kept low by offering the brochure for download on the local Chamber of Commerce’s web site, so that anyone interested in taking the tour could print it at home at no cost to any local public organization. These brochures could also be made available for pick up at the library, the Chamber of Commerce office and at city hall.

A walking tour of downtown Evergreen could include a number of historic locations within a short distance of “No Man’s Land.” Possible tour locations could include the Old L&N Depot, the Bank of Evergreen (Old Pix Theatre) building, the Old Evergreen High School arch, the Old Baptist Orphanage site, The Evergreen Courant, the Evergreen Caboose, the Evergreen City School building, the historic homes along Main Street, the Old Evergreen Cemetery, the county war memorial monument, Evergreen Baptist Church, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church and the other older churches downtown.

Visitors wouldn’t necessarily have to enter any of these locations, and the brochure would provide them with detailed information about each site. The tours in Camden, Monroeville and Selma are designed this way, allowing tour-takers to move along at their own pace. I’ve taken all three of those tours in the past year, and they’re each about an hour long, give or take. The tour in Camden was created by a local Boy Scout, and the tour in Monroeville was designed by the good folks at the Monroe County Heritage Museums. The Selma-Dallas County Tourism Department organized Selma’s walking tour.

In the end, I think a historic walking tour in Evergreen would be an inexpensive way to attract a few tourists to downtown Evergreen. It probably wouldn’t bring a flood of sightseers to the city, but it would attract folks who enjoy local history, old architecture and the chance to see “old-timey” places up close.

And while those people are here, I’m sure they’ll be spending their money in our local gas stations, restaurants and possibly in our hotels. I know that I’m not alone when I say that I’d be happy to help work on the creation of a historic walking tour of downtown Evergreen, so if anyone out there is interested in this project, let me know. I’m no local history expert, but I think it would be a worthwhile project for Evergreen.

Sign up today for our local ESPN College Football Pick 'Em Contest

One thing that I look forward to every year as we approach the start of the college football season is the beginning of’s College Football Pick ‘Em Contest.

Again this season, I’m inviting readers of The Courant to sign up for a local group in the contest, which will allow you to compete against college football fans in this area. A group of friends and I have participated in this free online contest for 11 years now, and there are always a few upsets, controversies and surprises. It will definitely make your college football season a lot more interesting and fun.

Here's how the contest works: Each week during the coming college football season, you'll pick the winners of 10 games for the upcoming college football weekend. Your correct picks will be added up after the weekend's games to give you your total for the week. Whoever gets the most right, wins. If you don’t do so hot one week, don’t worry, the contest runs for 15 weeks. This contest’s a marathon, not a sprint. To sign up for the game, go online and visit the contest website at Once there, sign in with your member name. If you don't have an account, take about two minutes to sign up for one. It's absolutely free, as is the contest. It's easy, especially for those of you who are Internet savvy enough to find the contest site online.

Once you've got your account and have signed in, create your own contest entry. Click on "Create Entry," and follow the simple instructions. When you get to the “Name Your Entry” part, I ask that you use your real name, so that we can post the standings each week in the paper.

Once you've created an entry, you can join our local group of football fans, allowing you to compete against other contestants from Conecuh County and other areas. This is where the real fun comes in.

I've set up a group that all of you can join, so we'll all be able to compete against each other in the contest. Go ahead and click on "Create or Join a Group." That'll take you to another page, where you'll be able to join our local group. The name of our group this year is called "South Alabama FB Pickers." Enter that in the appropriate space (without the quotation marks and period).

Our group is a private group, so you'll have to have a password to join. Our password is "football." Just type it in without the quotation marks and the period. In the end, if you have any trouble signing up, getting started or if you have any other questions, just e-mail me at If you’re interested in signing up, don’t delay, the contest officially kicks off on the first full Saturday of the college football season, Aug. 31, which is just around the corner.

Our tenth-annual ESPN College Pick ‘Em contest ended in early December of last year, and many of you will remember that Johnny Davis claimed last year’s “Mr. Football” title by finishing in first place.

During the 14-week contest, Davis collected 564 total points by correctly picking the winners of 97 out of 140 football games. That’s almost 70 percent, which isn’t bad when it comes to picking the outcomes of college football games.

Hunter Norris finished in second place with 562 total points, and Jacob Ramer came in third with 557 total points. Sharon Peacock came in fourth with 554 points. Aaron Albritton and Jeremy Matheny were tied for fifth place with 553 points each.

I finished seventh with 548 points, and Justin Jensen was eighth with 537 points. Morgan Middleton was ninth with 535 points, and David Price came in tenth with 533 points.