Behind the Star by StarEditorBobDavis
An inside look at the Anniston Star newsroom
Sep 02, 2009 | 5679 views |  0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

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What book(s) influenced you?
by StarEditorBobDavis
Aug 16, 2012 | 75033 views |  0 comments | 72 72 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Since Mitt Romney selected Paul Ryan as his VP, the books of Ayn Rand have become a trending topic. That's because U.S. Rep. Ryan, R-Wisc., has famously and repeatedly cited Rand's works as highly influential in his development. 

In a 2005 speech Ryan said:

"[T]he reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand. And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.”

The stories on Rand's influence on Ryan are stacking up. See here, here, here, here, here and here

The buzz will almost surely sell a few more copies of books by Rand, who died in 1982. Her most famous are Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

Our question today, however, deals with books and their influence. What book(s) influenced your ideology/politics? Use the comments section below to cite a title, author and reason.

Oh, and to get the ball rolling, allow me to offer my nominee: George Orwell's 1984, a novel that forecasts life under a totalitarian state. It's probably best read alongside Orwell's novella Animal Farm, an interest examination of the corrupting influence of power.

Our Big Competition
by StarEditorBobDavis
Jun 29, 2012 | 8599 views |  0 comments | 71 71 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

A group of community leaders joined us at the offices of The Star yesterday afternoon to discuss next steps in the Our Big Problem series on obesity. We had a fast-paced hour discussing ways our community can wrestle with the frightening statistics that show Alabama is among the fattest states in the union. (And, yes, as our reporting has shown, the impact of this epidemic has huge implications for everyone, even the fittest among us.)

One big idea to address Our Big Problem is a competition pitting young people from various community centers, clubs, churches and so forth against each other. The aim is to make fitness fun by competition and encouragement. In broad strokes, the highlights include:

-- Competitors would compete against other teams in a series of athletic contests.

-- Prizes would go to the top finishers as well as those kids who showed the most improvement.

--- The event might be best compared to a big “field day” where multiple events would be happening at the same time.

-- Incentives – prizes, special events, special recognition – would be available for winning teams and individuals. 

-- Our aim is to make this a fun event where boys and girls can encourage each other to get healthier.

 So, that’s what’s on the drawing board. We talking about an annual or twice-a-year competition, perhaps hosted at McClellan, which has facilities for multiple athletic events.

Now it’s your turn to weigh in.

What do you think of this idea? 

 How can we make it better?

 What athletic events would you suggest be a part of this competition? What about X-Games-styled events?

All ideas welcome. 

Never too late for a correction
by StarEditorBobDavis
Jun 20, 2012 | 4088 views |  0 comments | 61 61 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
An emailer wrote late last night asking for a correction regarding a mention of Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic presidential nominee in 1952 and 1956. "His name was Stevenson, not Stevens," the email said. "Please correct your error on June 14.  Thanks.

At first I was thrown. I could find no reference to the politician in the June 14 issue of The Star. A little searching helped me realize the error was from my column published on June 14 of 2009. My mistake. The online version of the column has been amended. It's never too late to set the record straight. You can read it here. I'm happy to issue a correction ... three years late.

Early morning mourning
by StarEditorBobDavis
Jun 15, 2012 | 5820 views |  0 comments | 77 77 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Eight cyclists headed out along Choccolocco’s back roads early Friday morning. I can’t speak for the others, but Derek Jensen was on my mind at every turn of the pedal.

Jensen, the director of external affairs at the Center for Domestic Preparedness at McClellan, died Thursday morning after being hit by a truck while cycling to work, according to the police report. He was 37.

Jensen occasionally joined the group of early morning riders who follow a route designed to stay mostly clear of motor vehicles. He was a strong rider, an extremely fit athlete who never seemed to tire. He was a friendly soul, someone who encouraged slower riders like me. He was a positive person who could always be counted on to put in a good word no matter the subject, something we should all aspire to.

A death in this region’s tight-knit cycling community has weighed many down with sadness. Friday’s ride was a more somber affair than usual. Eyes and ears were even more attuned to oncoming traffic. The strain of extreme physical exertion brought an odd sort of relief, an hour or so of suffering to briefly distract one’s mind from the death of a friend. It was to me a sort of mourning.

In Judaism, the Kaddish is a prayer said in mourning the death of a loved one. Religious scholars are quick to point out that the Kaddish is not a prayer for the dead; it’s a prayer for the living.

While Derek’s friends and family remember his life, it’s important to also reflect on those left behind. We all share the same roads. There should be more awareness that others are using them, whether these travelers are on a bicycle, running or walking on two legs or even driving in another automobile.

Most runners and cyclists assume drivers of automobiles don’t notice them. Many carry flashing backlights to signal vehicles approaching from behind. Those are necessary precautions, yet not always enough. Today’s small hope is that Derek’s tragic passing can serve to raise awareness that the roads are meant for sharing.

A clarification from Congressman Rogers’ office
by StarEditorBobDavis
Jun 08, 2012 | 3502 views |  0 comments | 73 73 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

The office of U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, takes issue with an Anniston Star editorial’s take on the congressman’s views regarding oil exploration in the Talladega National Forest.

The editorial – Our neck of the woods: Consider Talladega National Forest off-limits to drilling for oil, gas - contained this sentence: “Three Republicans — County Commissioner Tim Hodges, state Rep. Randy Wood and U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers — each have voiced strong opposition to drilling for fossil fuels in our national forest. Rogers was wise to request, in writing, that the BLM delay the auction.”

That’s not accurate, writes Shea Snider, spokeswoman for Rep. Rogers. Her email notes:

The above sentence “doesn’t accurately reflect Congressman Rogers’s statements on the issue. Rogers has never referenced drilling in the Talladega National Forest.

“What he has said is that he is vehemently opposed to allowing the leases to go forward, as he has said repeatedly and in public, because of the way BLM kept the public, local officials and his office in the dark. That’s why he has asked for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to delay the lease sales, reopen the public comment period and hold public meetings as they should have done from the beginning. Something this important needs thorough public discussion and debate; the people deserve to know what is going on.”

Photographic memories
by StarEditorBobDavis
Feb 10, 2012 | 16204 views |  0 comments | 38 38 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Spanky Thomas
Spanky Thomas
Two years ago I wrote a column about Spanky Thomas, a friend from college who died young. I wrote:

“Spanky” isn’t exactly a tough-guy name for a football player. Also, his build was slight for a linebacker, a position typically requiring size, height and speed.But Spanky had something else: a knack for excellence, a quiet, steady bearing and an unstoppable work ethic.As a black youngster growing up in Wiregrass Alabama, Thomas broke through the last remnants of racial divisions.When his all-Southern Conference college football days at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga were over, the NFL wasn’t waiting for him. Instead, he returned to his hometown, Dothan, to assist a Boys Club, to mentor youth who needed a role model like Spanky.Eventually, he moved on to central Florida to lead a Boys Club of his own.He died in a car accident 20 years ago yesterday — Feb. 27, 1990. He was 24.Two decades later, when friends and former teammates speak of Spanky Thomas, they express the same thoughts.Spanky was a natural leader, in the classroom, on the field and in life.Spanky had a great smile.Spanky is missed.
The whole column is here. I was reminded of the column this afternoon while going through The Star's photo archives. The top photo here is of Spanky (No. 11) chasing an Auburn running back during a 1986 game. By the way, pictured in the bottom photo is Mike Makins, another teammate of Spanky's who spoke with me for the column.

"I say, 'God bless it!' "
by StarEditorBobDavis
Dec 23, 2011 | 5825 views |  0 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

It's difficult to get through December without a passing exposure to at least one the various film versions of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. As I recently shared with for The Star's Pop Cultured column, my favorite is the 1970 musical version with Albert Finney. Yet, moving picture and sound can't do full justice to the power of Dickens' words. This exchange between Scrooge and his nephew illustrates the point:


"Nephew!" returned the uncle, sternly, "keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine."

"Keep it!" repeated Scrooge's nephew.  "But you don't keep it."

"Let me leave it alone, then," said Scrooge.  "Much good may it do you!  Much good it has ever done you!"

"There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say," returned the nephew.  "Christmas among the rest.  But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -- apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that -- as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.  And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!"


Indeed. Merry Christmas. 

Political football: Alabama vs. Louisiana
by StarEditorBobDavis
Dec 14, 2011 | 2765 views |  0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

In a little less than a month the football teams from the University of Alabama and Louisiana State University will compete for the BCS national championship. The Star’s editorial board is planning a comparison of the opponents’ states beyond the gridiron, an examination of Alabama and Louisiana that has virtually nothing to do with football.

We are looking for other measurements from the political world.  

Governor: Is it a former dermatologist (Robert Bentley of Alabama) or is it the son of Indian immigrants who took his American-ized name from The Brady Bunch (Bobby Jindal of Lousiana)?

All-time demagogue: Is it Louisiana’s Huey Long or Alabama’s George C. Wallace?

Longtime U.S.senator: Louisiana’s Russell Long (1948-1987) or Alabama’s Lister Hill (1938-1969)?

 We are looking for other measurements from the political world - traditions, legends, quotes, landmarks, icons, embarassments, etc.

Your suggestions welcome. 

Alabamian of the Year for 2011?
by StarEditorBobDavis
Dec 13, 2011 | 2358 views |  0 comments | 38 38 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
The Anniston Star's editorial board is considering candidates for the 2011 Alabamian of the Year, and we're looking for suggestions.

The Alabamian of the Year must be alive. He or she doesn't have to be an Alabama native, but a qualified candidate must have lived in the state at one time.

While deeds done in 2011 will be in full view, no person's life can be reduced to a single year. In other words, our AOY's lifetime achievements will be considered.

Our definition for AOY is, "An Alabamian (or Alabamians) who made a significant mark on events over the past year; someone who lived up to the state creed's dictate 'to foster her advancement within the statehood of the world.' "

The previous winners are:

2008: Albert Brewer, ex-governor of Alabama and leading advocate for constitutional reform.

2009: Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales

2010: Bob Riley, former governor of Alabama.

Who qualifies for 2011? 

A parking garage for bike commuters
by StarEditorBobDavis
Sep 20, 2011 | 8514 views |  0 comments | 46 46 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

A highlight of last week's  annual convention of the National Conference of Editorial Writers in Indianapolis was not on the impressive agenda.

It was a spot in downtown I visited every morning, the Indy Bike Hub YMCA. The facility is a full-service parking garage for bicycle commuters, with showers, lockers, 148 parking spots with locks for bikes (pictured), an in-house bike shop capable of repair work and top-notch exercise equipment just in case the pedalling from home wasn't enough. (Of course, non-cyclists are welcome at the facility, as well.)

As a member of the YMCA of Calhoun County, I took advantage of the Y's member-exchange which allows visitation privileges for out-of-towners. The staff at the Indy Bike Hub was friendly and I was able to get in a little spinning on a stationary bike.

"There is nothing like it in the country," Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard told the Indianapolis Star during last week's grand opening. The city is planning to expand its accessibility to cyclists. "The goal is to make Indianapolis the healthiest city in America," YMCA of Greater Indianapolis President Eric Ellsworth told the newspaper. "This is one small cog in the wheel."

Next-door to the Bike Hub is the City Market. In the mornings, downtown office workers crowded around stands selling eggs, biscuits, pastries and coffee. One morning a coffee vendor noticed my sweaty workout clothes and remarked, "Hey, did you just come from the Y?"

"Yup," I answered. He smiled, and said, "I did,too."  Fortunately for his customers he had a place to shower following his morning workout. 

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