Tourism Tuesdays December 30, 2014

  • Variety film review: Selma
  • Selma featured in The New Yorker
  • Selma
  • Selma: Movie review
  • London Telegraph review of Selma
  • Alabama industry spent billions to make state’s air cleaner than ever, EPA wants more
  • USA TODAY explains the meaning behind ‘We Want Bama’
  • Inside the wacky, wonderful world of Alabama’s George Barber
  • Battleship Memorial Park celebrates 50th with year-long celebration
  • Florence tourism meeting lights up YouTube
  • Atlanta Journal Constitution calls Birmingham a culinary hotbed
  • Alabama Historical Commission offering a “A Year of Alabama History” pass
  • Jasmine Hill Gardens to open weekends all year 
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


Variety film review: Selma
By Scott Foundas, Chief Film Critic, Variety

A half-century on from Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic voting-rights march from Selma, Alabama to the state capitol in Montgomery, director Ava DuVernay revisits those events with startling immediacy, dramatic force and filmmaking verve in Selma. A far cry from the dutiful biopic or ossified history lesson it could have become in lesser hands (or the campy free-for-all the project’s original director, Lee Daniels, might have made of it), DuVernay’s razor-sharp portrait of the civil rights movement — and Dr. King himself — at a critical crossroads is as politically astute as it is psychologically acute, giving us a human-scale King whose indomitable public face belies currents of weariness and self-doubt. Bolstered by Paul Webb’s literate, well-researched script and David Oyelowo’s graceful, majestic lead performance, DuVernay has made the kind of movie that gives year-end “prestige” pics a good name, which should equate to considerable box-office and awards-season gold for this Dec. 25 Paramount release.

While King has figured as a peripheral character in many civil-rights-themed dramas including Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, The Long Walk Home (about the Montgomery bus riders’ boycott) and the recent The Butler, the only attempt at a full-fledged King biopic to date was the three-part 1978 TV miniseries King, starring Paul Winfield in the title role. Probably, the sheer enormity of King’s life and achievements seemed a daunting subject for any one movie to convey, but it’s a task Selma ably tackles by focusing on a piece of King’s story that feels representative of the whole. The microcosmic approach recalls playwright Tony Kushner’s script for Spielberg’s Lincoln, a movie Selma also resembles in its fascination with the mix of politics, showmanship and media manipulation by which real change gets accomplished in America. But in the end, Selma may be the more impressive achievement in its effortless balance of the intimate and epic, and its notable absence of great-man mythmaking.

As depicted here, the Selma-to-Montgomery march (or, rather, marches) came at a crucial juncture in the civil rights movement, when the stubborn persistence of leaders like King had done much to turn the tide of race relations in America in theory, if not in practice. While the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act had legally desegregated the South, towns like Selma remained very dangerous places to be a black man or woman, with Jim Crow discrimination still in effect, especially with regard to the contentious subject of voter registration. Throughout the South, majority-black voting districts showed minuscule percentages of registered blacks and disproportionately large numbers of whites (often due to the names of dead or relocated residents being left on the voting rolls), while white police and voting officials employed a wide range of arcane laws and intimidation tactics to discourage black citizens from even attempting to register. And under the leadership of the racist Gov. George Wallace (Tim Roth), Alabama was hardly inclined to change.

That was the battleground onto which King and other members of his Southern Christian Leadership Conference ventured in January 1965, and DuVernay and Webb spend much of Selma’s first half setting that stage — literally, in the sense that King is drawn to Selma in part because of its theatrical possibilities. At the time, King and the SCLC were still licking their wounds from a yearlong anti-segregation campaign in Albany, Ga., that had yielded relatively little media attention or measurable results, in part because of the uncharacteristically civil behavior of the local white authorities, who refused to counter King’s nonviolent protests with the kind of violent retaliations that had made headlines during the SCLC’s 1963 Birmingham campaign. “Is your sheriff Bull Connor or is he Laurie Pritchett?” King asks early upon his Selma arrival, trying to get a bead on where the local law enforcement falls on the Birmingham-Albany spectrum.  When the answer comes back “Bull Connor,” he knows he’s come to the right place.

A former publicist who previously directed two low-budget dramatic features (including the excellent Middle of Nowhere, also with Oyelowo), DuVernay has here made a panoramic, choral film that juxtaposes King’s grassroots work in Selma against his White House lobbying efforts (with a combustible Tom Wilkinson as LBJ), potent glimpses of the ordinary men and women drawn into King’s orbit (like the hospice nurse Annie Lee Cooper, well played by Oprah Winfrey, also one of the film’s producers), and a smart depiction of the internal friction within the civil rights movement itself, from the less confrontational likes of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to the aggressive agitation of a Malcolm X (played, in one superb, provocative scene, by Nigel Thatch).

Though the canvas of Selma is markedly larger than anything DuVernay has tackled before, she makes the transition with no evident strain. Shot on location in Selma itself, the movie is beautifully staged even when the events it depicts are at their ugliest — such as the infamous “Bloody Sunday” confrontation between King’s marchers and Selma police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, an expert action setpiece in which every thud of a nightstick lands with a sickening force. (The cinematography is by Bradford Young, one of the few cameramen who truly understands how to light black actors.)

But Selma is rarely more affecting than in its quiet scenes of King, alone or surrounded by a few trusted advisers, at the end of a long day in the trenches, plotting his next move. The British-born Oyelowo, who was brilliant as Forest Whitaker’s Freedom Rider-turned-Black Panther son in the best scenes of The Butler, is a marvelously internal actor whose piercing brown eyes, fleshy cheeks and broad forehead seem to register every thought that flashes through his mind. He’s uncanny at replicating King’s fiery public orations, but he’s even more impressive as the pensive, reflective, private King, a man haunted by what he calls “the constant closeness of death,” played with none of the self-important airs that can sometimes afflict actors cast as secular saints.

Oyelowo’s King is, above all, a man with a man’s problems, including a damaged relationship with his wife, Coretta (the remarkable British actress Carmen Ejogo), who needs no surreptitious wiretaps from J. Edgar Hoover (a sniveling Dylan Baker) to know that her husband is far from a perfect man. Although King’s infidelities are a well-known part of the historical record, it still comes as something of a surprise to see the sober, unvarnished way Selma confronts them, in a shattering scene of two loving spouses trying to salvage what remains of their marriage.

As it turns its focus to the planning of the Montgomery march (which finally took place from March 21-25, after two aborted attempts earlier that month), Selma’s political shrewdness rises to the fore, as DuVernay and Webb detail the game of inches played by King, LBJ and Wallace to curtail a second “Bloody Sunday.” The movie has the electric feel of events unfolding in the moment, even if we already know how everything turned out. That feeling extends to King’s impassioned “How Long, Not Long” speech, delivered on the Montgomery capitol steps — a sequence DuVernay movingly stages through an assembly of re-enactments and actual newsreel footage. It’s a powerful moment by any measure, but one that takes on uncanny resonances as King talks about the “vicious lie” of racial superiority passed down from one generation to the next — words that seem all too prescient in the age of post-Katrina Louisiana, riot-torn Ferguson, and the various campaigns to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama. So Selma ends on a note of queasy triumph, with the sense that we have come so far and yet still have so far to go, and the hope that the arc of the moral universe does indeed bend toward justice.

The film’s ace ensemble casting extends to its smallest roles, including Cuba Gooding Jr. (doing his best work in years) as civil rights attorney Fred Gray and Martin Sheen as federal district court judge Frank M. Johnson. DuVernay’s intelligent, understated approach extends to the film’s musical choices: a sparingly used original score by Jason Moran and a few choice spirituals, including Sister Gertrude Morgan’s I Got the New World in My View and Martha Bass’ Walk with Me, in lieu of the era’s more familiar (and overused) pop protest songs.

To read this article online, go to:

Selma featured in The New Yorker
By David Denby, The New Yorker, Dec. 22

At the beginning of Ava DuVernay’s extraordinary Selma, we hear Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo), indulging a private joke with Coretta Scott King (Carmen Ejogo), about how, long ago, they were going to settle down in a small university town and lead a simple life as a preacher and his wife. The year is 1964, and the Kings are in a hotel room in Oslo; he is donning an ascot and a cutaway coat before receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. In his fancy duds, he’s self-mocking yet proud, a crusader at rest. Throughout the movie, we hear the voice that we remember—measured and confident, and then, on the podium, full-blooded and exalted. In this film, once King launches into any kind of utterance, nothing can stop him. The British actor David Oyelowo adds something of his own to the role, an extra layer of meditative richness and a touch of sexual playfulness (King is flirting with his wife in the hotel). He also underlines King’s idiosyncratic way of emphasizing the first syllable of words, which injects jolts of energy into the smooth and even tones. This King is slightly contemptuous; his composure is barbed.

King returns from Oslo just as the civil-rights movement is entering one of its most crucial phases. Earlier in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) had pushed the Civil Rights Act through Congress, ending legalized segregation. Now he wants to move on to the War on Poverty. But King insists on a voting-rights act, to abolish the civics and literacy tests and other tactics used to prevent millions of African-Americans from participating in elections. King fights Johnson in the Oval Office, on the phone, and from the street. He knows that a large number of people plan to march the fifty miles from Selma to the Alabama state capitol, in Montgomery, where they will demand to exercise their right to vote, and that, when they do, white racists, goaded by Governor George Wallace (Tim Roth), will explode in front of the newspaper reporters and the TV cameras. Johnson understands what King is up to, and accuses him of reckless opportunism. The two struggle face to face, as DuVernay re-creates in personal terms one of the defining moments in the life of the nation.

The script, in its original form, was drafted by an English screenwriter, Paul Webb, in 2007. Then it floated for years. Oyelowo always wanted to play King, and, at various times, such directors as Michael Mann, Stephen Frears, Paul Haggis, Spike Lee, and Lee Daniels were interested in the project, which fell apart for lack of sufficient funding. During that time, DuVernay, now forty-two, was working as a film publicist and marketer in Los Angeles. As late as 2011, even after she had directed a feature (I Will Follow), she was still a unit publicist (on The Help). Oyelowo, who had starred in her 2012 feature, Middle of Nowhere, kept advocating on her behalf. Pathé U.K. finally put up the money, with assistance from producers including Brad Pitt and Oprah Winfrey, and Paramount took over distribution.

That a female African-American director was the person finally able to tackle this subject (on a budget of just twenty million dollars) is important, but it’s secondary to the fact that DuVernay has made a very good movie. Like Lincoln, it avoids the lifetime-highlights tendency of standard bio-pics and concentrates instead on a convulsive political process within a fraught period. The compression forces her to capture an entire movement—its gravity, its moralism, its tactical shrewdness—in three marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, in Selma. King’s greatest mastery, as DuVernay shows (she rewrote the script), lay in his resourcefulness and in the way he dominated logistical strategy sessions, primarily with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. (The men’s appearance, in their sombre dark suits, white shirts, black ties, and hats, was as dramatically effective as any created by revolutionaries anywhere.) In several key scenes, King faces down James Forman and John Lewis, the young leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, who were already working in Alabama and initially rejected the S.C.L.C. as interlopers. In one of the few weaknesses in the movie, the actors cast as Lewis (Stephan James) and Forman (Trai Byers) come off as generic angry young men rather than as individuals. King soothes and inflames them at the same time.

This is cinema, more rhetorical, spectacular, and stirring than cable-TV drama: again and again, DuVernay’s camera (Bradford Young did the cinematography) tracks behind characters as they march, or gentles toward them as they approach, receiving them with a friendly hand. At one point during the first march, the camera slowly rises and peers over a massive beam on the Edmund Pettus Bridge as hundreds of people advance across it. When Alabama state troopers release tear gas and charge on horseback, attacking the marchers with clubs and whips, the screen goes white from the gas, as if shrouded in terror, and the camera hurtles past marchers scrambling to get off the bridge. Many are injured, including the activist Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey). The episode, which took place on March 7, 1965—Bloody Sunday—invokes the tumultuous crowd scenes from silent Soviet classics by Eisenstein and Pudovkin. During the clashes in the White House, however, DuVernay lets the words and the actors carry the meaning. The reliably impressive Tom Wilkinson recalls, without the slightest exaggeration, L.B.J.’s looming head and neck, his heavy hands, his easy way with profanity. The icy confrontation between Johnson and Wallace—whom Roth plays as sarcastic and wily, with a lizard smile—is a minor classic in itself. Historical irony abounds in bio-pic land: our unique American heritage exists onscreen courtesy of talented British actors.

DuVernay’s timing couldn’t be more relevant. Next year marks the fiftieth anniversary of both the Selma marches and the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court overturned a key provision of the act last year, and Republican legislatures across the country have been deploying new voter-I.D. laws. Faced with all that—and with the recent turmoil in Ferguson, Cleveland, and New York—King would have noticed how far we have yet to go, shaken his head, and set to work.

To read this article online, go to:

By Peter Travers, Rolling Stone, Dec. 23

Failure to indict white police in the killing of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island has nothing and everything to do with Selma, Ava DuVernay’s provocative probe into Martin Luther King Jr.’s landmark 1965 voting-rights march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capitol in Montgomery. The sad fact is that racial injustice is timelier than ever. Righteous fury is in the air. And that fervor to stand up and be counted is all over Selma.

Which is all to the good. DuVernay, working from a terrific, tightly focused script by Paul Webb, blows the dust off history to find its beating heart. Look at the situation facing King, played magnificently by British actor David Oyelowo: Black voters in the South are being intimidated, beaten and disenfranchised. Alabama Gov. George Wallace (Tim Roth) likes it the Jim Crow way. In the White House, Lyndon Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) hems and haws. King had to take action. He thought a nonviolent march in Selma, where bigotry was on full boil, would create a media firestorm and force the president’s hand.

King was right. But at considerable cost. Within the civil rights movement, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee resented his intrusion. King expected push-back from proponents of violent action. But in a meeting between Malcolm X (a splendid Nigel Thatch) and King’s wife, Coretta (Carmen Ejogo), a more surprising strategy emerges. Political gamesmanship is at play, and DuVernay shows how every hand gets dirty.

There are no halos in DuVernay’s film, and that extends to King. Selma isn’t a biopic – it celebrates community action – but in seeing King through the prism of one crucial event, the film offers a rousing portrait of a born preacher not without sin. Oyelowo’s stirring, soulful performance deserves superlatives. His delivery of King’s speeches, especially How Long, Not Long, rings with emotion. But it’s in quiet moments of humor, heartbreak and stabbing self-doubt that we see a man in full. King and his wife discuss his infidelities with a wrenching honesty that cuts deep. Ejogo’s work is also ardent and award-caliber. It’s ironic that Ejogo and Oyelowo are British, as are Wilkinson and Roth, but why grouse when acting is this artful?

On March 7th, “Bloody Sunday,” black and white marchers are forced to turn back on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the face of police billy clubs. Later, a judge forces a truce and the march proceeds. DuVernay and the gifted cinematographer Bradford Young, shooting in Alabama, achieve visceral wonders as we watch history forged in flesh and blood.

A word here about the real women behind the Selma march. Oprah Winfrey, one of the film’s producers, is deeply moving as Annie Lee Cooper, a nurse who decked a white sheriff for denying her right to vote. Lorraine Toussaint excels as Amelia Boynton, who is brutally pummeled on the march, and so does Tessa Thompson as Diane Nash, an unsung hero of the movement.

Still, the woman of these two blistering hours is DuVernay, 42, a former publicist for the likes of Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood. Her second feature, 2012’s Middle of Nowhere, made her the first African-American woman to win the Sundance award for directing. In Selma, DuVernay’s talent is in full blaze. The sprawl of an event that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Bill in August 1965 is uncontainable, especially in one film. But nothing is going to stop DuVernay. In “Glory,” a song by Common and John Legend that ends the film, we hear the lyric
“That’s why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up. . . ./They say, ‘Stay down,’ and we stand up.” DuVernay’s momentous film is a testament to those words. The struggle continues.

To read the entire article, go to:


Selma: Movie review

By Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News, Dec. 23

Until now, no feature film has been made about Martin Luther King Jr. Whether that’s because the slain civil rights leader’s story was too sprawling or because some his most important speeches can’t be recreated because of legalities, the closest Hollywood has come is a 1978 TV movie.

Which is one reason Selma surprises. Here’s another: Director Ava DuVernay and writer Paul Webb focus on King’s 1965 battle for voting rights and his political pressure on President Lyndon Johnson to end the systemic oppression of black Americans. This is an intellectual approach to an emotional issue — and it delivers, powerfully and beautifully.

The film opens with a tableau of the era’s struggle, horror and headlines: Little girls are victims of a church bombing. Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey) is asked impossible questions before being told she cannot register to vote. And King (David Oyelowo), still just an Atlanta minister at heart, is in Sweden with his wife Coretta (Carmen Ejogo) to receive the Nobel Prize.

When he returns to the U.S., King urges Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) to pass voting rights, a bedrock of equality. A major hurdle is Gov. George Wallace (Tim Roth) and his Alabama state troopers, who enforce the racism Wallace embodies. That helps make Selma the perfect place to start.

King encounters resistance also from Selma’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which he helped found and whose leaders have other plans. Finally, King and his team — including Andrew Young (Andre Holland), Amelia Boynton (Lorraine Toussaint) and James Bevel (Common) — decide a march is the best means to their goal of making America wake up. That it does, and Johnson is forced to take action after 1965’s Bloody Sunday, on March 7, when peaceful marchers are inhumanly beaten by Alabama troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

DuVernay, a nuanced indie filmmaker making her first big studio film, gracefully shows the strategies, negotiations and meetings that made a dream possible. If we’re never quite inside King’s head, we are absolutely right beside him as the weight of history, and the hope of good people, falls on him.

Oyelowo embodies King with a soft-spoken urgency and sad-eyed determination. Talking to Wilkinson’s growly LBJ, King is never less than a leader while assuring the president that nonviolence travels with this movement.

Roth, Winfrey and Ejogo are all standouts in supporting roles. Cinematographer Bradford Young — who shot Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere — films Selma in honeyed hues that make it feel both immediate and historic.

That also sums up the reality of the world surrounding this terrific movie’s release. The battle it documents is both a cornerstone of the past and a reflection of ongoing struggles. DuVernay infuses Selma with that dichotomy, never forgetting how Selma, the place, was a pledge to march ahead.

To read this article online, go to:

London Telegraph review of Selma

By Tim Robey,, Dec. 5

Selma is a small town in lower west Alabama, where the eyes of America turned nervously in the spring of 1965, sensing a revolution. It was hardly a hotbed of racial unrest. It wasn’t Harlem. It was the strategic site of a battle, a historic march for voting rights, and a bitter but long-awaited victory for Martin Luther King in his ongoing fight for democratic parity.

“Selma’s the place,” we hear early on in Ava DuVernay’s scorching, full-bodied, flat-out great film of this complex and contested flashpoint. It’s the place where progress might be made, by non-violently inciting white-on-black aggression and getting people across the country to switch on their TVs. Today, audiences who think back to the rousing “This, now!” speeches in Spielberg’s Lincoln may recognise a comparable blend in this script of impassioned rhetoric and political manoeuvring.

Meanwhile, anyone who’s followed the events in Ferguson, Missouri since Michael Brown’s shooting will mentally extend the continuum of King’s struggle, and Selma’s relevance to it, right up to our present moment. The film pinpoints Selma’s place in this overarching historical context without feeling browbeaten by it into merely erecting a memorial. It’s full of quicksilver decision-making, sinew and guts.

Lincoln had Lincoln. Selma has Martin Luther King, and a vision of him you’d be hard pressed to find less than enthralling. David Oyelowo has never given a better performance. He seems to penetrate into King’s soul and camps out there for two hours. He’s tremendous, of course, when electrifying his congregation at the podium, but a sense of fatigue is even more paramount: like Sisyphus inching his rock up the mountain, Oyelowo’s King seems constantly braced for setbacks, haunted by the daily inevitability of his mission’s failure.

What he’s up against isn’t just the hard-dying legacy of racism in the South, but an administration fobbing him off with “not now”. The issue at hand is the black vote – legally guaranteed by the Constitution, but practically stymied by all the literacy tests and intentionally obstructive registration rules local government had managed to pile up in its path. In the early Sixties, more than half of Selma’s citizens were black, but only 1% were registered to vote.

Oprah Winfrey’s Annie Lee Cooper is turned away at the film’s start for failing to name Alabama County’s 67 judges. And because registration was a requirement to serve on juries, black people had no say in their own trials, and brutality against them went unavenged by the justice system time and again.

King explains all this in the Oval Office to Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson), but it’s no good: the latter is busily embroiled in Vietnam, and extends a welcoming arm across King’s back which tells us exactly how he plans to patronise and humour him.

Wilkinson’s jowly avuncularity can jar in some American films, but this is the best use of him in years. By the end, after the flare-ups in Selma have made it impossible to table the voting issue any longer, we get the irony of LBJ’s March 1965 address, whose final three words come straight from King’s phrasebook: We Shall Overcome.

When King comforts the grieving grandfather of slain protestor Jimmie Lee Jackson, whom police chased into a café behind Selma’s church, and shot, unarmed, at point-blank range, it’s a scene that’s desperately moving for all it’s holding in, and holding back. You see King as an almost intimidating inspiration – a leader commanding so much respect that grief has to compose itself. But you also see him as a man, especially in close quarters with his wife Coretta (a forceful Carmen Ejogo), who elicits a subtle confession of his extra-marital affairs.

Ava DuVernay, previously responsible for the little-seen features I Will Follow (2011) and the Oyelowo-starring Middle of Nowhere (2012), makes a thrilling surge into the front ranks of American filmmakers here. She’s likely to be the first black woman ever nominated for the Best Director Oscar.

Working again with consistently inspired cinematographer Bradford Young (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) and editor Spencer Averick, she reconstructs Selma’s whole tug of war – bludgeonings outside the courthouse, the two marches across Edmund Pettus Bridge, and the terrifying rampages of mounted police, glimpsed through a fog of tear gas – with a righteous visceral authority. Young’s camera inscribes people’s fury, pain and bewilderment: when Winfrey is knocked to the ground, it goes down with her. DuVernay’s film goes down with the lot of them, drags itself back up, and never lets that summit out of sight.

Selma is released in the U.S. on Christmas Day and on Feb. 6 in the UK.

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Alabama industry spent billions to make state’s air cleaner than ever, EPA wants more
By Cliff Sims,, Dec. 29

As the Christmas holidays swung into full effect, justifiably drowning out most of the mundane news of the day, the Obama Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) quietly released the results of its new, stricter clean air standards test.

Dr. Mark Wilson, the Jefferson County Health Officer and CEO of the Jefferson County Department of Health, announced Birmingham’s results on Twitter.

But while the passing score was good news for Birmingham, it was just the latest in an ongoing string of increasingly-stringent regulations the state’s energy and industrial sectors are having to cope with.

Dr. Allen C. Dittenhoefer, an Alabama-based meteorologist with over 35 years experience in studying air pollution, explains:

In 2010, the EPA made unprecedented changes to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for sulfur dioxide (SO2) and (NO2) that had been in place for over 40 years. These new standards are effectively a factor of ten more stringent than the NAAQS they replaced. In some cases, these new standards are very close to natural air pollutant background levels, leaving preciously little room for industrial expansion and, in many cases, requiring facilities to shut down.

Companies in Alabama’s energy and industrial sectors have spent billions of dollars in an attempt to keep up with the standards, trying to ward off significant job losses that would accompany plant closures. Alabama Power by itself has spent a total of more than $3 billion to comply with environmental regulations. But in what has become a routine practice for the EPA, the federal regulators are once against preparing to move the goalpost.

More from Dr. Dittenhoefer:

(T)he EPA (has) recommended that ozone NAAQS levels be lowered to a concentration very close to natural background levels, virtually bringing the entire state of Alabama and most of the country (including some national parks and wilderness areas) into non-attainment. Undoubtedly, the volatile organic compound (VOC) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) control technology requirements and emissions offsets required for these ozone non-attainment areas would severely inhibit economic growth in the state and around the nation.

In addition to scientists like Dr. Dittenhoefer, business groups have predicted similarly dire results from another EPA regulatory program, it’s so called “Clean Power Plan,” which assumes that carbon dioxide emissions are the driving force behind variations in the Earth’s climate.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that these new rules could result in a loss of approximately 224,000 jobs per year and increase electricity rates for American homes and businesses by $289 billion per year.

The EPA, meanwhile, has asserted that the new regulations will actually benefit the economy, a claim that even the liberal Brookings Institute called into question as a result of the EPA’s methodology of measuring the economic impact of its regulations. The study by Brookings fellow Ted Gayer and Vanderbilt University economist Kip Viscusi found that the EPA has been allowed to tell just one side of the story, touting the benefits of their plan without calculating the costs.

Practically, the impact of the regulations have already been felt in Alabama.

Alabama Power announced in August that federal environmental mandates are forcing them to close two of the state’s coal-fired units and transition two others from coal to natural gas, resulting in a reduction in workforce that the company hopes to avoid by transferring employees to other locations.

The average Alabama household will see a $6.78 increase in its monthly power bill next year, in part because of the increased costs associated with complying with the federal environmental regulations laid out above.

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USA TODAY explains the meaning behind ‘We Want Bama’

By George Schroeder, USA TODAY, Dec. 28

As with so many grand ideas in college, this one was hatched in a bar. Late on a Saturday night, the two students were celebrating an Oregon victory with friends when the chant broke out:

“We want Bama! We want Bama!’

A few days later, Grant Otter and Harrison Tingler had a table set up on the Oregon campus. T-shirts — light green with bright yellow block lettering — were going for $10 each. And they were going fast.

“It was only three words,” Otter says of the business venture, which was a brief hit 14 months ago, “but everyone understood what it meant.”

Maybe that’s because in the past few years, it seems almost everyone in college football has chanted it. Or put it on a poster. Or like Otter and his friend, on a T-shirt. They did it last season, when they were seniors. But as the inaugural College Football Playoff nears, everyone still wants Bama.

Earlier this month, in the waning moments of the Big Ten championship, Ohio State fans chanted the phrase. Shortly after winning the ACC championship that same day, Florida State players said they, you guessed it, wanted Bama.

“I want to play them real bad, and I look forward to that game,” said Jameis Winston, the Seminoles’ quarterback. “It’s amazing.”

No, what’s amazing is the context. Florida State had just notched its 29th consecutive victory, and is the defending national champion. The Seminoles beat an SEC team last year in the BCS title game — and, well, Alabama safety Landon Collins might have the proper reaction.

“I always laugh at that stuff,” says Collins, a junior All-American — but he understands what it means.

“I guess because of the history that’s been here,” he adds, “I guess because Bama’s been the top team all the time, people just want to beat ’em.”

Alabama, which faces Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day, is the No. 1 seed in the Playoff. But there’s no sense that any team is an overwhelming favorite (No. 2 Oregon plays No. 3 Florida State in the Rose Bowl in the other semifinal, also on Thursday). The message in the phrase is about much more than this season’s results, or what happens in the next couple of weeks.

The Crimson Tide has won three of the past five national championships. Under Nick Saban, Alabama has become the standard by which college football measures itself.

Sure, Missouri fans chanted “We want Bama!” after beating Arkansas to clinch the SEC East title and a meeting with the Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship (which Alabama won 42-13). And last month, Kansas students chanted it while tearing down a goal post after beating Iowa State.

The Jayhawks finished 3-9. You have to figure they didn’t really want Bama; clearly, the phrase has outgrown its original meaning.

“Wherever you are in the country, you know what Alabama is as a football team, and what they do,” says Eric
Simons, the author of “The Secret Lives of Sports Fans: The Science of Sports Obsession.” “Whether you are in Oregon or Columbus or in the South, it doesn’t matter. It’s the same touchstone when it comes to Alabama. Regardless of where you are, it means sort of the same thing.”

Simons is a science journalist, the editorial director of the California-based magazine “Bay Nature.” His foray into anthropology of sports fans was largely an introspective study; he billed the book as “a scientific investigation into the curious nature of my annual spring hockey tantrums.” Simons is also a lifelong fan of Cal’s Golden Bears, and describes himself as a typical irrational fan.

As someone who grew up on the West coast, he understands the perspective of Oregon fans such as those who bought Otter’s T-shirts, who believe the Ducks play good football, too — and want people everywhere to know it. As a phenomenon, Simons says, “We want Bama” is symbolic of beating your chest, seeking prestige and recognition.

“It’s kind of what we do in all sorts of things, from sports to politics to just about everything else,” Simons says.
“You want to find the one that everyone acknowledges is the best — and then you want to go beat them.”

That last part has been easier said than done — see Alabama’s 84-10 record beginning in 2008, Saban’s second season at the school (beginning in 2009, with that first national title, it’s 72-8). When it comes to “We want Bama,” the best response might have come last season from a Crimson Tide fan. Alabama had just beaten LSU at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Near the goal line, standing along the fencing, he held a hand-lettered poster: “Y’ALL Don’t WANT BAMA”.

Or in other words, as Simons deciphers the message: “‘Our group is successful. You should be part of our group. You should want to be part of our group.’ ”

To read the entire article, go to:

Inside the wacky, wonderful world of Alabama’s George Barber
By Kelly Kazek,, Dec. 30

Before I ever met him, I knew I’d like George Barber, a racecar driver and former owner of Barber’s Dairy who erected giant sculptures of dinosaurs and a Stonehenge replica in the woods surrounding his Elberta marina. It just screamed “quirky!” which is the call of my people.

After writing about my trip to Elberta, I received an email inviting me to tour Barber’s Birmingham creation, Barber Motorsports Park and the Vintage Motorsports Museum, home of more than 1,400 motorcycles, the world’s largest collection as certified by Guinness World Records. Before the day was over, I would be taking my first-ever laps on a racetrack with a real-for-sure racecar driver behind the wheel as we passed Skittles-colored Porsches in a non-descript Honda Odyssey minivan.

This was one “odd-yssey” that was right up my alley.

Earlier that morning, when I entered the massive museum with its world-class displays that show the history of car and motorcycle racing, I was greeted by museum director Jeff Ray, who would take me on a tour of the facility. However, first I was to meet Barber so he could drive me around the park and explain its mission.

I shook Barber’s hand.

“I’ve been looking forward to meeting you,” I said. “I thought you must be…” I was about to say “lots of fun.”

But before I could finish the sentence, Barber said with a grin, “…crazy as hell?”

I laughed. No, I could look around the museum and know he wasn’t crazy. The place was impressive and also included what Barber and Ray said is the world’s largest collection of Lotus racing cars, although that claim is not certified.

On our driving tour of the park, we planned to view Barber’s collection of unusual sculptures and art pieces that rivaled his displays in Elberta, which also included a giant sculpture of a woman known as the “Lady in the Bay.”  I wondered what on earth Barber could produce to compete with giant dinosaurs and a massive woman lounging in the bay, but I was not disappointed.

Firstly, I was surprised at the scope of the park. I had been aware of its existence, but not being a racing fan, I was unaware what a rare facility we have in Alabama. Barber donated $70 million to the project, which he conceived as a tourist- and sports draw for his hometown of Birmingham and for Alabama. The 740-acre park is owned and operated by a non-profit foundation of which Barber is a member.

“It had to be in Birmingham,” Ray said. “He wanted to build something iconic people could be proud of.” So far, the park has lured people from 62 countries and brought thousands of dollars in tourism to the state, Ray said.

The facility includes a racetrack where drivers train and where races are held most every weekend. It is the site of the IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Alabama and is also home to the North American Porsche Driving School. The park even provides space for University of Alabama at Birmingham engineering professor Dr. Dean Sicking to conduct crash impact studies to help improve highway safety. Sicking is currently researching the impact of head injuries in football for development of more protective helmets, Barber said.

As impressive as the park was, and as much fun as it was to lap Porches while riding in a minivan with a white-haired driver, the real fun for me was in the sculptures that surprise visitors at every turn. Some are quite whimsical – like a Bigfoot peeking from behind a tree – while others are more serious works of art, like the massive “The Chase,” which Barber commissioned from California sculptor Ted Gall. The three statues of men with masked faces riding large wheels weigh from 3,500 to 3,800 pounds each and greet visitors at the entrance of the museum.

To read the entire article, go to:


Battleship Memorial Park celebrates 50th with year-long celebration

 By Emily Hill,, Dec. 26

The Battleship Memorial Park has an exciting lineup of events scheduled for next year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the park’s opening.

The USS Alabama was decommissioned Jan. 9, 1947, and it was coincidence the park opened exactly 18 years later.

The park’s opening came just a few months after the battleship made its way into Mobile Bay Sept. 14, 1964, thanks to school children’s donations and statewide support that saved the war ship from the scrapyard.

A year-long celebration of the park’s 50th anniversary is still in the planning stages, however a tentative schedule provided by Battleship Memorial Park Executive Director Bill Tunnell is available.

To read the article, which includes the tentative schedule, online, go to:

Florence tourism meeting lights up YouTube
By Lisa Singleton-Rickman,, Dec. 28

Some members of the Florence/Lauderdale Tourism board said a recent meeting that turned contentious at times won’t set the tone for the group’s future endeavors.

The Dec. 11 tourism board meeting took a negative turn from the beginning with board member David Abramson’s motion to hire Florence attorney Robert Gonce and place him on retainer for a minimum fee of $9,000 per year.

The two female board members, Kelly Kelley and Chairwoman Kelli Gaputis, argued against hiring an attorney without at least getting a second bid.

Also, Kelley, who is an attorney, offered to continue reviewing tourism-related contracts as an option to paying for those particular legal services.

Both Abramson and board member Alex Nelson said it would be a conflict of interest for Kelley to act as board attorney since she is a board member.

Abramson refrained from commenting throughout the rest of the meeting, even when the exchange between Nelson and Kelley became heated.

The meeting was recorded and posted on YouTube as is standard practice.

The meeting video has logged more than 5,000 views and gotten verbal public sentiment including from Florence City Councilman Barry Morris.

During the Dec. 16 City Council meeting, Morris said he was “ashamed and embarrassed by the bullying and threatening behavior by the men (Abramson, Nelson and David Muhlendorf) on the board toward the women.”

Both Kelley and Gaputis said the issue of hiring an attorney blindsided them, as there had been no discussion before the meeting.

The board voted 3-2 to hire Gonce, with the two women voting no.

Gaputis said she won’t allow such an issue to happen again, adding that before the upcoming Jan. 8 board meeting, she’ll call each board member seeking agenda items, and then only those items will be discussed at the meeting.

To read the entire article, go to:


Atlanta Journal Constitution calls Birmingham a culinary hotbed

By Blake Guthrie, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Dec. 12

Long before Food Network, dueling celebrity chefs, and concepts such as farm-to-table and locally-sourced became trendy Birmingham was at the vanguard of culinary coolness.

It began in the early 1980s with the success of Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham’s Southside neighborhood.

In 1982 Frank Stitt was an aspiring young chef with local roots and a broad culinary education that included stints in the French countryside. He brought his passion for well-prepared, farm-fresh food to Birmingham with the opening of Highlands. The words “bar and grill” were included in the name so residents would know the place was accessible, not stuffy, nose-in-the-air fine dining.

At the time, Birmingham had scant dining options beyond barbecue joints, meat-and-three diners, chain restaurants, private clubs and long-standing institutions where the focus was more on atmosphere than food.

As Birmingham’s sky was still clearing with a dying steel industry, Highlands provided a breath of fresh air in a neighborhood and scene ripe for revitalization. Later, Stitt would also open Bottega, an Italian restaurant four blocks away, and Chez Fonfon, a French-style bistro next door to Highlands.

Stitt’s endeavors helped to spawn a culinary renaissance not only in Birmingham, but in the South — the James Beard Award-winning chef has been called “the dean of Southern cuisine.” Pat Conroy wrote the introduction to Stitt’s best-selling 2004 book, “Frank Stitt’s Southern Table,” and the author has sung the chef’s praises far and wide.

Now, Birmingham’s favorite culinary star even has an award named in his honor — the Charleston Wine + Food Festival’s Frank Stitt National Chef Award.

It seems you can’t sling a butter-drenched spatula in Birmingham without hitting a chef who has worked for or been influenced by Stitt.

Chris Hastings, a celebrity chef in his own right, is one. Also a James Beard Award winner, Hastings opened the Hot and Hot Fish Club in Southside in 1995. Housed in a historic building, the seafood-focused Hot and Hot is now a revered fine-dining spot with a California-meets-Alabama flair and a menu that follows the seasons.

In more recent years a new wave of chefs has opened a slew of notable restaurants in town. This younger generation takes a less tony, more casual approach to dining out.

Bettola, owned by James Lewis, focuses on southern Italian fare, Neapolitan brick oven pizza pies, and is currently undergoing a major expansion project.

Brian Somershield is part of the team behind El Barrio, Birmingham’s hottest new spot for beyond-the-combo-plate Mexican cuisine. El Barrio is located in the Second Avenue Loft District downtown, another revitalized part of town worthy of exploration by day or night.

In Mountain Brook, on the other side of Red Mountain from downtown, Ollie Irene is a bistro/gastropub owned by Chris Newsome, who worked for both Stitt and Hastings before setting out on his own.

Birmingham is chock-full of gastronomic pleasures beyond such upscale offerings.

The two most famous spots are the Irondale Cafe, home to the fried green tomatoes that inspired the novel and film named after that venerable southern delicacy, and Niki’s West, next to the enormous Alabama Farmers Market. Niki’s bills itself as a steak and seafood place, but it’s where locals go to get their Southern veggie fix.

To read the entire article, go to:


Alabama Historical Commission offering a “A Year of Alabama History” pass

By John Sharp,, Dec. 23

The Alabama Historical Commission (AHC) is offering “A Year of Alabama History” pass that gives access to 15 historic sites in Alabama.

“It gives unlimited access to the AHC historic sites across the state,” Stephen McNair, AHC’s historic sites director, said. “It’s a tremendous deal. We hope it increases the people’s knowledge of (the state’s) history.”

The pass offers unlimited regular admission to every Alabama Historical Commission site, 10 percent off regular price in museum stores at selected sites, 10 percent discount for facility rentals at selected sites and one trip per year for each person to Bottle Creek and Middle Bay Lighthouse with Five Rivers Delta Safaris.

The annual passes, a first-time offering by the Historical Commission, can be purchased at any of the organization’s staffed historic sites.

For more information, go to:

To read the entire article, which includes a list of sites and cost of the passes, go to:

Jasmine Hill Gardens to open weekends all year 

Jasmine Hill Gardens is honored to be a featured attraction in Alabama Tourism’s Alabama Garden Trail in 2015.  As a result, the gardens will open for visitors every weekend beginning Fri., Jan. 2.  Hours will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

Known for its fountains and statuary along its native stone walks, Jasmine Hill is often referred to as “Alabama’s Little Corner of Greece.”  Points of interest include a full scale reproduction of Olympia’s Temple of Hera ruins where the Olympic flame will be started before the summer games.

The gardens are located between Montgomery and Wetumpka just off U. S. Highway 231 on Jasmine Hill Road.  Group tours may be scheduled at any time, as well as special events.

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Jan 10 – 13                  American Bus Association Annual Meeting – St. Louis, MO
(America’s Center Convention Complex)
Jan 16 – 18                  Cincinnati Golf Show – Cincinnati,OH
Jan 16 – 18 & 21 – 25 Cincinnati Travel, Sport & Boat Show – Cincinnati, OH
Jan 18 – 22                  National Tour Association (NTA) – New Orleans, LA
Jan 22 – 25                  Louisville Boat, RV & Sportshow – Louisville, KY
Jan 27 – 28                  Snowbird Extravaganza Show – Lakeland, FL  


Tourism Tuesdays is a free electronic newsletter produced by the Alabama Tourism Department. It contains news about the state tourism department and the Alabama tourism industry.

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Alabama Tourism Department