The News Courier in Athens, Alabama


January 28, 2014

OPINION: A meatball baby, red-hot ingot & sitzmark from a roving reporter

— Last fall Athens State University officials re-ignited a discussion about the possibility for a larger-scale civic complex for this area, with the city, county and ASU each pitching in money to take a previous feasibility study another step forward and pay for an architectural study and artist’s rendering.

As I was sitting in a concert hall that comfortably seated about 2,000 people, I thought of this proposed facility — which would take the buy-in of the community and financial backing from multiple sources — as I took a trip to Huntsville on Sunday with a friend who offered to take me to watch Shun Yen perform at the Von Braun Civic Center.

It was stunning due to the acrobatics of the principal dancers and surprising because of the humor interspersed throughout the show, including a baby that emerged from a meatball as a sprite-like figure resembling a purple-sheathed Peter Pan.

The 2 1/2-hour show combined elements of ancient Chinese folklore and dance, vivid costumes and props, an orchestra with a blend of American and Chinese instruments and even a few pointed reminders from the narrators that the show is not permitted to be performed in China due to the government’s censorship.

Perhaps a few years from now, this area will have a large-scale venue capable of hosting everything from regional conferences to concerts and performances like the one I saw Sunday.

Manic Monday

Mondays are usually a good day to prep for the week ahead but yesterday’s lineup meant venturing out of the office to attend a birthday party for an Athens man whose friends and family threw him a surprise bash at the Athens-Limestone Wellness Center. I’ll be writing about David Gaston and his journey from open-heart surgery to being in tip-top shape at age 80 in Thursday’s edition.

After breaking ground in October 2011, Carpenter Technology officials ushered in a new era in Tanner on Monday with the grand opening of its $518 million specialty alloys plant.

The centerpiece of the ribbon-cutting ceremony was the firing up of the forges and watching a red-hot steel ingot get processed through the world’s largest hydraulic press frame.

Company officials said they spared no expense in building the facility, which was built ahead of schedule and under budget. Carpenter plans to hire 100 more employees as it adds about 50 more to the new plant and another 50 to the $20 million superalloy power plant expected to be complete in late 2015.

The day ended with a trip to Clements High School to cover the Limestone County Spelling Bee, which had 16 school winners ranging from grades 3-7.

I’m not sure if the show, “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth-Grader?” is still on the air but I quickly learned I’m not even smarter than a third-grader. There were a handful of words I had never even heard before and enlisted a coworker to help me look them up when I came back to the newsroom.

Sprinkled among simpler words such as hamster, mascot and mermaid were the following spelling roadblocks: gradient, pampas and sitzmark, which is the depression left in the snow by skis.

I’m not ashamed to admit I would have stumbled over several of the words during the bee, which went eight rounds and only took about 30 minutes to get to the champ, Bernard Allotey of East Limestone.

Best of luck to Bernard as he competes at state in March for the chance to go to Washington D.C. for the Scripps National Bee.


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