iLOMO


I first learned about the LOMO cameras and Lomography from JPG Magazine. Basically, as I understand it, LOMO produced cheap cameras in the Soviet Union that were known for their flawed results. Those defects, however, earned the camera a following that found the results artistic and enjoyed the randomness it produced.

I’ve been meaning to get an app for my iPhone to provide some new photography options, possibly CameraBag, which a coworker uses, but, upon some browsing, decided I would go with the LOMO app. I’ll probably get another camera app before too long, but below are some results of my first couple of days of playing.

Remember The Time


I’m afraid that I said all I have to say about the death of Michael Jackson over on my other blog, which, really was nothing at all. And, really, what is there to say about his passing? The Michael Jackson that was the definition of cool when I was a kid went away a long time ago.

But I was intrigued by a blog post by a friend, who wrote a a response to the “Where were you when …” discussion. Basically, she heard the news on the radio and then followed it on Twitter for updates.

Making it a bit more meta, my answer to that question is that I heard about his passing from her tweet about his death. In fact, I heard about Farah Fawcett’s death yesterday the same way. (Well, kind of … someone posted a picture of her with no explanation, which made me assume she must have died, so I turned to Google news.)

Anyway, it reminded me of the post and discussion on here a while back about how people heard about Challenger. (Answer — for people my age, generally watching it live on television.)

I’d be curious to hear other people’s experiences with this — How do you hear about major news events? Is there a shift away from traditional media? Have you learned about anything significant through social media? (For me, social media is replacing not so much traditional media but direct interaction as a news source — I think I’m more likely to hear from Twitter or Facebook the things I would have heard from a friend before. Not entirely sure, though.)

For Great Justice!


I’m writing this post from the jury waiting room at the Madison County Courthouse, where I’m doing my civic duty. By blogging, apparently.

This is my second time being called for jury duty. Or, rather, my second time reporting for jury duty.

Back in ye olde days in Indianola, I got called pretty frequently, but always got excused ahead of time. It was a win-win situation, I suppose — my boss didn’t want me to be gone, since we had such a small staff, and odds are I wasn’t going to be able to serve anyway, since I covered police and courts and thus new all the players and many of the cases, so it saved them having to eliminate me.

That said, I kind of would have liked to serve. Covering courts, it would have been interesting to experience it from the other side, to find out what it was like to be behind-the-scenes as a juror. (And if one of us had ever been selected as a grand juror — I can only imagine. We would have found a way to serve if that had happened. To have every record, every official, every room of every public agency open to us? Yeah, wow, I can only imagine.)

So it was kind of exciting three years ago when I got called for jury duty in Madison County for the first time, and having no reason that I couldn’t report.

And it was, indeed, an interesting experience, albeit not in the way I had hoped. I learned a lot about being a juror, but without actually serving on a jury. Really, it was not unlike the wonderful learning experiences of my two trips to see shuttle flights scrubbed. It’s very much a part of the reality of the experience, but not the reality I had hoped for.

But the Circuit Clerk did a great job of explaining the importance of the “nothing” that I did. Court doesn’t move forward without jurors. Pleas are entered, settlements are reached, largely when cases are about to go before a jury. And that doesn’t happen unless there are potential jurors. So by sitting in the jury waiting room, I’m very much helping resolve cases.

So yesterday and today, I’ve been dispensing justice … by blogging, Twittering, reading, texting, Facebooking, etc. Again, not what I’d hoped for, but isn’t it nice to know, as you’re reading this blog entry, that while I was writing it, I was bringing criminals to justice?

Thus far, I have been called in for the jury selection for one case, but, after going through the voire dire, was rejected, either because of my ex-wife or my ex-fiancee, I’m not sure which. But definitely not my fault. (Yes, I know fiancee needs an accent mark, but I don’t know how to make one on this computer, even though it’s easy on what I’m used to. I’m here doing my civic duty, and they thank us with Windows machines. Still, MUCH better than nothing, so I’m grateful.)

Jurors have been called for jury selection for other cases, but I haven’t been selected to even be part of those selections. They’re expecting another round this afternoon, so we’ll see.

Lecture


OK, I may have been wrong yesterday.

Upon further thought, there’s really not much I need to say about my talk (which was Saturday, not Friday as I wrote yesterday).

I gave a talk to the North Alabama Science Fiction Associiation Saturday about my book, Homesteading Space, basically the same lecture I gave once back in March. Because of everything going on this weekend, my plans to actually review my PowerPoint and notes before didn’t come to fruition, so there were times that I was talking about one slide with no clue what was on the next one. It made for an interesting experience. I definitely got to draw on my improv talents.

And that was something that became very obvious during this one — that’s what I enjoy most about giving these talks, is combining my writer world with my improv world. I enjoy sharing information that I’m passionate about, but it makes me happy to be able to make it interesting and accessible, and I love being able to make people laugh during the talks. In fact, that was one of the highlights of Saturday’s talk — there was a joke that was sort of integral to the presentation, meaning that I couldn’t skip it, that fell completely flat when I gave the talk back in March. This time, it worked, beautifully. Sublime.

The NASFA group was a great audience, and it was really fun sharing with them.

I still hope to get another opportunity to do this again before too long.

Trailer


I still need to blog about my talk Friday and jury duty, but, sheesh, nobody’s gonna want to read any more than the two posts I’ve already written today. So I’ll come back to those. Looks like I’m going to be spending a good bit of time in this jury room, so I should have plenty of opportunity to come back to those.

3G S


My new iPhone was activated when it was handed to me.

Many people reading that sentence wouldn’t realize there’s any significance to it. The people like me are aghast.

That means the guy at AT&T opened the box of my iPhone. He took my iPhone out of the box. He handled it. He plugged it in to his system. And then, after he was done with it, and only then, did he give it to me.

For a Mac geek, it’s the equivalent of prima nocta.

So, no unboxing pictures this time. So sad.

That said, wow. I love my new iPhone. More than a little.

I got my last one two years ago, the first weekend the first iPhone was released. The technology has changed a bit since then. The GPS — very fun. The video capability — nice. The compass — uh, compassy. (And, yeah, I actually have made use of it already.)

It surprises me sometimes how fast it is; I’ll be doing a task that should take a while, but that between the faster connection and the faster processor just breezes by. It’s more than a little agreeable.

OK, it’s occurring to me that this post really serves no purposes other than to brag on my new phone. (And, after being the rare iPhone owner for a year, I lost that ability over the past year, when suddenly everybody was getting iPhones, and iPhones that were better than mine.) But, yeah, I really have nothing worthwhile to say other than, “I like it.”

Sorry. Please carry on with your business.

-30-


OK, the last post about MPA, I promise. (In case you missed the rambling thus far, and don’t care enough to read, I went to Biloxi Friday for my former editor’s induction into the Mississippi Press Association Hall of Fame.)

I went. And was glad I did.

I don’t know if Jim knew I was coming or not. He acted like he was surprised, and I was going to honor that. Whether he was surprised or not, he was glad — Jim hugged me at least three times in the first five minutes I was there. I was one of only two of his former employees to attend the induction. Which also meant that Jim and Cynthia invited me to sit with them at the reserved VIP table up front, which was a very cool experience.

Rambling thoughts:

The induction was great. Jim is, if not sui generis, at least a legend from a better age of newspapers. It was wonderful to see him getting the honor he deserved. I loved his acceptance speech. Such a humble man. If he has any idea how brilliant he is, it’s only because he believes in what he does — in other words, it’s not that he himself is great, but that if you do things this way, the results will be great. The truth is a combination of both, of course.

And it was flattering to be mentioned in the acceptance speech. I loved the manner in which Jim bragged on me, looking across the crowd of editors and publishers and asking how many of them could claim their paper produced someone who works for NASA. And he read part of one of my stories during a lighthearted part of his speech — the report about the guy who stole over a thousand condoms from the local health department; a story which got Indianola mentioned on Leno. I’d forgotten how good my lede to that story was. You know, I really wasn’t bad at this.

And that was another part of the experience. I got to talk to another former boss, Gary Andrews, my general manager in Houston, and one of the few superiors I really liked and respected from my year away from Jim. We had a great conversation, but he talked about the potential that I had, and that if I ever decided to come back to the industry, he would help in any way he could. That, and the whole evening, made me realize, I could have been good at this. Heck, I was good at it. I could have been great. Made me wonder what might have been.

Conversely, however, it was very interesting being at Hall of Fame for the first time ever and not thinking “Someday…” This time, I knew … that’s never going to be me. Not necessarily because I couldn’t, but because I won’t. But, more than that, because of the way things have changed. People like Jim, who because synonymous with their community, are increasingly few and far between. And that’s what I would have wanted to do, what I would have wanted to be. I had, and have, no desire to be the guy that some chain puts in some town for a little while before the next changing of the guard. I wanted to serve a community. And that’s not what the business is about anymore.

Along those lines, the optimism was rather depressing. The outgoing and incoming presidents of the press association both decried the rumors of the death of the newspaper industry. And, to be sure, with good evidence. But the fact that so much time was spent denying the impending doom was not particularly heartening; the last time I attended, many moons ago, no one felt the need.

I came out of it with much the same sense I had going in — there is hope. The local community newspaper offers a product that no one else can offer, that no one else can compete with. But I have never seen an industry so determined to shoot itself in the foot. (Including the music industry five years ago, and that’s saying something.)

It WAS good seeing old friends. It was good making new friends. It was good talking shop with people who are still passionate about what they do, what I did. It was good seeing that there is still hope; that the battle isn’t over, and is still being fought.

But it was also good being able to leave and come home afterwards.

My Editor


Jim Abbott

Jim Abbott

“I would follow him to Hell; and that’s no small thing to say, for I think him capable of going there.”
–Alexander Dumas, “Twenty Years After”

I thought of Jim Abbott the first time I read that quote, while I was still working for him at The Enterprise-Tocsin newspaper in Indianola.

To be sure, in the best possible way — that Jim would be willing and able to burst through the gates of Hell itself in the fulfillment of his duties as editor and publisher of the community newspaper. And if he had, I would have followed. To watch him, you would think there could be no higher calling.

Jim was my first boss after college; he hired me straight out of Ole Miss journalism school, giving a rookie reporter his first break. I spent five of the next six years working for him — when I left after a couple of years to have a badly ended adventure elsewhere, he welcomed the prodigal reporter back home with open arms.

But he was more than my editor and publisher. He was a mentor. He was a second father. He was a friend. He and his wife, Cynthia, The E-T’s office manager, took amazing care of me during some rather interesting years of my life. I was born in Huntsville and graduated from high school here, but in a lot of ways, I grew up in Indianola. And Jim and Cynthia were a big part of that.

To say Jim was one of a kind would be based on my limited experience with editors, but I can say there aren’t many like him out there anymore. To me, he was a legend from a bygone age. For Jim, there was no question which word was more important in the phrase, “newspaper business,” and that was the main way he differed from too much of the rest of the industry, in my opinion.

Jim made The E-T work financially, but he did so in a way that was completely opaque. Unlike other papers, I never heard the term EBITDA at The Enterprise-Tocsin. Ad ratio was important only because it determined how we laid out news pages. We never ever compromised coverage in the face of financial concerns.

For Jim, the newspaper was about news. Period. And, more than that, it was about serving the community. Jim Abbott was part owner of The Enterprise-Tocsin, which gave him the freedom to run the paper the way he wanted. And the way he wanted recognized a higher truth that is all but forgotten today — Jim may have owned the paper, but it belonged to the community. The E-T long predated him, and now continues without him. But it always has, and God willing always will, served the people of Indianola. And Jim understood that in a way few newspaper owners seem to.

And that focus made it a pleasure to work for him.

I can’t tell you all the ways I’m a better person for having worked for Jim Abbott. I’m a better reporter, a fact that matters little in my post-newspaper days. I’m a better writer, a fact that is still very relevant. I’m far more fearless, more willing to do what it takes to do what needs to be done. I understand that people are just people — when you’re a 21-year-old kid making chump change fresh out of college, and you’re expected to go toe-to-toe with the mayor or whoever and come out ahead, you have to understand that, ultimately, the person on one side of the desk is no better than the one on the other. I learned loyalty … what it means to give everything for something you believe in. If Jim had one fault, it was that — he was willing to give all of himself, all of Cynthia, all of his family, all of his staff, and more for the sake of the cause. But he believed in it, and he made it easy to believe in.

If Jim had two faults, it was that he could be tough to work for. Before I started, the last two people to hold my job had been there, combined, for five months. He had his style of running the paper, and that was who he was. It either worked for you, or it didn’t. And for me, it did. Oh, gracious, it did. I respected him. A lot.

Tomorrow night, I’m going to go see Jim Abbott inducted into the Mississippi Press Association Hall of Fame, a recognition that is extremely well-deserved. I don’t know if I’ll even get to talk to him, if he’ll even know I was there. But it will be an honor to be in the audience, regardless.

Stop The Presses!


“Well now, everything dies, baby that’s a fact.
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back.”

–Bruce Springsteen, “Atlantic City”

I’m a firm believer that, to be nerdy for a moment, as Spock said, “There are always possibilities.”

And, more to the point, I’m loathe to believe in endings. The idea that I’ll never go back somewhere again, or that I’ll never see someone again is anathema to me, short of death or other major permanent changes. But my pastor exemplifies that for me — we’ve parted ways “for good” at least two or three times when we moved on from particular points in life, and yet God keeps bringing our paths back together. Or the friend that I spent an afternoon with last year for the first time in roughly two decades. Or …

So it’s very odd to me that it feels like Friday will be a last hurrah.

I’m going to drive down that day to Biloxi, Miss., to attend the Mississippi Press Association. Since leaving Mississippi, I have known that, if there’s any justice at all, my former editor, Jim Abbott, would be inducted into the MPA Hall of Fame, and that, if there were any way at all for it to happen, that I would be there for his induction. And on Friday, he will be, and I will be.

I haven’t been to the MPA Convention in eight years, and have been out of the newspaper game for almost seven. But even though I’m going this time as a non-member visitor, there’s still a sense of going back into that world one more time. And, like I said, one last time.

I’m looking forward to it. I haven’t even been in a newsroom in years, so it really will be reconnecting with the past. I looked at the list of registrants, and there are a few familiar names there. But even just the cameraderie and inside jokes should bring back memories. Should remind me of who I used to be, of the world I used to live in.

But the keywords there are “used to.” That’s very much the past now; a past with which I have increasingly little connection. I’m really looking forward to it, and it should be a lot of fun. But there really is a feeling that this will be the last time I can visit that world, at least with any sort of connection to it at all.

Part of that may be the fact that this event, in a way, honors Jim Abbott’s retirement, and part of me feels like, with him gone, that world no longer exists anyway. But part of me also feels like it’s been too long, like I’ve changed too much to ever really be that again, even just temporarily. And that’s a very weird feeling for me.

But I’ll do my best to enjoy the experience while it lasts.

Everything Old Is New Again


It’s been long enough since I’ve blogged on here that my sidebar has skipped a couple of movies; I went straight from Up 3D to Wolverine, leaving out that I also saw first Night at the Museum 2 and then Terminator Salvation in the interim. The four movies, for themselves, were probably ranked in enjoyableness in chronological order, with Up, of course, with its Pixar brilliantness, being the best, and Wolverine, uh, not. (Though I’m sure it was the best at what it did.)

Wolverine, though, is the anchor for this post, and part of the inspiration for the title, which sort of played out through the evening.

Said evening started with dinner at Mellow Mushroom; an establishment to which I’d been, to the best of my recollection, once before, at the Jackson, Miss., location. (Since that once was this year, I can’t rule out the possibility that I’d been one other time, elsewhere, in the foggier past.) This, however, was my first visit to the newly opened Huntsville location, which is appointed with an interesting combination of apparently standard-issue Mellow Mushroom bohemian and a localized Rocket City flavor. Very fun. And the food was not half bad either.

On the way, I listened to a CD I’d ordered recently, Carbon Leaf’s Indian Summer. I’d heard a grand total of one song from the 2004 album, Life Less Ordinary, for which I posted the video on here about three months ago.

That song, which I love, was a rather serendipitous discovery; inherited from someone who had accidentally inherited it from someone else. So What About Everything becomes a bit more random — I bought the CD on a lark and shared it with someone who fell in love with the song and shared it back with me. And it was love at first listen; a great fun tune with good lyrics, and, frankly, something I could probably stand hearing at this particular moment in time.

I very much love coming across a song I immediately like; it makes me happy to add new five-star songs to my iTunes, and the more random, the better. When it’s a song that I never should have even heard, I really enjoy the blessing of the fact that I did. It can be a concert opening act I had no idea I was going to hear, or a tune on a radio station I normally wouldn’t listen to, or a friend’s recommendation of something that I normally would have thought wasn’t me, or a track on a CD that I bought for something else entirely, or an unlikely recommendation from iTunes or eMusic or what have you. I lost track of how many times that song was replayed yesterday until I could sing along without looking at the lyrics.

And that brings us back around to Wolverine, which was less notable for the movie itself than for the venue in which it was watched — the drive-in screen at the Cinemagic Theatre in Athens. To the best of my recollection, it’s the first time I’ve ever actually watched a movie on a drive-in screen, and it was a lot of fun. The weather was sort of iffy, and had the potential to get much worse, but the staff said they would run the movie if we wanted to watch it, so they did and we did. Apparently, lightning-filled Monday nights aren’t the peak time for drive-in movie-going in Athens, so we had the entire place to ourselves, which just added to the experience. The horizon to the left and right was filled with frequently lightning strikes, which added to the dramatic tension, but we were fortunate that we had only the slightest bit of rain during the movie. Again, just a lot of fun.