One More Byline

I’d not spoken the words in almost a decade.

“I’m David Hitt, and I’m a reporter…”

But they flowed just as nicely as they ever had.

Just to be safe, I’ll not tell the whole story yet. It’s always better not to announce what story you’re working on until it’s in print, so for the moment I’ll hang on to what exactly I was writing and who I was writing it for.

I will say it involved spending a day in Mississippi, which just made the whole thing that much better.

For those that don’t know, many many moons ago, I was a newspaperman. I was a Mississippi weekly newspaper editor at one point, and in those days thought I would go to my grave as a Mississippi newspaper publisher. NASA intervened, and the ink gradually left my veins. Or, at least, my fingerprints stopped being permanently smudged with newsprint ink.

As best as I recall, I’ve only written for one (non-book) print publication in the last decade, and I didn’t do any original reporting for it. And while my writing for NASA and the books involved at times extensive research and interviews, they weren’t quite journalism in the way I’d had been used to.

But over a month ago, I was talking to a friend while visiting Mississippi, and my friend mentioned knowing someone who might be looking for a freelance writer for an upcoming project. My information was passed along, and jumped at the opportunity when it was offered.

Earlier this week, I submitted my first news feature for a print publication in almost 10 years.

Making it even better, while some of the work was done remotely, I spent a day in Mississippi last week doing research. I explored a town. I interviewed people. I introduced myself as a reporter.

I carried my reporter’s notebook and pen.

I was happy. It felt right.

Really, it was amazing how easy and right it felt. A decade is a pretty good chunk of time, and yet it was natural. If there was any rust there, I wasn’t aware of it. To be honest, I don’t know that I wasn’t better at it last week than I was 10 years ago — the old skills were still there, enhanced by a decade’s worth of greater confidence and better narrative awareness. And working again in Mississippi, even for a day — I felt like a Mississippian again, even just for a day. I’m pretty sure my accent changed while I was there. It still fit.

The article was a one-off thing, and I’m not sure if there will be more opportunities from the same group. I really hope there will be.

There may be a little more ink left in the veins after all.

Rocket City Bloggers Carnival — Summer in the “City”

Image unrepentantly stolen from Entirely Adequate’s submission for the carnival. Used without permission, unless she tells me to take it down.

For those who don’t know, I’m part of an incredibly awesome group of local bloggers, known as The Rocket City Bloggers. Basically, as a group, we write things, share things we write with each other, eat things, and talk about writing things. And sometimes write about eating things. And often write things about talking about writing things, but that’s getting kind of meta. Like I said, it’s an awesome group.

Also, once a month, we have a blog carnival, in which those of us who aren’t too lazy (Bo, I’m looking at you here) all write posts about the same topic, and then one of us publishes a post linking to all of the other posts.

This month, the theme is “Summer,” and the host for the month is yours truly.

So, welcome, then, to the Rocket City Bloggers June Carnival.

Here are this month’s posts:

• From the “Mrs. Mood” blog, we have Who Else Is Ready?: “I know, I know, here we are on the inauguration of June but I am here to tell you, I am ready for Christmas.”

• Over on “Ninasoden,” there’s Summer Then & Now: “Summer time used to be a time of running around in the sprinklers and riding my bike for hours before finally running into the house truly exhausted and collapsing on the living room floor.

• “Calluna” wrote a post titled Summer As I Knew It: “The routines of the first 21 years of my life were dictated by a school calendar.”

• At “Girl Gad About,” you can read Summer Editorial Calendar: “To all my wanderlust-stricken love bunnies out there, Girl Gad About plans to implement a summer editorial calendar.”

• Over on “Entirely Adequate,” there’s Unscheduled Summers Provide The Best Memories: “Nearly everyone I know who has kids spends tons of money and time striving to plan the perfect summer.”

• And, for those who missed it, I posted my entry on Monday, How’re Dem Seasons? Summ’er Not As Good As Others: “When I was younger, as should be the case with every red-blooded American child, my favorite season was summer.”

• As an added bonus, I’ll include this submission from “Successful Freelance Writer,” who, participating the carnival for the first time, didn’t quite get the theme idea, but did put in enough of an effort to actually send something. Next time, though, it’s all gonna be theme-related again, so don’t nobody go getting any ideas: Taking Steps to Build A Writing Career

How’re Dem Seasons? Summ’er Not As Good As Others

When I was younger, as should be the case with every red-blooded American child, my favorite season was summer.

As I’ve gotten older, that’s become less and less true.

These days, as I’ve written before, my favorite season is fall.

Ironically, this year more than ever, my preferences are inspired by the same factors as they used to be, but with opposite results.

As I child, fall marked the beginning of the school year. Vacation was over, and it was time to go back to the daily drudge. When those days became a thing of the past, they left a mental mark that has stayed with me. While I used to dislike the end of vacation, the annual transition left me with a lasting sense of fall as a time of change, of new beginnings. The sort of association most people have with spring of hope and newness is very much something I associate with autumn instead. Every year, there’s a day where there’s a crispness to the air that makes it feel like fall has truly arrived, and with it there’s a sense that anything is possible.

On the other hand, as a kid, I loved summer for the fact that it meant that school is out. Fast-forward to today, when I’ve been working for the last nine months as a substitute teacher. The end of the school year doesn’t mark the beginning of a vacation — I’m still working at the Depot, but it means no subbing, which means less work, which means less income. Seven-year-old me, I’m sure, would have never imagined that three decades later, I’d be bemoaning the beginning of summer vacation, but that’s adulthood in a nutshell.

Plus, as sad as it is, as I get older, summer increasingly becomes about one thing:


It’s the time of the annual struggles with my air-conditioner, of days where outdoor fun is just a lot less fun, of having to change clothes after work to get through the rest of the day. That has to be proof of global warming, because the only other possible explanation is that I’m just becoming grouchier as I age.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of fun things to do in summer — grill out, go to the beach, visit an amusement park, and so on and so forth.

I just prefer to do them all in the fall.

Song Challenge Week 12 — A Song From A Band You Hate

OK, I started this quite a while back and then dropped the ball, but I’m going to try picking up the 30 Day Song Challenge again as a weekly project.

Song Challenge Week 12 — A Song From A Band You Hate

“Arms Wide Open,” Creed

There’s not a lot of bands I hate. These days, there’s enough options out there that, if I don’t like listening to a particular band, I just don’t. Why waste time developing an antipathy for a band when you could spend the same time investing in a love for something else?

That said, I’ve never liked Creed, and I most likely never will.

Couldn’t even tell you why. They just rub me the wrong way.

So there you go.

Regular Richie Feature

My friend Richie enjoys seeing the search strings that led people to my blog, so every so often I post them for him. Here are some of the highlights from searches from the last month or so:

Star Gazing Farm

Star Gazing Farm (Photo credit: sneakerdog)

  • why is the subway pulled pork so expensive? — Pulling the pig behind the subway isn’t that hard, but picking up the pork bits afterwards takes some time, you know?
  • luxury of knowing lyrics — I want to live in a country where knowing lyrics isn’t a luxury, it’s a right!
  • notable words from prometheus — “engineers, faith, father, why, aaaaaaah!” You’re welcome.
  • i’d rather be a hammer than a knife — Also, I’d rather be a screwdriver than a spoon.
  • moby dick die — The new adaptation from the makers of “Kill Mo’ Mockingbird.”
  • hipster stargazing — Yeah, when I started, it was still nebula-gazing. Just sayin’
  • good neighbear — In a world with better marketing, the Star Farm bear would have eaten that gecko already.
  • “oh no! promootheus.” — This search makes me happy.
  • skydiving gift quotes — “Never look a gift skydiver in the mouth.” ‘Cause they might land on you or something. (Hey, they can’t all be gold.)
  • lori mckenna the moat — Presumably they were looking for “The Most,” but if Lori McKenna had an upcoming album of castle-themed songs, I would still listen to it.
  • devil fiddler — I have no comment about this one. It speaks for itself.
  • pampered chef guy version — A/k/a “Fire And Knives” (Cooking needs that Pampered Chef can totally help with, by the way.)
  • “wookiee jesus” — I’m not even on the top couple of pages of results for this one.
  • animal planet haunting demon— “They say there’s a demon that lives at Animal Planet, and that whoever challenges him will die.”

Magic And Cobbler — Pampered Chef’s Covered Baker

It’s interesting to me that, whenever I write about cooking, I never actually have an original picture to go with the blog post. It’s not that I don’t make things that look good (though I’ll admit I’ve made an ugly cake or two), it’s that, when I cook, I rarely wait long enough to take a picture before making sure the taste is OK.

So I don’t have a picture of my Magic Pot cobbler. Alas.

I’ve written before about Pampered Chef’s “Magic Pots” — the larger Deep Covered Baker and the smaller Round Covered Baker, and how I’ve used them to make, among other things, cake. (You can use the bakers in the microwave, freezer and oven, and in the microwave; the results are basically like oven baking at microwave speeds, which is sort of awesome. With them, you can microwave casseroles, cakes, chicken breasts, and on and on.)

At my last Pampered Chef team meeting, someone brought a cobbler to share, and the discussion turned to how, theoretically, you should be able to bake the cobbler in the microwave.

I love cobbler, so it was pretty much a given that as soon as the idea was spoken it was going to happen.

And it did, and it was awesome.

I have an easy cobbler recipe that I’ve used many times in the conventional oven, and it works just as well in the microwave with the baker. I’ve made three cobblers now with the baker — blackberry, peach and blueberry — and can go from not started to eating in about 20 minutes.

The recipe is not mine, but I’ll share it anyway:

1 stick butter or margerine
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
2 cups fruit

Melt butter in microwave in covered baker. Add flour, sugar and milk, and mix until lumps are gone. Add fruit. Microwave for about 12 minutes (cooking time will vary by microwave.)

This, let me say, produces a simple and tasty cobbler.

But, by accident last week, I made it even tastier.

Cobbler, I firmly believe, needs ice cream. There’s just something about the combination of hot fruit cobbler and cold vanilla ice cream.

But, when I made the blueberry cobbler, I pulled it out of the microwave and realized that I had no vanilla ice cream in the house. This is bad.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

I had no vanilla ice cream, but I did have some chocolate that I’d bought for making milk shakes. We briefly debated where this would be acceptable or untoward, and decided the only way to find out was to try it.

Chocolate ice cream on blueberry cobbler, it turns out, is quite agreeable indeed.

And now you know.

To browse the full catalog of Pampered Chef products, place an order, or find out more about hosting your own show, visit my Pampered Chef homepage.

Song Challenge Week 11 — A Song From Your Favorite Band

OK, I started this quite a while back and then dropped the ball, but I’m going to try picking up the 30 Day Song Challenge again as a weekly project.

Song Challenge Week 11 — A Song From Your Favorite Band

“Jenny Says,” Cowboy Mouth

I don’t have a lot of favorite bands.

Most of my favorite acts are solo artists. Don’t know why, that’s just the way it is.

Every once in a while, a band sneaks through the filter. U2 is probably the elder statesmen of bands I like, not the first, but probably the band with the most staying power on my favorites list.

In the last couple of years, some country acts have made the list — Sugarland and Lady Antebellum come to mind.

But my favorite band? I’d have to say that, at the moment, that honor belongs to Cowboy Mouth. I love their music, and I greatly love seeing them live. It’s more than a concert, it’s an experience.

So, I’m going with Cowboy Mouth for favorite band, which pretty much makes “Jenny Says” the song.

Fake Church

Sharon Johnston Park

Sharon Johnston Park, where I didn’t preach a sermon Sunday.

This is going somewhere. Bear with me.

Up until four years ago, I was Southern Baptist, plain and simple. I’d really only ever been to Southern Baptist churches, with rare exceptions visiting friends, one Sunday at a time. That background was all I knew, and I was OK with that.

But four years ago, I was invited to attend a house-based congregation led by one of my former Sunday School teachers. And, long story short, I went. And that, in turn, led to a paradigm-shifting study as to what exactly “church” is. The issue was prompted by my then-coworker Heather, who argued that the home congregation wasn’t really “church.” We had several conversations as to what church is or isn’t and does or doesn’t have to be, and I did a fair bit of reading followed later by field research, with the upshot being that I have a very different sense of what “my church” is that I did four years ago, and one that is continuing to evolve and be challenged today.

But one of the asides to come out of it was that, due to Heather’s allegation that the home congregation wasn’t “real church,” I affectionately dubbed it “fake church,” not as any sort of disparagement, but as a nod to the fact that we were doing something that wasn’t beholden to preconceived notions. Greg was, in turn, my “fake pastor,” despite the fact that, in truth, he was more my real pastor than anyone before or since.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. I’m at work at the Depot, and having a conversation with one of my co-workers, who is the head of a Civil War re-enactment regiment. He’s talking about an event that’s coming up, and notes that they don’t have anyone to preach that Sunday morning. When they do weekend-long events, they try to have a service so the men don’t have to miss church, but they were recently short a chaplain and so had no one to lead it.

I made the off-hand comment that I would totally do something like that. Matthew asked if I was kidding or not. I actually had to stop and think before answering that I was mostly kidding, I thought.

But the idea got stuck in my head, and I wrote him back that evening and said that if they found anyone remotely qualified, he should have them do it, but if it was going to make the difference between having church or not, I would do it.

So at some point last week, it’s decided that I’m about to preach my first sermon.

Talk about “fake church,” huh? An utterly “unordained” and unqualified guy preaching at a re-enactment. And, yet …

Now, rather than let there be any excitement about that, I will jump ahead and say that I did not, in fact, preach Sunday, due to a variety of factors including weather and low attendance.

But I did go through the process of getting ready, which was an interesting one. I started with the question of, “OK, David, if you were going to get to preach one sermon in your life, what would you want to use it to say?” And I realized that, while I had some ideas there, none of them really felt right for the occasion. So I changed my question to, “OK, then, David, if you were going to preach a sermon to a bunch of people at a Civil War re-enactment, what would you want to say?” And I did come up with a couple of ideas there, which eventually merged into one sermon.

That sermon isn’t really the point of this post, but I’ll say that it basically combined Ebenezer and the idea of living the gospel.

I’m a little proud of myself for being willing to do it, because it was very much stepping out on faith. I would like to think that I could have done it, and, ironically, would have liked to have heard the sermon that would have been preached myself. That’s not to say there wasn’t a little bit of relief on my part when I got the message the night before that they wouldn’t be doing it.

I have no idea if this the end of this story, or the beginning, if almost preaching was the point of the story, or was preparation.

But if you’re ever desperate for a preacher, I have most of a sermon ready …

Review — “Prometheus”: Sir Ridley Scott and Grover

First of all, let’s get this out of the way — if the forthcoming “Bourne Legacy” is a Bourne movie whether or not it has Jason Bourne in it, then “Prometheus” is an Alien movie whether or not it has Aliens in it.

That out of the way, the success and merit of an Alien movie is based entirely in the high concept. Despite being in the same series, each movie is, ultimately, in a different genre, and that diversity is the strength of the original films. (For the sake of this review, the two “Alien Versus Predator” movies don’t count.)

For example, Alien = Monster Movie + Science Fiction

Alien is nothing but a conventional creature feature, told in a science fiction environment. It works quite well, because it allows everything to be ramped up a notch — the monster is scarier, the victims are more isolated, etc.

Aliens = War Movie + Science Fiction

Aliens keeps the same monster from the first movie, but uses it to tell a different type of film. This is not “The Alien From The Black Lagoon,” this is “Saving Private Newt.” Aliens is, largely, a by-the-numbers war film, and the combination works quite well.

Alien3 = Psychological Thriller + Science Fiction

Alien3 inherits elements of the DNA of the first two films, but takes it in a different direction. For all the studio changes, the third film still bears the fingerprints of director David Fincher, who followed it up with Se7en and The Game and Fight Club. There are monster movie elements, but the real story here is the psychological thriller idea of “the monster within us,” both figuratively and literally. Sure, it’s a smaller film in many ways that its predecessors, but that’s generally going to be true when you compare Fincher’s style of films and James Cameron’s.

Alien Resurrection = Science Fiction + Science Fiction

The fourth film is the weakest link because it’s the most self-indulgent. The strength of the first Alien movies was overlaying science fiction elements on another genre. This film takes the science-fiction elements of the Alien movies and overlays them on a science fiction story. It’s a fanboy movie, full of interesting ideas that fail to scare and ultimately go nowhere.

Which brings us to “Prometheus.”

In some ways, “Prometheus” shares some of the same failings as “Alien Resurrection,” combining science fiction on top of science fiction, using, as Scott put it,  “the DNA of Alien” as a springboard for speculative fiction. That said, Scott’s take on that combination is stronger than “Alien Resurrection,” being far greater in scope than mere fanboy self-indulgence. The questions Scott tackles with his speculative fiction are not about the nuances of the Alien universe, but rather the big questions of our universe.

In that respect, the movie does have its strengths — it is, indeed, intelligent, polished, pretty science fiction.

It’s weakness comes in the high concept of the structure of the film. For all of its deep questions of life, the universe and everything, Sir Ridley Scott has essentially made an Alien version of the Sesame Street classic, “The Monster At The End of This Book.”

“Prometheus” is a monster movie in search of a monster. Rather than the clear and visceral danger faced in Scott’s original film, “Prometheus” has the scare factor of Grover’s assurance that if they keep turning the page, something bad will probably happen. Even the characters in the film aren’t sure whether or not they’re supposed to be experiencing dread. They find themselves on a world where they will encounter … maybe something … that will … do something … that might be bad? Or maybe nice? Having watched the entire film, I’m not sure what the monster of this monster movie was supposed to be.

And that’s a waste of some good Alien DNA.

The Most Famous Person I’ve Ever Met

From a Plinky prompt: “Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met?”

Photograph of President William Jefferson Clinton with Buddy the Dog in the Oval Office: 01/16/1998

Who is the most famous person I’ve ever met? Well, it depends on what your definition of “is” is.

Actually, no, wait, it depends on what your definition of “met” is.

Back in the fall of 1992, about a week before the presidential election, Bill Clinton was winding down his campaigning with a visit to Jackson, Miss. I was a student at Ole Miss at the time, and a group of us decided to drive down to Jackson to hear him speak.

After he spoke, we pressed down to the front of the crowd to try to get to meet him. There was a short fence that separated Clinton from the crowd, and he was walking along it, shaking hands with a few people, skipping a few people, shaking hands with a few people, and so on.

I made my way against the fence, and Bill worked his way toward me, shaking hands with people as he came. He shook hands with the person next to me, looked at me, and then skipped down a little ways and started shaking hands again.

I generally just summarize that story as “One time, Bill Clinton refused to shake my hand.”

So, does that count as meeting? If so, then Clinton definitely wins the most famous person for me.

If not, then it gets a bit more complicated.

I’ve actually had conversations with famous people in a number of different areas, but how do you determine which of them is the most famous?

Probably the most historical person I’ve met is astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon. I spoke with him briefly in person at a space symposium back in 2004, and then had a longer conversation on the phone with him a little later about the 35th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing.

In the acting arena, James Earl Jones is probably the most famous actor I’ve had a conversation with. Back in college, several years before Star Wars: Episode I started filming, I asked him, and I’m sure he loved getting this question, what he knew about the rumored prequels. He told me they were going to happen, and that he would be in it at the very end. So there you go.

Musically, it’s got to be B.B. King. B.B. consider his hometown to be Indianola, Miss., where I worked for the newspaper for five year, so I saw him several times when he came into town for his annual homecoming concert. I got to ask him a few questions for the paper and talk with him a little. He considered my editor, Jim Abbott, a friend, so I got to be around while they talked, too. B.B. is an amazing man, friendly and incredibly down-to-Earth. Just a super, super nice guy.

In the field of writing, John Grisham, right around the time the movie “The Firm” came out, when he was really probably at the height of his popularity, took a six-month or so sabbatical from interviews. When the Sunday “Parade” magazine (or possibly USA Weekend, I forget which) wanted an interview with him during that time, he agreed, but with the stipulation that he would interview himself rather than talk to someone else. To the best of my knowledge, he granted only one interview during that time — to me. I was working at the college paper at the time, and he was in town for a private screening of The Firm, which I’d been invited to. I told him I knew he wasn’t doing interviews, but would he be willing to let me ask just one question. He said he’d never met a reporter that could ask just one question, but if I could, he’d answer it and I could use it. I did, and he did.

So with all of those possibilities, how do you determine who the most famous person I’ve ever met is?

Oh, yeah, Google.

Google “James Earl Jones,” and you get just over 4 million results.

“John Grisham” gets you over 9 million.

Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, a participant in probably the greatest human achievement of the 20th century, nets about half a million.

And B.B. King? Indianola’s favorite son gets almost 27 million results, making him the most famous person I’ve ever met.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

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