Possibly The Worst Book Tagline Ever?

Let me just note for the record, the tagline on the cover for Kevin O’Brien’s “Unspeakable reads “Words can’t describe what he does to his victims.”

Um …

Given that this book is nothing but words, that does mean the book can’t describe what happens in it?

“I wish I could tell you what happened next, but I can’t, so we’ll just have to skip ahead now.”

“And then, the killer did something. Let me just tell you, it was really bad. I can’t describe how bad, but, like, seriously, really bad.”

Who advertises that they’ve chosen to tell a story in a medium in which they’re incapable of telling it? Maybe next can we get an audiobook of mime?

OK, I’m done. Carry on.

Song Challenge Week 24 — A Song You Want Played At Your Funeral

The latest entry in my 30 Day Song Challenge weekly project.

Song Challenge Week 24 — A Song You Want Played At Your Funeral

Just this once, can I pick two?

First off, I want “I’ll Fly Away.” But, like, a really rollicking version of the song. I want people singing along and clapping their hands, and moving their feet. I want it to be the celebration it should be. I couldn’t find a version that wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, so instead here’s this.

And by and large, that’s the tone I would want for my funeral, upbeat and celebratory. But, if I could be indulged one somber moment, I also want the Scotty’s Magic Bagpipes version of Amazing Grace. ‘Cause that would just be awesome.

Pages From The Past

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I came across an old-ish newspaper in a pile of papers recently.

Old-ish being relative. I have stacks of newspapers that date back decades; this one was only from August.

It took me a second to realize why I’d kept it; none of the big stories meant anything. Was it just one I forgot to read? (Or, perhaps, forgot to throw away?)

And then I saw it, a small bit about a German exchange student coming back to visit Indianola. The piece was in the “Pages From The Past” section — it was a story originally published in The Enterprise-Tocsin ten years earlier.

It was a story I had written. Saskia Kriester had come to Indianola as an exchange student a few years earlier, and had been placed with a family that stole from her. So that she wouldn’t have to be sent back, the city court clerk and her husband took her in for the rest of the year. A few years later, she came back to the U.S. on a visit and spent some time with her hosts. I covered the entire saga for The Enterprise-Tocsin, all those years ago.

I saved the issue with the 10-year recap because it was the last time I would appear there for a very long time. The story about the return visit was one of the last things I wrote for The E-T before leaving newspapers to come work at Marshall.

My career with The Enterprise-Tocsin spanned six years. When I left, it was only four years before my first stories started appearing in Pages From The Past. They popped up intermittently over the next six years, and disappeared again in August. Theoretically, I’ll start showing up again in nine more years, when my first stories start appearing in the 25-years-ago section. If they still publish Pages From The Past then. If, to be honest, they still publish then.

It’s strange to me that part of my life is now more than a decade ago. It seemed like such a long time, like such a defining thing when I was there. Now it’s a footnote. It shows up on my resumé and LinkedIn, and every once and a while I have to write a bio for something long enough to include “a former newspaper editor.” But it seems like a different life now.

There are a few remnants. I still use reporter’s pads as my notebooks. I love getting to put on my Mississippi journalist hat for “Mud & Magnolias” magazine.

But it’s been a long time since I left a newsprint stain on something I’ve touched. And, as silly as it is, on some days, I find that fact a little sad.

Song Challenge Week 23 — A Song You Want Played At Your Wedding

The latest entry in my 30 Day Song Challenge weekly project.

Song Challenge Week 23 — A Song You Want Played At Your Wedding

“Witness to Your Life,” Lori McKenna

Have you ever noticed that I really like hedging on these things? I mean, like, almost every single one I start by saying how there’s not really a real answer, but I’ll provide some sort of context in order to give some sort of response. How many times have I just said, “It’s this”?

So, anyway, a song to play at my wedding.

I had a wedding, once. The music was pretty traditional wedding-y music. I remember more the song that wasn’t played. Nicole really wanted to play Shania Twain’s “You’re Still The One” (we got married all of 13 months after our first date. But it was a long 13 months, I guess) but I was deadset that there would be no country music played at my wedding. Oh, sure, she wanted the pop version of the song, but, dang it, Shania Twain’s a country singer, and it’s not going to happen.

In the last few years, I’ve been to concerts by Lady Antebellum a couple of times, Sugarland a couple of times, Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Trace Adkins, Sara Evans, etc. etc. etc. But it was something then I wasn’t willing to budge on.

If I had it to do over again, I might handle it differently.

If I had it to do over again, I would handle a lot of things differently.

I’ve thought a few times since then I was going to have another wedding. There was the time we were going to have a Braveheart wedding at an outdoor mall. Or the time I was going to perform the service.

My favorite idea is still the one where I send out invitations asking people what they want to do in the wedding so that nobody was offended. The problem with that one is that it requires someone else who also wants that wedding.

So, getting back to hedging, the song kind of depends on the wedding, you know? I don’t know that the same music would fit all those weddings.

But to pick something to honor the request: Lori McKenna’s “Witness To Your Life”

It starts with a wedding — “Someone was crying and the bells ring” — and is still one of the most beautiful promises of partnership I’ve ever heard — “YOu should never have to be alone, someone will always call you home…

“… and I will be that witness to your life.”



(Still catching up a bit)

So earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend TEDxNashville, largely to watch Space Launch System program manager Todd May give a talk.

If you’re not familiar with TED, it’s basically a lecture series around the theme “Ideas Worth Spreading.” There’s the big “real” TED talks, but the organizers allow groups to use the “TEDx” brand to hold their own independent events. (TED stands for “Technology, Entertainment and Design,” which covers a great amount of topics, really.) The talks generally are shorter (for Nashville, no more than 18 minutes), and are supposed to be the “talk of your life” for the speaker’s giving them. No pressure there.

I’ve watched any number of TED and TEDx talks online over the years, but actually being at the event was an interesting experience in ways I hadn’t anticipated. When you watch talks online, you’re generally cherry-picking. Something sounds interesting, so you watch it. Something doesn’t pique your interest, so you scroll past it to find one that does. Sitting in the audience, you’re not cherry-picking. You’re there, and the event unfolds in front of you. I ended up watching talks that I never would have clicked on online, and it was fascinating to have that sort of horizon-broadening experience.

Of course, the highlight for me was Todd’s talk. I’d had the opportunity to be involved in preparations, and it was one of the most fun things I’d worked on at this job. I was also anxious to see how it went. We’d had a dry-run earlier in the week, and Todd was still very much in the process of getting it nailed down. By the day of the talk, however, he knocked it out of the park. It was invigorating seeing the audience reaction as well (several attendees were live-tweeting the event). There was excitement that a real NASA person was at the event and about the reveal of the rocket. It’s easy to get lost in industry perspectives, and it was great seeing the reactions of real people. The work we do still inspires.

The talk should be posted online fairly soon, so I’ll post a link when it is.

Song Challenge Week 20 — A Song You Listen To When You’re Angry

The latest entry in my 30 Day Song Challenge weekly project.

Song Challenge Week 20 — A Song You Listen To When You’re Angry

“Magick,” Ryan Adams & The Cardinals

A song I listen to when I’m angry? Hmmm. That’s a hard one.

I’m not a big fan of angry music. Every once and a while, there’s appeal to an angry break-up song or something, but it generally fades pretty quickly. My good friend Joe Gurner once recorded for me an angry break-up song I wrote, and I got some decent mileage out of that for a season, but I’m not posting that here, I’m afraid.

Generally speaking, I’m actually going to dip into the same well I would on an upbeat, sunny day. It’s all about energy. If I’m happy, I want to build it up and celebrate it. If I’m angry, I want to vent it. Get in the car, turn something like “Magick” up loud, and sing like an idiot until I feel better.

Repeat until calm.

Song Challenge Week 19 — A Song From Your Favorite Album

The latest entry in my 30 Day Song Challenge weekly project.

Song Challenge Week 19 — A Song From Your Favorite Album

“You Can Call Me Al,” Paul Simon

I’m sure I’ve written about it here before, but I don’t do favorites.

What’s my favorite color? Well, am I wanting to color grass or the sky? What’s my favorite ice cream? What do you have I haven’t tried yet?

But my favorite album? If I were answering that from scratch today, I’d probably take that same sort of attitude. But I’m not, because I locked this one in before I became so hipster.

Back in high school, Paul Simon’s Graceland became my favorite album, and it’s remained such ever since. The impressive part, for me, is that it’s remained so not purely because it was locked in, but because I’ve enjoyed it more and differently as I’ve aged. My love for different songs has ebbed and flowed as the years have passed.

Some of that’s been for literal reasons — I’d never been to the Mississippi Delta the first time I heard about it shining like a National guitar, but went on to spend years there, nor had I stood on a corner in Lafayette, state of Louisiana the first time I heard the song, years before I was engaged to a girl from there.

Some of it’s been a little more general; the themes of aging and relationships and the world we live in speak to me differently as I get further into my life.

Almost twenty years later, these are still days of miracle and wonder.