Smorgasbord* of Awesome!


I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how I had bought an original Arlo & Janis comic strip. Not long afterwards, I mentioned that to my counselor, Devry Coghlan (in passing, not seeking help for it, thankyouverymuch). And she said that she and her husband had one as well. Her husband is Huntsville Times managing editor Curtis Coghlan, who spent a fair bit of his career in Mississippi, where he got to know A&J artist Jimmy Johnson.

So last week, Johnson starting posting on his web site the strips he drew for a comic he pitched unsuccessfully, Lost Key. And with one of the strips, he wrote this:

Yes, I misspelled Mr. Buffett’s surname. I blame my old friend Curtis for that. My first serious exposure to Jimmy Buffett’s music was from a collection of cassettes Curtis copied for me from his vinyl albums. In the process of labeling the cassettes, Curtis misspelled “Buffett,” and I went on to compound the error. Not only did I listen to Jimmy’s music without paying, I didn’t even spell his name right. I believe I subsequently have purchased enough legitimate Jimmy Buffett music and merchandise to atone.

Now, Curtis isn’t that unusual a name, but, even so, I was curious enough to check with Google, and, sure enough, found this older post on Johnson’s site:

Speaking of music. Yes, yes, yes, I know. I misspelled Jimmy Buffett’s name. At the time this was drawn, 1985, my entire collection of Buffett music consisted of cassettes copied from the albums of my friend, Curtis Coghlan. Somebody, I honestly can’t say whom, wrote the name down incorrectly on the blank cassette labels. So, that’s how I thought it was spelled. That’s my excuse, anyway. I don’t know the excuse of my editors at United Media. For what it’s worth, Mr. Buffett has the distinction of being the first musician ever mentioned in the strip.

My counselor’s husband is the guy that introduced Jimmy Johnson to Jimmy Buffett’s music. That’s kinda cool. Like meeting the brother of that girl that told Abraham Lincoln he should grow a beard.


*See what I did there? Since a smorgasbord is like a “buffet”? I mention this only so that I can tell my favorite buffet-synonym story, in which a much much younger David went to some buffet restaurant that called their buffet by a term I’d not heard before, and so I unknowingly misunderstood it as a word I was familiar with. It says something about young Dave that I misinterpreted “Country Sideboard” as “Country Cyborg,” which I picture as a mix between The Six Million Dollar Man and The Dukes of Hazzard.

Snakes Like Jazz


I have a Google alert said to notify me when new articles are posted that include my name, so I was kind of surprised yesterday to learn in this article informed me that there’s another David Hitt in the area of nearby Decatur, AL. And then I read the story, which was even better:

OAKVILLE— A 9½-foot python stretched along a country road in Lawrence County has folks wondering about their fate if they had met the creepy creature before it met its fate.
..
Shelby Scott Hembree lives nearby. She saw the snake when she stopped late Wednesday afternoon to assist a neighbor, David Hitt. She thought his pickup was having mechanical trouble.

“Come look what we found,” he and his passenger, Donald Miller hollered.

Let me just point out for the record that I would watch every episode of a television series about the author of Blue Like Jazz and I driving around the country in a pick-up truck looking for snakes.

Dying Is Easy; Comic Strips Are Hard


Dear The Huntsville Times,

You’ve no doubt heard by now that on October 3, the final strip of Cathy Guisewite’s comic “Cathy” will be published.

I would like to encourage you to make the most of the opportunity that this presents.

Looking at your daily edition comics page, one finds that there are 19 comics strip you publish (including the not-technically-a-strip single-panel Dennis The Menace).

The top strip on the page is Peanuts, which has been re-runs since the death of its creator, Charles Schulz. (Though, ironically, few if any of those re-runs have featured Rerun.)

Located near Peanuts on the page is For Better or For Worse, which has also been in re-runs since the retirement of its creator, Lynn Johnston.

Further, of the remaining 17 strips, I believe another six have continued beyond the death or retirement of their creators, with new writers rehashing the same jokes told over the last few decades — in the case of Blondie, the last eight decades, as of next month.

To your credit, it deserves mention that, I believe, three of the four comics The Times runs daily in locations other than the comics page are all fresh strips created by contemporary writers.

I encourage you to use the vacancy that Cathy creates to publish another deserving contemporary strip.

While living in Indianola, Miss., I had the opportunity to become friends with cartoonist Mark Pett, who actually published two syndicated cartoons, and to hear about the challenges faced by those trying to break in to the market. It’s unfortunate to me that so much current talent goes to waste in favor of cartoons written years ago.

Personally, I would endorse Jimmy Johnson’s Arlo & Janis, the best comic strip currently being written, but I’m not dead set on that.

I will say, however, if somehow this works out like Peanuts and FBOFW and ends up with Cathy re-runs continuing to take up space on the comics page, no offense, but I will cancel my subscription. I believe firmly in newspapers (the best e-reader out there), I believe firmly in subscribing to newspapers, and have encouraged fellow newspaper alums to continue subscribing to to their local papers even if they don’t read them just to support the industry. But if the industry is so moribund as to make a decision like that, it probably deserves to die. Just sayin’

Thank you for your consideration,

David

Hide Your Kids! Hide Your Wife!


OK, so, if you haven’t yet, watch the WAFF 48 television report about an apparent attempted rape at a housing project in Huntsville.

Now, I’ve never worked television; I don’t have a lot of respect for television news. I’ll be the first to admit, the interview with Antoine Dodson was more than a bit entertaining. But was it news? Really? Or was the entertainment value the only reason it was included? Should it have been?

But, then, I’ll have to be honest. During my newspaper days, if I’d gotten an interview like that, I would have been really tempted to use it, just because the quotes would be too good to pass up. Everybody in town would be talking about it the day the paper came out. There’s differences in presentation between newspaper and television, but is there a philosophical difference in using the interview between the two media? I would like to think that my using the quotes would have been somehow different, but it’s hard to explain exactly what it is.

Thankfully, WAFF was kind enough to share their philosophy on sharing the interview:

What!? Really? You had no idea that it would get this kind of attention? Not sure that Antoine wouldn’t have exactly the right perspective on that: “You are so dumb. You are really dumb. For real.” Were they seriously including the interview for any reason other than entertainment value? Or are they just trying to act like they were taking the high road?

Either way, watching the follow-up video leaves me devoid of any respect for the station. If they were including it because it was entertaining, they’re going way too far in taking the moral high ground in these piece. “Victims have the right to speak out”? Part of my wonders if they’re not trying to construct a rationalization to explain away their holding an underprivileged minority up for ridicule.

But more frightening is the possibility that they really believe this. I fought battles for the First Amendment too often to like hearing the word “censoring” thrown around lightly. Not airing someone’s opinions in a newscast is not censorship. WAFF has never interviewed me on air. Have I been censored? Or is it only censorship if you conduct an interview and don’t use it? Do they really use every minute of interview footage they record? Or are they censoring everything else?

I think the journalists have some responsibility to the truth. If, as a journalist, you’re covering a story and discover in the process of your investigation that “they’re rapin’ errbody out here” — wives, husbands, kids — then that’s the sort of thing you really should mention in your coverage. So either WAFF has been hugely neglectful in their coverage, or they are, in fact, not raping everybody in Lincoln Park. And if they’re not, then why do you interview footage saying they are? That’s not an opinion, it’s bad information. And, on the part of WAFF, a lie.

On the other hand, without WAFF making the decision to air the interview, this would not exist:

So, what do you think? Should the interview have been aired? Why or why not?

Sounds of Solons


This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the next year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This week’s topic is “Your elected leaders.”

My brother is running for city council.

I mean, really, it would be pretty tough for me to write a post about elected leaders without mentioning that fact, wouldn’t it? Arguably a little lacking in the “full disclosure” department.

It’s been interesting for me because, to be honest, my level of knowledge about local politics is pretty minimal. I have some small amount of knowledge that was unavoidable, but, unlike the rest of my family, I just have no passion for it. I’m very much the Billy Carter/Roger Clinton of the Hitt clan, I’m afraid.

In my defense, however, I come by it honestly. That wasn’t always the case. A decade ago, I knew far more about local politics than I do now. Heck, a decade ago, I knew more about local politics than most of the local elected leaders.

During my newspaper days, it was my job to know. In a series of small towns in Mississippi, I got to know the local politicians, got to know the system, got to know the community. I not only knew how things worked, I knew why.

And that’s exactly the problem today. I grew up no different from my brothers, very much interested in politics, and even minored in political science in college.

But through my work in newspapers, I got a very different sort of political education. Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill once famously said that all politics is local, but I would go one step further. All politics is personal.

I understood politics in the communities I covered because I knew the people involved. Well. I knew where they lived. I knew where they’d worked. I knew who their families were. I knew who supported them financially, and who those people’s families were. And I knew how all of those things came together to define how the political system in the community worked.

Trying to follow local politics now is like listening to Beethoven on a xylophone. The basic information is there, but so stripped down of its full richness as to make it no longer the same thing. I can read in The Huntsville Times about the city council, but I don’t understand in the same way. I don’t know these people. I don’t know why they really do what they do. I don’t know who they are beholden to, and what those people’s interests are. And as a result, anything I read seems so superficial as to be pointless.

But now, there’s a chance that, depending on how things go in August, politics becomes personal again.

Could be interesting.

Not My Type …


… but I wish it was.

Linkdump And Stuff


OK, I’m so behind on blogging it’s unreal. Sorry. Someday I’m going to start writing the posts that I’ve been meaning to since, like, February. But not today. Today, though, I’m going to clear out some of my blog fodder folder.

Life on Mars

So apparently that Mars meteorite that became famous on my 21st birthday really is evidence of life on Mars, according to the people who said it was 14 years ago. The relevant thing is, fewer people are saying it isn’t. At this point, I wonder what, short of actually sending people there, it would take to say conclusively that Mars has or has had life, and what the impact of that would be. Just not sure it would be that big a deal anymore.

Defying Gravity

I saw this story recently about country star Keith Urban going on a Zero G flight that managed to annoy me from both country music and space buff perspectives. On the former front, it fails to mention the rather obvious connection that Urban’s last album was Defying Gravity. On the science front, the article explains how the whole microgravity flight works: “The plane obviously traveled high enough to get out of gravitational pull.” Well. Obviously. Sigh.

Bookends

It made me rather happy to see that my post about the Simon & Garfunkel concert was discovered by a couple of forums, 2010 Tour Reviews (starting w/ #24) and Paul-Simon.info, and that at both places it got positive feedback. Always nice when words find homes.

Mississippi Days

It was weird going on my Facebook the day after the Mississippi tornadoes a couple of weeks ago and seeing two updates from the Mississippi Press Association in my feed, one from the Choctaw Plaindealer in Ackerman, and one from Gary Andrews at The Yazoo Herald. During my career in Mississippi newspapers, Gary was my general manager when I worked in Houston, and I was general manager of The Plaindealer. It’s been a while since I left that world, but the connections are slow to fade.

Purely Referential

Homesteading Space was mentioned recently in an article about design expert Raymond Lowey. It always makes me happy to see the book cited as a reference, though I’m curious in this case how the mention was even discovered.

Alot of Humor

The Alot is Better Than You at Everything

The Plans I Have…

Relevant Magazine has an article on why Jeremiah 29:11 is the most misused verse in the Bible. The ironic thing is, I have long felt this, but for reasons entirely different. And I don’t know whether it’s misused most badly, but it probably is misused most often. It’s everywhere (and was particularly prevalent when I was going through DivorceCare): “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Among other things, the article’s issue with the verse is that people stop there; that, really, if you’re going to cite that verse, you need to go on to verses 13-14: “You will find me, if you seek me with all your heart … and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you.” It’s not just, “sit back and I will do awesome things for you,” there’s some amount of personal involvement there, as well.

The article also makes a good point that I do like — that even the promise in verse 11 must have been very disappointing to its original audience. The people were in exile, and the situation, to be blunt, kinda sucked. They probably would have preferred that God, you know, do something about it. Instead, He comes back with this promise — don’t worry, I’ll do something about it in the future. Maybe not even in the lifetime of the people receiving it. Probably not what they were looking for.

My issue with the verse is completely different. My issue is that it’s a specific promise, at a specific time, for a specific people, about a specific issue. We would like to think that it’s relevant to us, that God is saying that he has a plan for me, of future and hope. And it does sound like the sort of thing he would say. But that doesn’t mean this verse is for me. Yes, there are plenty of Biblical promises that you can claim personally. But, really, claiming this one is no different than saying God has promised that you’ll be the mother of the Messiah or the father of a great nation or will lead your people out of bondage. Yeah, those promises are in the Bible, but that doesn’t mean they apply to you.

A Year in the Life

Stormtroopers365

Funny Because It’s Sad Because It’s True

From Overheard in the Newsroom, about the demise of payphones:
Editor: “Where would Superman change nowadays?”
Reporter: “Change? Where would he work?”