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Tell Me A Story

[My story in the Style section.]

Gary Smith writes very long stories for a living. They run 8,000 words. He crafts four of them a year for Sports Illustrated. He is a throwback, a spinner of yarns in what we will call for the millionth time the Age of Twitter. Narrative these days competes against incrementalized information -- data, chatter, noise. Smith doesn't think he's a dinosaur, but he does fear that the long-form narrative doesn't quite work on a computer screen.

"You're on the Web and the Internet all day, and you got your trigger finger on that Scroll Down button. And you're looking to move material across the screen. Move-and-skim is the mood you're in."

And that's no way to read a story.

"A story curls you back into yourself," he says, "and you need a special time and place and setting and mode for that. If it becomes all one smear with your work life and checking your e-mail, your Facebook, it's lost all its reason for being."

Smith is saying all this by phone from his screened-in back porch in Charleston, S.C. This is where he writes, on a laptop resting on a teak picnic table, with a view of a small back yard with fruit trees -- orange, lemon, loquat. The loquat, he says, has a few pieces of fruit clinging to its lower branches. Yeah, an irrelevant detail, but notice how your brain reflexively inserts other details, like the humidity and the lizard scampering across the back walk and the languid cat on the fence post. Stories are collaborative; the listener paints the backdrop.

Smith is 55 years old, and his work has been heavily anthologized. His heroes know failure as surely as they know triumph. His favorite story, "Damned Yankee," was about a baseball player who might have been the next Yogi Berra but for all the guilt he felt from having accidentally thrown a javelin through his uncle's head. (Now that's a story!)

There's endless talk in the news media about the next killer app. Maybe Twitter really will change the world. Maybe the next big thing will be just an algorithm, like Google's citation-ranking equation. But Smith is betting that there will still be a market, somehow, for what he does. Narrative isn't merely a technique for communicating; it's how we make sense of the world. The storytellers know this.

They know that the story is the original killer app.

Media makeover

To understand the magic of narrative, you have to ponder the rise in Japan of "mobile phone novels." These are novels written on a cellphone keypad. The reader uploads the novel one cellphone screen at a time. The Japanese, always technophiles, find themselves reading their phones the way Westerners used to read the daily newspaper.

There are two ways to look at this situation: One is to make the electronic gadget the star of a heroic tale called The Changing Media. New gadgets can do anything! They can not only put you in touch with friends, they can store your photo album, tell you your longitude and latitude, and write fabulous novels. But another way of describing the situation is to say that you can't keep a good story down. The story, not the gadget, is what's irrepressible. So powerful is the story as a way of communicating that it will even sprout in a cellphone.

Nathan Myhrvold, the former Microsoft executive who now runs an investment fund for innovative technologies, says by e-mail: "iPhones and Blackberries give us new formats -- like Twitter -- which is a type of story telling. Somebody will write a novel told as text messages."

Been done. It was in Finland, a novel called "The Last Messages," complete with typos.

[Click here to keep reading.]

By Joel Achenbach  |  October 28, 2009; 9:48 PM ET
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Nice, long story...about long stories. I like this:
"And stories let us experiment, safely, with novel social arrangements that might otherwise blow up in our face."
I certainly used books like Anna Karenina as a model for what not to do in a relationship.

Posted by: seasea1 | October 28, 2009 10:31 PM | Report abuse

This is superb.

two thoughts. A week ago we took the train to LA, and I read a Kate Atkinson book on the way down, and finished it there at a friends. And enjoyed it so much I reread it on the trip home! So I AM able to read a long narative.

But often on the internet I give up on articles after a paragraph or two.

I thought that was just me, my age, my problem. But now I think the problem is they were just poorly written, and if anyone wants me to read something, they need to get Kate Atkinson to write it up.

Or Joel Achenbach!

Posted by: nellie4 | October 28, 2009 10:44 PM | Report abuse

I just haed an epiphany. I'm not kidding. About halfway through this piece I suddenly realized what will save journalism, and what will save newspapers.

The Internet will go dark. No, not all of it, not by any means. But just what we like to think are major portions of it. Look, it suddenly becomes extremely simple: content doesn't pay. No one has yet figured out how to make online content pay, and no newspaper Web site has come within hailing distance of a profit.

So ask yourself, how long are these people going to keep sinking money into something that won't pay off? How long will they continue giving their products away free to aggregators? (Selling to aggregators won't work.)

So why keep on doing it?

You read it here first: one fine day, the NYT online site will go dark. Pouf! Gone. Then the WaPo. Then, within a matter of weeks or even days, nearly all the other online news sites. And with no more "free" news online, whaddaya gonna do, Peggy Sue?

You're gonna buy a dead-tree newspaper. Because. You. Have. No. Choice.

There will no longer be onliner aggregators, because they'll have nothing electronic to aggregate. So they'll have to buy the stuff legitimately (at much, much increased prices, because without online competition all the true news sources can raise their prices).

With no online news, a very large portion of advertisers will suddenly find their audience has disappeared. People aren't going to go online nearly as much as before, and the advertisers are going to learn that you consumers aren't paying attention. So guess where they will have to go to find you?

Yes. (Although classifieds like craigslist may stay online, and classifieds may disappear from newspapers.)


Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | October 28, 2009 10:49 PM | Report abuse

What? A new kit in the middle of the night?
Probably just to mudge us left coasters.

Posted by: bh72 | October 28, 2009 10:53 PM | Report abuse

This is a good story, Joel. So glad you are still on the Style beat, at least occasionally.

* * *

Amazingly, there is no website called Just to prove all your points, when I reached that point in your story I opened a new browser window and went to check on it. There are t-shirts and discussion groups and a number of YouTube videos, but apparently nobody hates everyone enough to actually pay for the domain name. I will try to take comfort in that.

So I read the whole story but because I took that big detour in the middle of it, it's much less of a coherent unit and I'm sure I won't remember it as well as I would have if I'd read it from a printed page.

Still, being trained from reading screens for so long now, I tend to read books and articles in shorter chunks too. I keep a book by my computer so I can read a few paragraphs while I'm waiting for something to download or a program to open or a file to copy.

* * *

Winnie the Pooh is real, by gosh. Disney Pooh, however, is artificial.

* * *

Are we to suppose, seasea, that readers commit adultery less often than non-readers?

* * *

Posted by: kbertocci | October 28, 2009 10:56 PM | Report abuse

Reposted from frighteningly previous Boodling:

"It's not just the paper media itself, Mudge. The paper's transient, like HTML rendered on your browser onto a computer screen, or sound waves coming out of a speaker.

The thing is the ideas and the stories *in* it.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: No matter what the media; the walls of caves, clay tablets, papyrus, vellum, wood pulp paper, telegraph, phonograph, radio, film, magnetic tape, television, random access memory, hard disk, or the various internet protocols, all of our best stories - our human stories - remain the same.

The beauty of information well-presented or a moving story told well; that hasn't changed in thousands of years.

And I don't think it ever will.


Posted by: bc | December 4, 2006 10:01 PM | Report abuse"


Posted by: -bc- | October 28, 2009 10:56 PM | Report abuse

Think about it for a minute, as a thought experiment. What would happen if at midnight tonight the WaPo online ceased to exist? Just turned off all the machines, turned off the lights, and went home.

Well, first, the WaPo (or NYT, or LA Times, or whoever) would stoop loosing money on one of its divisions.

Yes, people would howl. But where would they go to do so? They just have to open their windows like in "Network," and yell into the alley. But there'd be no fuliminating comments section, no (WaPo, or NYT) attached blogs.

OK, let's look at what would be lost to society:

1) a lot of noise;
2) a place to vent and be rude and crude and obnoxious and uncivil (SFW);
3) Hard-to-read makeup and layout;
4) 427 opinion columns written by idiots, morons, jerks, and other forms of Conservative Republicans; (would this be a lose? Eff no. Conservs are already watching Beck and Limbaugh and O'Reilly on TV, anyway; they aren't online creatures).

Would we lose "better" news coverage? Hell, no. Print is already better, and over on that side, they even have copy editors.

Would we lose photojournalism, which is to say good news photo work? Eff no. There's no great photojourtnalism on the Internet. Who are we kidding? Given a choice, would you rather watch a rocket launch on the WaPo live feed (which sucks), or on a 30-inch higjh-definition TV?

Well, exactly. Even today, photojournalism is still much better in print media than online.

For the past two and a half decades, the Internet has has been killing an industry that is two and a half centuries old. One of them has gotta die. So let it be the Internet (which is to say, online/Internet journalism).


Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | October 28, 2009 11:03 PM | Report abuse


Oh, sure, a fair piece of the Internet will remain. There will stillbe pornography, since that seems to be supporting 50 or 60 percent of the Internet anyway. There will still be amazon, and wikipedia, and all that music and YouTube and Facebook and MySpace stuff (which I understand also does NOT make a profit, which raises the question how long can that survive?).

We all babble about the econimics of the marketplace...but we've forgotten the simplest thing. If newspapers can't make a profit on the Internet, doesn't it make sense that one day they will just hang it up, and stop doing it?

Tom, tell Mikey it wasn't personal, it was just business.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | October 28, 2009 11:07 PM | Report abuse

Good golly, bc, how prescient! And what a memory too.

No, kbertocci, I'm probably the only one to internalize poor Anna to such an extent. And don't get me started on Catherine Earnshaw.

I don't know, Mudge. I do lots of other things besides read newspapers on the Internet, and I suspect the young folks do too.

Posted by: seasea1 | October 28, 2009 11:09 PM | Report abuse

I hardly ever read the printed paper anymore (should that trite phrase just be shortened to IHERTPPA?) but I do love the long, well-researched stories, often on the Sunday front page. This past weekend even our much-descended in the world Post Dispatch had a good one. It was about an odd couple, a social worker and a police detective, whose work it is to find the lost extended families of kids who have been in the foster care system for a while. And then go visit Aunt Sallie or Cousin Fanny and find out if they're willing to open their hearts and their back bedroom to a kid who really needs a family. And it works. They're apparently given the time, and budget, to work intensively, tracking down leads and nicknames, on one or two kids at a time. The kids aren't told until a relative is found who remembers them fondly and wants to help.

What a great story.

Posted by: Wheezy11 | October 28, 2009 11:13 PM | Report abuse

seasea, I said the Internet would still survive, and the other stuff would stay. But without a news and newspaper presence, you would have no choice but to get the news and features from some other source.

No, not everybody would go back to the dead tree thing. But a lot would *if it was the ONLY way to get (long form) news.* If all the online newspapers go dark (because they aren't making any money), what's the choice gonna be?

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | October 28, 2009 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Oh, man! Cliff Lee has just thrown a 9-inning, full-game masterpiece, zero earned runs, 10 strikeouts, struck out A-Rod, who was batting .438 in post season, three times. And Chase Utley hit two home runs. Great night for Philly!!

uh...sorry, mo.

But that was really a thing of beauty.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | October 28, 2009 11:31 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Boodle!

The travel was easy, the day at destination was *fantastic* and now I'm going to sleep. Looking forward to meeting a new old friend tomorrow.

Posted by: Yoki | October 29, 2009 12:28 AM | Report abuse

Very good, Joel! I don't mind a long article when it keeps my attention...that's the secret of course...mediocre won't cut it as you mention. the beginning... ending, too. My favorite book.

Posted by: Windy3 | October 29, 2009 1:22 AM | Report abuse

Yes, but I've read that it's the loss of the classified ad revenues that is killing the newspapers. So unless they figure out a way to get rid of craigslist, and all the job boards, and the real estate sites, getting subscribers back won't do it. For instance, I can't subscribe to the dead tree Washington Post - I'm not in the area. And the printing/distribution costs are lots higher than the cost of the online edition, I think. Here in Seattle, we lost the print edition of the P-I, but the online edition lives on, with a decimated staff. My subscription did not save it.

The WaPo is the only newspaper besides my local ones that I regularly read online. I'd be sad if it went dark, but I'd still get my news. If they charged to access the online WaPo, I doubt I would pay for it, unless it was really cheap (if I were still working, that would be a different story). I still say the papers should look at bundling subscriptions with ISP's, like the dreaded Comcast.

Posted by: seasea1 | October 29, 2009 1:27 AM | Report abuse

I just closed down The Blind Pig Pub. Now I have to see if I can stay up all night to catch my 7 am flight. Expect lots of boodle hogging from me.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 29, 2009 3:24 AM | Report abuse

I just took a cold shower, not because I needed one but because the hotel seemed to be out of hot water.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 29, 2009 5:06 AM | Report abuse

Here is an article about the only model that will work for newspapers in the future.

A lot of people don't remember when cable started paying for cable network programming channels that also ran commercials. The paradigm was that no one would pay for a channel that showed commercials too.

I pay way too much to my internet provider. $600 a year, and they have to keep an unbroken cable to my house and provide a very minute portion of operational time on some routers. That's it. I'm convinced they have leftover money that Joel deserves. I honestly think they could pay the news orgs, not charge me extra, and still make a profit.

Posted by: Jumper1 | October 29, 2009 6:29 AM | Report abuse

This article goes into a bit of the history I was hinting at, that I believe will foreshadow in some ways the future of internet content distribution charges.

Posted by: Jumper1 | October 29, 2009 6:40 AM | Report abuse

Jumper, that may be it. But I still think the aggregators should pay the content providers for links and eyeballs.

Morning, all. Do ham biscuits suit everyone for breakfast? I hope so, 'cause they're coming out of the oven in about ten minutes!

I realize I'm a dinosaur, being one who reads the dead tree local paper before I turn the computer on. But I'm okay with that. I'd go nutz if went away, I depend on it way too much. Yes, I would pay for an online subscription. I'd pay as much as I pay for the Charlotte Observer, maybe even more.

Posted by: slyness | October 29, 2009 6:52 AM | Report abuse

OK, I'll tell you a story, non-fiction, happened Monday. I've got hundreds like these, but it only makes sense if you know that the story teller is blind, which he is.

The Centipede

My teenage daughter was in the kitchen doing dishes, and I was in the living room sitting on my duff on the master's chair. - Typical evening scenario.

Then I heard my daughter let out a huge shriek. "AAAAAAAAAEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAEEEEEE"

The Ol' spider scream, I'm quite familiar with it. But this time it was a centipede.

Me: Just step on it for heaven's sake, child.


Me: Well find something to squash it with.


Me: Do you want me to come into the kitchen and try to squash it myself, you know, like a bug?


So I lumber on into the kitchen and start marching flatfooted. hup, hup, hup, hup, hup, hup!

Me: Where is it.

Daughter: OVER THERE!

Me/Daughter: Hup, hup, hup, hup, FORWARD! Hup, hup, hup. LEFT! Hup, hup, hup. ITS AFTER ME AGAIN! Hup, hup, hup, hup. EEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAEEEEEEEAAAAA! Hup, hup, hup, hup. YOU ALMOST GOT IT! Hup, hup, hup, hup, hup. WATCH OUT DADDY! Hup, hup, hup, hup.

Hup, hup, hup, hup, Squish! Ewwwwwww!

It stuck to the bottom of my shoe, so I limped out side and scraped it off on the stair of the deck.

Hmmm, maybe it's one of those things where you had to be there to appreciate the full excitement of the moment.

Anyway, when I came back inside, I got my just reward: A rice crispy treat...

And a big hug with an "I Love You, Daddy!"

WhackyWeasel, who lives for this kinda stuff

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | October 29, 2009 6:54 AM | Report abuse

Morning all, too tired this morning to concentrate on the new kit, will read it later while we are driving to Boston. Have to get the kids off to school then pack.

Looking forward to the weekend away. Like Yoki am excited to be meeting a new old friend.

Posted by: dmd3 | October 29, 2009 7:22 AM | Report abuse

Yes, I'm guilty of clicking away from long stories, skimming, skipping to the last paragraph, and blogging without a narrative.

Still, I'm blogging about this. It is relevant to education, too.

If we told kids stories instead of listing facts, we'd keep their interest longer.

"Kids today have no attention span, we are told -- and then devour all seven of the Harry Potter books multiple times."

Thanks, Joel.

Posted by: abeac1 | October 29, 2009 7:26 AM | Report abuse

I would like to say that our dr is a Great storytelling blogger.

Started to read Joels story in full and then realized that is will be somewhat ironic that I will probably read the full story on my blackberry while I have time sitting in the car.

Posted by: dmd3 | October 29, 2009 7:44 AM | Report abuse

Anybody crossing the Bay Bridge?

I love comments that included references to "Engineering 101."

better yet, this phrase: "The three pieces damaged three cars but, miraculously, injured no one."

Posted by: russianthistle | October 29, 2009 7:46 AM | Report abuse

Hey, if you watched game one of the World Series and want to see a game live, but don't have a spouse that "really cares," here is the story for you. Warning!!! This is not the Onion.

Woman in sex-for-tix case 'embarrassed'
The Associated Press

Coming to a Craigslist near you!

From the article:

"I was hoping to get cheap tickets," she said, "maybe meet someone, and talk, and bat my eyelashes and maybe get some tickets."

Posted by: russianthistle | October 29, 2009 7:52 AM | Report abuse

WW... reason 23 for having a nice deck out back.

Posted by: russianthistle | October 29, 2009 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Love that story WhackyWeasel

Posted by: dmd3 | October 29, 2009 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Now that is a GREAT story, WhackyWeasel! Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: slyness | October 29, 2009 8:32 AM | Report abuse

I used to tell stories at the birthday parties for the ScienceKids. I stopped when the audience hit about age 8 and I could no longer keep them there. They were so used to having a TV running at all times, that they would just wander off and start playing with toys, even if they were listening to the story, too.

It has long been my contention that stories are a great way to organize and connect things that you would like to be remembered, but we have to be in the habit of listening to/reading stories as a complete narrative. I have discovered that (1) there are many people who do not think that science is a narrative construction, but an amalgam of mere "facts"; and (2) many of these people are teachers. If I connect with students, but fail to meet the expectations of their teacher, then I get a negative review and fail to be invited back, regardless of whether I successfully conveyed anything to the kids. I have been contemplating assembling a real research project to put quantifiable numbers on storytelling and narrative as an effective teaching tool (or, conversely, to send my theory to its grave). The problem is that there is little appetite for discovering whether an out-of-the-ordinary education project works. The appetite is for discovering THAT an education project works, and it must fit a limited and pre-defined conception of what is acceptably "out-of-the-ordinary", a conception that is generally the work of a person who has not been in a classroom except as a student. Actual creativity is supposed to happen out of sight, where no granting agency or manager can be held responsible for it.

Posted by: ScienceTim | October 29, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

dmd, you are too kind.

Good stories need time to percolate. Few are given permission to let the story percolate any more. Its rush rush. Rush to gather, rush to print, rush to publish. (or so it seems to me) but otherwise, there is much I like in what Mudge says.

Posted by: --dr-- | October 29, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, WhackyWeasel, for that fine story. It caught and kept my interest - in the space of a short time we had a vicious critter, suspense and violent death. Pretty good for what was essentially a heartwarming family tale.

I appreciate Joel's story about stories. Good lawyering is all about stories: crafting a story that the jury or court will find compelling.
For years I had a running bedtime story line for the Boy which featured an alligator (or perhaps aardvark) named Anaximander. He had lots of animal friends, with alphabetically sequential but unusual names, and they had brief but exciting adventures which all ended with them individually curling up in bed and going to sleep. The story set-up, listing all the friends who'd be taking part that day, eventuallly got as long as the rest of the plot. While he was sick recently the Boy demanded I return to the series.

I used to keep the Boy's first-grade classmates entranced by retelling Navajo Monster Slayer stories. The kids weren't familiar with the characters but they loved the narratives. I got some odd comments from other parents, though, when the kids repeated them at home. It seemed as if some of those kids weren't used to hearing stories not read from a book.

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 29, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Online doesn't lend itself to digesting lengthy articles. They won't even hold my attention in the dead trees edition if TV, chores, or a nice fall day are calling to me. Long stories are great, however, for reading on the train, where there is very little competing for my attention.

The trick with your approach, Mudge, is that all the online newspapers need to go dark simultaneously. Which brings about the touchy subject of collusion.

Posted by: Raysmom | October 29, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

No, not simultaneously...but yes, reasonably close together. Maybe within weeks or a few months at most. What has to be clear is that this is how it is going to trend. How long it actually takes for something close to 100 percent probably doesn't matter much.

It doesn't have to be collusion at all. The point is, a whole bunch of companies are losing money. It isn't collusion if they all realize they have to stop doing that. It's collusion to agree to fix prices. But if you stop selling what no one is buying, that's not collusion. You aren't fixing anything--just withdrawing from the marketplace.

I think one of the problems with this whole mess is that everyone is operating from an underlying assumption that all problems have solutions. Therefore, people seem to think that there must be some way, some how, for newspapers to make money on line. But suppose the answer is, "No, there isn't." Why do we assume all things can be "fixed," or solved, or whatever.

People have been trying for over a hundred years to make a better battery. They can't do it. At some point, we might just have to come to the (rational) conclusion that it can't be done.

Not every problem has a (satisfactory) solution. We haven't solved the problems of war, hunger, poverty, yadda yadda. Some things simply aren't fixable.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 29, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Generally if an online story is more than four pages, I print it out. I love a good story, fact or fiction doesn't matter. If the writing is good, I'll read it. That's why I hang around here!

Posted by: badsneakers | October 29, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

If Mudge is right, I will be bereft, as the dead tree WaPo doesn't deliver here. I suppose I could try out the NYT, if forced. Happily, we now have a 1-month-old curbside recycling program, so I could do something with all the paper. Or I could just depend on NPR, where I regularly hear both news and analysis that I haven't seen anywhere else. I'd rather read than listen in most cases, though.

I think I'm in the bundle-it-through-the-service-providers camp. The cable tv analogy makes sense to me.

I have learned that truly small-town papers have a completely different business model -- basically a local community newsletter. I was talking to students from smaller towns than mine, and they said that their local papers just print whatever anyone submits, for a fee. So everyone local always knows about these students' accomplishments, because both of their grandmothers are regular submitters to the paper. Those papers seem to still be going strong, but I would imagine that once all the grandmothers are online, community-based websites will replace them.

Posted by: -bia- | October 29, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Who is going to pay for the community-based Web sites, bia? How will they be funded?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 29, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

If people will pay to submit their announcements to a paper, seems to me that they'd pay to submit them to a website serving the same function. Assuming there's not a parallel free version available, of course, but as you've pointed out, keeping both submission and access free for all of these sites doesn't appear to be sustainable. I don't know the relative costs, but it wouldn't surprise me if hosting a community website and managing the postings were less expensive than printing and delivering a dead tree paper.

Posted by: -bia- | October 29, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

But no one pays to send an announcement to a newspaper. You just send in the announcement, and they put it in whatever column they might have. (Yes, some they charge for, some they don't.) No one pays to have an announcement of a yard sale put in the paper. Church pot-lucks suppers. PTA meeting next Thursday at 7 p.m.

Nearly all the vast array of all that small stuff is sent in to newspapers free, and printed "free" (except insofar as you buy the entire newspaper).

Be all that as it may, having someone "manage" all those positings isn't nearly the same thing as "news." Announcements aren't news, they are just announcements. Who is going to cover the township sewer authority meeting? The borough council? How will you know who won the Podunk-Sweetwater H.S. varsity girls' hockey game? Who will write it up? Who will do the police blotter round-up? Who is going to collect and edit the obituaries?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 29, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Absolutely. That's why I said that this is a different model -- it's not an actual newspaper. According to these students, people do pay to submit their announcements and family-written obituaries. And there isn't professionally-reported news. The local news coverage either has to be on a larger scale -- a group of towns, rather than a single town of a few thousand -- or they just depend on tv news (also regional rather than truly local).

Posted by: -bia- | October 29, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

That said, I don't know whether these towns have ever had their own actual newspapers. Even in the height of newspapering, what was the minimum population to provide adequate circulation?

Posted by: -bia- | October 29, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

They charge for obituaries here. It's a fairly recent change; last few years.

Posted by: Jumper1 | October 29, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

The name of the song is "Tell Me a Story" It's by Iggy

Posted by: Jumper1 | October 29, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

We have a weekly paper that's something between the two. Small poorly-paid part-time staff, predominantly (exclusively?) women (more interested in fostering community atmosphere maybe?), paid announcements (including church stuff), lots of ads, borough meetings/news, obits and police reports (I kid you not...someone called the police over their home being TP'd--I think that's a reason to laugh, get out your camera, wake your teenage child, hand him/her a rake and suggest they call their friends. But I digress.) About 8 pages. There's not going to be a big investigative piece (mismanagement of the W/S office?), nor some article that encapsulates an issue start to end (what's with the the heck was that school bond really paying for). The only thing that I think is free is letters to the editor.

To the larger issue, I think the idea of the market and the market place needs to evolve. The printing press didn't kill storytelling, movies didn't kill books and dvd's didn't kill the movie theater. Things got shoved around a little bit, practices changed, but at the end of the day, everything's still there and someone came up with popcorn.

Posted by: LostInThought | October 29, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Blah! SCC: and build in a problem with the old school bond.

Posted by: LostInThought | October 29, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

But these aren't business "models" of anything, and they don't speak to the problem or the solution.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 29, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, Mudge, that's what I was saying. It relies on both paid and unpaid, but doesn't really cover anything you can't pick up at the local pool hall. Smalltown USA, it's not a bad little rag. But clearly, that's not what we want to become the norm.

I think on the larger issue, to a certain degree the answer is to stop with all the handwringing and allow the water to find its own level. With minor tweaks here and there (bookstores with coffee and pastries, movies with sofas and waitresses), isn't that what's happened every time? So where's the reasoning behind a huge adjustment now?

Posted by: LostInThought | October 29, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Look at the time! Have a happy day all.

Posted by: LostInThought | October 29, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

No, that isn't what has happened every time. Water doesn't necessarily find its own level; sometimes it leaks out until it's all gone. Sometimes it finds its own level three feet over your head, and you drown.

What we are talking about here are very large corporations and businesses, and expenditures in the many billions of dollars. In historical fact, there are many large business that have simply ceased to exist; it has happened all the time. And there are many other businesses that have significantly downsized, or divested themselves of unprofitable divisions, and so on. We aren't talking about what consumers want or would like; we are ultimately talking about what kinds of economic decisions hard-headed (hopefully rational) businesses make regarding their long-term balance sheets and P&L statements, their pay-outs to stockholders, etc. So it isn't just a game.

Yes, some industries morph...but some simply die. I know you're all aware of the general societal discussion about how Walmart has killed/is killing small mom-and-pop businesses and "ruining" small-town main streets. It is not enought to just shrug it all off as simple economic Darwinism and say, "Well, that's just the way it is. Let the small-town cores die; screw mom and pop. Let them be greeters at WalMart."

Things that happen inside the economy (especially lagrge things) have normative and societal costs and influences. Just as WalMart has killed some town cores and put lots of mom-and-pops out of business, so the Internet has been killing newspapers and journalism. It is not enough to just hope that "somehow it will all work out," like the "It's a mystery" solutions in "Shakespeare in Love."

The current brouhaha over health care is one such massively societal problem. How many of you want to say, "Let's just let the big insurance comes and Big Pharmaceutical decide how to fix everything"??

No, I thought not.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 29, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

I think the problem will take care of itself within (and I am estimating loosely here) approximately 93 years. That allows enough time for the final collapse of print news reporting and broadcast news, for that matter, as it is all driven to extinction by people who think they are doing something useful by parasitically stealing news reporting from those who actually do it so that they can lard it up with their 'wise' opinions, including 'improving' the facts in order to avoid unhelpful distraction by the complexities of reality; then, approximately 4 Presidential election cycles in which the only news coverage is provided by well-meaning government civil servants who are doing their best but inevitably will be co-opted by the need to make the current administration look good so that there soon will be no trust in any news-reporting except for university newspapers (all on-line as unsanctioned anonymous publications, of course); then there will be approximately 64 years of totalitarian rule, followed by violent revolution and the return of independent news-reporting, led by the surviving old farts who once worked at the university newspapers.

Of course, the resurgent news organizations soon will be identified as counter-revolutionary and will be suppressed by the revolution. However, the next level of detail is outside the present scope of analysis. Certain predictions can be made, however: the return of hand-copied and quietly-distributed news 'letters' on actual paper made with contributions of DNA from 1000's of persons mixed into the paper's web in order to foil DNA-analysis by the ruling junta. Materials will be cheap and plentiful, as the rising tide of seaweed-choked seas will lead to an inexpensive supply of raw material for bathtub-paper- and ink-making operations. The seas will be choked by seaweed due to the near-collapse of marine animal life as a consequence of ocean-acidification decimating the productivity of calcium-carbonate exoskeletal creatures (crustaceans, coral, bivalves, many zooplankton, many molluscs, etc) so that the ocean of will fill with uneaten phytoplankton and seaweed. Upheaval in coastal cities as they are slowly inundated by the rising seas also can be expected to create widespread dissatisfaction with the leadership of the juntas.

Beyond this broad outline, I cannot predict detail. Nevertheless, of this we can be certain: The march of liberty will not be denied! The Seaweed Times shall not stop spreading the news until the last reader has died, leaving the last reporter to finally punch out the last editor and drink the last slug of bourbon (Old Kelpie) from the last city-desk. Sweet victory, at last!

Posted by: ScienceTim | October 29, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps the greeters at Wal-Mart can be selected for an exceptional facility with gossip and become the core of a new golden age (as it were) for the town-crier model of news-reportage.

Posted by: ScienceTim | October 29, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

See, story-telling isn't dead - it's just moved to the Boodle.

Posted by: ebtnut | October 29, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Dang. I think my 1:01 would have been a fine entry for that stupid punditry contest, but I missed the deadline. Which would bode poorly for my ability to be a pundit on deadline.

Posted by: ScienceTim | October 29, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Good job, StorytellerTim.

It's funny that you mention the greeters at Wal-Mart -- both of the aforementioned grandmothers do in fact work at Wal-Mart, and both of the aforementioned students said that everyone there knows everything that's going on with them, too, even if they didn't read it in the-paper-that's-not-a-newspaper.

Posted by: -bia- | October 29, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

This just in:

Economy grows in 3Q, signals end of recession

Thu Oct 29, 12:40 PM EDT

The economy grew at a 3.5 percent pace in the third quarter, the best showing in two years, fueled by government-supported spending on cars and homes. It's the strongest signal yet that the economy has entered a new, though fragile, phase of recovery and that the worst recession since the 1930s has ended.


The much-awaited turnaround reported Thursday by the Commerce Department ended the streak of four straight quarters of contracting economic activity, the first time that's happened on records dating to 1947.

It also marked the first increase since the spring of 2008, when the economy experienced a short-lived uptick in growth.

On Wall Street, the news lifted stocks. The Dow Jones industrials gained nearly 110 points in midday trading and broader indices also rose.

The third-quarter's performance — the strongest since right before the country fell into recession in December 2007 — was slightly better than the 3.3 percent growth rate economists expected.

Armed with cash from government support programs, consumers led the rebound in the third quarter, snapping up cars and homes.

Consumer spending on big-ticket manufactured goods soared at an annualized rate of 22.3 percent in the third quarter, the most since the end of 2001. ...

Spending on housing projects jumped at an annualized pace of 23.4 percent, the largest jump since 1986. It was the first time since the end of 2005 that spending on housing was positive. ...

"Holy s---," said leading Conservative theorist William Kristol. "I guess Obama and the Dems were basically right, and we Conservatives and Republicans were fundamentally wrong. I'll be a sorry sunofab1tch."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that it seems the economic crisis birthed and aggrevageted by the Bush administration is finally over. "I've got to give the President and my colleagues across the aisle a lot of credit," McConnell said. "I guess we were just a bunch of [ring-like anatomical structures that expand and contract] to fight them so hard. But I'm glad they won."

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 29, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

OK, I made up those last two paragraphs, but all the stuff above it is true.

Speaking of storytelling.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 29, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Not only are obituaries paid notices in our local paper, so are wedding announcements and other announcements as well, I'm sure. This is like local governmental fees, all created to take pressure off property taxes.

Posted by: slyness | October 29, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

I assuming you guys are aware of the difference between obituaries, which are staff-written (or at least collected and edited) and are free (by definition), and "death notices," which are paid for. If it's a paid notice, then it isn't truly an obituary. Ditto some wedding stuff.

Due the paid death thingies you are referring to describe the deceasedson's life, list all the relatives he/she is survived by, say that he/she was the son/daughter of Harold and Martha so-and-so, and all that? And that viewing will be 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Johnson Funeral Home, 912 Elm Street, with interment in All Soul's Cemetary?

Or do they say Old Charley died, and we all miss you, Pop-Pop, he was a great guy, love, Martha, Roger and all the Beckwiths"?

Because there is a difference.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 29, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of stories, I have posted a picture essay of my night of debauchery bar hopping in a prominent American musical city. See this post and see if you can name it.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 29, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

WTH is it about South Carolina and their politicians? Is it the air? the water? Some genetic anomaly?

I particularly liked the items carried "just in case."

Posted by: kguy1 | October 29, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

yello: Austin, TX

Posted by: Yoki | October 29, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Yep. Austin. The Capitol dome shot gave it away for me. We also now have a dome with a statue on top, but it is (of course) not as tall as Texas's.

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 29, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Off to a mini-BPH!

Posted by: seasea1 | October 29, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

You were right Mudge, there is a free death notice option at the local paper. It's brief and small.

Posted by: Jumper1 | October 29, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

In that South Carolina case, exactly why was the man fired by the Attorney General's office, and why do we know all this stuff? The only evidence offered of a crime is purely circumstantial: the man's poor driving skills when he realized he did not wish to be interrogated by a police officer at that time, and the young lady's place of employment. Working at a "Gentlemen's Club" does not make her a prostitute, however, it only makes her likely to be a stripper. And even if she were a prostitute, that doesn't mean she was there in a professional capacity. Perhaps she just really enjoyed the sparkling conversation of a man who had been elected to the State house of representatives 5 years before she was born. No indication was offered that Corning had violated any other sacred vows, like a vow of celibacy or marital vows. His marital status, in fact, is never mentioned in the article. And, at the worst, at least he was deviating from the Republican "family-values" image in an approved fashion -- with legally prescribed drugs and a consenting hot young thing (but not TOO young) of the opposite sex. Perhaps they plan to be married.

I predict he will run for governor. He is the most straight-arrow Republican candidate available in South Carolina.

Posted by: ScienceTim | October 29, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt, you didn't go to Antone's, on Guadalupe St. What's wrong with you, man?

Posted by: ScienceTim | October 29, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

yellowjkt's coldwater hotel reminds me of a stay at a very nice Irish hotel near Bloomingdale's on Lexington Ave., NYC. It was very nice, except that hot water was erratic. Very erratic.

Still steamy here in Florida. 87 degrees, 65% humidity. Quite nice at the beach; surfable surf.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | October 29, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

I suspect that what happened in the South Carolina case is that Corning tried to strike up a conversation with the young lady at the "Gentleman's Club" and she told him to "take a hike." Well, it being South Carolina and all, he misunderstood her meaning and things went from there.

Posted by: kguy1 | October 29, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Only able to dive in for a minute right now, but wanted to mention how much I *love* the title they gave Joel's piece online.

I do enjoy entendre served in a nice warm pun.


Posted by: -bc- | October 29, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Pictures, seasea, don't forget the pictures!

Posted by: slyness | October 29, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

That is a remarkable SI story by Gary Smith.

I know a few professors who wouldn't fight Joel over the fiction/nonfiction story deal.

"Another key element of a story: Information unspools. The payoff is delayed."-- very good.

I am curious... just how does the inverse pyramid scheme of journalism work with this element?

There are plenty of decent journalists who couldn't really tell a full-length story (coughcoughTomWolfecoughcough) if they had to, while others managed to make the leap from journalism to fiction writing quite brilliantly, like Mark Twain and others.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | October 29, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Recently Weingarten mentioned that most of his WaPoMag articles that are being anthologized are in the 8,000 word category. I wonder if that is some sort of sweet spot for that form.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 29, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Coffee cart rolling by. I have hot, hot coffee with no milk for tis not that creme-ly powder for me.

Small shortcake, top spooned out and filled with blueberries. Enjoy and fortify!

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | October 29, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Straying woefully on-kit, and in response to Wilbrod's 4:21, I might note that there is a really excellent exegisis on storytwelling by a guy named David Siegl that I ran across maybe 10 or 12 years. Siegel is primarily a Web design guru, but also a screenplay doctor/analyst. He developed something called the "Nine-Act Structure" of storytelling, intended mainly for screenplays, but which many people came to see would work for other kinds of storytelling as well-- novels, etc. Siegel's original article is here:

Here is a pretty good brief explanation of it:

Not that it means much, but I am a very devout fan of Siegel's theory and am using it religiously in some of my work.

The notion of "information unspooling" is very tricky, and very hard to do. The main problem is what some writing books call "the info dump," the part where the writer starts boring you to death with six pages of background on late Norman architecture because at some point down the road, barechested and handsome Lord Craigmuir is going to have to duel evil Count de Foiegras, and you are going to need to know about balustrades and fenestration. (Actually, you don't.)

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 29, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Wanting to say "amen! etc. or Eureka, etc.!" to SciTim. Been teaching senior level booYA scientists that 1) their work is a narrative and 2) their work is also rhetorical. They may claims and counterclaims and affirmation to

I believe I have them 45% convinced.

Mudgie: I'll sit by your storytelling hearth forever, if you let me.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | October 29, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Scientists MAKE claims. Pardon my slips/typos. I stabbed two fingers when releasing a chicking from her plastic scuba suit. Had a tetanus shot today and other annual ablutions, sans the newie fluey shot.

Cue-ed up in the YouTubie channel for your sciencey-pleasure:

Sampling of Sagan, Feynman, Nye....Chorus: we are all connected. Clips of the Eames' masterpiece Powers of Ten, too.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | October 29, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, thanks.

Yeah, info dump can always be edited out after the story takes shape and you can see what details really matter to the storytelling or what just feels like boring asides.

At least I can do it.

Yello, maybe it is because stories that long take months to do, thus are less topical and more luxuriously written?

I somehow doubt that Weingarten has written many stories far longer than 8K words that were worth the slog.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | October 29, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

CqP, if you look carefully at my hearth, you'll find a chair there with a little brass plaque on the back. I don't have to tell you whose initials are on the plaque.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 29, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Yawning and checking in after a very frantic and hard working week. I emailed the four (count 'em, 4) agreements my colleague and I have been toiling (on? with? about? -- fill it in as you see fit) back to said colleague. Well, I thought I had attached the files. But, well, *ahem* . . . NOOOOOOOOOO. She and I keep joking that we'll *have* to sit next to each other in our respective rockers at the Olde Lady Lawyers' Home. Yep, definitely!

I think the around-the-corner-Chinese restaurant is singing to me. A nice choice of Fish Szechwan would fill the bill. Perhaps some Hot & Sour Soup to start with? The fish will feed me for 3-4 days, and it's steamed (not fried) before it's dunked in the wonderfully hot and spicy sauce. I figure it this way -- my eyes are so miserable right now, between the allergies and staring at a computer all day, some hot & spicy food will nurture my soul.

And then I'll have cool dreams.

Hey, Mudge -- congrats on your Phillies. One down, 3 to go, eh? And the Pistons won their opening game of the season, too.

Posted by: -ftb- | October 29, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

I did forget the pictures, slyness! I took my camera, then as I drove away after dropping Yoki off, I realized we had not used it. Doh! I'll blame it on the rainy day, and Yoki and I having a great time.

Posted by: seasea1 | October 29, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Heck's Bells, I had a camera in my purse too!

We had a delicious seafood lunch and a good visit. The spot seasea chose for lunch was *beautiful;* right on the water with sailboats at mooring, and an interesting vessel from The Diving Institute (?) passing. The trees on the banks were in full colour, and the vista receded into the autumnal mist (dam fine writing).

Seasea is absolutely lovely and easy to talk to. AND she picked me up, drove me to a giant grocery store for some things I needed for the pot luck tonight, and dropped me back at the hotel. This is above and beyond and so appreciated in a city one knows not at all.

Mostly though, it was a great mini-BPH. New old friends indeed!

Hee hee. I got the impression as we strolled the grocery aisles that some people found us an interesting contrast, stature-wise.

Just a super afternoon.

Posted by: Yoki | October 29, 2009 6:05 PM | Report abuse

This must be the week for mini-BPH's. Going to meet dmd for lunch tomorrow.

Posted by: badsneakers | October 29, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Have a great time, sneaks, but don't forget the camera!

Posted by: slyness | October 29, 2009 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Cue eery Count Dracula music.

So I'm driving home a little while ago, cruising up Rt. 301, big four-lane divided highway, doing maybe 55 or so in a moderate stream of traffic, maybe 5 miles from my house. All of a sudden I hear a "thwack!" and realize that not only did something hit my windshield, but the thing, whatever it was, was stuck in my windshield wiper right smack dab in front of me. (Wipers were not on.)

So I'm driving down the road and looking at this thing, and it looks like a bird, not real big, but not real small, maybe about the size of a swallow or a finch, and I can't see the body but the wings are sticking up and blowing in the slipstream, and I'm like, "ewwwwwwww."

And I'm looking at it and driving, and it occurs to me those bird wings don't have any feathers on them. At which point I realize what this thing might be, and then I'm really going "ewwwwwwwwww, s---," which I'm not even close to doing because my sphincter has seized up like the clutch on a '63 Rambler.

But I can't tell if it is really a bat or a bird, but I'm really thinking bat, but I never heard of a bat being hit by a car, because they have all that sonar workin' for them, only maybe this one was sick and his radar wasn't working, and of course I know what kind of sickness bats get.

I come to a stop light and I'm looking at these two wings sticking up, and when the slipstream stops, the wings gently start collapsing and I can hardly see anything (and it is full dark outside). And I'm sitting at the stoplight looking at this inch or so of one wing sticking up, and it kind of looks like the big oak leaf or something like that, scalloped, and with rib-like things, and it could be a big leaf or it could be a bat wing.

And the light turns green and I start up, and the slipstream wind starts up -- and the two wings rise up and start flapping a little bit again. And I'm think, jeez, I hope those are just really weird oak leaves.

I flick on the windshield wipers, hoping to dislodge the thing and get it off my windshield.

Have you ever seen a dead bat stuck in a windshield wiper dragged across your field of vision? One that won't come out?

So I drive home five more miles, and get out of the car in my driveway, and the light isn't all that good, but I can't quite tell if it really is a bat or some sort of really weird cluster of a couple of twigs and oak leaves. And it is a kind of light brownish-orangish color, about like the leaves right now.


Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | October 29, 2009 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Happy #$%^ing Halloween, Mudge!

Posted by: Jumper1 | October 29, 2009 7:35 PM | Report abuse

But one thing I know: I ain't touchin' it.

I go in the house and tell me wife, and we come back out with flashlights.

"It's orange-colored," my wife says before I get there.

Now we have two flashlights focused on it.

It's a bat. Got blackish wings with light brownish ribs or whatever those things are. It's body is about two inches long, and light brown, and furry. It has some kind of very weird, creepy mouth structure. There are some light brown things that look like twigs that I guess are parts of wing structures or something.

So repeat after me: "Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww."

Thank you.

So I get a stick to dislodge it, and I do, flipping it up onto the middle of the hood. Most of it, anyway, cuz dead bats don't have a lot of structural integrity, and a good bits of the wings stayed behind.

My wife says, "I never saw an orange bat before. I don't believe there are orange bats. Show me a picture of an orange bat on the Internet."

So here I sit, hungry for dinner (sort of, but also, well, not as hungry as one might otherwise expect), with a dead bat on the hood of my pickup.

And I have to go pick up some stuff at Safeway.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | October 29, 2009 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Mudge -- odd but a great story. Now you can work a golden-brown bat -- authentically -- into your writing.

And, glad that my brass name-plate is polished and the red brocaded cushion all puffy and plump.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | October 29, 2009 7:52 PM | Report abuse

And thanks for the laughs.

An interesting farm politics issue in Ohio.

Posted by: Jumper1 | October 29, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse

You're hungry, Mudge?

Posted by: -TBG- | October 29, 2009 8:13 PM | Report abuse

Very good story Mudge-San. Don'beat up bats too much, I love the darn things. I saved two from drowning in the pool by keeping them warm covered in my hands, then in a polar fleece scarf. As a kid I kept bats as pets. My mother somehow had less trouble accepting bats in an "battery" than my toad farm in the window well. The toads had to go, big and small.

As a PA I wouldn't recommend it today, bats can be rabies carrier and rabies has made a roaring come back in the North-East. Rabies can kill quickly, the young ones are specially at risk

Holding a soft calm little brown bat in your hand is an interesting experience I wish everybody had, but it may not be possible anymore.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 29, 2009 8:27 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Jumper1 | October 29, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

I have had the experience of holding a small sad bat in my bare hands. It somehow got into a glassed-in walkway at Queen's in the early 80s on a freezing cold day. It was quiescent as a result of being nearly frozen, so I warmed it up and let it outside where it had a chance of saving itself (and not being killed by a batophobic).

It was actually adorable, with its fuzzy body and funny pig-face.

The people I was with did not at all approve of the proceedings.

Posted by: Yoki | October 29, 2009 8:43 PM | Report abuse

You're a good woman Yoki, I knew it.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 29, 2009 8:47 PM | Report abuse

... and i'm a ruthless batkiller.

Well, my truck is. I was only drivin' down the road minding my own business.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | October 29, 2009 9:19 PM | Report abuse

I would about even be okay with 'em flying in the house if it would have alleviated the
Attack of the Trillion Mosquitos this year.

Posted by: Jumper1 | October 29, 2009 9:23 PM | Report abuse

I am, at least, a woman who likes bats. And 'mudge, your story was hilarious, and I don't think you're a bat killer, except inadvertently.

Posted by: Yoki | October 29, 2009 9:34 PM | Report abuse

There was a science fiction story a long time ago about the development of the ideal newreader - think Kindle - long before the internet era. The '70s, maybe. I forget which author wrote it. It involved the newsprint manufacturers who were so vested in the industry they commenced a campaign of dirty tricks to stop the development of the device. Later, in the real world, the Knight-Ridder company actually spent a lot of money developing such a thing and then -- stopped suddenly, and the project was quietly killed.

Posted by: Jumper1 | October 29, 2009 9:50 PM | Report abuse

I'm going to take my next vacation in the People's Gaypublic of Drugafornia.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 29, 2009 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Good evening, all.

Mudge, if I have time, maybe I'll dredge up that old "Mudge at the Bat" bit I did way back when.

The bat sonar systems are pretty good, but I've somehow hit three bats in my long and illustrious driving career -- two bounced off of my windshield (leaving rather greasy smudges), one ended up wedged in the grlle of my car at the time (a Plymouth, I believe).

Had to use a couple of sticks like chopsticks to remove the grille bat. The g-bat seemed nothing more than a mouse with wings, so the fur color of your Orangubat strikes me as cool, but not unusual.

Reeling on-Kit in a moment.


Posted by: -bc- | October 29, 2009 10:28 PM | Report abuse

Ok, onto the Kit for a moment:

People *do* spend their time differently now than they did 40, 30, 20, or even 10 years ago.

We communicate in different ways now, too. On Internet time, we have a 24 hour-a-day news/communciation extravaganza, with up- to-the-minute information.

LiT, I think you're right (if I understand what you're saying), that there's no good way to predict "what's coming next" for news, stories, information, entertainment, etc., and I agree that that the trick is to evolve with what the market will support, and to do *that.* Taking big risks by attempting to leap-frog ahead with the Next Big Thing; radical business models or technologies or dramatic moves to drive the markets (like shutting down Internet news feeds to drive people back to newspapers - really, Mudge?) strike me as desperate, and I'd guess people would more likely respond with their feet than their wallets.

LiT, loved that line about the popcorn.
Invent on-line popcorn and you're golden, right? Good thinking.

I, too, think that there will always be some sustainable business in selling hardcopy newspapers and long-form reporting/storytelling in dead-tree periodicals, just as there are in classical music media sales, hand-made chain mail, mechanical timepieces, celluloid film projectors, etc.

At least books seem to be least affected by the move to electronic media -- at least until a Kindle alternative evolves that people adopt in large numbers.

Overall, I think that the WaPo has done a lot to try to evolve towards that sustainable business. Perhaps they'll find something that works -- but I doubt it'll involve going back to the old ways.

On the other hand, should there be a gloabal catastrophe that knocks civilization back a few hundred years, I'll make sure I can get my hands on an old manual Olympia typewriter and boxes of 8 1/2" x 11" paper.

And sell Newsletters for $5,000 a piece, or trade for livestock. I'm staying with those markets, whatever they happen to be.


Posted by: -bc- | October 29, 2009 11:33 PM | Report abuse

'morning all. Low skies, no visibility and spitting rain is the sky report for this morning. Very Novemberish all that.

It's the last day of the work week and it's coming not a minute too soon. Loosing a minion already affects my work, after a week. It may get ugly.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 30, 2009 6:52 AM | Report abuse

Hellooo? Anybody home??

How unusual, the boodle was quiet overnight. Rainforest, I hope you're okay. Jack, did you get a good night's sleep?

It's Friday, folks, let's wake up! Coffee/tea and my signature ham biscuits in the ready room!

Posted by: slyness | October 30, 2009 6:55 AM | Report abuse

Nobody here but us bats... :-)

*TGIF-as-always Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 30, 2009 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Hola, Boodleros!

Here, bypassing spring, summer struck like a bomb blast, sending crowds for the ice cream shops. Cafes are busy selling ice cream. Even the McDonalds ice cream annexes and kiosks have people queing up.

Have a good weekend youse peoples.

Posted by: Braguine | October 30, 2009 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Yes, Scotty, consider me the "oldest bat" but not necessarily an "old bat". :-)

Good morning you all! slyness, your ham biscuits are always welcomed...and Brag, so sorry you are missing our beautiful fall colors and climate, it is truly my favorite time of the year.

I stopped buying the paper edition of most newspapers at least 5-10 years ago, except the freebies that are delivered to my door weekly. Called one freebie and told them to stop delivering as I had never asked for the thing in the first place, and to give them credit, they did stop delivery.

It was my effort to save trees.

Doubt that I will ever read booksonline...library and gifts make books a close companion.

I do read Joel's longer articles, usually, unless it is just too pointyheaded for me to grasp. Watched Apollo 13 the other night on HBO, I had forgotten so much of that mission, and have always admired the versatility of Kevin Bacon.

Posted by: VintageLady | October 30, 2009 8:15 AM | Report abuse

You do the roof inspection, the furnace check, fireplace and chimney inspections, even termite inspection. But two things you can't really check when buying a home are 1/does the neighbor have OCD and 2/does that neighbor own a leaf blower. That baby revs to life every flippin' morning, including weekends, right at 8 on the dot. And keeps going. And going. And going. I'm up well before that, but that doesn't make it any less irritating.

I, on the other hand, have 3 large trees in a normal sized yard, so about 4 inches of leaves on the ground. I'll get out the rake when it hits 6. Key word in that sentence is rake.

Maybe it will pay off during the winter, if he has a snow blower and decides my sidewalk just look silly next to his.

Have a happy day all.

Posted by: LostInThought | October 30, 2009 8:23 AM | Report abuse

SCC losing. O
h man I needed that second coffee. I'm working on the third now.

Yesterday Witch. no2 stayed home with the flu and a 39C fever. Last night she was a pretty good looking corpse. Today she felt good enough to go to school. Do you think that the Halloween party at school had anything to do with her miraculous recovery? Ha!

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 30, 2009 8:25 AM | Report abuse

The four inches of rain we've had this month, combined with a couple of very windy storms has done a number on our foliage. More than half of the trees here are mostly bare and the colors have been less than good.

Loved the bat story Mudge. How disconcerting to have to drive while looking at the creature. Bats are not my favorite thing. Much rather deal with snakes, they don't (usually) move fast and they don't fly - thank goodness!

Posted by: badsneakers | October 30, 2009 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Somewhat on topic, I just got an email from the folks at McSweeneys (Dave Eggers and company):

Issue 33 of McSweeney's is a one-time-only, Sunday-edition-sized newspaper. We are calling it the San Francisco Panorama, and it may well be the biggest project we have ever undertaken: there is, besides a ninety-six page broadsheet dedicated to the news of the day and of the Bay,

• a sixteen-page, full-color, 15" x 22" comics section with work from Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, and Art Spiegelman;
• extraordinary reportage from William T. Vollmann and Nicholson Baker;
• a 100+ page magazine featuring essays from Antarctica and Israel and Andrew Sean Greer at a NASCAR race;
• a 100+ page book review with new fiction by George Saunders and Roddy Doyle, James Franco interviewing Miranda July, and Joshuah Bearman on romance-novel cover models;
• China Miéville reviewing The Road and Stephen King watching the world series;
• and also possibly, seriously, the best food section that has ever appeared in any newspaper anywhere, with an incredible modular ramen recipe from New York's own David Chang and a fifty-eight-step lamb-belly photo essay from San Francisco's Ryan Farr.

We have been working nonstop on this one since the spring, and we couldn't be more excited about every ounce of it—but as ever, this thing depends on the commitment of our readers, so if any of this sounds like something you'd like to see on your doorstep, sign up for it today. And if you are a store, any kind of store, or even a museum or something like that, and you are interested in carrying our paper in the Bay Area or anywhere else—well, email and he will sell it to you!

For more information:

Posted by: kbertocci | October 30, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

Your weather was lovely for us yesterday sneaks, toured around downtown last night and had a nice late supper.

Getting set for lunch.

Boston is a nice as I remember.

Posted by: dmd3 | October 30, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

How did you like the baked beans, dmd?? :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 30, 2009 9:05 AM | Report abuse

dmd, I heard that the weather 'up north' was sunny. We had heavy clouds all day until just before sunset. Glad you enjoyed Boston. It's a great city, even tho' we don't visit it often, it's nice to know it's there.

Posted by: badsneakers | October 30, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Good morning. Mudge, your bat story was splendid, and perfect for this Kit. Truly fortuitous timing.

I like bats but have never had the privilege of close contact with one. We did encounter giant spiders on the carport this week, but I suppose that's not quite the same. Any time the body is over an inch long, and thick, it is difficult to retain my pose of equanimity.

The Boy was off to school today, glorious in his chicken suit. The chicken suit, while unusual attire, in every way conforms to the school dress code. We reinforced the soles with duct tape (naturally), since there's a dance this afternoon. Chicken dance!

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 30, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

We were in the Italian area Scotty, with hubby gazing lovingly at the new Gardens, he so wanted to go to the game but didn't check to see if the Bruins were in town until too late. Standing on top of what was the big dig last time I was here was very cool. They have talked about a similar project for Toronto but no one can agree on anything so it never goes any farther.

Posted by: dmd3 | October 30, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Jes' sayin', I am SO not interested in this article, not even to see if they used the term "anti-Octomom."

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 30, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

A nice crisp October day in Bahston is much to be desired, dmd. I'z jellus. :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 30, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

15 abortions in 15 years? Anybody tell that woman they figured out what causes that?

Posted by: yellojkt | October 30, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Well the skies cleared just as we hit the Mass border and we drove the last hour and a half into Boston in the late day sun, through the mountains - so beautiful and so much wilderness so close to a city.

Posted by: dmd3 | October 30, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

You came in on the Mass Pike, dmd?? I'z doubly jellus, since you would have driven right past Fenway. :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 30, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

The 40-year-old band Steely Dan will be breezing through town to reprise their old hit "China Grove." But the new song that Texans, especially West Texans, are humming this morning is "China Wind."

Since local firm Cielo (sky/heaven) is involved, why not thrown in some Los Lonely Boys?

Posted by: laloomis | October 30, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Where we are going tonight we will go right by Foxboro!

Posted by: dmd3 | October 30, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Pretty sure China Grove was the Doobie Brothers, no

Posted by: dmd3 | October 30, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Yer killin' me, dmd... *L*

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 30, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

badsneakers, I beg to differ with you on the claim that there are no flying snakes:

Technically, it's more a case of jumping and modest gliding, but the concept is there.

Posted by: ScienceTim | October 30, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Now, if those snakes could be persuaded/induced/trained to eat bean burritos, then they might be able to manage the propulsion necessary for true flight.

Posted by: ScienceTim | October 30, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Steely Dan didn't do "China Grove," loomis. The Dooby Brothers did. 1973, "The Captain and Me" album.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 30, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

I stand corrected Science Tim. Just glad their habitat is on the other side of the world.

China Grove is definitely not a Steely Dan type of song, even tho' I do like it and the Doobie Bros.

Posted by: badsneakers | October 30, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Which by the way has what I regard as the greatest opening guitar riff of all time. (We all had a long thread on great guitar riffs a few years ago on the Boodle.)

Tom Johnston wrote it (he also wrote my #2 favorite Dooby hit, "Long Train Runnin'," before he got sick and the band brought in Michael McDonald, who took over the band. (McDonald co-wrote my #1 Doob, "What a Fool Believes," with Kenny Loggins.)

Now, Michael McDonald WAS a member of Steely Dan at one point, as was Skunk Baxter, so maybe that's where the confusion came from.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 30, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, I somehow doubt that was the source of the confusion.

Posted by: badsneakers | October 30, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

SCC: Doobie. Don't know what other kind of dooby I must have been thinking about.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 30, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Sinatra, maybe. Dooby-dooby-do, de dah-dah dah dah, Strangers in the Night, all that.

Yeah, that must be it.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 30, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

I'm off to meet dmd. Leaving myself plenty of time for traffic 'cause you never know. If I'm early I can revisit old neighborhoods in the area. I've got my camera and a surprise for dmd, think that's everything.

Posted by: badsneakers | October 30, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

A surprise dooby?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 30, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Mudge! What kind of girl do you think I am ;-)

Posted by: badsneakers | October 30, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Well, I was kinda hoping...

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 30, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, your 10:11. I was just amusing myself with a mental pic of you in the early 70s (a lot of busy work this morning). Put my mind at rest...what was your hairstyle/general attire then? Was it either Doobie-esque or dooby-esque? I was floral print jeans, bandana halter top, free-style hair (which is my case meant closer to Roseanne Roseanna Danna than Jan Brady).

Posted by: LostInThought | October 30, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Which reminds me, I had an eye exam a few months ago, and the doc said I was developing a wee touch of glaucoma in one eye.

Oh, the irony...

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 30, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Ah, LiT. You bring back memories. Scary memories. I had that bandanna halter top (red), along with purple denim hiphugger bellbottoms and a jacket to match. Alas, I never succeeded with big hair - not even with the cocker spaniel perm.

What were those tall shoes with the bicycle logo? I think it started with "F" (Ferragamo? they were probably different).

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 30, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

There's Dobby the House-Elf

Posted by: yellojkt | October 30, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Pics or it never happened.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 30, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

I have been through China Grove, Texas. Just not with any doobies.

It's on the way from San Antonio to Texas Pride Barbecue.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 30, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Time to reactivate the Test Pilot License. Let me know if you need any refresher courses on how to light that candle.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 30, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

One of the odder yard plants in Florida is the croton--shrubs from the Pacific Islands with rainbow-colored leaves. They were popular 50 years ago, then viewed as tacky, and lately they've come back (just in time for a serious pest insect to arrive and kill them off). A local botanical garden is going to explore a very old collection of crotons at a home; they're expecting to find cultivated varieties that had been lost.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | October 30, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Good to know YJ. I'm going to have to fire up the ole woodstove, destroy evidence. I'm guessing there's a pic of you in a pale blue leisure suit somewhere.

I'mom, not sure about those shoes. I had both red and black Chucks (I now have a peach pair and a lime pair) and a couple pair of platforms. And, of course, the obligatory sandals that were a skinny piece of leather with an even skinnier strap.

Posted by: LostInThought | October 30, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, your comment reminded me of Romper Room: "Do be Mr. Do Bee; don't be Mr. Don't Bee!"

"And I can see Timmy, and Alice, and Sandy, and Joan..."

I appear to be approaching that point of senility where I can remember my five-year-old experiences more clearly than what happened five minutes ago. It's only a matter of time, in any case...

Posted by: kbertocci | October 30, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Thank you S'nuke for that link. I've known too many young women who felt compelled to get an abortion to skip over this one.

It is actually a story that in part shows how young women can be pressured into abortion. It's very complex, involving depression, a parent's suicide and a lot of pain.

But she doesn't exactly exonerate herself, either. She calls herself addicted to abortion at that time. She did consider adoption many times.

It's an interesting piece, for sure.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | October 30, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

I waited and watched every day, but Miss Connie on Romper Room never saw "TBG." Sigh.

Off to run errands and get ready for my sisters' overnight tonight. Thanks for the biscuits, Slyness. Even though they were from earlier this morning, a couple of seconds in the 'wave and they were perfect for an early lunch.

Posted by: -TBG- | October 30, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

I've linked to the picture of early 80s me in a peach shirt and a three-piece suit vest plenty of times.

I have looked far and wide for a shot of me in my middle school silk shirt disco outfit, but none can be found.

Among pictures I know of that have never (yet) touched a scanner are me:

At age 18 in a striped rugby shirt and VERY tight white tennis shorts.

At age 8 in a brown and orange plaid coat.

At age 7 in a red and blue plaid jacket.

At age sixth months naked on a bear skin rug.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 30, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I cant remember where I lost that number.

Posted by: Jumper1 | October 30, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

I might have lost it under the back seat in the Chrysler, somewhere near China Grove. But there's always another number:

Posted by: Jumper1 | October 30, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

I'm pretty sure Miss Connie never "saw" greenwithenvy either.

Posted by: Yoki | October 30, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

I was on a local version of Romper Room when I was four. I remember being a Do Bee, but it may not be a reliable memory.

Earth Shoes. I had those, Candies, and some kind of platforms with a bicycle logo. This is going to haunt me, I can tell. Eventually I stopped wearing heels for daily wear. The precipitating event was breaking a heel on the way to class in college. Other than the obvious shoe mishap, nobody noticed. I realized that even adding three inches, I was still short. Not fooling anyone.

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 30, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

My brother the photographer inherited my parents' picture collection. He digitized a slide from 1974 or 75 showing me (sporting pot-head hair and ratty moustache) in a beige, brown and orange plaid coat. I threw up a little in my mouth when he showed it at my sister's 50th birtday bash. Children and impressionnable women left the room screaming. My kids pretend not to know me since then.
It was the '70s, you had to be there.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 30, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

New Kit!

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | October 30, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

LiT, I never much changed my hair or attire in my entire life, as you might well have guessed. Through high school, I was a crewcut. Freshman year of college I let my hair grow "long" for the first time -- which is to say, maybe an inch and a half long-- just long enough to part on one side. I'd get just slightly shaggy and need a haircut, but never anything remotely like "long hair."

I tried two or three times to grow a mustache, but it came in pale blond and was virtually invisible, so gave that up.

Dressed basically the same 40 years ago as now: chinos, button-down Oxford shirt. (The only variation was mussed or ironed; back then, the mussed, un-ironed look was in. Also, we invented not tucking in shirts for a while.)

Did you ever see "American Graffiti"? I was the Richard Dreyfuss look, chinos, Madras shirt. There was a great novel back then, "Temple of Gold," by William Goldman, with great cover art of a guy in his late teens wearing a mussed white shirt and wrinkled khakis. The artist was now-famous James Bama, who did the Doc Savage jacket covers and covers for Goldman's "Boys and Girls Together" and "Soldier in the Rain." Could not find Bama's TOG cover on the web. If you ever see that ToG cover, that's the 19-year-old Mudge looking at you.

For a while, tan corduroys came in, and I wore them. At about that time (1965), a kind of jeans called "wheat" jeans or wheat-colored jeans came out, and I wore them, often with a blue button-down Oxford with a brown cord jacket with elbow patches.

I wore a lot of neckties back then, which was not only common but routine-- and I never wore the tie snugged up tight, always loose, the haggard, world-weary, sleeves-rolled-up, cigarette-smoking newspaper reporter. I was Berstein before Bernstein was. Then Lou Grant.

So nope, never went hippie, never had sideburns, never went disco, never went cowboy, never went Army Surplus, never went GQ, never went leisure suit, never went Saturday Night Fever/Travolto. Might have gone Brooks Bros., but could never afford it. Went grunge construction worker when I was a boatbuilder.

I am and always was sartorially frozen in 1963.

But c'mon, you know men never change. I just took it a bit farther than most.

Wore my hair "long" (i.e., combed and parted on one side) from 1965 until about 10 years ago, when I said screw it, and went back to what my wife calls my "baseball umpire summer cut," which you've seen. Same as I looked in 1958.

Whether that is sad or not I cannot say. On the plus side, it has always eliminated a tremendous amount of decision-making and looking in mirrors over the decades. If my house burned down, I could go shopping and replace my entire wardrobe in something like nine minutes.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | October 30, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

It's so cute when mudge gets mudged.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 30, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

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