Saturday, January 26, 2008

How we get reading matter...and more

A couple of completely disparate topics are on my mind today. One is a consideration of how we receive what we read...the form in which reading matter comes to us...and the other is coincidence.

The older, crustier among us remember when Look, Life, The Saturday Evening Post and the daily newspaper showed up in our mailboxes. Well, three of those are history and the fourth--the venerable newsprint edition of the daily paper--is on its last legs. There's a word for that: demassification. Mass media is rapidly becoming niche media. The nightly network newscast is quickly losing its clout (and its viewers), thanks to dozens of (mostly) cable alternatives that bring news instantly, not just during the dinner hour. The national, general-interest magazine has been replaced by narrowly focused publications. Ever heard of Cement Construction, Bulldozer Monthly, or Golf for Girls? They don't have huge readership but they give advertisers a bunch of well-targeted eyeballs for a fraction of the cost and little of the waste of those former big-circulation but unfocused magazines did. QST and CQ are prime examples, too.

Same with other printed media, though the traditional book--bound pieces of paper with printed words on them--shows remarkable staying power. The "electronic" book so far has not caught on. But other types of writing, like short stories and commentary are taking advantage of a planet-wide platform in which any writer can publish, usually at no charge, and potentially have his prose read by anyone in the world. The blog is the most obvious example.

I received an email from Wayne Long, K9YNF, who has an interesting website on which he offers a subscription, at a reasonable price, to short stories he writes. Believe me, there is little or no market in the book world for short fiction! However, Wayne has a way to make his work available to anyone interested, and there is no publishing company, jaded editor, printing presses, warehousing of books, or sales force trying to talk big-box bookstores into handling their wares. Readers want to be read. Wayne has shown at least one way that can happen. The site is:

Second topic: coincidences! And this has absolutely nothing to do with anything else on this blog. I just thought it was interesting...a list that has been making the email rounds of amazing coincidences, all apparently true:

-- In 1975, a man riding a moped in Bermuda was accidentally struck and killed by a taxi. One year later, the man’s brother, riding the very same moped, was killed in the very same way by the very same taxi driven by the very same driver -- and carrying the very same passenger.

-- Twin brothers Jim Lewis and Jim Springer were separated at birth and adopted by different families. Unknown to each other, both were named James, both owned a dog named Toy, both married women named Linda, both had a son they names James Alan, and both eventually divorced and got remarried to a woman named Betty.

-- Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, and John Adams helped to edit and hone it. The Continental Congress approved the document on July 4, 1776. Both Jefferson and Adams died on July 4, 1826 -- exactly 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. (I KNOW this one is true!)

-- A German mother who photographed her infant son in 1914 left the film to be developed at a store in Strasbourg, but was unable to collect the film picture when World War I broke out. Two years later she bought a film plate in Frankfurt, over 100 miles away, and took a picture of her newborn daughter -- only to find, when developed, the picture of her daughter superimposed on the earlier picture of her son. The original film, never developed, had been mistakenly labeled as unused and resold.

-- In 1858, Robert Fallon was shot dead by fellow poker players who accused him of cheating to win a $600 pot. None of the other players were willing to take the now unlucky $600, so they found a new player to take Fallon’s place, who turned the $600 into $2,200 in winnings. At that point, the police arrived and demanded that the original $600 be given to Fallon’s next of kin -- only to discover that the new player was Fallon’s son, who had not seen his father in seven years.

-- In the 19th century, the famous horror writer Egdar Allan Poe wrote a book called ‘The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.’ It was about four survivors of a shipwreck who were in an open boat for many days before they decided to kill and eat the cabin boy whose name was Richard Parker. Some years later, in 1884, the yawl, Mignonette, foundered, with only four survivors, who were in an open boat for many days. Eventually the three senior members of the crew killed and ate the cabin boy. The name of the cabin boy was Richard Parker.

-- In 1930s Detroit, a man named Joseph Figlock was to become an amazing figure in a young (and, apparently, incredibly careless) mother’s life. As Figlock was walking down the street, the mother’s baby fell from a high window onto Figlock. The baby’s fall was broken and Figlock and the baby were unharmed. A year later, the same baby fell from the same window, again falling onto Mr. Figlock as he was passing beneath. Once again, both of them survived the event.

-- In 1973, actor Anthony Hopkins agreed to appear in “The Girl From Petrovka”, based on a novel by George Feifer. Unable to find a copy of the book anywhere in London, Hopkins was surprised to discover one lying on a bench in a train station. It turned out to be George Feifer’s own annotated (personal) copy, which Feifer had lent to a friend, and which had been stolen from his friend’s car.

-- In Monza, Italy, King Umberto I went to a small restaurant for dinner, accompanied by his aide-de-camp, General Emilio Ponzia-Vaglia. When the owner took King Umberto’s order, the King noticed that he and the restaurant owner were virtual doubles, in face and in build. Both men began discussing the striking resemblance between each other and found many more similarities.
1. Both men were born on the same day, of the same year (March 14, 1844).

2. Both men had been born in the same town.
3. Both men married a woman with the same name, Margherita.
4. The restaurateur opened his restaurant on the same day that King Umberto was crowned King of Italy.
5. On the 29th July 1900, King Umberto was informed that the restaurateur had died that day in a mysterious shooting accident, and as he expressed his regret, an anarchist in the crowd then assassinated him.

-- While American novelist Anne Parrish was browsing bookstores in Paris in the 1920s, she came upon a book that was one of her childhood favorites, "Jack Frost and Other Stories." She picked up the old book and showed it to her husband, telling him of the book she fondly remembered as a child. Her husband took the book, opened it, and on the flyleaf found the inscription: “Anne Parrish, 209 N. Weber Street, Colorado Springs.” It was Anne’s very own book.

Don N4KC


Anonymous said...

Hi Don!

I'm going to try one more time to get into your dog and pony show.

Thanks for your great blog and thanks even more for bringing my Web site to an even wider audience.

I look forward to being a periodic contributor to this blog. I hope you will become a subscriber of mine soon.

Best wishes from one ham writer to another!

Wayne C. Long, K9YNF

Anonymous said...

Wayne, thank you for the nice comments...both here and on your excellent blog. I hope readers understand that we are not just mutually stroking each other! I have deliberately not responded to numerous bloggers who wanted to trade links just to get something viral going, yet their sites were not necessarily something I could recommend.

K9YNF's does NOT fall into that category. It's an interesting way to "get read," the object of all of us who write. And his comments and subject matter, I know, will appeal to many of you.

Thanks again, Wayne. I'll look for you on the air!

Don N4KC