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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Newspapers are the ultimate tape-delayed broadcast

I found myself bristling Saturday night at the #nbcfail whiners and jokesters who were complaining about NBC’s coverage of the Olympics, in particular NBC’s tape delay of certain events until prime time. “Everyone” already knew that Ryan Lochte had beaten Michael Phelps earlier in the day Saturday.
The jokes started coming in about wondering whether Jesse Owens would win and not being able to wait to see how Mary Lou Retton performs.
I tweeted a couple of counter-jokes about sitting in my basement all morning surfing the Internet and being the first to watch the Man of Steel movie trailer, viewing every episode of Annoying Orange and watching the Olympics.
I also tweeted that some of us were actually outside on a beautiful Saturday actually doing stuff and weren’t inside watching the Olympics. Some of us — gasp — actually didn’t know until Saturday night that Lochte had beaten Phelps.
Oh well, that was fun. Move on.
But that wasn’t the end of it. Then you started hearing from the navel gazers who predictably began to point out that here it was, the end of television as we know it, NBC holding onto those last dying breaths of the “old media” while the “new media” was taking over. Some pined for the day that Google would bid for the rights to broadcast the Olympics.
The problem with navel gazers is that they’re usually sitting in a darkened room by themselves and that they’re sitting in a darkened room by themselves for a reason. They usually have very little experience in the real world and they have very little grasp of how the real world actually functions.
One thing the navel gazers failed to grasp is that prime time is called prime time for a reason — it’s the best time for television viewership. While all the twitterheads and geeks were checking their Yahoo news feed and smartphones for updates, most of the rest of the United States was out doing stuff, with nary a concern about the Olympics. Then, at the end of the day, after the lawn was mowed or the garden tended, the lake was fished or the museum visited, everyone crawled back into their air-conditioned houses for some unwind time in front of the television.
The other thing the navel gazers missed was the fact that NBC is not only delivering Olympics coverage to viewers, it’s actually in the business of delivering viewers to its advertisers. That’s how it makes money. And, as it turns out, they’re doing a pretty darn good job of it, as ratings for this weekend’s Olympics coverage — tape-delayed and all — went through the roof, delivering record audiences to the advertisers. Seems like it wasn’t such a fail after all.
OK, Scott, what’s going on here? You’re getting way too worked up over this. What’s really behind all this vim and vinegar?
Well, I guess if I had to really think about it, I would say that this whole dustup reminds me of another condescending anti-old media argument that’s near and dear to my heart: newspapers. Yes, everything comes back to newspapers in my world.
The underlying current in the #nbcfail feed was this unspoken, “Ha ha, I heard about it first. Aren’t I smarter?”
I’ve written before that I’m glad I don’t surf the Internet for up-to-the-minute breaking news alerts. I much prefer to wait until the next day for my newspaper to come and inform me — in a measured, reasonable and accurate way — of the day’s top stories.
After all, newspapers are the ultimate tape-delayed broadcast.
And as a former weekly newspaper editor and owner, I know first-hand how a seemingly important end-of-the-world news story simply loses its significance after just a day or two.
Besides, are we really smarter for knowing things first?
Just ask CNN and Fox News watchers whether they are smarter for learning first that the U.S. Supreme Court had struck down the Affordable Care Act.
No, there’s something to be said for digesting news and information slowly and deliberately.
And there’s something to be said for sitting in front of your television in prime time with millions of other Americans and cheering on the Olympic athletes, even knowing that the event may have happened earlier that day.
Obviously that’s the case. Otherwise, NBC wouldn’t be having record ratings.
Now, about Ryan Seacrest as an Olympics commentator, that’s another column for another day.

Monday, July 30, 2012

One house illustrated how our economy got to be such a mess

In the summer of 2008, Nicola and I were looking at houses. We had been renting a house in Kuna for the better part of two years, and we were ready to buy our own house.
The economy was in the throes of recession, and home prices had already begun to fall. Had we only known just how far home prices would fall, we would have waited to buy a house. Regardless, we were ready to buy and did not pretend to know when the market might hit bottom.
One house, in particular, that we looked at told the whole story of the poor economy.
It was a relatively nice house in a relatively decent neighborhood. It was perhaps a little small, but it was a short sale and a good bargain. The owners owed something like $220,000, but they were listing it at $160,000.
As we toured the house, we noticed the rather large flat-screen TV in the living room. Then we noticed another in the master bedroom. Then another in one of the girl’s bedrooms, and another in the bonus room upstairs. (Our family had not even yet bought a flat-screen TV; we still somehow managed to survive on one television set, and that was our bulky set that was in Nicola’s first apartment in Carlsbad in 1994.) Outside, we noticed the dish for satellite TV. In the garage, the story became even clearer: two ATV’s, a couple of personal watercraft, three more cars, including two SUVs and a sports car.
It was thoroughly depressing. Here was this family almost assuredly about to lose their home to foreclosure, but they had satellite TV, multiple television sets, all sorts of grown-up toys. It was no mystery to me why our country was in the shape it was in with a scene like this.
The house was so depressing, we passed on it.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Kuna Melba News gave away free ads for Stimulus Day

As some of you may recall, in early 2008, the federal government issued a stimulus package to try to get the economy kickstarted and out of its doldrums. This stimulus took the form of a tax refund — not a rebate or credit, but a refund, a check to every taxpayer amounting to an estimated $8.5 million in the 83634 ZIP code that covered 6,300 mailboxes in Kuna, or about $1,300 per household.
I came up with the idea to hold a “Kuna Stimulus Day” on May 17 of that year, arguing that we should use the stimulus money for its intended purpose: to stimulate the economy, particularly our local economy.
I got some support for the idea from our columnist Steven Ricks, who urged people to shop locally that day. Nicola took it to the next level by putting together a special section in the newspaper with deals and coupons from local businesses.
The section ran for two weeks before the event.
Just to show how altruistic we were, we gave businesses the ads in the sections for free. Each business got a little square 2-by-2-inch ad to put their offer in. The 35 to 40 ads took up nearly three pages in our special sections, and they were all full color. We believed in the idea so much that we just wanted it to work without any risk to the local businesses. Heck, businesses that didn’t even advertise with us regularly or at all got a free ad in the sections.
We felt that our own long-term success was connected intrinsically with the success of our local businesses. If this was successful, it would come back to us eventually.
It was shocking to me that some businesses did not participate, even though it was completely free to them. Some business owners suffered from their own laziness.
Scanning over those ads now, I’m amazed to see dentists, investment advisers, realtors, accountants and insurance agents — businesses usually closed on Saturdays — hold office hours on that Saturday for the Kuna Stimulus Day. The Kuna Melba News held its own office hours, with a 15-month subscription for $22, plus you got a free Kuna Melba News ball cap with your new subscription. By God, if we didn’t try everything we could to get new subscribers.
As would become customary with anything ventured in Kuna, the result was “OK. Not great, but good.” That was the polite underwhelmed response from business owners when asked how they did on that Saturday. Needless to say, we did not see $8.5 million poured into Kuna that day.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My shot at being the Kim Kardashian of the newspaper world

I had an interesting phone conversation the other day with a London-based documentary filmmaker who is working on a project for the A&E Channel about community newspaper owners. He said I would have been perfect for the documentary.
The only problem is that I’m no longer a community newspaper owner. Had he gotten a hold of me this time last year, I very well could have been the next reality show Kim Kardashian or Gene Simmons.
I have to admit I felt a little sick to my stomach at the poor timing and potential opportunity that could have been for me. I gave him a couple of suggestions for some local newspaper owners he might use instead and I offered my “expert” services if he needed them.
Putting aside my initial disappointment, I think that a documentary/reality show about community newspapers is a great idea. I’ve always felt that newspapers suffered mostly from an image problem. The general public thinks newspapers are old-fashioned, outmoded, obsolete.
People — wrongly — think news stories just magically appear on the Internet.
People — wrongly — think newspapers are behind the times.
People — wrongly — think that community newspapers don’t cover important stories.
I think the newspaper industry could use a good shot in the arm from a little positive media coverage for a change.
But let me put a little caveat to all of this: Please don’t pick newspaper owners that simply play into that worn stereotype of the slightly kooky, crusading, fight-picking, gin-drinking rabble-rouser who uses his newspaper as a personal attack sheet, tilting at every windmill he can find.
That type of show would serve only to perpetuate the myth that newspapers are a thing of the past, a quirky little leftover of yesteryear like black-and-white television and the milkman.
Alas, I suspect, though, that that’s the reason I was called.
One of the things this gentleman told me was that he saw my photo on my blog, the one with the fedora, pipe and golf club, and he thought, “This guy’s perfect, a real character.”
Despite my best efforts, however, I am not a character.
I don’t actually wear a fedora, I don’t smoke a pipe and I really don’t golf much anymore. Yes, I am kind of a hard-bitten, old-fashioned, dyed-in-the-wool newspaper guy, but only in the good ways.
I believe newspapers, particularly community newspapers, provide important information that no one else would provide you if newspapers didn’t exist. Newspapers, particularly community newspapers, are at City Council meetings, school board meetings, reporting about budgets, sewer rates, tax levies. The stuff that community newspapers report on, I argue, have a greater direct impact on your everyday life than just about anything that comes out of Washington.
But I fear that the common misperception will continue to be spread, that community newspapers, run by people with little or no professional training, cover such quaint events as escaped animals on the loose and run front-page stories accusing the government of wrongdoing with little or no proof.
I would love to see a reality show that documents the day-to-day life of professionally run, locally owned community newspapers that cover their communities in myriad important ways.
But just as in the newspaper world, the question for such a show would be, “Would anyone watch?”

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Being involved with the Chamber of Commerce was important to us

Nicola and I had waited to get heavily involved in the Kuna Chamber of Commerce until we were sure we had provided adequate attention to our business. The Chamber president, Allen Gamel, recruited us pretty heavily, asking us very early on if we’d be interested in serving on the board. We told him we wanted to focus on just the business for the first year before taking on other responsibilities.
True to our word, after about a year, Nicola joined the Chamber board in the summer of 2007. In August 2008, she was elected president of the chamber.
First, a few words about the Kuna Chamber and about chambers of commerce in general.
We believed strongly in chambers of commerce and we believed strongly in the Kuna Chamber of Commerce.
At its core, a chamber of commerce is an affiliation of local businesses that seeks to promote the local business community. Because the health of the Kuna Melba News depended highly on the health of the local business community, we were naturally interested in an organization that sought to improve the health of the local business community.
The biggest problem, as was the biggest problem with just about everything in Kuna, was lack of participation. If you went down the street and tallied up businesses that belonged to the chamber and businesses that didn’t, you’d come out about 50-50. People who didn’t belong to the chamber complained that the chamber didn’t do anything for them, not recognizing that their lack of participation directly affected the chamber’s ability to do something for them.
The chamber’s situation was similar to how I viewed the newspaper’s situation: If only everyone belonged to the chamber, the world would be a better place.
Unfortunately, the chamber had to make do with what it had.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Watching, really, is the biggest, most important part of watchdog journalism

During my time covering City Council meetings and school board meetings and other public entities, I developed a philosophy about watchdog journalism. 
I came to the understanding that watchdog journalism is more than just writing about perceived wrongs. Perhaps the most common view of watchdog journalism is conducting an investigation, uncovering wrongdoing and writing about it.
This is true and accurate, of course, but there is also a more nuanced version of watchdog journalism that I came to appreciate and practice. This was the act of simply watching.
I learned that it was not always necessary to write a story or an editorial, publicly flaying a public official or excoriating a City Council member whom I deemed to be acting inappropriately.
I found often that my simple presence at a meeting put public officials on notice that whatever they say or do can and may be used against them in a court of public opinion. I also found that simply asking questions was enough to achieve an end result.
After all, what is the purpose of watchdog journalism but to right a wrong, correct an incorrect practice?
There were several incidents in which my simply asking questions led to action without my ever writing a story or editorial. I know there were some in the community who thought I didn’t pick enough fights, that I didn’t write scathing editorials often enough. They hated it when I simply wrote a bland, factual, two-sided story about an issue. Some wanted more shouting, more rants, more of what they thought was watchdog journalism.
But as I learned from my experience, pretty soon people stop listening to a watchdog that is constantly barking.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Early foray into video journalism

Shortly before I left the Democrat & Chronicle in 2006, the buzz in the newspaper business was all about “backpack journalists.” The idea was that these journalists would have all the necessary reporting tools in a backpack in order to cover a story, photograph it, take video of it, write about it, edit it and upload an entire package to the web from the field.
Of course, now that seems like a no-brainer with the growth in technology and the seemingly endless stream of videos and photos posted to Facebook and Twitter nearly automatically through smart phones. But at the time, it was new and exciting territory.
To me, after I left Rochester to buy the Kuna Melba News, it struck me as an incredibly democratizing notion. The idea for a big paper like the Democrat & Chronicle was to send out one reporter to a fire or car accident or press conference, photograph it, take video and upload it to the web remotely.
If a big paper could send out one person to do all that, why couldn’t a small paper like the Kuna Melba News do the same thing, I thought. Going even further, you could see the TV stations simply posting all of their video news segments online and selling ads around them. Here was newspapers’ great opportunity to do the exact same thing.
Then, and still today, I believed that this was where newspapers’ future lay, in online video news reports.
With that in mind, I went out and bought the Flip video camera, at the time quite a revolutionary video recorder but which seems rather quaint by today’s standards.
My first foray into video recording, naturally, was sports, and I started with the football season in 2008. I was able to put the little video camera in my front shirt pocket and take it out whenever I felt there would be a good play to video. I would simply pull the camera out and hold it on top of my photo camera, which was balanced on a monopod. That way, I could actually take video and photos at the same time.
My little setup caught the attention of the players on the Kuna team. During one game, I was standing right next to a few of the players on the sideline when I took my Flip camera out and started videotaping a play. One of the players asked me, “Hey, what is that?” I told him it was a video camera. “No way. Really?”
He called over a couple of other players to check out "this cool camera this guy’s got."
I figured if I could impress high school kids, I was pretty technologically advanced.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

You never know what story is going to sell papers

One of my early lessons in newspapers was doing the best with what you have. In Carlsbad, I remember one issue of the paper in which we were planning on our Page One lede story being something that was to be discussed at the City Council meeting that night. Unfortunately, that item got tabled, leaving us with very little to write about but a big Page One lede story hole to fill.
My managing editor, Shon Barenklau, asked me what the best thing out of the meeting was, and I said it was a resolution supporting a blood drive or fun run or something like that. Well, if that was our best story, that was our best story and that became our lede.
In a small town with slow news days, it could be that way sometimes. A similar thing happened to me in the summer of 2008 when I was planning on a big story out of the Planning & Zoning Commission meeting. Unfortunately, the item got tabled and wasn’t even discussed. I thought about Shon and said to myself, “Well, what’s the best story?” It was a rather mundane approval of a couple of fourplex apartments near the Paul’s Market Plaza. It was Tuesday night, and I had nothing else. So a short 8-inch story became my lede story that week under the headline, “Kuna hears plan to put apartments near Paul’s.”
Oh well, I thought, I deserve to put out a less-than-stellar issue every once in a while.
It turns out that week’s issue sold out and nearly broke a single-copy sales record. Go figure.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

As owners of the local newspaper, we were chronically extolling the virtues of shopping locally

One of the biggest drums we beat while we were the owners of the local newspaper was the “shop local” drum. Every chance we got we urged readers to shop locally.
One of my biggest pet peeves was the overreliance on the big-box hardware stores, two of which were located about 10 miles north of Kuna. At the time, we had two hardware stores, one of which had been strictly a lumber yard but took a major risk and bought out the hardware inventory and national affiliation from a nearby store that had gone out of business. Both of our local hardware stores were locally owned, family-owned businesses.
For whatever reason, too many of the good people of Kuna automatically assumed that it was best to shop at Home Depot or Lowe’s or Walmart rather than even give a consideration to a local business.
Nothing demonstrated the folly of that more than their ignorance of our local hardware stores.
First of all, we did a quick price check on some lumber one day at the hardware store/lumber yard, and our local store came in cheaper than the nearby Home Depot.
Second, I loved going into my local stores to be greeted immediately by the local owners and employees and asked what I needed. A couple of times, I even just handed them my list, and they walked around the store finding the items for me. Other times, I received advice on a new door handle or toilet float — without wandering the aisles for hours looking for someone to help.
Third, if a round trip to the big-box store was 20 miles and took a half-hour, that’s $4 in gasoline plus the cost of your time. If you spent 39 cents more on powder graphite at the local store, wouldn’t that be worth it?
Fourth, as I repeated regularly every chance I got in the newspaper, money spent locally gets re-circulated in the community multiple times. The owner of the hardware store will take your money and go have dinner across the street at the local Mexican restaurant. The owner of the local Mexican restaurant will get his insurance next door at the local insurance agent. The local insurance agent will have a drink at the bar across the way. The owner of the bar across the way will buy an ad in the Kuna Melba News. The owner of the Kuna Melba News will buy a new door handle at the local hardware store.
And all of us, as local residents and homeowners, paid property taxes that helped our local government and schools.
If only everyone saw things this way, though....

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Recognizing which stories sell papers

In August 2007, after having owned the Kuna Melba News for less than a year, I began to recognize a troubling trend with regard to our local news coverage and its correlation to single-copy sales. I wrote a column about the problem.
Here is part of that column, which ran under the headline, “Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Britney — made you look”:
"When we first took over the paper in October, we were selling about 200 copies per week over the counter. We slowly worked our way up to 300 copies, 400 copies … We’ve been regularly floating between 400 and 500 copies every week.
"So it was troubling when we sold only 330 copies over the counter for the July11 issue. The lead story that week was the Kuna school board’s decision to put a $25.5 million bond issue on the ballot in September — a huge issue that will affect everyone in the school district.
"The following week, though, we sold 502 copies — about 170 more people bought the paper than the previous week. The main story? An inside tour of the castle house on Meridian Road. It certainly was a curious story of high interest in the community, but not even close in importance to a $25.5 million bond measure.
"But there you have it. Over-the-counter sales went up 52 percent because of a story about the castle house.
"In an age when newspapers are reducing their content and cable networks play up stories about Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, I feel there is a niche for serious news coverage — especially local news coverage. My goal is to offer both — news that you want and news that you need.
"But my biggest concern comes when I report, write and publish stories on important matters and few people read them.
"I spoke with a couple of people in Melba about whether the Melba library district measure would pass on Aug. 7 (that was the story right next to the castle house story on the front page). Unfortunately, they didn’t know anything about the library vote, but they knew about the castle.
"So in an effort to hammer home the details of the Kuna school bond measure and the impact on the property tax levy, I will give a detailed account line by line of the district budget, annual amortization of payments based on — oh my gosh, you’re not going to believe what Britney just did."

Five years later, I daresay the problem is even worse.

P.S. Do the kids even know who Paris Hilton and Britney Spears are any more?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Single-copy sales for three-part investigative series proved disheartening

One of the first big stories that I covered in 2008 was the story about Best Bath and its move to Kuna, which some neighbors opposed because of the company's use of the chemical styrene in its manufacture of shower and walk-in tub units. I spent weeks researching a three-part series titled, "Will Best Bath smell?" The series rolled out in April.
The single-copy sales of that first issue spiked. For the second part, single-copy sales dipped. By the third week, single-copy sales plummeted to their lowest level in weeks. Each week, as I collected the increasing number of leftovers from the previous week’s issue, I became more and more demoralized that I had spent all of this time and effort — and space — on this series that answered important questions, perhaps the most important questions the community was facing at the time, only to have the community turn away from it.
Literally hundreds of people had purchased the first issue but did not come back for the second and third installments. It was perhaps my first hint that the public’s appetite for “important” stories was greatly limited.
I suppose I was heartened, a year later, when the series won first place for Best Series from the Idaho Press Club, beating out the much larger papers Idaho Mountain Express and The Star-News. It also earned an honorable mention in that year's National Newspaper Association contest.
But still, unfortunately, the experience made me more hesitant about launching a deep investigation that would take several weeks and span more than one issue of the newspaper.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The hardest interview during my time at the Kuna Melba News

In early 2008, I interviewed Pastor Scott Piper, the pastor of Kuna Baptist Church, who lost his wife, Julie, to cancer, leaving Scott with their seven daughters and the church in the middle of a new building project. We went to El Gallo Giro to do the interview over lunch, sitting at a table near the front, where all comers and goers would walk past us (big mistake).

Over the course of lunch, Scott told me in detail the story of his wife, Julie Piper, how they met, how he came to be the pastor of Kuna Baptist Church, how they raised seven daughters and then how Julie became fatigued during a softball game, how she was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer, how she went through treatments and “how poised, quietly confident, elegant she remained through it all.”
Scott broke down several times, such as the time he told me that they reluctantly decided to go through with cancer treatments “so the girls would know their mother tried to be with them as long as possible.”
I did my best to keep it together. The last thing I wanted to do was to break down and cry in the middle of an interview. But thoughts of my own cancer diagnosis and the thought of leaving my own children tugged at my heart. And seeing how difficult it was, still, for Scott pushed me close to the verge of tears many times during our interview.
My final breaking point came when I asked him how the girls were handling things, and Scott told me the story of when his 3-year-old daughter was leaving their house out the back door one day, stopped, came back in, closed the door and turned to her father.
“I’ve been meaning to ask you something,” she said to him. “When is Mommy coming back? I miss my Mommy.”
That was it.
That was enough to make two grown men sitting across the table from each other at a popular Mexican restaurant break down into fits of uncontrollable tears.
Unfortunately, that was the exact time that the local director of the Better Business Bureau happened to be walking by our table and decided to introduce himself.
I’m not sure exactly what I looked like, but I did my best to compose myself and wipe my face with my napkin. Perhaps he thought I had eaten something spicy, for he paused only briefly to ask me if I would be interested in running a column about avoiding scams.
I was still choked up, but I managed to give him my card and asked him to call my office or send me an email later. He looked over at my lunch companion and realized he had walked in on something he shouldn’t have. I can only imagine what he must have thought our discussion was about.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Manual, back-breaking part of the job had its own rewards

Wednesday mornings were devoted to hand-labeling, bundling and inserting that week's issue. Nicola and I would drive together to the printer's in Homedale, about an hour away. The copies of that week's issue would be sitting there waiting for us in one big pile on a pallet.
The Wednesday morning ritual was tedious and tiring but also rewarding — in the beginning. It was definitely manual labor, so it made us feel like we were really working hard at this newspaper thing, not just sitting in front of a computer. It was also gratifying in that we were doing everything ourselves, even the back-breaking part. If we could have operated the press just for our paper, we probably would have wanted to do that, too.
The other thing about the labeling, even to the very end, was that it gave us a chance to look at all of the names of the people who subscribed. Even in the beginning, at 900 to 1,000 subscribers, it was a heck of a lot of names. Toward the end, when we got up to 2,400 subscribers, it made us realize just how many people we reached. It was always a gratifying experience to do the labels.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Launching a "News of Neighbors" page was a source of worry early on

Very early on in our ownership of the Kuna Melba News, it may have even been the second week, I decided to dedicate Page 2 to “News of Neighbors,” which would contain weddings, engagements, birthdays, graduations, etc. Strangely, the News of Neighbors page caused me the most amount of stress the first few weeks. I wanted to take the strategy of launching something new only if I knew for sure that it was sustainable. I started my weekly “Editor’s Notebook” column knowing I was going to be able to fill that each week. We launched a community calendar, knowing that we had enough items to keep that going for several weeks. We started an “At the Library” feature with the agreement that the library was going to supply something each week.
But News of Neighbors, to some extent, was a crapshoot. This page would rely almost solely on reader-submitted items. Already in just a few weeks, I had noticed that submitted items like this were coming in regularly, but would they come every single week? What if Tuesday rolled around and not a single person had submitted a single News of Neighbors item? What would I do? How would I fill that page? Each time I received something through email or through the door, I would rejoice that I would at least have one thing to put on that page.
Those first few weeks, though, I did most of my worrying about the News of Neighbors page. Five-and-a-half years later, I can say with some degree of astonishment that we never had a blank News of Neighbors page. Every single week, for five-and-a-half years, someone somewhere always sent something in to use on that page. I’m still amazed by that.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Getting a copy of Brideshead Revisited was hard to do, but it was well worth it

I just finished reading Evelyn Waugh’s novel, Brideshead Revisited. I highly recommend it. It’s an amazingly efficient book, given its 25-year timespan and at-times flowery prose. The novel moves quickly while at the same time pausing frequently to share important introspections and observations. Waugh’s pacing is just incredible, particularly given the fact that he wrote the book in six months.
The novel also tackles a number of subjects, including religion, namely Catholicism, wealth, love (Platonic and otherwise) and an interesting commentary on the changing times from 1920 to 1940 and the worthiness of the upcoming generation of young people.
I had watched the BBC miniseries when I was in college and I was awed by it. I watched it again last month (I’m slightly embarrassed to say, in two six-hour sittings) and was inspired to read the book. At first, on a whim, I tried the library. I was appalled that our local library not only didn’t have Brideshead Revisited but didn’t have any books by Evelyn Waugh. I thought for sure I could download Brideshead on my Nook, but there was only a pre-order for the e-book, coming out Dec. 11, 2012. Then a trip to our local bookstore in Boise, Rediscovered Books. Still nothing. Finally, I found a copy at Barnes & Noble. It didn’t take me long to read Brideshead. It turned out to be one of those books that I couldn’t wait to get back to. I actually looked forward to our flight home from San Diego just so I could read.
As soon as I finished it, I immediately wanted to read another book by Waugh. Fortunately, Barnes & Noble was open till 10 p.m. Sunday night, and I made it there just before closing. Oddly, Barnes & Noble only had a couple of more obscure Waugh titles, The Loved One and Vile Bodies. I was hoping for Handful of Dust or Scoop, but I bought both books that were there.
It looks like the e-books of many of Waugh’s novels will be coming out on Dec. 11. I would highly recommend buying a copy of Brideshead Revisited for just $9.99 when it comes out.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Perhaps even more than we did, our boys deserved our epic vacation last week

My blog took an unexpected hiatus last week. I say unexpected because I had fully planned to continue updating last week while my family and I took a vacation to San Diego.
Obviously, that didn’t happen.
Happy boys after nine hours spent at Legoland.
This is a good thing, though. We had an epic vacation. We got laid over in San Francisco because we missed our connecting flight due to delays caused by fog. After we got over our initial frustration, we realized, “We get to spend the afternoon in San Francisco.” We took the boys into the city, rode a cable car, walked to North Beach and had dinner at Tommaso’s. Once we got to San Diego, we went to SeaWorld, went to Balboa Park and the Natural History Museum, spent nine hours at Legoland, visited my sister Meg and went to the San Diego Zoo.
It was an epic vacation, one that was much-deserved by our boys. It has occurred to me many times that we have asked the boys to sacrifice a lot over the past six years as we owned and ran the Kuna Melba News. It hit particularly hard for us one year when the good folks at the Kuna Boys & Girls Club happily informed us that Luke had gone to the Club more days than anyone else in Kuna. That broke our hearts because we realized that we had done nothing with the boys that summer, no camping, no vacation, not so much as even a three-day weekend getaway.
I readily admit we spoiled the heck out of the boys last week, but they deserved an epic vacation even more than their parents did.