In my column about the inquest into the suspicious death of an English judge named Andrew Chubb--who was burned to death in his shed, ostensibly while fueling his lawnmower-- Richard noted:
"The big tragedy for an Englishman is that he died with the lawn unmown."After reading my post about the traditions of dining at an Oxford college, Paul wrote:
"You think college dinners are odd, try the British military (Google 'Mess Rugby' and 'Mess Cannon), or the livery companies (Google 'livery dinner' and 'loving cup')!"I did. An item on military dinners had this to say about Mess rugby: "Officers may indulge in such games as 'Mess Rugby' in which a cushion is used instead of a rugby ball. It is not unknown for these activities to result in torn shirts, bruises, or, very occasionally, broken bones. Nonetheless, the basic rules are that there should be no damage done to property or injury caused to people."
Oh, that's okay then.
My item about job cuts at the BBC prompted this reaction from Mark from Alexandria:
"As much as I would like to sympathize with the BBC's problems,there are two words that stop me. Well, an abbreviation and a word: BBC America. They started out by, apparently, finding every way they could to alienate what should have been their core audience (e.g., the EastEnders debacle), then, with their Discovery Channel partners, went on to try to become just another LCD cable station. How much mileage can you get out the late Princess of Wales? Well, that is my rant for the day."And a fine rant it was too, Mark. I agree. BBC America is awful. "Life on Mars" was great (and I recommend that odd, fine series to anyone who hasn't seen it) but the rest of the primetime lineup is stuff like "Footballers' Wives" and some show about horny airline pilots. (I think it might be called "Horny Airline Pilots.") This is obviously a conscious decision. The suits must think they won't be successful in America duplicating PBS or showing "Masterpiece Theatre"-type costume dramas. Makes you wonder why they bother with the "BBC" name at all.
I got a ton of response to my screed on newspaper naysayers. Suburban Correspondent wrote:
"It's really hard to read the Washington Post Online at the breakfast table, or on the bus, or at the beach, or on a park bench while I'm watching my kids. And, for some reason, I can sit and read the paper without my children feeling as though I am ignoring them; but if I sit down at that computer monitor, they're all over me in a second."That could be our new motto: Buy a newspaper. Ignore a kid.
Anonymous made a good observation, pointing out that most communities don't have a newspaper as good or trustworthy as The Washington Post:
"When you come back from Oxford, you should travel through smaller cities and small towns in the country and study their newspapers. Our local paper consists of approximately 20 standard pages and a 16-page tabloid containing comics, TV listings, a few lifestyle columnists, and one article, usually taken from a service. The front page is a shortened version of articles found inside the paper, the TV listings are made up two or three weeks in advance and are frequently inaccurate, and any article about a product recall gives a brief summary of the problem and a Web site to check to find out what specific items are recalled and what to do with them. And it costs 50 cents on weekdays.And Steve Yelvington said the decline of newspapers started in the 1970s, long before the Internet:
"If newspapers went to retain readers, try giving them something to read."
"The real question is: Can the newspapers compete for your interest in a fully networked world? From what I see, neither the content nor the organizational metaphor of the newspaper is keeping up."That is the question. I hope that, come what may, I can keep my organizational metaphor up. I'll let Erin have the last word:
"I think the naysayers will be proved wrong and newspapers will survive. I'm 21 years old and I still subscribe to a daily paper. There's just something wonderful about holding the paper in your hands, smelling it, and being able to sit and enjoy the paper at your leisure."I agree. And I think there's something wonderful about this digital medium, too, about being able to instantly post our thoughts and communicate with people around the world.
We're off on a quick jaunt to the southwest of England. I'll let you know how it goes. Keep reading--and keep writing.