Monday, March 19, 2012
Spring has sprung? It might be "false"
"The Shootist" portrayed changing times and how an aging vestige of the past said goodbye. The denouement was in early spring. (Image from Yahoo movies)
I learned the term "false spring" from the movie "The Shootist." It was the very touching movie starring John Wayne, Lauren Bacall and Jimmy Stewart. Actually it has a who's who of notable actors at the time. If I attempted an extended list I might leave someone out.
Ron Howard was the young and restless guy.
The Wayne and Bacall characters discussed the "false spring." I'm not sure if it's an official term or more of an urban dictionary one. It has a definition you might guess. It's a term that might occur to you now as you look outside at the unusual weather behavior.
Such unseasonable warmth spells "false spring." Look at the calendar and it's shocking. We should be in the final throes of winter. We ought to still feel a chill on many days.
The crisp snow of mid-winter starts giving way to "snirt" this time of year. That is, if it were a typical year.
Del Sarlette once joked that Morris should have a "snirt festival" complete with a queen. The term is of course a combination of "snow" and "dirt."
Normally we see receding snowdrifts with black blotches and streaks. Of course it's nothing to celebrate in and of itself, rather it signals a time of year when the long bleak winter is phasing out.
I wrote a year ago at this time that spring is truly signaled when the biking/walking trails are completely open. My family has a friend who lived for a time at Skyview where his window overlooked the trail. It was fun in spring to start seeing people pass by, people of all ages using a variety of speeds and styles to get around. The common thread was the desire to get out and celebrate spring with aerobics.
So mild was this past winter, I'm sure the trails stayed open throughout.
We wish our friend was still at Skyview. His health reached the point where he needed greater attention.
St. Patrick's Day felt very unnatural - too mild and summer-like. I always lump in St. Urho's Day with St. Patrick's. The former is of course a faux holiday. Saving the grape crop in Finland might seem a grand and glorious thing but it's fiction. Are there even grapes in Finland?
In the 1980s I made two or three trips to St. Paul for a five-mile footrace in connection with St. Patrick's. It was considered an important run on the Twin Cities calendar, a kickoff of sorts. The five-mile distance was unusual as usually these events are measured in kilometers.
I remember doing the "Goose Gallop" in Fergus Falls which was ten miles. The Gallop T-shirt had artwork showing a flying goose. I wonder if it's a collectible. Back then the entry fee for such an event was six or seven bucks. Times have changed in that regard. If you're paying through the nose and it's a fundraiser, fine. Otherwise I think it's foolish.
The inflation has certainly pushed me out of the picture. At least that's a good excuse.
I went out the other day clad in jogging attire and did an old four-mile route of mine. A good power walker could well have passed me. Heck, an ordinary walker might have done it.
I don't want to slight power walkers such as Jeanette Drown who once demonstrated for me just how fleet a pace they can manage. I accompanied her just for the purpose of chatting once. I departed thinking "holy cow!"
The St. Patrick's race in St. Paul was unique because it was point-to-point rather than out-and-back. The final stretch was downhill toward the state capitol. Upon finishing, hopefully with no desire to heave, you'd browse around fruit and refreshment stations, then get on a typical orange school bus and be taken back to the starting area which was at University of St. Thomas.
We got to appreciate historic Summit Avenue, the old hangout of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The distances of many of these races have gotten shorter since I did them. My generation got a little overzealous with these runs back when the pastime was becoming fashionable. Us boomers are always deciding what's fashionable, but can we be as influential as we keep aging? We have always taken for granted our influence.
I get the impression the runners of today don't think so much about speed. The idea is to complete the course sensibly. Congratulations. No need to heave.
John Wayne and Lauren Bacall talked about "false spring" as a time when nature was prematurely awakened. Nature got fooled by the too-early arrival of mild weather. Some types of plants can be hurt by this.
I think we should temper some of our ecstasy about these conditions. It's not natural and could spell very bad news from the standpoint of global climate change. Climate change doesn't just spell warmer weather, it spells more extreme weather. These tornado outbreaks might be a wakeup call.
I jogged my four miles with tempered thoughts. It might be a relief actually to see those snirt-streaked drifts.
John Wayne played J.B. Books, a gunfighter at the turn of the century when his way of life was quickly being extinguished. I can relate. I was once a newspaper journalist. There are headlines pretty regularly about the fading nature of the U.S. newspaper industry.
A subhead from the (London) Financial Times just the other day read: "Press is said to be America's fastest shrinking industry." A headline from the Allan Mutter "Newsosaur" blog reads: "Newspaper sales slid to 1984 level in 2011."
We learn from Mr. Mutter that "the combined ad sales for all the papers in the U.S. last year were equal to only two-thirds of the sales of a single digital competitor, Google, whose annual revenues were $37.9 billion."
Also: "For the sixth year in a row, sales tumbled in every print category in 2011."
I have written before that when print finally dies, it won't even be news. That's because we will have moved on to something else - the assortment of electronic communications tools that are so liberating. Newspapers will only hang on for a while like snowdrifts full of snirt. Some clueless business people will keep advertising in them because it's habit. I think we're seeing that now.
A friend tells me the Morris newspaper has a press run of just 2800 copies now. That's according to a late-September report, I was told, so we've had a few months to see a further erosion. For years the Morris newspaper press run was approximately 4000.
In terms of paid circulation, I'm told the figure is 2340. The past figure (i.e. from the newspaper's heyday) was about 3500. The "good old days" with Brian Williams were pretty good, I would say. It appears the Morris newspaper even throws away about 380 copies. You expect some waste but probably not that much.
It's a chain paper now with the strings pulled out of Fargo and Detroit lakes. Who wants to support an operation like that? The company reportedly puts great pressure on its local managers to "turn out the numbers." It's a classic dehumanizing business in that regard, I would opine.
We are surrounded by too many such businesses. I hope this isn't considered "progress."
The John Wayne character ("J.B. Books") couldn't fight change. Maybe we can resist the change of the vicious corporate culture that seems to consume so many of us.
Newspapers won't be able to resist the forces of "creative destruction." That's for the better. Here's what Paul Gillin wrote recently about my old profession: "The newspaper industry is standing on a railroad trestle 100 feet above a rushing river while a locomotive bears down on it. The only thing worse than getting hit by the train is jumping out of the way."
Happy (false) spring.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - email@example.com