In 2005, I was working on the 50th anniversary edition of Lancaster Farming Newspaper, the world’s third largest weekly newspaper. Even though the Lancaster Farming library had sufficient histories, I really needed easily scannable photos and ready copies from microfilm. I knew the Joe Paterno Library in Penn State had what I needed. So I went to their archives, looking for answers to a distant farming past – and saw hats.
A photo taken circa January 1946 in the Small Arena during the annual state Farm Show in Harrisburg, Pa featured cattle – and lots of hats. During the sale, men were seated on the main floor, and almost every one of them had on a fedora or driver’s cap.
All except a couple, here and there.
I suppose the hatless fellows were the “rebels” of the period. They arose one day from bed, thinking about the Big Show, and looked in the mirror, and probably asked themselves, “Why do I need a hat? I’m confident enough in myself, I don’t need a hat.”
Venture ahead about six years to that same livestock sale and show in 1951-1952. The men wearing hats diminished to the point they disappeared. Much of the same can be said for women’s hats, too. When is the last time you saw a woman in church with a hat? Fad today, gone tomorrow.
I’ve always been fascinated by fads. A group of marketing folks come up with a plan to make big money quickly. So they “create a need” – like the hula-hoop from the ‘60s or the pet rocks from the ‘70s. That escalated into all the stuffed animals and useless “needs” that populated the scene in the ‘80s and ‘90s (Cabbage Patch Kids, etc.). Culminating today with the current fad, the smartphone.
I remind my son that, when I was his age, 24 years old, these things didn’t exist:
Cell- and smartphones.
ESPN 2-, 3-, 4-, or whatever number we’re up to.
I did not have a pet rock. But I do miss sitting in front of a typewriter and composing an actual letter. I do like an occasional Starbucks. I have gotten used to cell phones. I had no choice but to upgrade to a smartphone for my work at a local publishing firm. (I did fight the idea for several months though – and THEY pay for the service.) I have come to accept some of the realities of the day. But give up on print? No way! Print is not a fad.
Noelle Skodzinski, editorial director of Publishing Executive (January-February 2012), in her editorial “Give Me a Stone Tablet . . . I’ll Read It,” countered the universal belief that print is dead. Magazines are dead. The industry is dying, so we better get out. Yet readers want to subscribe to magazines. You can toss them on the table and they won’t break. No battery recharges necessary. No aps to buy to download graphics. Want to share the article? Hand it, show it, face to face, to a friend.
I remember the days before Internet, Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, and text messages. I remember when if you wanted to read a book, you found a good private bookstore or, just emerging, walk into a Waldenbooks. Noelle writes, “Magazines are not dead. In fact, I wonder if it’s not the heart and soul of some publishers that are withering, being misguided by the changes we face.”
I ask you: If magazines and newspapers were destined to die because of digital, wouldn’t that have already happened?
How many people have smartphones when a cheap flip-phone would do? Are they bowing to some kind of ‘Keeping Up With The Jones” conformity, like all the guys who couldn’t stand hats, but silently sat with their fellow hat-wearers at the livestock sale, desperately trying to conform? Have they become so “wired” it’s really a need to satisfy a “fix?”
No, marketers, not everyone needs a fad. My wife, the minimalist/realist, works in marketing. But she’s no pushover. She drives a car with manual door locks and windows, wears $20 Keds proudly, and has avowed to keep her minimalist phone until the bitter end. It was amusing to watch a recent interaction between the wife and a phone salesman. He asked her what he could do to get her to upgrade her “basic” phone. She proudly stated “probably nothing,” and indicated her intent to keep the bare bones version until it or she expired, whichever came first. She’s never texted or tweeted or MP3’d – and has no intention of doing so. She’s perfectly content with CDs (bowing only when her love “music” was no longer available on vinyl) and e-mail and that thing called a phone – the one with a cord mostly.
I think I would have been one of the guys who took off the hat early. Like the guys who don’t believe in hats . . . like the guys who don’t have to conform and invest in smartphones and throw out the idea that digital is all it’s ever going to be.
Just wait. In a “Back To The Future” moment, print will re-emerge as the new “fad.” I can see the writeup, quoting some publishing executive from the future: “Wow, print magazines are great because you can tuck them in your back pocket (no broken viewers), you can toss them across the room (without having to invest in a $400 new one), you don’t have to plug them in, you can zoom anywhere you want on the page on a whim . . . or to the front and back faster than you can click.”
In a nod to “Give Me a Stone Tablet,” the day I will conform to e-readers and downloads on a battery-dependent screen is the day I retire from this industry. Period. Until then, I remain . . . well, fadless.
WITHIN THE FLAMES, by Marjorie M. Liu. Avon Books (www.avonromance.com), 2011, $7.99. ISBN 978-0-06-202017-8
The paranormal, urban, fabulist type of dark romance – there’s some relatively good stuff here. Liu is a great stylist, and her stories really hold you. Dirk and Steele is the paranormal detective agency that employees Eddie, a pyrokinetic. At the same time, there is Lyssa, also capable of using fire as a weapon. But Eddie remains consumed about his sister’s murderer, and while he desperately tries not to lose control . . . well, you get the idea. Read on, this author has some compelling fiction.
GATEWAYS, ed. by Elizabeth Anne Hull. TOR (www.tor-forge.com), 2011, 416 pp., $15.99. ISBN 978-0-7653-2663-8
HAPPILY EVER AFTER, Fairy Tales Retold, ed. by John Klima. Night Shade Books (www.nightshadebooks.com), 2011, 482 pp., $16.99. ISBN 978-1-59780-220-8
OSCAR WILDE and the Vatican Murders, by Gyles Brandreth. Touchstone/Simon and Schuster (www.simonandschuster.com), 2012, 348 pp., $14.00. ISBN 978-1-4391-5373-4