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Caseythoughts I've read a couple of news stories recently and found some connections which have personal import, and some regrets, as well. The operative word, here, is 'read'.

I do love to read, as is probably obvious. My guess is that, you do, too. I read the cereal box at breakfast when I was a kid, and spent as much time at the library (no matter how far I had to walk) as I did in hobby stores or the barber shop. I was a member of various book 'clubs' when I was a kid, and in the forensics club in high school I carried a stack of news magazines and a card catalog of every story to forensics competitions.

With that love of reading, of course, comes a love of books, and consequently, of paper. The touch and heft of a book, magazine or newspaper in hand, the smell of paper, the type setting and a real love of paper when I could get an author to autograph the book (I was in hog heaven when I was interviewing authors on radio!). I've a small collection of autographed books including Aaron Copeland's biography and John Updike's Gertrude and Claudius, among the hundreds (thousand?) of volumes I have lining three walls of my personal 'nook'.

I know I write for an online newspaper and I'm proud to be a small part of the Lansing Star, but I even print up the Star to peruse on Friday night.

So, in this mode, the next couple of news stories kind of brought me to thinking about how things are changing, and this boomer is missing the companionship of old-fashioned 'real' reading versus 'new-fashioned' reading. The demise of paper, it might be titled.

Article one headline: "Hallmark Takes Most Greetings Online". According to Sharon Terlep (I'd like to meet her just to pronounce her name out loud) reports that "...millenials and GenZ just aren't sending greeting cards, and "even their parents have moved to digital salutations...".

Hallmark Cards, according to Ms. Terlep, is revamping its retail business, to grow the company (110 years old, now) and its 'online presence'.

Hallmark's senior VP for public affairs, Molly Brower, said "..younger Americans don't even know, in some cases, how to address an envelope...they don't have a stamp, or necessarily know how to buy a stamp. They don't have addresses." Zowie.

How can I add to that? And, how can I properly mourn the loss of something that I love? "Haunting" (as a long time friend said about me) a card store and finding a perfectly funny, or perfectly loving, greeting card for someone. One of life's joys, small and significant. And, to be honest, the death knell of the greeting card (in hand, donchya know, not online) can't even be expressed in a sympathy card.

Blame the decline on the demise of brick and mortar stores, or perhaps online ubiquity, but some are saying that even online greeting cards aren't happening, either. We've lost our sense of humor, perhaps, or a sense of empathy, or perhaps the joy of finding, addressing, and sending/receiving that special piece of personal correspondence and sentiment.

Couple this with another indication of paper's demise: the slow decay of the business card. That's being blamed on smartphones and LinkedIn, among other 21st century so-called advances. When's the last time someone gave you their business card?

Some people have tried to come up with ways to re-use business cards, like shredding them for confetti (office birthday party?). Wallpaper whole rooms? How about business card origami?

When I was doing my radio show I kept an alphabetized file drawer just for business cards. Alphabetized by 'topic', not by name, for 'experts' in a gazillion fields. This boy don't need no computer, by gum: just look for the perfect guest in an infinite compartment file of topics, by business card. But my favorite card was a Skaneateles lawyer who had a brass (I'm not kidding) business card, and I'll assure you, in the old fashioned sense, brass was the perfect medium for this 'Philadelphia' lawyer.

But, business cards are almost gone, too. I've still a few with Cayuga Radio Group (bad memory) and Eagle Broadcasting (good memory) and I guess I'll keep them for...I don't know, but they're paper nostalgia, I guess.

And, McClatchey Company, the second largest U.S. newspaper group by circulation, has filed for bankruptcy. The McClatchey family owned that company for 163 years and will turn over control to the National Enquirer. Well, yes, another newspaper, but... The list of their fine newspapers includes the Miami Herald, the Sacramento Bee, Kansas City Star (ah, Roger Miller: "...Kansas City Star, that's a-what I are, yodel-yahee-hoo, you oughta see my car..."). All reputable papers with long histories of great reporting and journalism. Maybe not gone, but when a newspaper group goes Chapter 11, you know the good reporters are heading for the exits. Send in the hacks, and put it all online. Cheaper, you know.

And Warren Buffet is selling his newspaper ownership, too; says there's no future in it, even his hometown Omaha Herald. Buffet ought to know, I guess.

I know, I know, it's all in the name of progress. Heck, I wouldn't even mind it if someone used the weak excuse of 'saving trees', but I don't even hear that anymore.

The last ten years between radio and 'retirement' (hmmm) I spent in chemical dependency counseling, a pretty heavy user, at one time, of paper. When my inpatient clinic went to electronic medical records (after a year or more of angst and anger, and first hand experience with 'techies') the clinical director had a meeting of the counseling staff. He said the 'good news' was that our movement to online notes, treatment plans, etc., had gone pretty smoothly. The 'bad news' was that in the first thirty days of online record keeping we had printed more paper than in any previous thirty day period in the history of the clinic.

We give up old habits hard, and I present a theory to you. I think we over-fifty crowd read best from paper, not a monitor, because that's the way we were 'hard-wired' as kids. A TV screen was entertainment in the 50's and 60's, not written information, so paper would transmit information to the proper space in our boomer brain and catalog it. The screen to the younger set is information, as much as entertainment (where they get their news) and that's the way their brains are wired.

So, the printed book, the newspaper lovingly folded into convenient shape on the table or the bus, or lap, the greeting card signed, sealed and delivered, the business card proudly displayed on cork boards near cash registers in diners, all a part of something that I really don't want to give up, but probably don't have much say, or much of a choice.

But, if you see me in Wegmans' with a newspaper spread out on the table with a coffee on a Saturday morning, or see me in a card store laughing at a particular card, or in the laundromat reading a great piece of literature (my latest joy was completing Michener's The Source), well, know that I am in my element and just won't let go of one of the prime elements of civilization and culture: paper. Me and paper? We got history.

I'm not ignoring Covid-19. I'm surrounded by it in my small personal world, and the larger world that I watch for a living, and entertainment. Face masks, the stock market, fund raisers and gatherings cancelled, and a general underlying fear which I just won't, can't, add to. Allusions to the 1918-19 'Spanish' flu outbreak seem to ignore a maxim that was also an important part of the pandemic and end of WW I: the British government's suggestion to "Keep calm and carry on", which is when and where that newly popular phrase originated.

The pandemic is also a pandemic of craziness and fear, disinformation as well as reasonable precautions and rational actions. Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide recommendation "Don't Panic" may be extreme, but I wonder if we might just slow down, be reasonable, and find some inner peace in the midst of all of this. My recommendation, if I make any sense at all: Do what you find to be reasonable in your own sphere of life, but, for goodness sake, remember we're all in this together, and the biblical maxim is still true: "This too shall pass."

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