Try wrapping a fish in an e-newspaper

Out of the Woods

Posted: Sunday, January 07, 2001

Try to wrap a fish in an e-newspaper

I'm haunted lately by the prospect of losing the daily newspaper. I don't mean the news, I mean the paper, the vehicle with the newsprint and the ink that is delivered to my house and left lying in restaurants and on buses for anyone to pickup and read. I worry about this.

Great stuff is available on screen now, things like whole libraries of the past and present, news from organizations all over the world with great pictures and even film clips. And sound. Yes, it is wonderful. But not the same thing.

The household I grew up in had a difference of political opinion among the adults, so we got both local newspapers. That would be a lot of wasted paper, but we had a woodstove, did papier mache and a million other messy art projects, packed things for mailing, trained puppies, maintained a bird cage, performed small engine repair on the kitchen table and butchered wild beasts. For about 50 cents a day, or whatever it was, we got an education in current events as well as an apron, towel, drop cloth, blotter, swatter, stuffing, wrapping paper and firestarter. Pretty good value for the investment.

But for me it isn't just the many efficient uses of newsprint I like; it's the feel, smell and look. I like holding and reading from a page of text. I like sprawling in a well-lit spot in the living room of a Sunday morning and spreading out a nice, fat Sunday paper to read at my own pace. I set my coffee and toast on the sports section that I don't read. I share this paper, by the way, trading sections as we each finish one, coffee stains and all.

How will we live without newspapers? On Sunday morning, I'll be perched in a chair at my screen, trying not to spill butter and crumbs into the keyboard. I'll be doing this very early, before someone else is up so I can read the sections I want before handing off the screen. What about a busy home with kids, dogs and fish to be wrapped? What will they do? What will they line the birdcage and cat box with? Will generations of puppies grow up not snapping into full alert at the sound of a rolled up newspaper? Will children make papier mache out of dried grass clippings? Will kitchen tables bear the full brunt of chainsaw parts and mower blade sharpening? Where will the glue drip from Tiffany lamp repair? Will woodstove fires be started with dust bunnies?

Things change and we adapt. The newspaper log roller gizmos are gone from the gadget catalogs and we have a variety of environmentally kind, super absorbent, reusable blotter-wrapper-clean up products. We backward folk who still buy paper news bundle what we don't need for window cleaning, painting and huge bug swatting and recycle it. For some people, newspapers have become a burden rather than the indispensable household tool they were.

Maybe someone will come up with a way to project the news in any room in the house, in airplanes and restaurants and a way to clip the coupons, ads and articles we want to save. Quietly and with natural light. And maybe someone else will figure out a way to mine landfills and produce something that is biodegradable, absorbent, insulating, nonstreaking, burnable and interesting to read when you get it as packing material in a package from home. Then I'll stop worrying.

Juneau resident Nita Nettleton can be reached at nitan@alaska .com.

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