He Used to Cut the Grass

1. And then there were four . . . Counties in Iowa that I have not visited, that is. Marcia and I took a trip to Clinton, the easternmost city in the state, yesterday and today. While she was in meetings, I nabbed another six counties, most of them along the magnificent Mississippi River. I have only Grundy, Black Hawk, Buchanan and Benton Counties remaining before I complete my Full Grassley, and the weather is looking nice on Monday, so I’m thinking I might just get in the car and get it done then. Clinton awed me, because I am fascinated with heavy industry, and there were some massive plants and factories there that were simply mind-blowing, especially at night when their lights were visible from dozens of miles away. We had a great and fresh (though garlic-heavy, which I could do without) meal at the Candle Light Inn, overlooking the Mississippi River. I would recommend that destination should you find yourself in Eastern Iowa some evening, seeking sustenance and succor.

2. Seafood in Iowa . . . I live farther from salt water now than I ever have during my prior half century on this planet, and you know what? I am regularly eating better deep-water seafood than I ate during 18 years of living in New York, which actually had an Atlantic coastline. Take last night at the Candle Light: I had a beautiful seafood au gratin that had immense, sweet shrimp, perfectly prepped cod, langustinos and sea scallops in it, and they were all fresh, tasty, and huge. I have come to attribute this weird and unexpected regional benefit to the fact that the people of Iowa, living in a major agricultural center, expect things to be fresh. This means that the few restaurants and stores that stock seafood here seem to be more diligent about flying things in from the coast(s) than the distributors in New York were, since those guys could always get some fresh stuff, if you didn’t want the frozen, but why add the fresh expense if you’d settle for the latter? I may be wrong as to the cause, but I don’t really care, since the results are brilliant: Iowa rocks fresh fish.

3. The future of publishing . . . I was working on a proposal for a freelance writing job, and the employer asked that applicants answer this question: “What is the future of publishing? (200 words or less).” Such a huge topic, with such a small space to reply! How would you answer that question within those constraints? Here’s what I did:

In its traditional form, the act of publishing involves writers selling words to publishers, who in turn sell those words to readers. This model has been more effective historically than the direct sale of words from writers to readers, because publishers add two forms of value: quality control in the receiving function, and economy of scale in the production function.

This traditional model is now in flux. Blogs and related websites readily allow writers to communicate directly with interested readers. Some writers are even willing to give their words, for free, to commercial interests, who sell those words for profit. Print-on-demand mills, message boards, cell phone apps and countless other emergent technologies also seem to jeopardize the traditional role of the publisher.

I believe, however, that this period of flux will be finite and bounded. As the number of available information sources expands, the volume of inaccurate, incomplete, unedited and unreliable information grows equally quickly. Sophisticated readers will eventually seek more dependable sources, and sophisticated writers will expect to be compensated for their work.

Successful publishers will be those who develop the print and/or electronic platforms that allow both of these conditions to be met, thereby restoring their traditional role.

4. My current favorite band . . . Napalm Death released their new album, Utilitarian, this week. It is a spectacular disc. If you think that all metal sounds the same, then then disc would be a fine example to demonstrate why you are wrong.

Napalm Death, 2012 (Mitch Harris, Mark “Barney” Greenway, Shane Embury, Danny Herrera)