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I come to know it better and better as it comes up every few months. I remember the artist's name. I look for more of his work.
And I buy.
Not the original – if I could spend $10,000 on a work of art, I wouldn't, because there are so many more important things to do with that money. But I'll spend $300 or $500 for a print or giclee, if I love it enough to want to give it a place on a wall in my home.
Then it becomes part of the face my wife and I present to the world. Here is an image, a vision, a work of art that we value enough to want to share it with the people we invite into our home.
So some of the artists' whose work I download and keep on my computer end up getting my money.
And the ones who don't – well, it hasn't cost them anything at all. Nor have they gained from my download, because I have respected their policy enough to share the image with no one.
The lucky ones don't mind being shared. And next week I'll point you to some artist websites where you can see some of the finest artwork (of the kinds I value) being produced today.
Print newspapers are dying. That's a fact. The ones that still exist are holding on by the skin of their teeth.
And while some would like to say it's because of the liberal bias of most newspapers, causing them to lose readership, the truth is that political bias is almost irrelevant to a newspaper's profitability.
That's because what people read is [a] comics, [b] op-ed-page letters to the editor, and [c] advice columns, including horoscopes. However, what pays the newspaper's bills are [a] want-ads and [b] display ads.
So yes, if readership falls off, then the ad rates go down and the paper makes less money. But what's been killing papers lately is that no matter what the ad rates are, people aren't buying want-ads, not like they used to – not even close.
The reason is ... Craig's List.
That's right, it wasn't Matt Drudge and it wasn't Salon.com that wiped out newspaper profits. It was online ads. This is not somebody's "fault." Nobody did anything wrong. It's just that on Craig's List, you aren't paying by the word.
On a newspaper's printed page, every word of your ad costs money. The newspaper publisher has to pay for printing on paper. They pay for copies that are sold and read – and they pay for copies that are unsold and unread.
But the online publisher of Craig's List pays only a tiny fraction of that cost for computer memory space, and pays nothing at all for copies. Any number of people can view an ad, and it costs the publisher not a penny more.
The economic realities are what they are, and newspapers must adapt or die. Everybody's trying to figure out a way to make money online. The trouble is, nobody can tell if display ads online really work; spamming annoys more than it sells, if you're a reputable company that wants repeat business; and places like Craig's List don't have to pay anything at all for content – they aren't publishing things like my 3,000-word review columns.
And let me remind those tempted to tell John Hammer that he can save a lot of money by dropping my column: Hammer doesn't pay me anything. The cost of my column is the price of paper, ink and distribution. But that's an amount that Craig's List doesn't have to pay.
And while The Rhino's printing costs go up in direct proportion to distribution, the cost of putting classified ads online only goes up slightly when huge numbers of people start coming to the site.
Thus when my friend wanted to sell his beloved but ancient Lincoln Town Car, known to him and his friends as "Air Force One," he created his ad online, because he had the space to turn his ad into a work of art. Here is that ad:
"I drove this 1995 Lincoln Towncar from Greensboro to Winston-Salem every weekday for the past six years, to law school at Wake and then to my job in Winston. When I bought it six years ago, it had only 70,000 miles; it now has 188xxx.
"1) Does it smoke? No. Exhaust is clear.
"2) Does the check engine light come on? No, all is in order.
"3) Does it have air conditioning? Yes, nice and cold.
"4) Do you have to charge the air conditioning regularly? Yes, at least once a year, usually once at the beginning of summer and another time at the end; however, I just charged it, so you should be good to go for now.
"5) My name starts with "M"; is this car good for me? Yes, someone keyed an "M" into the hood on the lower driver's side. This car is perfect for you.
"6) Don't the air shocks in Lincoln Towncars go bad and leave the trunk dragging in an embarrassing fashion? Yes, and that already happened to me; the shocks have been converted to conventional shocks. Hence the "check air suspension" light will come on when you start the car, but you can disregard it, because the air shocks are no more.
"7) I have pet bats who like to hang on the headliner; will I be damaging a pristine headliner if I buy this car? No. Children shredded the headliner in this car, so basically nothing your pet bats can do will harm it.
"8) Tires? Newish, from Costco within the past year. Michelin X, I think.
"9) Brakes? Within the past year or so, by Midas. Stops very well, no pulling.
"10) I live in a very, very safe neighborhood and I don't like locking my car; is this car good for me? Yes. When you lock the driver's door, it still opens. That's new as of the past month or so. At least it will start honking if someone opens the door, though it is mostly likely that you will set it off yourself. I recommend using the driver's side door keypad before each entry.
"11) I am on a diet; is this car good for me? Yes. The driver's window only rolled down if you pushed down hard on the driver's window switch for a long time and now it doesn't roll down at all. So, if you're tempted by drive-through, you won't be now, unless you're willing to debase yourself by propping the door open with your foot and reaching around the door.
"12) I am really fat, though; will I fit in this car? Yes. It's big.
"13) Does this car make any weird noises? Yes, a reee-eeee-eee noise. Battleground Tire tells me it is a belt tensioner, which they will charge $85 for parts and $85 for labor to replace. However, I've driven with that noise for a few months and, well, it still works. If you are good with math, you should calculate in the price of that repair when deciding whether to buy this car.
"15) What about mileage? Well, if you lock it in at 65 on the freeway, you can get 26. But it gets 15 or so city. That's a reasonable consideration, but on the other hand, I now have a Golf TDI. I get 40 mpg, but I also have a car payment. I'm not money ahead; said another way, you can buy a whole lot of gas with the money you save buying this car vs. a $5,000 car.
"14) Any other problems? Yes. (a) the battery is old. If you don't drive it for three weeks, it won't have the juice to start again. Drive it within that time, though, and you're good. (b) There is a rusty spot in a picture below. Just surface, but it's kind of ugly. (c) It has 188k miles; that's a lot. (d) It has AM/FM stereo and tape, no CD....continued on page 4