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The final front page of the Rocky Mountain News, Feb. 27, 2009We all live our lives way too fast. We rush to work, work at a fast clip, rush home and barely get a chance to chill out before, as a wimpy '70s singer-songwriter once crooned, "we get up and do it again." So the death of the Rocky Mountain News, like the death of a close friend or family member, has given me pause. It's making me reflect a bit on my own mortality: as a news junkie, journalist, writer, Internet geek and human being. First of all, I feel terrible about the Rocky's closing. I feel worse -- a lot worse -- than I thought I'd feel. It's a business decision. But it affects hundreds of people, many of whom I know. In fact, I've known some of the staff at the Rocky for almost 30 years. In between jobs, I've written more freelance stories for the Rocky than for The Denver Post, the newspaper that's left standing in Denver. Now I work for MediaNews Group Interactive, the online operation of the Denver Post's parent company. People -- especially bloggers who cover the media -- like to throw barbs at MediaNews and its owner, Denver-based Dean Singleton because he buys up newspapers and usually trims their operations to make them more profitable. "More profitable" of course is a relative term these days. Maybe we should settle for "less unprofitable" in these terrible economic times.

I know I haven't been writing much on the blog -- I have a bunch of things stacked up, and I'm always babbling in small bits on Twitter and Facebook. But I needed to embed this video from the Rocky Mountain News, which is shutting down today. The Rocky's staff has been brave and unfliching in its coverage of the...

National Public radio I'm an off-and-on supporter of National Public Radio, I admit it. I'm a fair-weather donor to NPR, depending on how much I'm tuning in. There have been periods when I commute with the car when I listen to NPR a lot, and then there are times when I ride the bus to work and I pass the time with my iPod set to shuffle. Lately, I've been driving to work more, thanks to a parking space in the building that's too inviting not to take advantage. So, I've been listening to "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" more again. During the run-up to the election, I was a complete news junkie, and also tuned in at the office, streaming my local NPR station, KCFR's news programming all day via the Web. So when the most recent pledge drive came around in October, I was easily enticed to give more support than I ever have. Instead of the minimum of $50 that I'd usually donate, I committed $120 on my credit card just so I could get the premium they offered for that level of support: A Radio Bookmark. The Radio Bookmark allows me to save stories on NPR to hear them again later. It lets me leave the car instead of sitting in the driveway or a parking lot (or, in some cases, on the shoulder of the road), riveted to my seat and listening until the end of a fascinating report.

I admit it, I'm stooping to lowest-common-denominator tactics. People love animal videos. And I shot one. Erin began feeding unsalted peanuts in the shell to a squirrel she saw out back, which turned into two squirrels, and then three and now possibly four or five different ones. We recognize "Fatso," "Runty" and "Rat-tail," but there are a couple of others,...

Betty James just passed away. Who's that, you say? She's the woman whose husband invented the Slinky, and the woman who headed the company that manufactured all the wacky variations of Slinky, from Slinky Dogs to Plastic Rainbow Slinkys, for decades. My friend Leland Rucker, with whom I co-authored "The Toy Book" in 1991, just posted his thoughts about the time we were lucky enough to meet her while researching the book. I vividly remember meeting Betty James. She was appreciative that a couple of aging boomers like us were interested in her company. She was a giant, but unknown to the zillions of kids who grew up with her toy. She gave us brass special edition Slinkys after meeting us. I still have mine on my desk…. The story of the Slinky, which I'll include below from "The Toy Book"'s first chapter, is pretty fascinating, because it was discovered by chance, and was a bellwether -- the first truly original toy for the nascent generation, because it was first sold in the fall of 1945 in the flush of the post-war holiday season. That's why it led off the book. But Betty James was a fascinating story herself. Richard James may have invented the Slinky but Betty made it a generational icon. Around 1960 Richard James left his wife and six children to join a religious cult in Bolivia. He died in 1974. Betty James took over as CEO of James Industries when he left, brought the company out of its debts (her husband had apparently "donated" a lot of profits to the religious group), and then started diversifying the Slinky product line and running the TV commercials that many Boomers can still sing along to. It's because of her efforts that to this day, if you say "Slinky" to almost anyone in in the US of almost any age, they'll hold out there hands, palms up, and wave them up and down to mimic playing with the spring.

I know some of my friends think of me as a gadget freak, but I only get crazed about a new toy every once in a while. iPods, for instance. Or digital cameras before that. Walkmans (Walkmen?) in the '80s. Here's my newest gadget recommendation: We recently bought two Flip video cameras and we're having a blast with them. I had checked out the Flip last year when they were first introduced -- Costco sold them for a few weeks and then stopped carrying them. Several months ago, our pal Bill Imada, founder of the IW Group media and advertising firm, held up a Flip after giving a presentation to the Colorado chapter of the National Association of Asian American Professionals, and told us we have to get one. At Denver's Cherry Blossom Festival in June, my brother Glenn Asakawa, a former photographer at The Denver Post now working for the University of Colorado, held up his Flip, and I was reminded that I wanted to get one.

Leave it to a former rockcrit -- and a McClatchy employee (the company just cut 10% of its workforce nationally) -- to come up with an eloquent essay on the decline of the newspaper industry and the ascension of the Internet. Online people, myself included, have been saying for years that the Web should be first in news priority, and that journalists shouldn't think that they work for newsPAPER companies, but instead NEWS companies. Maybe, coming from an august writer like Leonard Pitts, a world-class columnist at the Miami Herald, this idea will start to sink in with those of you who still have ink in your veins. He sounds like speeches and conversations I heard going on a decade ago, but better late than never, I say:
We still tend to regard our websites as ancillary to our primary mission of producing newspapers. But I submit that our primary mission is to report and comment upon the news and that it is the newspaper itself that has become ancillary. So maybe we should regard the Internet not as an extra thing we do, but as the core thing we do.

As a card-carrying baby boomer (I guess officially, with my AARP membership!), I was 10 when most of 1968 happened. It was a pivotal year, no doubt -- though in my consciousness, '69 left a deeper impact. AARP magazine does a fine job of using the Web as a story-telling device to revisit the year. This online special section kicks...