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Beware the boom

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The last few months have seen headlines about the possibility of another oil renewal in the Bakken Formation, the massive oil shale field in western North Dakota and eastern Montana (extending across the border into Canada). Oil development there, which boomed a decade ago, crashed with lower oil prices about three years ago. Now it might be coming back.

A lot of people in that area are praying it happens. The better advice would be: Be careful what you wish for.

The area has had fluctuations of oil development, wavelets of varying sizes and intensities, for more than a century. Long-timers in the area, those who are left, have come to know the drill, and some are wary of it. But probably more common is the attitude reflected on a popular t-shirt in the area a few years ago: "Please, God, give me one more oil boom. This time I promise not to piss it away."

Problem is, it' always pissed away. There have been no exceptions. For a short time, the money flows like flood water. Overwhelmingly, it is wasted, and lives, communities and landscapes are wrecked beyond recognition in the process.

If that sounds a tad theoretical, I refer you to the recent book The New Wild West by Blaire Briody, Who spent many months around the Williston, North Dakota area during the last great (and to date, greatest) oil boom in the area. With fine-grain detail, focusing on the lives of many of the people who came to participate in or were caught up in the development, Briody fills in a clear sense of what actual life is like in such a place.

It is a hell hole. At best, it can mean significant money; a relative handful of people from and around the area do emerge as millionaires, and some others - oil field workers, a significant number of them - do earn incomes in the low six figures. That's pretty the extent of the upside. The bulk of the 300 pages of careful description of western North Dakota during the boom, however, runs through the other side of the story: Wreckage of all kinds of lives - in personal, medical, social, educational and even business aspects - organizations and environments. The human society of the area is trashed - the ability of people to basically get along. Almost every negative indicator you can think of shoots through the roof. Very little positive results, and that includes economic results for most people. The great bulk of the immense number of dollars flowing through the area winds up in very few hands.

I've heard some people pointing to an economic boom and low unemployment in North Dakota as representing an example to emulate. I have a book I want them to read.
 

New at RP: Idaho’s 200 Cities

Three new books arriving this week: The series of Idaho's 200 Cities, with one title each focused on the norther, southwestern and eastern parts of the state.

And more than that too: There are also three books of Idaho trivia, a challenge for anyone who thinks they know the state.

The books are the culmination of a decade of work by the Association of Idaho Cities, spearheaded by former legislator Hal Bunderson. The books were written in part by Bunderson and in part by people all over Idaho, in cities from Moyie Springs to St. Charles.

The detail is startling, and the insights often surprising - there's a lot more to these communities than almost anyone but locals know (and not all of them). One of the most useful parts of the books is the section on turning points, describing the developments and events that caused the city to grow and change, for better or worse, the way it has. A of lessons can be found there.

If Idaho is of interest - and if you live there it ought to be - then these books belong on your bookshelf. They're available now, and in both paperback and full color hardbound flavors. You can find out more about them, and order them, here. (They're also available at Amazon.com).

A Greenbelt tour

We're only a few days away from publishing David Proctor's new book on the history and development of the Boise Greenbelt, Pathway of Dreams. But first we wanted to give a taste of what's coming.


This is On the Greenbelt, a short historically-based tour by David Proctor of the gem of the Boise recreation system. It has material drawn from Pathway and a walking tour of the whole, long route.

It's available for free in just about every e-book format. Click on the button above and download a copy with our complements. And check back in a few days for Pathway of Dreams.

The Stuck Pendulum

We've made a few low-key mentions about it, but now we're running it out formally - our new eBook, The Stuck Pendulum, about Idaho's political history over the last quarter-century.

And it's free, as you can see from this visual. Best place to immediately grab a copy for your e-reader - pretty much any e-reader - is at Smashwords.com. It'll be up on Amazon.com too, soon, but Smashwords allows access to all readers. And the book is, for now at least, free.

A quick notes about what it is and isn't. Although it works as a standalone book, it's aimed mainly at readers of Paradox Politics by Randy Stapilus, a book about Idaho politics published in 1988 and covering several decades of history leading up to that point. Things have changed a lot since, and copies of Paradox continue to sell, so this book was intended to bring the story up to present. It isn't hugely detailed or a source for a whole lot of new information for people who have been tracking the state closely in the last couple of decades; for those who have, much of what's here will be familiar. For those who haven't, but are interested in the subject, we think it may be helpful.

And it is, after all, free. At least for a while.

The Stuck Pendulum

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The Stuck Pendulum page

The book Paradox Politics was written in 1987 and 1988, and published in that latter year - which, as this is written, was 27 years ago. Considering that it was intended as a current, up to the minute, review of Idaho politics and how it had gotten that way, that makes it heavily out of date now.

It's been out a long time, but it's not entirely forgotten. While most of its sales came in the 80s, it has sold copies ever since; Amazon has moved copies this year. That's nice to see. What's less easy to contemplate is that some of those people may think that Idaho politics in this new century is anything like what it was in the last one, and that would be a problem, because it isn't. I think, generally, it holds up as a good review of the subject as of the time it was written. And I think it may have helped prompt a spate of Idaho political memoirs and biographies that cropped up in the years following.

But since then, much has changed.

Hence, The Stuck Pendulum. It's a standalone book that also functions as an afterword - even a coda - for that earlier one, intended to bring up to date people who may have relied on Paradox for a look at Idaho politics. It doesn't unearth a lot of secrets and not much in it will come a a big surprise to people who have followed Idaho politics in the last quarter-century or so. But for those new to the subject, or who may have wondered what has happened since 1988, I think it can be useful.

I have gotten requests from time to time for a sequel for Paradox, and it's not just the passage of time that has increasingly made the point compelling. As the title suggests, Idaho politics, which once wandered across the political spectrum, driven by an electorate often willing to take a flyer on something different and didn't trust anyone too damn much, has changed, locked in place, adjusting if at all only to whatever seems to be the hardest right alternative at hand.

How it got there, and especially after how it changed so drastically right after the best Idaho Democratic election year in a generation (1990), is much of the subject of The Stuck Pendulum. But there are overviews of more, of the Larry Craig incident, the fierce battles in the first congressional district and the recent splinters in the Republican Party.

For the moment, it's priced for free, so get your copy if this sounds like your area of interest. We'll attach a price (not a hefty one, though) a little later.

Self-publishing someone else’s materials

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About Books and Publishing

A column for BookWorks by Randy Stapilus.

A while back I worked with a writer who had written a good memoir, but it was riddled with issues about words he didn’t write.

This wasn’t plagiarism. He wanted to quote from popular songs that related to his story. The lyrics would have helped his narrative. But I told him he either had to get written permission to use the lyrics, or drop them. The permissions process proved cumbersome, and soon the lyrics were out.

I’ve advised writers to cut all sorts of material that wasn’t theirs from their manuscripts. In each case they intended to acknowledge the original sources, but that wasn’t enough: They needed to get written permission. Before you consider sending your book out to the world, think carefully about anything in it you didn’t write yourself, or get specific permission to use that material.

Earlier this year, working with a traditional publisher, I submitted pictures, with a variety of ownership backgrounds, for a book. Two of those photos were taken by friends who encouraged me through Facebook communication to use their photos in the book. I cut and pasted that dialogue, but by the publisher’s legal standards that wasn’t enough: The publisher required signatures from the photographers on their in-house permission forms (which I then obtained) before the pictures could be used.

This is not a matter of ethics: It’s a matter of protecting yourself legally. The Internet makes cutting and pasting easy, but it makes exposure of copying simple as well.

Some people make a living from finding copies of words or pictures reproduced without permission. Certain law firms in recent years have made a specialty of patrolling the web looking for duplicates of copyrighted material (often from newspapers and magazines), and filing or threatening to file lawsuits when they find them. You don’t want to be on the expensive receiving end of that action.

Your best defense: Stick to publishing that which you produce yourself.

This doesn’t mean you can’t reference (delete) what other people say. You simply have to be cautious about it.

Short quotes, a sentence or so in length, usually are not a problem, though reproducing even a single lyric line of a popular song can be a problem. Any recent copyrighted picture, without some indication permission, can be an issue.

Remember that copyright doesn’t have to be registered to be legally effective. My original copyright to these words, for example, became effective the moment I typed them on my computer.

The good news is that lots of online material now requires no permission at all. (more…)

The Unpublished

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It started one day when Roger Plothow, the publisher of the Idaho Falls Post Register daily newspaper, was talking at home about the letters to the editor his paper received, and especially some of those it didn't publish. His son said that might be a good idea for a book.

He was right.

What happened next was that Plothow and his staff collected some of the most, ah, interesting of the letters that didn't make the cut. There's good reason letters like those get a lot of attention in newsrooms, and get passed around and much commented on.

They're entertaining. Highly entertaining.

See The Unpublished page, and order your copy.

So this is the book bringing together many of the letters - they date generally from 2010 up to this year - which get a lot of attention in the newsroom. Some letters were just outright unprintable by any standard (extreme bad taste, libel and so on) and couldn't make even this collection. But quite a few, for one reason or another, just seemed to beg for the light of day. The authors' names were, however, redacted.

It's not that Plothow and his staff have anything else letters to the editor. Quite the contrary: They print a lot of them every year, and prize the interaction with readers. Toward the end of this book, they also selected about a dozen of the best letters they received as examples of how the form can be done well. Many of those well-crafted letters happened to be sharp blasts at the Post Register, just as many of the rejects were. Attitude toward the paper wasn't the dividing line; it had more to do with attitude toward logic and language.

The specific reasons for the rejections, though, aren't noted here, at least letter by letter. Instead, make the judgement for yourself: Should this letter have been rejected, and if so, why? You may find yourself reading through an unexpectedly provocative book.

Idaho influentials

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Reading

Today we're releasing 100 Influential Idahoans 2015 (see the box above) which is about what it says: The 100 most influential Idahoans, at present.

Or, more or less. I make the point in its introduction - though little attention may be paid - that the book essentially is about the sources of influence around Idaho, a suggestion of how things change and happen in the state, more than it is that one person is ranked number 37 and another 38. Although the list is designed to be considered in a rough order - the people toward the top tend to have more sweeping impact than the people toward the bottom - any exact roster in this format is not only subjective but a comparison of the incomparable.

Why do it this way? (Years ago, as I was preparing an earlier version of the list, someone suggested listing the 100 names in alphabetical order.) Simply, people pay a lot more attention to it this way.

And I think there is some usefulness in considering who moves people, who pulls the strings, and so on. If Idaho is of interest to you, you may find it of use too.

Ordering information in the box above.

Ridenbaugh’s top sellers of 2014

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Reading

2014 was another busy book year at Ridenbaugh Press, maybe our busiest so far as the number of our available books reaches upward to 30 - and a significant number added this year. (We'll have another major release to announce next week.)

Our books this year ranged from our standby of regional references to personal memoirs and books ranging farther afield, to such subjects as Vietnam and motherhood. Here's a look at some of our top sellers over the year.

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1 - One Flaming Hour, by Mike Blackbird. This is a compelling personal memoir about the author's brother, Jerry, a Vietnam war vet who fell into depression before finding usefulness and meaning in public service in his home community in Idaho's Silver Valley. Jerry Blackbird died young in a helicopter crash after having served just one session in the state Senate, but he made a powerful impression on the people who knew him, and wound up walking in his footsteps. Chris Carlson, whose Medimont Reflections was last year's RP best seller, described One Flaming Hour as ". . . a vivid picture of his brother Jerry’s time as a Medivac pilot in Vietnam and contrasts it with the reality of the political system . . . through the lens of a blue-collar, working man made good."

2 - Through the Waters, an oral history edited by Randy Stapilus and the Idaho State Bar. One of the big Idaho news stories of 2014 was the completion of the massive Snake River Basin Adjudication. This book, an oral history featuring the recollections of about three dozen major participants in the SRBA, was released at the August conclusion of the adjudication.

3 - Without Compromise, by Kelly Kast. 2014 marked the 75th anniversary of the Idaho State Police, and Kelly Kast did its history proud with this thoroughly researched story of the force, from its early days barely able to move around the state, to the achievements and controversies of modern times. It’s lively and informative. Our third best seller last year, it has continued selling all through 2014.

4 - Diamondfield: Finding the Real Jack Davis, by Max Black. Our second-best seller of 2013 continued strong this year, and for good reason: It is one of the most remarkable Idaho history books of recent years. Black not only researched what has been written before about the infamous Diamondfield Jack murder case, he found new troves of files and written records never touched by previous historians, and even found the (previously uncertain) spot where the event occurred, and a gun and buried bullet missing for more than a century. It’s a great read as history and as detective story.

5 - Drafted!, by David Frazier. Known in Idaho as a leading photojournalist and as editor of the cantankerous blog Boise Guardian, Frazier here tells his personal story of going to Vietnam in the Army in the sixties, and then decades later returning and seeing it with fresh eyes. And with his camera at the ready, of course. Released in December.

The speech

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Conversations with Atiyeh

Last January, former Oregon Governor Vic Atiyeh was the keynote speaker at an event put on by the North Clackamas Chamber of Commerce at Happy Valley City Hall. Attendees included elected officials such as Rep. Julie Parrish (R-West Linn), Rep. Bill Kennemer (R-Canby) and Sen. Chuck Thomsen (R-Hood River).

Gov. Atiyeh was introduced by Verne Duncan, who has the unique distinction of having served in both the Idaho and Oregon legislatures. Duncan had worked as Oregon Superintendent of Schools during the Atiyeh administration.

The theme of Governor Atiyeh’s speech was “How to Use Statesmanship and Compromise.”

Atiyeh described the circumstances surrounding his initial decision to run for a seat in the Oregon House of Representatives.

Running for the Legislature

In his remarks, Governor Atiyeh provided much useful advice for the elected officials and would-be, potential and future officeholders present at the event.

Vic's Words of Wisdom

Governor Atiyeh shared many of the principles that contributed to his success in the nearly three decades of public service that he gave to Oregon and its citizens.

The Virtues of Common Sense

The full transcripts of his remarks that day make up an entire chapter in my new book, Conversations with Atiyeh. It can be ordered by clicking here.