Tag Archives: postcard

The Postcard, Another Victim of Technology

That very quaint form of communication, the printed postcard, reserved for independent children to their clingy parents and boastful travelers to their (not) distant (enough) family members, may soon become as arcane as the LP or paper-based map. Until the late-90s there were some rather common sights associated with the postcard: the tourist lounging in a cafe musing with great difficulty over the two or three pithy lines he would write from Paris; the traveler asking for a postcard stamp in broken German; the remaining 3 from a pack of 6 unwritten postcards of the Vatican now used as bookmarks; the over saturated colors of the sunset.

Technology continues to march on, though some would argue that it may not necessarily be a march forward. Technology is indifferent to romance and historic precedent, and so the lowly postcard finds itself increasing under threat from Flickr and Twitter and smartphones and Instagram and Facebook.

[div class=attrib]Charles Simic laments over at the New York Review of Books:[end-div]

Here it is already August and I have received only one postcard this summer. It was sent to me by a European friend who was traveling in Mongolia (as far as I could deduce from the postage stamp) and who simply sent me his greetings and signed his name. The picture in color on the other side was of a desert broken up by some parched hills without any hint of vegetation or sign of life, the name of the place in characters I could not read. Even receiving such an enigmatic card pleased me immensely. This piece of snail mail, I thought, left at the reception desk of a hotel, dropped in a mailbox, or taken to the local post office, made its unknown and most likely arduous journey by truck, train, camel, donkey—or whatever it was— and finally by plane to where I live.

Until a few years ago, hardly a day would go by in the summer without the mailman bringing a postcard from a vacationing friend or acquaintance. Nowadays, you’re bound to get an email enclosing a photograph, or, if your grandchildren are the ones doing the traveling, a brief message telling you that their flight has been delayed or that they have arrived. The terrific thing about postcards was their immense variety. It wasn’t just the Eiffel Tower or the Taj Mahal, or some other famous tourist attraction you were likely to receive in the mail, but also a card with a picture of a roadside diner in Iowa, the biggest hog at some state fair in the South, and even a funeral parlor touting the professional excellence that their customers have come to expect over a hundred years. Almost every business in this country, from a dog photographer to a fancy resort and spa, had a card. In my experience, people in the habit of sending cards could be divided into those who go for the conventional images of famous places and those who delight in sending images whose bad taste guarantees a shock or a laugh.

[div class=attrib]More from theSource here.[end-div]

[div class=attrib]Image of Aloha Nui Postcard of Luakaha, Home of C.M. Cooke, courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons.[end-div]

Postcards from the Atomic Age

Remember the lowly tourist postcard? Undoubtedly, you will have sent one or two “Wish you where here!” missives to your parents or work colleagues while vacationing in the Caribbean or hiking in Austria. Or, you may still have some in a desk drawer. Remember, those that you never mailed because you had neither time or local currency to purchase a stamp. If not, someone in your extended family surely has a collection of old postcards with strangely saturated and slightly off-kilter colors, chronicling family travels to interesting and not-so-interesting places.

Then, there are postcards of a different kind, sent from places that wouldn’t normally spring to mind as departure points for a quick and trivial dispatch. Tom Vanderbilt over at Slate introduces us to a new book, Atomic Postcards:

“Having a great time,” reads the archetypical postcard. “Wish you were here.” But what about when the “here” is the blasted, irradiated wastes of Frenchman’s Flat, in the Nevada desert? Or the site of America’s worst nuclear disaster? John O’Brian and Jeremy Borsos’ new book, Atomic Postcards, fuses the almost inherently banal form of the canned tourist dispatch with the incipient peril, and nervously giddy promise, of the nuclear age. Collected within are two-sided curios spanning the vast range of the military-industrial complex—”radioactive messages from the Cold War,” as the book promises. They depict everything from haunting afterimages of atomic incineration on the Nagasaki streets to achingly prosaic sales materials from atomic suppliers to a gauzy homage to the “first atomic research reactor in Israel,” a concrete monolith jutting from the sand, looking at once futuristic and ancient. Taken as a whole, the postcards form a kind of de facto and largely cheery dissemination campaign for the wonder of atomic power (and weapons). And who’s to mind if that sunny tropical beach is flecked with radionuclides?

[div class=attrib]More from theSource here.[end-div]

[div class=attrib]Image: Marshall Islands, 1955. Image courtesy of Atomic Postcards.[end-div]

“Spectacular nuclear explosion” reads a caption on the back (or “verso,” as postcard geeks would say) of this card—released by “Ray Helberg’s Pacific Service”—of a test in the Marshall Islands. The disembodied cloud—a ferocious water funnel of water thrust upward, spreading into a toroid of vapor—recalls a Dutch sea painting with something new and alien in its center. “Quite a site [sic] to watch,” reads a laconic comment on the back. Outside the frame of the stylized blast cloud are its consequences. As Nathan Hodge and Sharon Weinberg write in Nuclear Family Vacation, “[F]or the people of the Marshall Islands, the consequences of atomic testing in the Pacific were extraordinary. Traditional communities were displaced by the tests; prolonged exposure to radiation created a legacy of illness and disease.”