Why send a letter when you can jettison an electronic mail down the backbone of the Internet? Sending an e-mail instead of dispatching a letter through the U.S.P.S. saves you time and effort; and, there is little chance that your email is going to be displaced, or flat-out lost; there is no Bureau of Dead E-mails because that type of anomaly is not built into the system. An electronic mail can not not reach it's destination (despite being imploded as a packet or getting re-arranged in "flight").
Maybe, the best part about pushing the "send" button is not having to interact with the surly clerk behind the plexiglass. The only real advantage the U.S.P.S. has over e-mail is that when you patronize the U.S.P.S. you are patronizing an institution that has been refining its "game" since 1775 when Ben Franklin was appointed the nation's first Postmaster General by the Continental Congress. By all means, the U.S.P.S. is a tight ship, but even tight ships spring leaks. Is the U.S.P.S. an ironside whose time has come? Are there other institutions out there that seem to be in as much flux as the postal service?
The idea we have outgrown libraries dovetails with the idea that the U.S.P.S. is a relic of a Norman Rockwell era in America, where John Wayne was God, Ike was Buddha, and Ed Sullivan a Cathode-Ray Jesus. Both institutions symbolize the United States in a way that little things do, and yet both are rushing headlong into obsolescence. This may or may not be saying something about Americans are evolving as a people. Technology has given us the mode to render both useless and almost beyond salvage. The electronic book has killed the print book as the electronic mail has killed the parcel affixed with postage. Perhaps, the only interesting question is how long can these institutions hemorrhage money? In other words, at what point does nostalgia become an impediment?
I read Adam Gopnik’s article, “The Information” in the New Yorker magazine recently. Stylistically, Gopnik’s writing is fluid and without frills, almost primitive, which is a ridiculously difficult bit of artifice; in Gopnik's article there are turns of sleight, sprinkles of “print” history, and a more-than-thorough assessment of where media is going vis-a-vis where it's been. And, Gopnik provides a classification of the three major media factions that have evolved: "the Never-Better, the Better-Nevers, and the Ever-Wasers." It is this last faction that caught my interest the most; the Ever-Wasers believe that "at any moment in modernity something like this is going on, and that a new way of organizing data and connecting users is always thrilling to some and chilling to other." I am hoping that both the U.S.P.S. and the Public Library system in the U.S. can stay clear of the "Better-Nevers" and make their way to the "Ever-Wasers" and hit on a way to remain relevant.
Jim Heavily is a poet Hinchas de Poesia published in its third issue. He lives in North Carolina, and has time enough to correspond with me via email and Facebook. Those are pretty much the three things I knew about him when I decided to engage in a postcard feat with him. I also knew that we shared a nostalgia for the United States Postal Service, and a preoccupation for how electronic mail was affecting the work horse of through-sleet-and-snow. And now I think that I know something else about Jim Heavily; of the three factions, he is most likely to belong to the Better-Nevers because while he enjoys the bells and whistles of an interface or platform, the analog will always feel like a more authentic experience to him. I agree with the way Jim sees it, but I have no qualms about buying stamps online.
A Spanglish blog dedicated to the works, ruminations, and mongrel pyrotechnics of Yago S. Cura, an Argentine-American poet, translator, publisher & futbol cretin. Yago publishes Hinchas de Poesia, an online literary journal, & is the sole proprietor of Hinchas Press.