Saturday, August 3, 2013

Notice this!

     I didn't even have to look at the envelope to see there was something special about it. Just holding it in my hands, walking away from the office mailboxes. The envelope had that rag paper feel. Nice. Hand-addressed. I glanced at the back. A return address in Paris -- Boulevard Raspail.
      Inside, nothing extraordinary. An 80-year-old Chicagoan, retired in Paris — nice — a lawyer, of course, had watched a continuing legal education video I made, years ago. He liked it and wanted to share a few comments.
      Writing him back, I thought how few actual letters I get, and how effective a way it is to cut through the communications clutter. It just takes a little extra time, a little postage. Everything arrives by email nowadays, or text, or a tweet, so anything that doesn't tends to stand out, and seems a little special. For instance, these notices on the bulletin board at the train station in Northbrook. People standing around, waiting for a train, idly glance over them, maybe even study one, which is more than they would do for ads about used cars and babysitting services that arrive via emails. I'm not arguing that sticking something up on the wall — a practice that goes back to Pompeii and beyond — is more efficient than email alerts and Twitter blasts. But people still do it. There must be a reason. Someone must think it works. More than that. They do work. When people wonder about the future of books — or newspapers — they should remember that people still communicate with posters. They still deliver speeches, just like Marc Anthony did. They still go into the street and talk to passersby, one-on-one. Sometimes they distribute handbills, the way they did 300 years ago. We always assume that whatever new technology we're in love with will wipe away everything that came before. And we're always wrong.


  1. You've become an excellent photographer (or, perhaps you already were, previous to your blog.) It is usually fun and interesting to actually receive a letter these days, unless it's from Macy's, telling you that they no longer make what their salesperson ordered online for you more than a week previously. Yes, they had my phone number and email address and they chose to send a letter! They probably were looking for that personal touch to tell me that they hoped they hadn't caused me any inconvenience.
    New subject: love the blog but not the fact that I have to prove I am not a robot every time I want to publish a comment. Is there an alternative to this?

    1. As to proving one is a robot, I also wonder why you have to do this? I don't know if it is to moderate what is being posted. It just seems stupid and in some cases at least for me it is hard to make out the letters.

    2. It must be difficult attempting to stay one step ahead of the robots these days. Especially since they post such clever comments. I know for a fact that "Wendy C" is a robot, and "her" comments are always compelling and humanistic. -- Uh, just attempting a bit of humor there, Wendy, if you happen to see this. ; ) Anyway, I agree that the robot screens here are the hardest to read that I've yet encountered. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

  2. THe real problem is if i really were a robot, I'd probably be programmed to be able to read the silly codes much better than I presonally can now. Neil, as always a great article/blog/story.


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