Monthly Archives: February 2016

In The 19th Century Spam Came Straight To Your Mailbox

In the early days of companies trying to sell us stuff we don’t want by flooding our mailboxes with junk mail “spam” the seller’s goals were typically much simpler.

They weren’t necessarily trying to scam us out of our paychecks, they were just trying to get people to choose their company over the competition, and felt direct advertising was the ticket to success.

Junk mail “spammers” used the postmasters to help them pass along their “important messages” to people in town, in a time when most people were delighted to find

For a variety of reasons, the first junk mail (targeted mail, generic mail . . . take your pick) went to and through local postmasters. Small town postmasters knew anybody and everybody in town, knew their businesses, knew their interests, knew their foibles. Much such mail was addressed directly to the postmaster, asking him to pass it along to someone in town likely to be interested in the product.

Dick Sheaff posted an interesting historical article on Ephemera Society about how Junk Mail Is Nothing New, which includes a couple dozen endearing examples of what junk mail looked like in the olden days.

-Via Boing Boing


A Soviet Monument’s Enduring Power Over Russian Artists

Alexander Vinogradov and Vladimir Dubossarsky, "Mosfilm" (2014) (© Vladimir Dubossarsky and Alexander Vinogradov)

Alexander Vinogradov and Vladimir Dubossarsky, “Mosfilm” (2014) (© Vladimir Dubossarsky and Alexander Vinogradov, all images courtesy Moscow Manege unless indicated otherwise)

MOSCOW — The kinds of memories that our museums and monuments trigger are never about remembering the past as much as they are about imagining the future. “The Fast and the Slow” (2012), a video work by Russian artist Shifra Kazhdan featured in Worker and Kolkoz Woman. Personal Case at the Worker and Kolkhoz Woman Museum, is set in a park in Moscow where sculptures have been abandoned after being removed from city squares since the collapse of the Soviet Union, creating an accidental museum-cum-theme park. In this surreal setting lies dormant the last radical utopia of the Western world, one that culminated in the death of millions in the Gulag. In the video, Kazhdan recalls a story from 1985 in which space researchers discovered a planet full of sculptures; with the help of a time machine they found out that these sculptures were the inhabitants of the planet, but were living at a different pace. Such tales of science fiction were the most popular official literature during the Soviet Union and a cultural phenomenon that enabled a whole imaginary of the future manifested in academic science, civil engineering projects, and the space program.