Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Boring Postcards: An Introduction

Mrs. 5000 and I collect boring postcards. It's hard to explain why boring postcards are more interesting than interesting postcards. They just are.

It's also hard to explain what makes a postcard boring. The two of us don't always agree on whether a given postcard really qualifies. We can spend a lot of time arguing about this.

Although there are no universal rules, common characteristics of the properly boring postcard might be:
  • it shows an "attraction" that no one would ever actually want to visit
  • the attraction lacks visual interest
  • the attraction is something that is common as dirt
  • a genuinely interesting attraction is made to look uninteresting
  • the image is poorly photographed or framed
  • text on the postcard carries an unintentional pathos or irony
Also, although every era produces its own boring postcards, our favorites tend to be from before 1970.

I should mention that this (fantastic) collection concept did not originate with us. For sheer postcard tedium, I highly recommend the books Boring Postcards, Boring Postcards USA, and Langweilige Postkarten, all by Martin Parr.

If you would like to start your own collection by receiving a genuinely boring postcard in the U.S. mail, send me an Email with your name and address. We'll set you up.


Anonymous said...

One endearing trait of boring postcards is their essential optimism. The more banal the diner fa├žade, the more featureless the Minnesota lake, the more poignant is its presence on a postcard. Someone wanted you to love it and remember it. Or at least to recognize it and return. The unresolved household disagreements, by the way—boring or not boring—often involve engineering “marvels,” so the Kentucky TVA site third from the top was especially well chosen. I never met a turbine room I didn’t love.

Jenny! said...

That wasn't boring to me at all...snore snore snore! That is a truly interesting hobby!

gl. said...

can we send you someone else's address so they can start their own boring postcard collection? :)

Jennifer said...

You know, whenever I send you a postcard now, I stand there in the store and gaze at the racks of postcards with great anxiety. Which postcard would you think would be the most boring? How will you judge me if I can't even get a decent *boring* postcard? It's not like the bar's set that high. Pretty postcards are easy--a dime a dozen. But for those of you who think finding a boring postcard would be easy, you might be surprised how much time and practice it takes! I'm still a novice myself. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Personally, any postcard that's from the 70s is instaneously not boring. I am always fascinated by old postcards, even if their images are less than riveting. It's a little piece of history!

You could start collecting boring postcards from Boring, OR, to add a new twist to it.

Michael5000 said...

@Mrs.: Well said, dear.

@Jenny!: The thing is, telling me my boring postcards are boring is just going to egg me on. : )

@gl.: This is getting complicated.

@Jennifer: The truth of the matter is that most modern postcards are pretty interesting. Like American food and the gay rights movement, it stands as an area of human endeavor where there has been unambiguous progress over the last fifty years.

In general, it's hard to go looking for boring postcards. You have to just encounter them in nature, so to speak. For sending vacation postcards, I usually choose the attractive ones myself.

Incidentally, you kind of give the impression that you never let a week go by without sending a postcard to dear old Michael5000. Don't believe her, people.

@MDIC: Oh, man, I can't believe I haven't thought of the boring Boring postcard before. If you ever see such a thing, buy it for me immediamente! I'll pay ya back double.

Elaine said...

Ahem: quoting from mdic:

, any postcard that's from the 70s is instaneously not boring. I am always fascinated by old postcards,

OLD...from the 70's.

Believe it or not, we keep two objects from the FORTIES around our house all the time.
Drop in any time. Will fascinate the hell out of ya!