Thursday, January 14, 2010

But No Postcards From Nietzsche

The verb used to be "surfing" the Internet -- how quaintly '90s -- but it's more like clearing your way through undergrowth with a machete. If you're not paying much attention, the path you've cleared will disappear again, and you won't be able to remember how you got there; and if you don't bookmark, you might never come that way again.

So how did I find the Nietzsche Family Circus? Only a few hours after I found it, I don't remember. "The Nietzsche Family Circus pairs a randomized Family Circus cartoon with a randomized Friedrich Nietzsche quote," says the site. "Refresh the page to see a new comic..."

I had to spend a few minutes with that. The best pairing I randomly created featured the eldest child, whatever his name is, standing in his pajamas next to a pile of presents under a Christmas tree on Christmas morning, saying, "God is dead." Was that really randomized?

The Free-Floating Dysfunctional Family Circus Archive v1.1.2, on the other hand, isn't randomized. It's astonishing how many dysfunctional captions there are.

I visited the resale-shop postcard bin today. Not my first visit there, but I try to hit the periodic half-off storewide sales, when the cards are 12.5 cents each. Can't beat that. Except today, when everything in the store was 75 percent off. Cards were 6.25 cents each. I bought 50.

Some depict places I've been, others do not, and a few are novelty cards. Out of 50, I bought two previously mailed cards without looking at them too closely. But I did see that they feature archetypical postcard messages, that is, along the lines of "we are here, it's beautiful here, we like it, see you later."

That shorthand is so well known that Jimmy Buffett was able to use for his own comic ends as recently as 1981 in a song called "The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful." But I suspect that future generations -- as soon as my daughters' cohorts -- won't be familiar with it.

One card was of Niagara Falls, sent by a Mrs. Wallace to a Mr. & Mrs. Joe Van of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The other was of the Blue Ridge Parkway, sent by Viola to Mr. & Mrs. H. Dede of Floral Park, New York.

On closer examination, the really astonishing thing is that these two cards were mailed within days of each other in July 1970 -- one definitely the 21st of that month, according to the postmark, the other maybe the 16th or the 18th, since the postmark is incomplete.

That by itself isn't astonishing. But what were they both doing in the same box in the same shop at the same time, considering that they went to different people in different states 40 years ago? Moreover, I picked them more-or-less at random out of several hundred cards. How did this happen? I'll never know.

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