Whereupon I strap on the sandwich board and declare:
The End is Nigh!
No, not that kind of doomsday, although if you work for one of the institutions represented above, it probably feels like it. Once-mighty Kodak is now suffering the indignity of seeing its stock trade for less than a dollar per share, with the ravening wolves of bankruptcy snarling just outside its doors. The U.S. Postal Service offered to delay closure of large parts of its infrastructure until the end May, but it's clear that volume has dropped well below its capacity, never to return. And the newspaper industry continues to consolidate, restructure, reduce, and combine in an attempt to remain relevant in a world where nearly everyone carries a fully-connected two-way computer in their pockets.
As a photographer in a line of photographers, I'm sad to see Kodak being steamrolled by history. The silver film can up there belonged to my late grandfather, an ad man by trade, decades before Don Draper and friends made it cool. (Grandpa worked on the Westinghouse campaign, and others I don't recall.) Losing Kodak is losing a part of that connection to the hours spent under the dim red safety lights in his basement darkroom, watching images magically appear on paper, surrounded by amber bottles of mysterious liquids and yellow packets of dry chemicals. At least Fuji still seems to be in the film business, and there is a manufacturing outfit in eastern Europe that is still making film, but the loss of Kodak is truly the passing of a great American success story.
As a retronaut and sporadic letter-writer, I'm sad to see the post office falling away, becoming a niche service that even people like me only mainly use once a year for sending Christmas cards and packages. Unless SOPA passes and drives us all back to pre-Internet times and technology -- and boy, is the Typosphere ready for that eventuality -- I see the end times for the good old USPS coming sooner than they'd like, and later than is practical. I'd better write some more letters and use up those stamps.
As a reader, the loss of the newspaper should hit me the hardest, but as I picked up our paper this morning in the driveway, half-soaked because it slipped out of its protective bag and into the rain, I realized that we're only getting it for two things these days: comics and coupons. I'd like to say I'm reading it for news, but everything there is a day old at least. "Local" news has all but disappeared in the wake of our own paper's many mergers: shown in the photo is the Business "section", which is a huge misnomer, as it is simply one page of newsprint, folded into half. Four pages, and the last page is taken up by a 3/4 sized advertisement. Our delivery person is an anonymous stranger that drives up and down the neighborhood at 5:45 am each day, after having driven thirty miles or so from his home for the privilege of peppering our suburban neighborhood with a bundle of advertisements insulating yesterday's news.
So where is the bold, beautiful tomorrow?
To be completely honest, I think it's in our hands. Literally. Mike Speegle is off making his writing dream happen by just doing it, publishing his own book, and damn those writing-program naysayers. Typosphere godmother Cheryl Lowry is working for a certain large seller-of-everything-under-the-sun, and leveraging her writing skills and 'net savvy into some sort of position that requires her to carry about numerous cool toys. Rob Bowker is sending hand-typed letters to any and all takers, bringing back the lost art and simple joy of a handmade message (and maybe introducing a new generation to the idea.)
And, oh yes, there's that little "Occupy" movement that the kids are so het up about. Whether you see this as citizen democracy or hippie rabble, it's the same thing -- individuals trying to jump in and do something, make a change, with their hands and voices and actions.
Dissolving old institutions, and trying on new ones. Smaller, localized, and independent. Kodak's demise doesn't come at the cost of photography, citizen journalism brings an immediacy and intimacy that the printed page cannot, and the mail? Unless it's a letter from a pen pal, 90% of what I get in my mailbox goes right into the recycling bin.
Maybe it's time to bring back the Pony Express? I bet my newspaper carrier would be up for it. I have a sandwich board here that says he's going to be out of a job soon.