Sunday, September 21, 2014

Since Vlad "Pudding Boy" Putin likes to play dress-up (and dress-down), maybe he might consider suiting up as a mailman


The caption for this photo accompanying this week's update on the website of Yle Uutiset (described by Wikipedia as "the main news program" of Yle, the familiar short form of Yleisradio, the Finnish national broadcasting company) reads: "Yle's Moscow correspondent Marja Manninen said postal workers showed 'not the slightest bit of interest' in the homoerotic stamps."

by Ken

I've been meaning to catch up with this story since I was alerted to it by a friend's Facebook pass-along, which directed me to a Bilerico Project post by John M. Becker, "Finland Trolls Russian with Tom of Finland Stamps," which in turn directed me to a post on Finland's Yle website, "Yle stunt tests Russia's reaction to Tom of Finland stamps." It's a great little story; a commenter on my friend's Facebook pass-along noted that it had made her day. But what really interested me about the story is some of the side stories it generated.

The story itself is easily told; in fact, it's more or less told in the above photo caption. You remember that appalling "Let's All Fuck the Gays" legislation that Russia's Tsar Vladimir "Pudding Boy" Putin gleefully signed into law in 2003? The one that classifies virtually any nonthreatening mention of homosexuality as "homosexual propaganda" and a crime punishable by death if not worse? Okay, that wasn't the exact name of the law, but you don't have to be a mind-reader to divine its intent. And you have to hand it to the Pudding Boy, who knows maybe better than anybody alive how to energize people's basest instincts to get them to both follow him blindly while taking their minds off of real problems. Come on, if not for some trivial ideological differences, Pudding Boy could be a hero to the American Far Right -- he's their kind of people.

On September 8, Itella, the Finnish postal company, issued a set of stamps honoring that estimable national favorite son Tom of Finland (1920-1991), the master of gleefully homoerotic art.

Yle Uutiset (which, as I noted in the photo caption above, is described by Wikipedia as "the main news program" of Yle, the Finnish broadcasting company) reported at the time that, according to Itella,
the risqué stamps are the country's biggest seller ever, with pre-orders made in 178 different countries. The stamps, which hold pride of place in the newly-opened postal museum in Tampere, attracted a long queue of individuals eagerly anticipating the first day issues. . . . Apart from Finland, the greatest interest came from Sweden, Britain, the United States and France.
Itella officials were jubilant. They expected widespread interest, but nothing like what actually happened, with the stamps appearing around the world in traditional and social media and online outlets. "We haven't seen this kind of interest before in Itella's history," said Itella's head of development, Markku Penttinen, "and we probably won't again soon."

"Our starting point," Penttinen said, "was to get Touko Laaksonen's artwork in our stamps." He noted that Finland has a history of boldness in its stamps, with naked women appearing as far back as the '50s. He said they knew there would be global interest in the Tom of Finland stamps, but the results exceeded even their wildest expectations.

The stamps' designer, Timo Berry, said he was "reallly over the moon" about getting the assignment. "I jumped around the office." Berry was on hand to sign autographs at the new Postal Museum in Tampere, Finland's second city, whose opening coincided with the new stamps' issue. "Tom of Finland's greatest significance," he said, is that his gay figures, instead of being portrayed as "girlish," the way they customarily had been, "were given their masculinity." He added: "It's great that these sketches that had to be sold in secret can now be publicly viewed on envelopes and postcards."


The idea, originating in the Yle Tampere bureau, was to mail two letters and two packages to Russia using the Tom of Finland stamps, to see whether the stamps would fall afoul of Russian officials for their emphatically positive homoeroticism. The answer turns out to be no.

This week's Ule Uutiset update reports: "One of the packages posted by Yle last week has already been picked up by its recipient in Moscow, who said that postal authorities did not bat an eyelid at the drawings of muscular, entwined men." So that's that, more or less. Assuming the other package and the two letters also arrive.


(1) There are real, live Tom of Finland stamps, with which Finns can mail stuff anywhere they like. Cool!

(2) It actually occurred to those blithe souls at Yle Tampere to attempt such a stunt. Can you imagine staffers at the American nightly network news shows, or even the people at, say, CNN, doing such a thing? Cool!

(3) There were in fact concerns at the outset that the experiment might prove inconclusive because Russian mail service, at least between Russia and Finland, isn't exactly reliable.
The letters are expected to take up to 9 working days to arrive, while the delivery time for the parcels is normally 14 working days, according to Finland’s postal operator. . . .

However Yle’s Russia correspondent Marja Manninen warned that the stunt may turn out to be inconclusive, adding that even correspondence unadorned with gay imagery can take an extremely long time to arrive.

"I’ve had New Year’s cards sent to me from Moscow that don’t arrive until March,” Manninen said, “so in any case you can expect to wait a few weeks. And with these stamps they may not get there at all.”

But she added: ”On the other hand, the stamps might go completely unnoticed. Tom of Finland is probably not as well known in Russia as elsewhere in the world.”
And at the top of this post we can see the lovely Marja showing off the actually delivered package.

Now, it may be that Russia's domestic mail service is better than the international situation Marja describes above, but it's not hard to imagine that crap postal delivery is just one of the lesser instances in the panorama of indignities the Russian people are expected to bear, as they've been bearing basic life indignities going back through the Communist era to the time of the tsars.

Maybe instead of scapegoating homosexuals and fomenting revolution in Ukraine and strutting bare-chested, the Pudding Man might want to don a Russian mailman's outfit and, you know, try to get the mail moving.

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