creeps, weirdos, & the social network

September 30, 2010

Any movie trailer that uses Vega Choir’s rendition of “Creep” as soundtrack is going to earn, at the very least, two minutes and thirty seconds of my attention.  And it worked beautifully when it was used in this trailer.  It’s the only trailer for The Social Network that I remember.

It works beautifully in that particular trailer because the soundtrack overwhelms the content of the movie itself, and because it was playing so loudly in the theater(s) that it caused this involuntary response from my body where my heart sort of flutters and my eyes well with tears, and I sniff and look over at my girlfriend and make sure either that she hasn’t noticed or is pretending (convincingly enough) that she hasn’t noticed, and I take a sip of my beverage if I have one, and I go back to watching the trailer for this movie, which, by the way, looks terrible (all of this, of course, involuntarily).  I think it would work about as beautifully with a movie trailer comprised of a montage of people bending over and farting (Working title: The Food Network).  (Beautifuler, even.)

From the previews I’ve seen, The Social Network doesn’t look any good.  At the end of that trailer, all I want is to listen to some Radiohead, or to hear a full version of this song, and, incidentally, to find out who’s singing it.  This movie?  Take it or leave it.  Certainly more of a renter, if anything. 

And it’s not like this is a sneak preview for the song, or at least that isn’t supposed to be its primary purpose .  It’s not like if I go and see The Social Network, the key to the room with the full version of Vega Choir’s rendition of Radiohead’s “Creep” will finally be unlocked for me.  Look.  There.  I found it.

This article, and this article alone, has convinced me that I should just go see this movie, and participate in the shared experience of seeing a movie in theaters and contributing thoughtfully to the ensuing discussion.  I have this sneaking suspicion that this movie will catalyze two simultaneous events:  one, the increase, as a direct result of the movie, in the number of people with Facebook accounts, and two, the exodus of a number of persons that already have Facebook accounts that have decided - as a matter of principle - to stop contributing to this (seemingly) selfish, greedy, soulless douchebag’s enormous business empire.

I’m having trouble deciding whether I care enough to quit Facebook myself.  Does the principle - does the part where I am contributing to this (seemingly) selfish, greedy, soulless douchebag’s enormous business empire - overwhelm the convenience and satisfaction I feel from exchanging shallow social niceties with my friends and family?  Tee-bee-dee, tee-bee-dee.

It’d be a lot easier if I could just convince everyone* to hop over to a different, (seemingly) more ethical, and, well, better social media network (say, tumblr.com), but that just feels like a lot of work.  You have to care enough to be able to do that much work.

I think this movie is my telling point, and I think it is going to be the telling point for a number of people.  If you can sit through a movie about how Facebook was created by some sleazeball almost singularly for the purposes of extracting personal information from its users and keep your Facebook account up and running, more power to you: you can play Scrabble any time you want to, and people-watch all you want.  Be creeps.  Be weirdos.

I want to know whether I can do that.

And, I mean, I’ve already seen Catfish.  (Incidentally, Catfish had two previews:  the one for Vega Choir’s rendition of “Creep”, and Black Swan, which also looks terrible)

And Aaron Sorkin’s not hurting things.  Have you seen Studio 60?  Jesus that show was good.

Then there’s that dilemma where, while the movie itself has this potential to be a sort of propaganda piece for leaving Facebook, going to see the movie will contribute to the royalties heading Zuck’s way, because he owns the word “Facebook” (or whatever).  Shouldn’t the Facebook boycott begin then by not seeing the movie?  (Don’t you have a job interview tomorrow?)

The way that I see it, social media are good for two things:  first and foremost, the public exchange of information, and secondly, the public exchange of words (and particularly those of wit or affection). 

I try to use Facebook accordingly, although it is (naturally) the most personal of the social networks.  But there are better social network outlets out there.  I - we - migrate back to Facebook because everyone** migrates back to Facebook.  But Facebook is just a vessel - an outmoded, failure of a vessel.  It’s sort of like choosing to row a boat when you could be traveling by submarine (so to speak).  It’s the lowest common denominator in a sea of substance. And something would be missing if I tried to live without it.  Damn.

*not everyone.  ** not everyone.

 

internet 101:

September 15, 2010


Printing library cards?  That’s interesting.  Not what I want, not what I want, not what I want.  No, that isn’t what I meant.  Okay!  Here we go!  Wait, wait, back up…WHAT??


 

the legend of the poo bandit (a tragedy)

September 1, 2010
Earlier this summer, I found occasion to take leave from my fairly strict Kurt Vonnegut and otherwise pretentious-leaning seasonal reading regiment to really embrace the library geek in me and read Marilyn Johnson’s gem of a book, the cleverly titled This Book is Overdue!  How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All.

There are so many supposedly great works in the literary canon that I’ve yet to read that it is ordinarily difficult for me to, so to speak, get out of the eight-hundreds, and become so intrigued by a research-based work that I will take the time to finish it, particularly when I am reading it, quote-unquote, leisurely.  But this one was so relatable, and so informative, and gave me so many things to respond to, that I was able to pencil it in somewhere between Bluebeard and Deadeye Dick.

Yes, it was a pretty good summer for books.

Of the two-hundred and fifty-plus pages of Johnson’s complimentary words about the future and the culture of libraries, I would like to take the opportunity here to respond to one section I found particularly poignant to my personal experience:  the five-page meditation at the end of Johnson’s fourth chapter, The Blog People, which she entitled The Real Poop.

She writes, “Did you ever?  I mean, did you ever think that being a librarian meant dealing with poop?”  I would like to respond to Marilyn Johnson by saying, “I suppose I should have."

So far, I can relate to the experience of discovering poop inside of a library.  By the end of this, I’ll also be able to relate to the experience of blogging about discovering poop inside of a library.  And that’s key.  That’s what makes it real.

My contribution to The Real Poop, “The Legend of the Poo Bandit”, starts now.

---

It started out sort of like one of those guy walks into a bar jokes, where the punch line gets you right in the gut:  A family of four walks into the library, and my heart says, “Ouch.”

It was early April.  Ish.

A mom, a dad, a son, a daughter.  The mom’s pushing the daughter in the stroller.  The dad and the son, perhaps eleven years old, straggle in beside her.  It’s a large enough entrance for them to do so.

They all move to the beat of their own drums, but it’s like they’re playing a 78 at thirty-three and a third revolutions per minute.  They’re doing thirty in a sixty-five.  They look around, and they look nowhere.  They are oblivious and they are entirely self-aware. Ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum.

The mom and dad are perfect for one another, in a way.  Individually, they take the shape of their hardships – of poor genetics and poorer choices.  The dad, the clear head of the family, is husky and low to the ground, a dazed half-smile upon his face.  The mom has a gap tooth and hair in a poof, her face made up to the likeness of an albino.  They are soul mates that should never have mated.

It’s already showing on the son, in his speech patterns, in the way he walks, and in his overall oblivious demeanor.  The daughter is yet unaffected.  On a given day, she may very well be the cutest baby you see that day.  She is screaming her head off about nothing in particular, and it is adorable.

Who knows?  Maybe she’ll be okay.

I issue the dad a library card, while the person working beside me issues the mom one.  The dad has a lot of questions about the library’s policies and collection.  Each time I’ve finished answering a question, he responds by saying, “Oh, okay,” and shoves aside some room in the recesses of his brain, on the chance that he may never have to ask that question again.  I give him that musty spiel I give every new member but somehow still can’t get just right, about how his first check out will be limited to five items (“Oh, okay.”), that every check out after that will have a limit of fifteen items (“Oh, okay.”), and that there is a limit of five of each type with our media items (“Oh, okay.”).

“And where are the movies?” the dad asks me.

I point in his direction and say something like, “Right behind you.”

He says “Oh, okay,” and he thanks me, and the family meanders their way to the DVD section of the library.

And this is generally how it would work for the first month or so:  the family would walk, stroll, and straggle into the library, return the five DVDs they’d checked out on one of their cards, find five more, check them out, and leave.  The daughter would sit in her stroller and scream her little head off.  The son would roam about, a potential disaster waiting to happen, somehow managing leave the library unscathed.

That is, until he scathed the library.

---

It’s the same scene.  Mid-May.  Seven forty-five.  Ish.  There are three of us working that evening.  What is it, a Wednesday?  The son makes it perfectly clear that he’s had a couple of Red Bulls or something, and he doesn’t want to be at the library, and he’s going to entertain himself in the meantime to the best of his ability.

His first stop is at one of the public computers.  He doesn’t log onto it.  He doesn’t want to play games online or test out the youth computers’ filter.  No, he takes solace in simply banging on the keyboard, over and over again.  And that keeps him busy for a while, until my colleague asks him to kindly stop banging on the keyboard.  He gets up and searches for another source of entertainment.

Meanwhile, I’ve been scheduled to shelve for the last of the library’s operating hours, and when the time comes, I go about doing so.  As I’m shelving in the juvenile nonfiction section, in the darkest corner of the library, the son walks up to me, a handful of small pieces of paper in one hand, a book on the Titanic in the other.  And with his thick, I guess, Cajun accent, he asks, “You got study rooms?”

And I say, “Yeah, we’ve got study rooms.”

He does not say, “Oh, okay.”  Instead, he appears to reflect a moment, and then he asks me, “Can you do anything in a study room?”

And I say, “Yeah – well, anything within reason.”

Then, because of the accent, I guess – or maybe because I was trying to give this kid the benefit of the doubt, trying to prove that I didn’t think he was some destructive, illiterate basket case, that maybe he was just a misunderstood creative type, weighing whether to read a book about the Titanic or do some makeshift arts & crafts – I think he asks me, “Can you color in a study room?”  What he really asked me was, “Can you cut in a study room?”

But no matter, because I answer by saying, “Not the books.”  He could do whatever he wanted with the small pieces of paper, for all I cared.  Well, anything within reason.

Once I have realized that he is saying cut, and I get it across that we can lend him neither colors nor scissors, and he asks, “Because of office supply?” one more time, and I say, “Right,” he disappears, and I continue shelving.

The closing announcement is made.  The family has checked out their DVDs and left.  Now, and only now, does the thirty-something guy who teaches chess for a living – exclusively, as far as I can tell, inside our library study rooms – and still lives with his parents, and has his father – whose breath always smells like catfood, and who insists on sharing a "musing" with me every time he sees me about how much he likes World War II books, or how much better his library etiquette is than people who talk on their cell phones or who don’t bring their items back on time or who don’t put things in the right place, or about Longhorn football because I must love Longhorn football – pick him up when the lessons are over, comes up to the desk and informs us that someone had been pretty rowdy in the study room next door, and that he thought that person had left a mess in the study room, but that we should go check it out ourselves to be sure.

(For privacy’s sake, and with all due respect, I will heretofore refer to my two colleagues that evening as Audrey and Erica, even though these are not their actual names.  Audrey will be playing the part of my fellow part-time colleague that evening, and Erica will play the part of that evening’s person-in-charge.  Action.)

Audrey goes and takes a look at the study room in question.  She reports to Erica that there is a bit of a situation.  Apparently, whoever (and you know who it was!) was in that study room had thrown small pieces of paper all over the place, torn up a book, and ----wait for it----wait for it---shat in the study room.

We also find some of the – as Erica will put it, loudly and filled with disgust, on numerous occasions in the next fifteen minutes or so – “human feces” (and I'm assuming this stool was from the original study room sitting) in the middle of the library, next to one of the floor outlets, whose cover had been completely removed and tossed aside.

Now, my theory is that this kid (innocent until proven guilty, of course), amid his preoccupation with shredding books and otherwise throwing paper confetti-style into the air (imagining mine), had begun to realize the repercussions of what he had done – that, hey, it smells like shit in here.

Consequently, he began transferring the poop out of the study room in hopes of hiding it inside the floor outlet.  Only, something kept him from making it all the way to the floor outlet, and from making more than one trip. Perhaps his parents had summoned him to leave mid-transfer.  Perhaps he exchanged glances with another patron, dropped it, and went and told his parents that it was time to go.

Did he use a vessel other than his hand to move it?  Did he use the floor outlet cover?

My larger concern is how he had managed to do this without anyone noticing – without catching wind of – any part of what he was doing.  Me – particularly because I was in the stacks, my colleagues, library patrons on their laptops in the middle of the library.  Nobody.

So we’re standing around, disgusted, deciding whether to leave it to the janitorial staff to deal with it in the morning, or whether to do the more humanist thing (after all, humans are descended from primates) and clean it up ourselves.  And Audrey says, out loud, mind you, "I mean, it looks like a brownie.  Maybe it's just a brownie."

Yeah.  It’s a brownie.  You go pick it up, then.
  Out loud, I say something like, “Feel free to go find out.”

Erica puts it a little better.  “Let’s not be delusional,” she says.

So anyway, that was an ordeal.  We threw a lot of shit away.  There are more details, but what is this, a story about poop?

---

A few days later, call it Saturday, the family returns to the library.  They are good patrons.  At this point, we’re still lacking any real concrete evidence of who the, as he was later deemed, "poo bandit" was.  We hadn't taken the stool to any poo labs or anything.

It's the same three people working – Audrey and Erica and myself.  We have all taken special note of the son's presence in the library.  A couple of minutes into their stay, Audrey decides it will ease her mind to take a lap, and to see if this kid's up to any mischief.  Sure enough, Audrey finds him in the juvenile nonfiction section, standing on top of this floor rocking chair we (used to) have, just, peeing.

We call the cops, one of the cops asks the kid, “Are you aware that the library is not a bathroom?” yadda yadda yadda, he's not welcome to the library anymore.

---

The rest of the family of four will still straggle in on occasion, though obviously, and necessarily, less frequently.  Most of the time it’s just the dad.  And he’s a good enough guy.  But I still feel sorry for him, and he knows it.  To make matters worse, he’ll have to suffer the humiliation of being the father of the kid who pooped and subsequently peed inside of a public library, for as long as he keeps coming to the library and someone who works there remembers that time that kid pooped in the library.

On their first library trip after the banishment, just a few days afterwards, the dad came inside while the mom, the daughter, and the son waited outside.  Through a window in the children’s section, I could see the son straggling around across the street in the church parking lot, throwing a frisbee as far up into the air as he possibly could, over and over again.  At one point, the dad walked over to the window, and looked out at him with his hands on his hips.  And he stayed that way for a good minute.  I wonder what he was thinking.

That poor kid.  And that poor baby.

It should go without saying that this incident has deeply affected me both psychologically and existentially.  For you, which would be easier on the mind:  to think of it as an isolated incident, thus tainting the library from that point forward, or to just think that there's human feces on everything, and that it's no big deal?  It’s not so easy to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.

But yeah.  Poop.

What I’m really trying to say is, give This Book is Overdue! a read, because Marilyn Johnson likes plays on words, and because she wrote a meaningful book about libraries that really makes you think.  But read Kurt Vonnegut, too.
 

take the world apart, figure out how it works (a modest proposal)

September 1, 2010
I am what one might call, if they liked the word as much as I do, a worrywart.

One of my favorite things to worry about of late – in between worrying when I’m going to get a job, or even an interview for a job, that is better than the one that I’ve had the last two years, and whether there is something seriously wrong with my digestive system (due to a deficiency of iron, or vitamin, or calcium, or potassium, or fiber, or genetics), and whether maybe I should just become a math teacher, and whether I have offended anyone, anywhere, in any situation, in my entire life – has been whether we Americans (disambiguation:  U.S.) are ever going to pull ourselves out of this god-forsaken recession, and, subsequently, what is going to happen to us if and when we don’t, and that Sarah Palin really has a chance of becoming president in two years, and that I won’t like living in Canada, either, because snow.

It makes sense to me why we’ll never get out of this recession.  In the post-war boom, we created a monster.  Today, we call it “consumer culture”.  We were so happy to be in peacetime and have money to spend that nobody stopped to worry about what would happen when we ran out of money to spend again.

And we made babies.  Lots of ‘em.  Cause why not?

Ten years into the boom, the government taught us to be afraid of the Communists, and we responded by becoming even bigger Capitalist pigs just to show those Commies who was boss, that we could have as large of properties as we wanted, wherever we damn well pleased, and that it was ours, all ours.

Shopping malls and chain stores sprung up, and we filled them with people who needed jobs, and they sold us crap we didn’t need.  And we built neighborhoods around these shopping malls and chain stores, and we surrounded ourselves with their crap, and we called it culture.

And we were scared, and we were sad, and we were bored, but we were happy.

I was born into one of those neighborhoods.  I only go back for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I used to have so many friends there.

People are born into these types of neighborhoods all of the time.  So are their future friends and spouses, and all kinds of people who will be content to live there for the rest of their lives, because they were popular in high school or whatever, and because Applebee’s isn’t that bad, and because Thanksgiving and Christmas aren’t that bad.  Here, as elsewhere, sixty-something years later, the consumer culture lives on.

The problem this country has, being what it is, and trying to recover from the state it is in, is that we have to spend our way out of the recession.  To paraphrase a proverb, money makes the United States of America go round.

At the individual level, it makes perfect sense, in an economic crunch, to become more frugal with your earnings, and to surround yourself with less crap.  Personally, I support this mode of living, no matter the income, no matter the economy.  Maybe that’s because crap doesn’t make me happy (see also:  paragraph two).

The problem is, as a consumer culture increasingly practices frugality, the number of employees needed to sell us crap, and the number of stores needed to sell us crap, and the number of malls needed to sell us crap, becomes fewer.  Enough people need to continue buying crap so that the people who are selling us crap can keep their jobs.

Crap
.

---

Recently, my library’s Friends group implemented a full-time used bookstore into the library, comprising of books that had been donated to the library, but were not in good enough shape to be incorporated into circulation.  It is an experiment in fundraising with which I have very few arguments.  But here they are:

These books are sold completely on the honor system.  Presumably, patrons abide by a sign sitting atop a shelf that tells them each book type’s price, and they put the correct amount of money into a coin box sitting on a different shelf, and they go on their merry ways, and we don’t ask any questions.  The store sits in a blind spot of an alcove, immediately behind the circulation desk.

My doubt of uniform bookstore patron honesty notwithstanding (which isn’t too far removed from my doubt of uniform library patron honesty), I think it is a good idea, and that it will prove successful in the long run.  It’s a good way to utilize donations.  Prior to the bookstore, the donated books that did not make it into circulation were sorted, boxed up, and put into storage, and weren’t thought about again until the semiannual book sale.  While the book sales were, and are, a hit, they were still only semiannual.  A perpetual book sale means a perpetual, albeit modest, source of funds being raised solely towards the well being of the library.  If this hurts the semiannual book sales, it will be but marginally, and the difference should be more than made up for by the funds from the perpetual sale.

So, how does this get us out of the recession?  It doesn’t.  Despite the notion that libraries may very well be the new cupcake, and despite my own personal awareness, as an aspiring librarian, of both the shifting dynamic and immense staying power of libraries, there will always be folks who question their importance, who think city governments are just wasting their tax dollars.  And anyway, an increased dependency on libraries amid an economic crisis causes the same dilemma as before:  the more people utilize the resources of a library – which, by the way, is often chock-full of music and movies, new releases and classics – the fewer people we will need to sell us those resources at retail price.

---

So how do we practice frugality without further hurting a hurt economy?  I would like to propose the following:  Instead of bringing consumer culture to libraries, what if we brought libraries to consumer culture?

Take, for instance, a store like, oh I don’t know, Barnes & Noble.  What if Barnes & Noble, while still primarily, and even overwhelmingly, a bookstore, introduced a member-based rental system and, subsequently, a used bookstore within that bookstore?

Barnes & Noble already offers a membership service, where people who become members are offered incentives for using a Barnes & Noble-exclusive credit card.  What if material rental was one of those incentives?  What if that credit card doubled as a library card?

Think about it.  Its implementation wouldn’t be all that difficult.

To begin, you would have a bookstore, like Barnes & Noble, filled with nothing but new books.  You put up some signs, send out some emails, set up some Facebook events, get folks to fill out some sort of application, yadda yadda yadda, you have members who begin to have the option of using the facility as a library.

By having a two-in-one library/credit card, there is a guarantee that the material will either be paid for or returned.  If an item that’s been rented out hasn’t been returned in an acceptable condition after the allotted amount of rental time, a late fee could begin to accumulate until it is returned, again, in an acceptable condition, wherein that fee would be charged to the credit card, and billed at the end of the month.  Once the item is a certain number of days late, the patron could automatically be charged for the retail price of the material on the credit card, and billed at the end of the month.  (Why don’t libraries do this?  Do libraries do this?)

Assuming at least some members utilize the rental privilege appropriately, there will be items coming back that are used.  Slap a used price tag on those babies and return them to the collection, where they too can either be rented or bought.  Hey, presto, you’ve got yourself a bookstore/library on your hands.

Some folks may prefer to rent used items because there would be less money at stake should they decide to keep them.  Incidentally, a used bookstore like Half-Price Books could easily introduce a similar service, and it would be awesome.  But Half-Price Books isn’t the problem.  They get it.  It’s the folks who insist on selling us shiny new things that are the problem.

I’m no computer scientist or anything, but it seems like an automation system that can differentiate rentals from purchases isn’t that tough of a program to write.  Anyone remember Blockbuster Video?

I’ll leave it to the store to write this, as well as to decide how many items a member may rent at a time, how long and which items are allowed to be rented, whether there is a rental fee, and how much the per item daily late fee will be.  But may my made up answers for my imaginary bookstore/library (called Barnes & Noble & Grawlsy) serve as suggestions:  four; everything uniformly checks out for seventeen days; no; eighty-four cents.  Why not?

--

Obviously, a number of hoops would need to be jumped through to get there – namely, convincing a successful pan-American conglomerate to reconstruct their business plan for no particular reason other than that it might help save the American economy in the long run.  And I can see why publishing companies may want to protest.  But I think it’s a possibility, and that it isn’t unreasonable to believe that it may even help both sides net even more of a profit.

By putting materials in members’ homes before actually having to buy them, it offers choice, and in turn what one may call, if they liked the phrase as much as I do, the illusion of frugality.  At the same time, it offers a greater range of people an incentive to become members, and a greater rationale for returning, and with greater frequency.

This type of rental system, that uses the library (and the used bookstore within the library) as a prototype, and that introduces thrift and frugality into mainstream consumer culture, could hypothetically be implemented into all kinds of retail stores.  The line from library to bookstore was simply the easiest line to draw.

It’s too bad ideas don’t pay the rent, because I think this one is worth well over five hundred and eighty American dollars.  So I’ll sit around in the dark, with the thermostat hovering around eighty, because, really, who needs to wear clothes in their own apartment, and worry about how this is received on the Internet, which will inevitably be, “Hardly at all,” and whether this was even a decent idea in the first place, and why I wasted so much time thinking about it when I could have been applying for jobs that I won’t get, and whether maybe I should just become a math teacher. 

Cheers.

---

(Epilogue:)

The day after I had initially finished writing this essay, I found this article about the fall and subsequent sale of Barnes & Noble, glaring at me from the Yahoo! homepage.  On numerous occasions in the last couple of weeks – and partially due, I’m sure, to the sizeable amount of LOST re-watching that has occurred in my private life of late – I have considered that Eko/Lockean debate over whether I am mistaking coincidence for fate, or whether I am mistaking fate for coincidence.  Either way, I’ve decided that this is about as much effort as I am going to put into it.  I’ve got better stuff to do than save Barnes & Noble.
 

shelf check #421: the nine o'clock serenade.

July 19, 2010


A very funny and spot on webcomic from Shelf Check:  librar* and (comic or blog) written by librarian Emily Lloyd (aka poesy galore?).

I kind of like this idea as an actual policy, though.

When I close at the library (read:  every day I work at the library), I have a fiscal obligation to the library until fifteen minutes after closing.  I get paid to work until nine fifteen, or, depending upon the day, four fifteen, or six fifteen.  I'm sure this is pretty standard in most bureaucratic institutions.  However, once those obligations (making sure everything is shelved, making sure everyone's out of the library, flushing the toilets, locking up, logging off computers, turning out lights, putting food away, making sure everyone's car starts) are completed, I can leave the library, and get paid for the first five or ten minutes I'm making my way home.  If whenever fifteen arrives first, we HAVE TO leave.  It's not such a bad deal.

Most of the closing procedures are routine.  They take the same amount of time every time the library closes.  The two exceptions to this are (on occasion, and particularly during the summer) shelving, and GETTING EVERYONE OUT OF THE LIBRARY.  It's the GETTING EVERYONE OUT OF THE LIBRARY element that's stressful.  It's the GETTING EVERYONE OUT OF THE LIBRARY element that you didn't sign up for, that you weren't warned about during training.

But it's an inevitability.  Very often, I get so caught up in my work that I completely lose track of time (and fail to listen to the two announcements someone's made warning me that the library is about to close).  Good for them.  It's fine to become engrossed in something.  I think the best work and study come out of engrossment.  But, it's been a long day, and we want to go HOME.

So if getting everyone out of the library after hours is inevitable, if it is actually routine, why not have fun with it?  Why not blare some opera music, or angry hip-hop, or something by the band Aqua?  Why not use that little alarm that came with the PA system?  THERE IS AN EMERGENCY, AND EVERYONE NEEDS TO GET OUT OF THE LIBRARY!!  Why not?  Now instead of making eyes at a coworker that say "these people!" and they respond with eyes that say "tell me about it!", you just slowly crank the volume on Boston's "More Than a Feeling," which is playing through a single nineties-style computer speaker, perhaps with the lights out, and watch the stragglers scamper outside through the manually half-opened sliding doors.

What's one more procedure?
 

on the twenty-four hour library

July 17, 2010
The human head is filled with ideas.  Some heads are filled with few ideas; other heads are filled with too many ideas.  But we are all humans in that we all have heads with ideas in them.  The human head is filled with good ideas and bad ideas.

Human life, then, is the independent and subjective disciplining and editorializing of one human, the end-goal of which is to be able to ascertain the good ideas from the bad ones.  And the only way to be certain of this is through careful consideration and reflection.

And here, I mean for the notion of an idea to run the gamut, from should I have showered today? to shouldn't I have reapplied sunscreen after sticking my legs in the lake yesterday? to should we all have voted for Ron Paul in 2008? to should I have gotten a teaching degree instead of a library degree? to what does the color blue look like? to who is the host of Jeopardy!?

A couple of weeks ago now, a friend of mine (we'll call him Arthur) came to visit me at my apartment.  We sat around and shot the breeze for a while, bouncing ideas off of one another to see if they would stick, like cooked spaghetti to a wall (so to speak). 

When the conversation moved, as it sort of always naturally does, to libraries, Arthur (should that be what we call him?) asked me what I thought of the notion of a twenty-four hour library.  He proceeded to tell me that the library where he attended college, the Watzek Library at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, was open twenty-four hours during the week. 

I thought about it then, and I've thought about it since, and the twenty-four hour academic library is a decidedly good idea. 

My first real reaction was a sort of incredulity that I had neither heard of nor thought about this before.  Because, realistically speaking, how difficult would the implementation something like this be?

When I worked in an academic library during my undergrad, there would be weekend and holiday hours where the library was open and I was the only employee there.  During those periods of time, the services the library was able to provide were relatively limited, but the physical space (with wi-fi and three stories of books), the computers, and the ability to check materials in and out were all accessible to the user base during the hours of operation.  I never worked the later evening (9-12) shifts, but I suspect those who did worked under similar circumstances:  one person working, with few patrons, but access available to the base user needs for anyone who chooses to utilize them.  It doesn't seem like it would be that difficult to move student workers' hours around to provide this base access for the weekday hours that most academic libraries choose to be closed.  It may cause a university to dig a little deeper into their pockets each year, but it would be doing their campus a great service in doing so.  And what's money?

As a general rule, anyone who works in an academic library should know how college students function, and should therefore understand the perks of twenty-four hour library access - for the night owls who don't get around to studying until past midnight; the crammers who need a place to study right up until that 8 AM final, and who aren't going to go to bed anyway because adderall or caffeine (and here, I have listed naively few stimulants); the folks who return to their dorm room late at night to find a scrunchie or a tube sock on the door handle; and cetera.  It just seems like a sensible idea to me, and one that would seem sensible to a good portion of the academic world.  So, why isn't it being implemented?

Whaddaya think?
 

070410 (a mixtape)

July 4, 2010
Over the past twenty-two months (or so), I have, on occasion (twenty times), experimented on my iPod with what I have deemed "the twenty-eight song playlist". 

Somewhere in time, when all I was doing with my Bachelor's degree was sitting around my house in Georgetown and writing reviews for CDBaby.com, waiting to go to my seasonal, four-hour-a-day job at some library, I got this idea that a seven song album (and, here, I can think of no examples) was the most pure album form.  I'm pretty sure this was inspired from some guy whose album I was reviewing (in two minute snippets), and whose name I have long since forgotten, who thought there was an aesthetic to making a complete album in seven songs.

And on some level, I agree with him.  There is something very redeeming about creating something that is at once succinct and complete.  I'm sure this is one of the reasons I (try to) write short stories.

Nevertheless, in terms of mixes, seven songs is too short.  Back when I was living in the dark age of burning cds (remember cds?  I have stacks and stacks of them that sit around in my apartment, their cases gathering dust, because, unlike my vinyl records, an album's sound quality is not compromised when I convert the songs on a cd to mp3s and upload them to my iPod [remember iPods?]), I struggled to confine the mixes I made to the seventy-nine minute and fifty some-odd second (Not eighty.  Don't let the label fool you) CD-R limit.  Thus, the twenty-eight song playlist:  four seven song mixes back to back to back to back, one mix in four parts, usually a good two hours or so of music, labeled only by ddmmyy, timepieces, a sort of soundtrack to my musical memoir.

ANYWAY, last night (and this morning), I found occasion to make another twenty-eight song playlist (perhaps to compete with this mixtape).  I think it is pretty good! 

What follows is the playlist, with links to an array of goodies associated with each track:  mp3s, album streams, live videos, & cetera.  Now you too can spend your Independence Day folding your laundry in style.

070410:

(1)  Independence Day (
David Byrne, Rei Momo)
(2)  The Suburbs (Arcade Fire, The Suburbs)
(3)  Some Kind of Nature (Gorillaz featuring Lou Reed, Plastic Beach)
(4)  Long Line of Cars (Cake, Comfort Eagle)
(5)  Pumped Up Kicks (Foster the People)
(6)  Gone (Tokyo Police Club, Champ)
(7)  All the Wine (The National, Alligator)
(8)  Sweet Sunshine (Beck, Mellow Gold)
(9)  Oh You (Christmas Blues) (LCD Soundsystem)
(10)  Mind (Talking Heads, Fear of Music)
(11)  Cattle & the Creeping Things (The Hold Steady, Separation Sunday)
(12)  Summer (Magic Kids)
(13)  St. Francis (Delta Spirit, History From Below)
(14)  Lay Me Down (Ugly Casanova)
(15)  The Soloist in the Living Room (Cold War Kids, The Mulberry Street EP)
(16)  Drunk Girls (LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening)
(17)  Excursions (A Tribe Called Quest, The Low End Theory)
(18)  ATLiens (Big Boi Mixtape for Dummies: Guide to Global Greatness)
(19)  Priority (Mos Def, The Ecstatic)
(20)  Unbearable Why (Dr. Dog, Shame, Shame)
(21)  Hey Babe (Neil Young)
(22)  Free Energy (Free Energy, Stuck on Nothing)
(23)  Human Being (The Beta Band, Hot Shots II)
(24)  Wrestlers (Hot Chip, Made in the Dark)
(25) & (26)  Ghost/Untitled (Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea)
(27)  Exit Music (For a Film) (Radiohead, OK Computer)
(28)  After Hours (Velvet Underground)  (ALSO)

Cheers.
 
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