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Tuesday

I'm jealous. Billy has room for all his books. The bulk of mine are packed in those file boxes you can buy for about a buck apiece at Office Max, currently occupying about 150 cubic feet in a storage locker. The remaining hundred or two are stuffed into what little room in my house that isn't occupied by eBay related crap. I lately buy books at the rate of about 5 for every one I have time to read, and probably own at least two or three times what I'll ever be able to read in my lifetime. But nothing beats being able to go into a room and browse for the next one to read.

I recently heard of an acquaintance who lost 30,000 books in a house fire. Short of losing a loved one or an important body part, this is one of the worst tragedies I can imagine. A house can be replaced, but all those books? I tell ya, if there was a fire here, the first, and maybe only things, I'd go back in for would be the data from my computers and the books. And the data can wait. Billy, you got a halon system for that library?

Another interesting tidbit, I used to spend a lot of time doing research in the downtown Chicago library. They had a rule there that the bums that came into the library to get out of the cold and catch a few Z's could not loiter there without actually using the library for it's intended purpose. So what did the bums do? They would take a book to their chairs or tables and snooze with the book in front of them, just for appearances, and often held upside down. Now, me, I have nothing but time and no responsibilities, and I'd be in heaven to be in such a place. But them? To them the books were nothing but props, worthless objects used as a talisman to protect them from being booted. That's why they're bums, and will always be bums.

Comments

Fire: what a nightmare. Between the guitars and the books, I'd be well & truly fucked.

Browsing one's own shelves is a very cool thing. I actually did find a couple of interesting things that I hadn't read yet.

Just getting them on the shelves so I could look at them was a big deal. Later on, though, finding things like "The Gay Science" next to "Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas", Freidrich Engels' "The Condition Of The Working Class In England" right next to Col Jack Broughton's excellent F-105 Vietnam combat memoir "Thud Ridge", and A.J. Ayeer's "Logical Positivism" next to Adam Smith's "The Welath Of Nations" -- well it all points up what comes next, which is starting at one shelf and working all the way through it to put it in order.

Yee-hah.

Posted by Billy Beck at Wednesday, May 10, 2006 08:56 AM

"Now, me, I have nothing but time and no responsibilities, and I'd be in heaven to be in such a place. But them? To them the books were nothing but props, worthless objects used as a talisman to protect them from being booted. That's why they're bums, and will always be bums"

What’s wrong with ‘using’ books? And if they serve as an access to a world you are usually denied access to, why not? Surely what you yourself gain from the books you ‘use’ is access to 'new' worlds, just the same as the ‘bums’?

And heaven is relative is it not? Perhaps the ‘bums’ might also have answered they were enjoying a moment of heaven in such a place? What do you think?

Posted by Ana at Monday, June 12, 2006 03:38 PM

Ana,

"What do you think?"

I still think the same thing I did when I wrote this.

This wonderful new world that is revealed to the bums via their "use" of books is, what, a warm seat in which they can remain perfectly idle so long as they can fool the librarian into thinking they are reading? (Or more likely, cause little enough trouble that the librarians won't find it worth their while to bother them.)

You may think that the ability to sit idle for an entire day (and most likely and indefinite string of entire days) is a worthwhile goal to aspire to, but I don't.

There's nothing inherently wrong with gaining access to a public building where you're not entirely welcome if it is a way to get out of the bitter cold. But the reason they'll always be bums is that this means of doing so provides them with an unparalleled opportunity to rise above being a bum, yet instead of taking advantage of it, they go out of their way to avoid it, to the extent of actually pulling a book down off the shelf, opening it and holding up in front of them, and then consciously avoiding actually reading the words that are literally right in their faces.

And here's an epistemological clue for you: It's important to identify a concept correctly when you are going to talk about things such as comparing different ways of "using" it. A book can be used many ways, but using for things like holding up a table leg or as a prop is completely different conceptually than using it qua book. Don't fall into the trap of drawing a conceptual and moral equivalence just because the *word* "use" can describe both things.

Posted by kylben at Monday, June 12, 2006 06:38 PM

Thoughts can always change; I didn’t want to assume your opinion was static.

Perhaps sitting idle for an entire day is an alternative way of challenging the same system you seem to challenge from time to time in your writings? In terms of goals, perhaps you share some of them (survival and freedom at the very least)?

‘Rising above being a bum’ – does that assume that life is like a ladder? Does that support a class society, where there are different levels of humanity, some at the bottom, some higher up?

Perhaps there is a reason for a lack of interest in the books content? How often do you take time to decipher graffiti? And should you be criticized for your - conscious avoidance of actually reading the words that are literally right in front of your face - ? Not all society fits all people.

Perhaps 'the bums' have no desire to join the ‘rat race’ of the dominant cosmopolitan society? Perhaps THAT is the reason 'bums' will always be 'bums'? I don’t know, you should talk to the next person you see in a library who falls into the ‘bum’ category.

“It's important to identify a concept correctly” (kylben)

A good tip with the defining of a concept in use, however, as important is maintaining the ability to see beyond the dominant definition. I argue firstly that ‘correct’ itself is a relative term. And it is important to consider multiple conceptions – the interest and growth lies in the observation of vastly different conceptions of how to ‘use’ a book!

Thanks for your time – I appreciate your comments!

Cheers
Ana

Posted by Ana at Tuesday, June 13, 2006 05:09 AM

Ana,

"Does that support a class society, where there are different levels of humanity, some at the bottom, some higher up?"

Yes.

"Perhaps 'the bums' have no desire to join the ‘rat race’ of the dominant cosmopolitan society?"

C'mon, go ahead and say "dominant *capitalist* society". Isn't that what you really wanted to say?

"...as important is maintaining the ability to see beyond the dominant definition. I argue firstly that ‘correct’ itself is a relative term."

Now that's just offensive. And you were being so polite otherwise...

Posted by kylben at Tuesday, June 13, 2006 06:53 AM

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