Monday, 28 February 2011

Library closures and books

I've been meaning to blog about library closures for a while now, but I thought I'd wait until traffic to my blog fell to single digits to avoid hassle.
The most concise thing I can say is "It would be so much simpler if it was just about book-lending", but its not. Its about all the other things that libraries do.
Books, they're cheap, almost free, try the secondhand sellers on Amazon and eBay, or FreeCycle, or charity shops, or downloading PDFs. There was some suggestion on one of the blogs what I read about how instead of paying for libraries it would be cheaper to issue a Kindle to anyone on minimum wage or less, and they can bill the taxpayer for any books they download. Maybe the sums work out, probably not, but there won't be much in it.
But that's not what the controversy about library closures is about, in fact it shows my middle-class, well-educated, right-wing bias. I ignorantly assume that everyone has access to the internet, can use computers and has the time, space and inclination for reading.
Libraries offer internet access and computer to those who otherwise wouldn't have it, they offer the space, the peace and quiet to read or do homework, they offer somewhere to get away from home.
I had this great idea for a website, essentially it was a peer-to-peer book-lending system. Lenders can enter all the books they own and feel comfortable about giving away, you just enter the ISBN or the title and their postcode, and borrowers can search for any book they want and it gives you the contact details of the people nearest to them who have that book, send them an email ask if they can leave it on a park bench or a coffeeshop or wherever
Users would get points and badges for what they've read, what they've lent, whether they have complete serieses of books,  and so on. If no one has the book, then there's an affiliate link to Amazon and a source of revenue for the website, and the grim acceptance that sometimes libraries don't have the book you want. It would be a warped hybrid website of Zupa,, FreeCycle, eBay, Amazon and FourSquare but for books. Actually, just making it an app for Facebook, iPhones and Android would be better than a website, using onboard cameras to scan barcodes.
I thought it would be great, public libraries become public, removing 'the state'  and any taxpayer burden from the equation.
But that just emphasises my bias, my misunderstanding of what public libraries are about, they're not just about book lending but the social services that such institutions provide.
On a similar note, I haven't been into a video shop in a while, but I imagine they don't really have many videotapes, they stock DVDs and computer games. Likewise for HMV, fewer vinyl records these days, more CDs, even more DVDs and computer games. Gor! Virgin Megastore died for it, diluting the brand. Maybe society moved on, and amazon killed the high street.
But the internet can't kill libraries, cos they represent the floor, that anyone can have access to the internet. Maybe libraries shouldn't be called libraries after all this, some other name for the service provision they provide. Its not just about books, its not just about books.
If I had more inclination, I'd do a pie chart. Something showing that libraries are 30% about books, 35% about computers and internet access, 25% about helping the local community, 10% about other stuff. Maybe my percentages there aren't right, but that's the right ballpark, isn't it?
If it was just about books, this would be so much easier.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

The Lovely Eggs - The Lexington 04-Feb-2011

Its 3am Sunday morning, I had a big mug of coffee before I went to bed and I can't sleep, so I'm going to rant and rave and review a gig I was at on Friday night.

There's a dark shadow over east London, and its up to me to bring light to the area, its my job, I am the light bringer, the illuminator, I illuminate, I am the illuminatus.

Earlier on Friday I was at work, at my desk, and I snapped, the bureaucracy was getting too much, too frustrating, ticking boxes and filling in forms and deadlines, instead of making London's street's safer, saving lives. Some woman is going to be waiting for her husband to come come, waiting and waiting and he's not going to make it, casserole dish clatters to floor when the voice on the phone tells her what happened. Some bloke waiting outside a cinema for his date, who's he's fancied from the other side of the office for weeks, to arrive, dreaming of that first kiss, he's going to be waiting in vain. Some old duffer heading home after a week's hard labour at the works, never reaching his destination. All because I'm doing sodding paperwork for paperwork's sake.

Christ, I have a degree in manufacturing, speak half a dozen languages, can run 25K in one go, play guitar and have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Manchester, Glasgow and London indiescenes 1995 to 2011, and I'm stuff doing sodding paperwork.

I've lost something.

I always felt awkward at gigs, lonely, on my own, but this is different. Well, its the same as the last couple of gigs. I've lost something.

Looking back at my writings and verbage over the past 17 years, I used to churn it out. God, the shite I was writing, I had a passion, its was complete nonsense, but I had a passion, there was fire. Not any more. If it was turgid before, its worse now.

Despite feeling lonely at gigs, there were people with me. In Manchester Nosni, Zee, Roz, all the people at Flyer shows, Jim Bean, Timbo, Sap. Then in Glasgow, the first time round with Rab, Nick, Faye and Cleggy and the early Bowlie kids. The in round two, Alan, Adam, Martin, the whole Note and Sleazys scene.

But now, in London, I've lost something. Am I just old? I'm missing something, its gone.

Sure, I see Bob UnderExposed, nodding recognition, and I stand two and a half metres away from Nik from Moustache of Insanity, but its not the same. I'm in a room full of strangers.

Sure, I'm seeing bands that I've seen half a dozen times before in countless guises. The first time I saw The Lovely Eggs was on the train to my first Indietracks, they were playing to about three of us in a carriage. I didn't quite know what to make of them, but they were full of love. And there was history too.

Cos Holly was in Angelica, way back in the day, who did "Teenage Girl Crush" and "Why did you let my kitten die?", god knows if I saw them in the Manchester days, but I definitely saw them in Glasgow, I reckon twice, maybe three times. Flatmate Faye reckoned she knew them from school in Lancaster. I remember seeing them play the Art School, somewhere I still have photies, then one time I saw them at Ladyfest at the old 13th Note on Clyde Street. I was stood at the bar, next to Manda Rin from Bis and Faye's brother was up visiting too. I think I even did my old 'Wonderwall' shout. I remember these things clearly, I still had a soul in them days.

Its a White Light club night at The Lexington, probably related to the old White Heat club night at Madame Jojos in Soho, Matty with a moustache is the DJ type person. I definitely still had whatever I've lost back when I went to Madame Jojos. Dananananaykroyd were playing, I saw big Duncan and Wee Susan from Glasgow, and it was okay.

About an hour before I had my rant at work, I was ploughing through paperwork, frustrating building up inside, head in my hands and a colleague from across the room started at me with what's wrong, a guy your age shouldn't have his head in his hands on a Friday afternoon, you should be living it up, the weekend's about to start, etc.

I've lived it up, I was there then. Look, here's my achievement badge, 584 gigs, 32 years of age, from The Boardwalk, to The Admiral to The Lexington.

And I'm stood two and a half metres from Nik from Moustache of Insanity, wondering where Andrew Bulhak is. Also wondering whether I should have brought along my missus or a friend who doesn't like gigs. That's it.

I'm reading John Robb's The North Will Rise Again, about the Manchester music scene 1976 to 1995, and I'm looking at the scene before me through polarised 3D specs. Is there a scene amongst the crowd at The Lexington? Are The Lovely Eggs here as part of that, hallowed guests from on high? High priestess Amelia Fletcher ministering the flock?

Am I here at all?

Is this just telephoned in from my flat, I'm hiding under the bed, scared to come out, exhausted after trying too hard? or not hard enough. Where are people I know and talk to?

Why aren't they here wearing whatever twenty-first century faces they have?

There's this timeless scene in my head, a paradigm, NPL in Glasgow, its dark outside, yellow streetlights, people from bands and other gigs walking the same way. When I get inside, there's a seat the first table, Jef and Gill are there, Adam's on the dancefloor, Andy Diamond too, other friends off of the internet in the near corner, friends I'm scared of talking to on the other side of the dance floor, Alan will be along later. Lots of drinks, plans and schemes, foolish ideas followed through and then a drunken stagger home.

But its not like that here. Occasionally there are echos and shadows and smokey reflections, like Hawthorns in Bolton in 1997, but its not like that here.

I drink three bottles of Tiger, enjoy Tender Trap and The Lovely Eggs songs, try to shrug off moldering resentment of something I can't quite put my finger on and head back to Walthamstow.