Libraries missing in action

The excellent Tim Coates is continuing his informed invective about the UK library system.

His weblog is well worth a visit. Read about Bloggington-on-Sea from the perspective of some pesky Italians of 2000 years ago.

Organisations that could have helped the library services, but seemed to do nothing except draw salaries for their staffs, are being closed down. Will Ken save the day? Unlikely in my view, if not an opinion shared by some people in Bloggington-on-Sea.

Here is an informative take, from the library perspective, on the recent local elections in the UK.

(If you do not know who Ken is, here is an explanation.)

Long live Mr Coates, who obviously ought to be running not just the UK’s libraries, but the world’s.

Online reading without borders

To continue the theme of online reading groups, I have just read a post on MetaxuCafe litblog network about the Words without Borders book club, an international enterprise,  which has announced its next few months’ titles for online moderated discussion:

May — Dubravka Ugresic’s THE MINISTRY OF PAIN (translated by Michael Henry Heim), moderated by Chad Post of Dalkey Archive Press and the Reading the World campaign

June — Mati Untt’s THINGS IN THE NIGHT (translated by Eric Dickens), moderated by Radhika Jones of The Paris Review

July — Svetlana Alexeivich’s VOICES FROM CHERNOBYL (translated by Keith Gessen), moderated by Michael Orthofer of The Complete Review

August — a discussion moderated by Bill Marx of WBUR, Boston’s NPR News Station (book selection forthcoming)

September–  Ma Jian’s THE NOODLE MAKER (translated by by Flora Drew), moderated by Mickey Pearlman of The Boston Globe, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, and The Forward

October — Etgar Keret’s THE NIMROD FLIPOUT, moderated by Meehan Crist of The Columbia Journal of Art and Literature and The Believer.

Dread to think what the Grumpy Old Bookman will make of that lot, but definitely food for intellectual thought for those interested in the online reading group concept.

Pink flowers

Pink_flower Jenny is a keen Flickr user, being in many groups and sharing many photos, especially as she finally cracked and spent some of her long-accumulated pocket money on a camera. Last weekend we went to the nearby Isabella plantation as it is the time of year for the azaleas and rhododendrons to be out, and the gardenias and camellias are still hanging on in there. Jenny and her friend Lydia (a budding opera singer) took many photos, which can be seen in full glory on Jenny’s Flickr area (link above — most of the pictures concern characters from Fruits Basket, a Japanese manga story). Flickr being the great social enterprise that it is, it did not take Jenny long to find a "pink flower" competition, so she uploaded one of her Isabella pictures into it — hers was about the 400th entry. The closing date was yesterday, so Jenny is now checking in regulalry to see how she got on.

Another recent visitor to the Isabella plantation was Giles G-B, whose beautiful pictures can be viewed at New Tammany College.

Schizophrenia in the press

Something I don’t "get" about many newspapers is who exactly they think their readers are. I scan the Times on my way to work each day but ignore much of it to focus on the back page of Times 2 (2 sudokus, crossword and polygon). Today, however, there is a huge, brilliant and arresting photograph of a girl or young woman wearing a mask made to prevent slaves from eating sugar cane. The picture is of part of a re-enactment of a French slave sale on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, as today, 10 May, is the annual day of commemoration in France for victims of slavery (you learn something new every day). Under the picture is a quotation from, of all people, Jacques Chirac: "A country’s greatness lies in accepting all of its history, with its glorious pages but also those steeped in shadow."

Yet turn over two pages, and you get to an almost full-page shot of four high-heeled shoes, with the caption "one in every colour, please — these days we all want to own smart footwear, and we’re prepared to pay more than £1,000 a pair to achieve it". Oh? That is also something new I have learned today. The shoe theme is continued on the next page, and on the subsequent page is a picture story about "coloured mascaras" — a sort of round-up of various gunky things that cost about £10 or £20 that you smear all over your eyelashes.

Feeling a bit defeated by this juxtaposition, I am very grateful to Vitriolica for her posting "be prepared" on how she prides herself on her low-maintenance-ness. "You could drop me on a desert island or even the middle of Lisbon and I’m not going to complain that I haven’t brought my mascara and lipgloss. I’ll live if I haven’t had a bath today. I don’t even really care if I don’t get lunch. You don’t have to massage my ego for me to be contented with life nor do I have to surround myself with minions or friends for affirmation of myself." Click on the link to see how she does prepare for eventualities, though. Mine is about the same size but contains mainly books. Thanks for the laugh, Webb sisters.

Incidentally, if you look at the Times picture online (link above) rather than in the print version, much of the impact is lost. Nevertheless, the paper keeps up its good work by immediately under the picture running a header: "Also in this section…….Power dressing…"(etc). The "power dressing" article is the most demeaning piffle about the UK’s new Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, and her clothes — how she measures up to Condi Rice, what colours she should wear — complete with pictures of MB’s head stuck on various models wearing what the Times’ "style editor" thinks would be an improvement.

A woman gets one of the most prestigious and powerful jobs in the land and that’s all they can say about her. I never learn not to be shocked at the way intelligent, successful women are demeaned: particularly sad when, as here, it is another woman doing the demeaning.