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August 18, 2005 9:53 AM   Subscribe

The Ministry of Reshelving
This week, we launched the Ministry of Reshelving project. My partners in crime as founding members of the ministry: George, Kiyash, and Monica. This weekend we relocated 19 copies of George Orwell's 1984 in four different bookstores in Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Berkeley. It was high stealth adventure. You are invited to join our efforts.
Sounds like mischievous fun. Which books would you reshelve?
posted by nofundy (118 comments total)

 
I forgot: via boingboing
posted by nofundy at 9:54 AM on August 18, 2005


Animal Farm...I'd move it into Politics, Current events, etc....for the Republicans who supplanted the Democrats as "big spends" and "pork projects" and are the same entity now.
Why always Orwell?

Also, the Lord of the flies, into Current Events or some such area.
posted by aacheson at 10:04 AM on August 18, 2005


The very first copy I ever saw of The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty was in the children's book section of the local Walden's. Someone had put it in the middle of a bunch of "other" *cough* trade paperback fairy tale type books. Needless to say I couldn't leave it there so I was forced to buy it :-)
posted by localroger at 10:05 AM on August 18, 2005


Douglas Coupland's Microserfs into "Early Digital History".
posted by Jazznoisehere at 10:09 AM on August 18, 2005


Jesus, can't the kids today do something that has a point to it, like smoking the mary jane?
posted by bondcliff at 10:12 AM on August 18, 2005




From a humble bookseller, do this and you deserve to grow a vicious hangnail. Odds are, you've made 1984 unfindable for anyone that actually wants to read it, and you're not being nearly as clever as you think you are.
posted by drezdn at 10:14 AM on August 18, 2005


... Like putting "autographed copy" stickers on the Bible.
posted by drezdn at 10:16 AM on August 18, 2005 [1 favorite]


another former bookstore clerk chiming in to say, cute idea but ultimately all that happens is you make life more difficult for some wage slave or some poor bastard looking for a book. But hey, doing this and posting pics of yourself to the Web makes you look all cool and stuff, and that's what's really important, right?
posted by jonmc at 10:18 AM on August 18, 2005


The link gsb gave was pretty much on the money. This is roughly in the area of signing internet petitions as far as actual activism goes; if you really feel the need to disapprove of Bush, there's real activism you could be taking part in - antiwar vigils, Camp Casey and its satellites, anti-recruitment, the 9/24 protest. Doing a cute reshelving of books isn't going to accomplish anything except give you a little warm fuzzy and annoy bookstore workers (like two good friends of mine up at a Borders in central NJ).
posted by graymouser at 10:19 AM on August 18, 2005


Yeah, this is stupid as hell. Please respect underpaid, hard-working bookstore employees and find something actually valuable to do with your time.
posted by selfnoise at 10:21 AM on August 18, 2005


drezdn, that's pretty much what I was thinking too.

That and those Avant Game folks are almost certainly too cool for me to know.
posted by fenriq at 10:22 AM on August 18, 2005


Shouldn't it be "MinResh"?
posted by signal at 10:22 AM on August 18, 2005


But at least they're not ripping out the last ten pages of some books or causing real damage, just a little restocking mischief.
posted by fenriq at 10:23 AM on August 18, 2005


I laughed, but I'd rather they just vandalize a billboard instead.
posted by basicchannel at 10:25 AM on August 18, 2005


Agreed with the "what a waste of energy" sentiment. Good lord...this is infantile pseudo agitation in a fashionable uniform...nothing more.
posted by dejah420 at 10:26 AM on August 18, 2005


Meh. What drezdn, jonmc, etc. said. Shopping is irritating enough as it is; please don't make it even worse.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:27 AM on August 18, 2005


passive agressivism at its finest.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:27 AM on August 18, 2005


Shouldn't it be "MinResh"?

That sounds like something you'd order in an Indian restaurant.

These quotes from gsb's link: "don’t all protest actions inconvenience someone, by their very nature? ..." is esapecially annoying.

Sure, protests inconvenience people, but here all they're doing is probably inconveniencing, annoying, and (most importantly) alienating a demographic that in my experience are probably on their side. Effective activism depends at least somewhat on coalition building, and self-serving gestures don't help that.
posted by jonmc at 10:29 AM on August 18, 2005


[this is innane]
posted by odinsdream at 10:30 AM on August 18, 2005


...infantile pseudo agitation in a fashionable uniform...nothing more.

My sentiments exactly.
posted by disgruntled at 10:37 AM on August 18, 2005


So what's the goal here? Put book in strange place where it might be picked up by someone who wasn't expecting it? The previously mentioned "make work for someone who makes less than the median wage per hour"?

If it's the former, you'd be better off printing a bunch of slips of paper with url for Gutenberg Project's text of "1984" and passing those slips of paper to high school students in the mall. If it's the latter, get a life!
posted by ilsa at 10:42 AM on August 18, 2005


Shouldn't it be "MinResh"?

I'd expect it to be minishelve, with adjective minishelful and adverb minishelfwise, on analogy with the other ministries (minitrue, miniluv, minipax, miniplenty). But, Oceania didn't need a Ministry of Reshelving; it would simply be the Reshelving Department of the Ministry of Truth - probably shelvedep in Newspeak.

Wow, that was silly. Still not as childish, though, as the "Ministry of Shelving."
posted by graymouser at 10:43 AM on August 18, 2005


lisa, I think their point is that 1984's not in the right category and they're righting that wrong. But, since they don't have one place they are moving the copies too, then yes, they are making the copies harder and not easier to find. For a fairly hollow sense of satisfaction at being so clever.
posted by fenriq at 10:48 AM on August 18, 2005


I'd like to see the blonde naked. Naked reshelving I say.
posted by Necker at 10:48 AM on August 18, 2005


My girlfriend is a current bookseller, and I winced on her behalf when I read this.
posted by Vidiot at 10:51 AM on August 18, 2005


I'm not sure where the idea that this is some kind of protest is coming from, but it's not from the actual site. If anything this is performance art / political commentary.

Note that they encourage a system by which it is obvious that they have moved the books. The point is not to hide them, and so it won't be that much of a hassle for the bookseller (speaking as a former large-chain, minimum-wage bookseller myself). It's silly and funny, and honestly, the people that take 16 magazines to the coffee shop and get them all wrinkly and leave them on the seats are more of a menace to booksellers than someone who moves all the copies of one book from one shelf to another with a note to say they've done it.
posted by carmen at 10:52 AM on August 18, 2005


ilsa writes "If it's the former, you'd be better off printing a bunch of slips of paper with url for Gutenberg Project's text of '1984'"

Yeah, but then booksellers would probably complain that it cuts into their business.
posted by clevershark at 10:57 AM on August 18, 2005


It'd be cooler if they did the reshelving, took all the pictures, felt all great about themselves and scored the adulation of others, then moved the books back.
posted by gurple at 10:59 AM on August 18, 2005


British people swear a lot.
posted by Tlogmer at 11:02 AM on August 18, 2005


Dos Passos' USA trilogy: move to WAR

Betrand Russel's Why I Am Not A Christian: move to RELIGION

King James Bible: move to CHILDRENS FICTION
posted by The Jesse Helms at 11:13 AM on August 18, 2005


I laughed, but I'd rather they just vandalize a billboard instead.
posted by basicchannel at 10:25 AM PST


Here, here. Now remember it's not vandalizing, it's improving.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 11:15 AM on August 18, 2005


As a former bookstore employee, if I caught some hipster assholes performing their hipster performance art on my painstakingly alphabetized shelves, I'd beat them to death with a boxed set of Karl Marx.

*remembers he's a pacifist*

OK, OK, not to death, just a slight coma. Damn principles.
posted by languagehat at 11:15 AM on August 18, 2005


this book to current events, obviously
posted by pyramid termite at 11:16 AM on August 18, 2005


anything by Chuck Palahniuk: move to FASHION
posted by The Jesse Helms at 11:16 AM on August 18, 2005


flicker tag: reshelving.

I wish people wern't so intrested in promoting corporations for free.
posted by delmoi at 11:17 AM on August 18, 2005


anything by Rilke: move to RELIGION
posted by The Jesse Helms at 11:17 AM on August 18, 2005


Back when I worked in a book store, I wouldn't have thought it was very funny if someone had made my work harder. Much of my job was to straighten out the mess customers always made and to find books customers were looking for.

But I'm assuming that the Ministry of Reshelving thing is trying to say that things in America are now, or are becoming, like they are in 1984, and I'm assuming that they think this is somehow an effective way of saying it. If that's what they think, and if it's a political statement they think still needs to be made, at least misplacing books is a pretty harmless way of making it.

I once put an extra "Mythology" sign on the wall over the Bible section. How come Zeus gets a "Mythology" sign and Yahweh gets a "Religion" sign? Then someone reminded me that the nuttiest of nutty customers we got were usually the Christians, and that we didn't need to encourage fundamentalists to be even more indignant.
posted by pracowity at 11:17 AM on August 18, 2005


I'd beat them to death with a boxed set of Karl Marx.

I'm shocked, languagehat. A Pynchon boxed set would be far heavier and more effective.
posted by jonmc at 11:19 AM on August 18, 2005


drezdn writes "... Like putting 'autographed copy' stickers on the Bible."

Hold on. Are you saying that is clever, or that it isn't clever.


'Cause it kind of made me giggle.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:19 AM on August 18, 2005



FREEDOM ISN'T FREE*


*It merely inconveniences others.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:27 AM on August 18, 2005


(Or in my case, messes up basic html)
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:28 AM on August 18, 2005


God I hate scenesters. Take off the bono glasses and trade em in for a decent razor, hippie.
posted by stenseng at 11:29 AM on August 18, 2005


This is exactly why I'm antisocial. Right here. Mixing books up isn't funny, it's wrong. Somebody wants to read 1984 for the first time or give it as a gift, they go to the book store, they can't find it. The clerk can't find it. The inventory says one. Oh ha ha.

Book ownership is fundamental to the health of any society. Anything that makes this more difficult = evil.
posted by ewkpates at 11:31 AM on August 18, 2005


From comments on their site:

Furthermore, in reply to the poster who was worried about the bookstore employees' workload, I'd point out that unlike the browsers who pick up books and leave them elsewhere, we're leaving cards indicating to where they've been moved.
posted by dreamsign at 11:37 AM on August 18, 2005


Please note:

2. Download and print "This book has been relocated by the Ministry of Reshelving" bookmarks and "All copies of 1984 have been relocated" notecards to take with you to the bookstore. Or make your own. We recommend bringing a notecard and 5-10 bookmarks to each store.

Please don't soil your panties, people. I reckon these bookmark pointers to where 1984 has been moved to ought to cause the swelling in your spleens to subside.
posted by basicchannel at 11:38 AM on August 18, 2005


Damn you, Dreamsign!
posted by basicchannel at 11:38 AM on August 18, 2005


Except that bookstore employees are expected to have the books where they're supposed to be, not to have dimwits move them elsewhere and "helpfully" leave breadcrumbs to where they've put them. So booksellers are still gonna have to clean up after their crap.

Memo to the "Ministry of Reshelving": if you make it easier -- not harder -- for people to actually read 1984, maybe the ideas within will have greater propagation.
posted by Vidiot at 11:41 AM on August 18, 2005


I can't help but find this pathetic. It does nothing but soothe their egos into thinking they are being activists or some such thing. Hangnails are only too good for them.

As a frequest bookshop guest, I would not be pleased to have to hunt down a book, especially if it is in one of the non-chain bookstores trying to make a go of it.

On preview: ewkpates -
Book ownership is fundamental to the health of any society.
...very well stated.
posted by fluffycreature at 11:42 AM on August 18, 2005


What a bunch of cranky farts. You clerks get paid to do this sort of thing... not just to wait around for someone to ask you where the latest Harry Potter is. People who can't follow this "breadcrumb" (I smell web geek!) are either intensley impatient (and probably incapable of reading anything without the aid of Illustrations By Shel Silverstein) or are so dumb that their handler would probably need to read the book to them anyhow.
posted by basicchannel at 11:49 AM on August 18, 2005


Blah. As a "former bookstore employee" myself, I can say that several copies of one book, reshelved, with a note saying where they are, is no big deal at all.

Yes, this is really cutting down on our ability to find copies of 1984, a little-known and admittedly rare tome.

Book ownership is fundamental to the health of any society.

Jesus H. Christ.

Sour milk in the fridge this morning, people?
posted by dreamsign at 11:50 AM on August 18, 2005


perhaps, dreamsign, it is a minor inconvenience, but why should even that be endured for the sake of some stranger's self-satisfaction?
posted by jonmc at 11:53 AM on August 18, 2005


Book ownership is fundamental to the health of any society. - ewkpates

I agree with the sentiment you're driving at, but I don't think the ownership is the important part. The library serves me fine, thanks. Rather than ownership, consumption of books & ideas (reading) is the important bit (sez me). The Gutenberg Project's url would serve people just as well as a hard copy.
posted by raedyn at 11:53 AM on August 18, 2005


stenseng, thanks, that made me laugh out loud.
posted by fenriq at 11:55 AM on August 18, 2005


From the posts so far, I'm assuming that the Metafilter community has more book fetishists than performance artists in its ranks. (I count myself a member of both communities, so I abstain from voting on this stunt.)


You can probably guess the title of the only book I ever ever stole in my life (I was a teenager in the Sixties; please don't strike me on the head with the collected works of anyone...except maybe Richard Brautigan, in paperback...that wouldn't hurt too much.)
posted by kozad at 11:55 AM on August 18, 2005


As with a lot of other slacktivist programs, I don't even see who this is aimed at. Anyone who gets the joke is almost certainly already against Bush. This is just a marginally more clever magnetic car ribbon for the other side.
posted by COBRA! at 11:58 AM on August 18, 2005


I think the idea of giggling idiots prancing around in one's place of work wasting everyone's air is a lot more annoying than the actual moving of the books.
posted by selfnoise at 12:13 PM on August 18, 2005


I'm always amused when Carl Sagan's Contact is shelved under non-fiction, myself...
posted by Foosnark at 12:15 PM on August 18, 2005


there's more to political action than merely going 'Barnes & Noble! Pwn3d!'

Unless you're trying to take down B&N. But then, you could just put stickers on all the publicly available books saying, "This book available for free at: http://etc.etc./etc." which would be subversive without being annoying.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:32 PM on August 18, 2005


"What a bunch of cranky farts. You clerks get paid to do this sort of thing... not just to wait around for someone to ask you where the latest Harry Potter is."
Love the attitude! What next, intentionally scattering litter around offices and school premises because the janitors are paid to clean it up?
"As a "former bookstore employee" myself, I can say that several copies of one book, reshelved, with a note saying where they are, is no big deal at all."
It may not be a big deal to you (particularly not now, given the "former" in your statement), but somehow I don't think you constitute a representative stand-in for all the bookshore clerks of the world, many of whom may not have had as leisurely a pace of work as you did or as much physical vigor as you seem to have.

These "activists" are nothing more than cosseted arseholes who don't give a damn about anything other than striking "radical" poses and looking cool in front of their equally self-absorbed friends. They clearly could care less that the very people whose lives they're making more difficult are the self-same ones supposedly suffering the most under the oppressive thumb of Bushitler™ and his Elders of Neocon©.
posted by Goedel at 12:46 PM on August 18, 2005


This one to Fiction, or Fantasy?

/obvious
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:51 PM on August 18, 2005



As political agitation, it is pretty pointless. The people these folks really need to reach are not the ones browsing the current events shelf.

That said, I must also say that, back when I was a bookseller, if I'd ever come into my section and seen a little marker from a group calling itself the Ministry of Reshelving informing me that some of my books had been relocated, I would have laughed, laughed, laughed, and I would have saved their little sign forever.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 12:57 PM on August 18, 2005


It'd be more effective for them to just buy floorspace, like every publisher does, and set up a stand for 1984.
I mean, if you want people to read it, and that's the point. If that's not the point, you might want to ask yourself exactly what the point is.
posted by klangklangston at 1:01 PM on August 18, 2005


You clerks get paid to do this sort of thing.

Yes we do, and thanks to the numerous people who leave books whereever they please I always have more than enough books to put in their proper section, let alone having to move stacks of books because of a half-assed "political" whim.

Unlike most office jobs, I actually have 8 hours of work to do- not including answering customer questions.
posted by drezdn at 1:03 PM on August 18, 2005


To continue on a side note: raedyn has sadly missed the library cart.

Owning a book is fundamental, not just reading it. Several off the cuff reasons:

1) Many books, particularly physics and philosophy texts, must be written in. These notes are valuable and should not be separated from the book or lost.
2) If it is a book worth reading, it is a book worth reading again. I'm not talking about getting through Catch-22. I'm talking about the fact that everyone should read Wind in the Willows every 10 years.
3) I've found that if one reads enough, one has to re-read, because as the mind develops, the capacity for understanding develops.
4) Also if one reads enough, then one falls in love with some characters and the rhythm of some writers, and to give up a love -well, for me, that's just not going to happen.
posted by ewkpates at 1:12 PM on August 18, 2005


Not to say that these guys aren't lame but... honestly, I've worked in a bookstore, too, and this is nothing.

Part of any job is dealing incompetent people. It's too bad everyone sort of went wild bashing the reshelvers (who's little meme isn't going to get anywhere anyway) and ignored the poster's interesting question about what you would reshelve.

Loved the mention about moving the Bible to Children's Fiction, though.
posted by dead_ at 1:12 PM on August 18, 2005


ewkpates: check the book out a second time?
posted by dead_ at 1:15 PM on August 18, 2005


somehow I don't think you constitute a representative stand-in for all the bookshore clerks of the world, many of whom may not have had as leisurely a pace of work as you did or as much physical vigor as you seem to have.

I was busy enough with customers and shoplifters to not let every other little thing bother me. Perhaps retail isn't for you.
posted by dreamsign at 1:17 PM on August 18, 2005


there's a joke about my great grandfather - he had more bookshelves than furniture.

Library's are good for trash reading... but everything worth reading is worth owning. I'm sticking to it. I'm not lending any of you any books... but I'll buy you some for your birthdays.
posted by ewkpates at 1:21 PM on August 18, 2005


So...no relation to these guys:

http://www.studentsfororwell.org/


Why not just get everyone to buy copies of 1984 and send them to the White House all at once?
That'd make a nifty point and it'd piss off the right targets.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:32 PM on August 18, 2005


Why not just get everyone to buy copies of 1984 and send them to the White House all at once?

Because they'd be all "Oh, look the new manuals are out!"
posted by jonmc at 1:42 PM on August 18, 2005


OK, that made the thread worth it.
posted by Cyrano at 1:47 PM on August 18, 2005


I Laughed Out Loud at that one, jonmc.
posted by kozad at 1:48 PM on August 18, 2005


ewkpates writes "Owning a book is fundamental, not just reading it."

I really don't see what would prevent one from reading a library book more than once -- and that seems to be the crux of your argument in favor of ownership. In fact your points 2, 3 and 4 are basically about re-reading a given work.

As for writing in a book, well, many consider that only a hair short of heresy. Personally I think it's silly, because in the average printed book there simply isn't enough space to write meaningful notes. That's what notebooks are for. Even technical books nowadays no longer include any "extra pages" for notes at the end, it's all been replaced with publicity.
posted by clevershark at 1:53 PM on August 18, 2005


activism as accessory
activism as self-aggrandizement
activism as annoying and creating more work for the working class and changing nothing, soley to amuse your molly-coddled self.

basicchannel, I see you're a web devoloper. I assume you have no problem if people hack your sites or place pharses randomly in your source like "Free Mumia with every purchase", right? After all, it's your job to maintain sites,or at least write HTML, not sit around posting to Metafilter at work, right?
posted by Snyder at 2:04 PM on August 18, 2005


Who knew there were so many current of former bookstore workers in MeFi? Huh.

As a former bookseller, I can tell you that this would have made my day! It would take a few seconds to fix, but it would have made me laugh. No complaints from me.

I'd re-shelve The Holographic Universe. OK, it's obscure, but the jacket-blurb sounded cool, it was in the science section, and I wasted $10 on it. It was pure crap, and it belonged in New Age.
posted by teece at 2:11 PM on August 18, 2005


Owning a book is fundamental, not just reading it.

Having extra crap in my house is fundamental? Don't we have libraries precisely so that everyone doesn't individually need to pay for and warehouse everything they want to read?
posted by selfmedicating at 2:26 PM on August 18, 2005


Library's are good for trash reading... but everything worth reading is worth owning.

Hmm. I'm skeptical of the wisdom behind this comment. This might be a possibility for the rare book fiend with the giant extra room or a spare cabin in the mountains (or dead-eyed suburbanites with five acres of water-hogging lawn and five bedrooms in which to house every Tom Clancy edition ever printed), but in the city, space is at a premium. If you live efficiently, wisely and happily in a 600 square foot 5th floor walk-up, you might not have room for 10,000 books. In the city, this is okay, because the library is just down the street. Turgenev and Proust are a subway stop away.

In fact, one could argue that, for discerning, bookish types, libraries are good for everything but trash reading. Everyone wants to read the latest Danielle Steel novel, and as a result every copy is out and the waiting list is long. For discerning, bookish types, this is not a problem: We don't give a dirty goat fuck about Danielle Steel. Is the 1892 Mary Wharton translation of Dona Perfecta in? No? Damn. Okay, I'll grab Gargantua and Pantagruel instead.

Certainly, everything worth reading is worth "owning", but ownership in the city is sometimes more intellectually than physically proprietary. If it's at the library, we all own it.

/unabashed utopianist
posted by gramschmidt at 2:54 PM on August 18, 2005


Why not just go in and rip the covers off of all Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly books every week? Eventually they'll stop reordering them, trust me. If you disagree with some other supposed authority (Molly Ivins, books by Clinton family), then do it to those. If you're going to be an asshole, do it in a way that makes a large-scale statement.

I don't endorse this tactic, but it'd definitely have more of an effect.
posted by mikeh at 2:56 PM on August 18, 2005


On the other hand, you could reshelve books you think are shit in the toilet. Isn't that clever? Haha!
posted by mikeh at 3:00 PM on August 18, 2005


http://bash.org/?406373
posted by darksasami at 3:30 PM on August 18, 2005


Snyder:

What a wonderfully well-thought-out and completely knee-jerk-free response. This is not some slippery slope to wholesale anarchy you prattling crank.

Man I swear... internet sure is serious business.
posted by basicchannel at 3:42 PM on August 18, 2005


This sort of reminds of the misc.writing "turning club". The premise being that you go to a bookstore and if you spot a book written by a misc.writing denizen with only it's spine showing you turn on the shelf (and maybe move some other crap around) so the cover is showing. Just a little something to make your online buddies' work more visible.
posted by MikeMc at 3:49 PM on August 18, 2005


Darwin's Black Box to "Science Fiction/Fantasy".
posted by darukaru at 3:52 PM on August 18, 2005


you turn on the shelf (and maybe move some other crap around) so the cover is showing.

In bookstore lingo that's known as a "faceout."

/boring pedantic detail
posted by jonmc at 3:54 PM on August 18, 2005


1)Let go of urge to be a complete and utter twunt.
2)Go to used bookstore.
3) Buy discarded summer reading copies of 1984 for maybe a few bucks each max.
4) Leave in public places where they might do some good.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 4:08 PM on August 18, 2005 [1 favorite]


I was busy enough with customers and shoplifters to not let every other little thing bother me. Perhaps retail isn't for you.
Oh to have the good fortune not to need to take a job whether or not one finds it congenial! By your reasoning, it is also perfectly okay if some asshole "activist" decides to make a janitor's life that bit harder by dropping chewing gum and cigarette butts on the floor, and if that Guatemalan doesn't like it, perhaps cleaning simply isn't for him/her, right? Hey, the old woman probably has a toilet or two to unclog and maybe the odd dead rodent to dispose of, so why should she let a little thing like that get to her? If she doesn't like it, let her go find another job!

You are the living embodiment of consideration for others.
posted by Goedel at 4:11 PM on August 18, 2005


> I really don't see what would prevent one from reading
> a library book more than once

My guess would be the fact that most libraries these days
tend to dispose of most books after a couple of years,
simply to make room for the new stock.

That said, while there are a handful of books that I've
re-read numerous times, I don't care to do it with more
than a handful, because to do so would prevent me from
reading all of those other books I haven't read yet.

As for the act of moving books as a political protest -- sorry,
but I can't get worked up in either direction.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:52 PM on August 18, 2005


Anyone so easily thwarted in his or her quest for 1984 doesn't deserve to read it.
posted by Toecutter at 4:53 PM on August 18, 2005


Because they'd be all "Oh, look the new manuals are out!"
posted by jonmc at 4:42 PM EST on August 18 [!]


I'm late to this thread, but thanks jonmc, for this bon mot.

But it got me trying to imagine anyone in the Bush White House reading any manual, and I just got this mental picture of lots of folks pouring over copies of 1984, moving their lips and dragging fingers over pages...
posted by paulsc at 5:00 PM on August 18, 2005


MetaFilter: We don't give a dirty goat fuck about Danielle Steel.

Y'know, I might take these "activists" a little more seriously if they didn't look like they just walked out of dropping a few bills on their AmEx at Urban fucking Outfitters on their way to Starbucks for a double half-caf soymilk Frappucino before they mosey on over to the megaplex to catch the latest Jerry Bruckheimer explosive and firey cock-waving spectacle.

No, wait, I wouldn't. Seriously, I just can't take them seriously. I bet they listen to that stale-ass "spybreaks" track sitting in their shiny yellow New Beetle or white Jetta as they amp themselves up for a "mission" before they go in.

PinkStainlessTail has the best book-related activist activity of all. Just buy good used/independently sold books and leave them places. I'm always watching for cheap copies of good stuff at thrift stores for giveaways.

Barring that, go to a protest or write letters to your representatives already. If that's not extreme or hip enough, start throwing bricks and Moltovs or something.

Anyway. I guess you've gotta start somewhere. Maybe I should just be hopeful that if totally white bread affluent hipsters are trying to get all activist on us that it might not all be hopeless after all. They can pay for fliers and banners and stuff. We're running out of trustafarians.
posted by loquacious at 5:15 PM on August 18, 2005


This is not some slippery slope to wholesale anarchy you prattling crank.

Of course it's not, I never said it was. I was attempting to illustrate that the principle of "It's their job to do this, not stand around all day!" isn't so attractive when applied to your job, and implies a pretty big sense of entitlement.
posted by Snyder at 6:28 PM on August 18, 2005


>I really don't see what would prevent one from reading a library book more than once

My guess would be the fact that most libraries these days tend to dispose of most books after a couple of years, simply to make room for the new stock.


Huh, that's not true in the US, not in any library I've worked in.

I'm not lending any of you any books... but I'll buy you some for your birthdays.

Mine's on Labor Day. If you have any good books on procmail scripts, that's my current interest.

Seriously about this, I feel the same way I do about that lady who made all the weird art in Home Depot aisles and then left, only I liked her art better. Her art was also heavier and more of a bitch to clean up after. Seems like people either identify with the shelver or identify with the artists. I think if I had to go through some extra work to clean up after someone's art project, I'd want it to be more interesting to start with.
posted by jessamyn at 7:23 PM on August 18, 2005


Yeah man, fuckin big brother is watching you man! Next minute they'll make books illegal and turn firemen into guys that burn books! Yeah! You have to educate the drones! viva la revolution!
[this is retarded]
posted by Edible Energy at 7:43 PM on August 18, 2005


"1)Let go of urge to be a complete and utter twunt.
2)Go to used bookstore.
3) Buy discarded summer reading copies of 1984 for maybe a few bucks each max.
4) Leave in public places where they might do some good.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:08 PM CST on August 18 [!]"

Yeah, I'm going to have to agree with this statement.

This whole thing is causing quite a shitstorm on tha internets. Some of the artistes are leaving nasty notes to me on my blog. Some of them are quite funny, if you like reading that kind of stuff. Ad hom attacks and all that. I admit, I was asking for it, having the temerity to attack their grand artistic vision. I should have known better.
posted by geekhorde at 8:05 PM on August 18, 2005


Wait, why are they attacking you? I feel like I'm missing something.
posted by loquacious at 8:45 PM on August 18, 2005


Oh, because I criticized their art project. Called it stupid bullshit. Said they should get a life, and other admittedly curmudgeonly type of stuff. I guess I had it coming.

But I just really don't find it funny at all. I find it unfunny. Stupid.

Bleh.
posted by geekhorde at 8:58 PM on August 18, 2005


If someone wants to organize a website around the project I briefly outlined feel free. I'm far too lazy to do anything about it myself. Call it "1,984 free copies of 1984" or something.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:05 PM on August 18, 2005


i'd shelve this movement in the "people who move shit in the store for stupid reasons" section. like the kid who hid a cd he wanted to buy, then couldn't find it and cried to mommy who yelled at me. or the lady who moves the stacks of sex guide bargain books over to the info desk so they'll be out of reach of the prying eyes of her saintly internet-savvy son so i can just put them right back.

on another note, about this book ownership/sharing tack (and along the lines of what PinkStainlessTail was saying, I think...started skimming a while ago), I posted a link a few years ago that thankfully is still around--and thriving. check out bookcrossing.com if you like the idea of sharing books you love.
posted by carsonb at 9:55 PM on August 18, 2005


You are the living embodiment of consideration for others.

Oh please. This for my response to someone basically saying "if you worked the job but hold a different point of view, you must have had it easy." No, I worked hard, but had this terrible, terrible phenomenon reared its ugly head in my day, both the store manager and I would have given it the worry it deserved: none whatsoever. Your concern for the Guatamalan floor cleaner couldn't be more disingenuous. I've never seen a person who actually works for a living get so worked up about something so minor. Of course keyboard cowboys never have too much time to get offended for those actually doing the job.

As a former bookseller, I can tell you that this would have made my day! It would take a few seconds to fix, but it would have made me laugh.

Same here, but apparently most Mefites have that peculiar brand of humour that only finds things funny when it comes out of their own mouth.

Leave in public places where they might do some good

Best idea in the thread.
posted by dreamsign at 10:29 PM on August 18, 2005


Personally, I like the idea of refacing books by folks such as Limbaugh and Coulter with books by others like Michael Moore or Thom Hartmann. This was an idea I first heard from Ben at Whiterose Society. He was doing it at Walmart.
posted by Goofyy at 11:38 PM on August 18, 2005


Final update: Comments have been suspended on this blog in accordance with Godwin's law. The Ministry of Reshelving, however, continues its work.

Sad, that. There were some good comments there. Apparently she didn't welcome the "visceral response" as much as she claims she does.

Also, this "book shelving" thing? It's a product of a PhD. Go figure. And also by someone who worked on or was responsible for the I LOVE BEES game. More here.
posted by loquacious at 2:05 AM on August 19, 2005


"Your concern for the Guatamalan floor cleaner couldn't be more disingenuous"
If by that you mean that I've worked my fair share of low-paid labor and therefore speak in part from knowing what it's like on the other end, then sure, I'm being "disingenuous": people who make unnecessary work for others are assholes, nothing more, and when they do so in the name of "activism" they're just lazy and pretentious assholes.
"Of course keyboard cowboys never have too much time to get offended for those actually doing the job."
You must be speaking for yourself there - only someone who's never had to pick up after others to keep a roof over his head would adopt a position as callous, arrogant and stupid as yours.
posted by Goedel at 2:38 AM on August 19, 2005


Anyone still tempted to admire the geniuses behind this oh-so-clever project must have missed geekhorde's comment. Go read it. These people are assholes, pure and simple.

Also, what Goedel said. With bells on.
posted by languagehat at 6:57 AM on August 19, 2005


I noticed that geekhorde didn't link directly to the blog in question. Here's an example:
5.) Proceed to place the sack around the head of the prankster, pull it down as far as it will go, leaving them in total darkness. Then proceed to beat them about the body, randomly, with the stick, taking care to avoid the head. Care must be taken. The blows must not seriously hurt the prankster. Rather, they must be a learning experience. A rapid strike with a forceful hand, but without too much force behind the blow should be enough.
(he finishes with a parenthetical statement saying he doesn't really mean it)

The most heated thing that the actual artist said on geekhorde's blog was this:
Finally why criticize us and tell us to "get real jobs"? Do you have any idea what we do for a living? Why do people like you feel entitled to make personal attacks without having any knowledge of the people you are attacking? What is the point of that?
The nasty stuff comes from an anonymous posting, which, given her reactions at other sites, doesn't seem like the artist's style.

According to her comment on gsb's link, she's been involved in a lot of activism as well as wage labour. She helped "organize and manage" a free bookstore in an impoverished neighbourhood, suggesting that she might have experience with some of the most difficult aspects of running a bookstore. There doesn't seem to be any good reason from her project to infer that she doesn't do either more "substantial" activism (and I stand by my earlier comment that this is not really activism, more art / commentary) or that she hasn't had the same kinds of crap jobs that most of us have had at some point.
posted by carmen at 8:08 AM on August 19, 2005


Well, perhaps I should have stated 'the artistes and her cohorts.' Cool. Whatever.

At least I didn't turn off comments on my blog in reaction to criticism (although she claims they have received overwhelming support). And of course I didn't link to my blog. That's selflinking. If anyone was really interested they could just go to my profile, like you presumably did.

The long and the short of it is I see their behavior as at best distasteful and rude, artistically trite and juvenile, and at worst unethical. My Sack And Stick The Ministry of Reshelving was a parody, a thought experiment if you will. The thought of actually beating these 'artists' does not amuse me. But thinking about thinking about administering a 'game' involving beating them in response to their 'game' I find very amusing. An unethical response to unethical behavior of course is not and can not be condoned. But thinking about it can be funny and ironic. If the irony escapes you, I'm sorry.

My joke doesn't actually hurt anybody or mess with their livelihood, which is more than I can say for the Ministry.

Oh yeah, and the whole 'get a real job' type comments I made were made in jest and hyperbole. I didn't actually imply that these 'artists' didn't have gainful employment. I was merely making a joke, an ironic reference to the typical curmudgeonly response to this type of idiocy. Which is how it makes me feel. Old and cranky.
posted by geekhorde at 8:34 AM on August 19, 2005


Also, I have to point out, that if the 'artists' weren't prepared for this kind of criticism, then this wasn't very well thought out. Or they have very thin skin.

Think about it this way. They're going onto someone else's property, in most cases without consent or knowledge of the management, moving their inventory, in disregard to the possible ramifications of these actions. Not only this, but they are actively encouraging others to engage in the same actions.

I find their art project trite and trivial. I get it. I find their idea that they have to go out and enlighten the masses somewhat distasteful, to say the least. But that's beside the point. I find the actions they are engaging in to be unethical. That's why I object so much to them.

And personally, the fact that you can still find her and her cohort's comments on my site, but you can't find my comments (or any of the others who criticized her) on her site speaks volumes.

Personally, if you're going to put your art in a 'public' space, (and a place of business is not a public space, I would argue) for view, such as on Flickr, then you should be prepared for criticism.
posted by geekhorde at 8:42 AM on August 19, 2005


geekhorde, I think you're overreacting to or misconstruing the point I was trying to make, which was not really specifically to you but more generally to the thread. My only specific objection to your comment was that you misrepresented what the artist had said on your blog.

My joke doesn't actually hurt anybody or mess with their livelihood, which is more than I can say for the Ministry.

You assume a lot here. The only possible "hurt" the Ministry might cause is emotional hurt (of which there is a surprising amount in this thread, I'll admit). Given that, let me say that as someone who has experienced beatings administered as "a learning experience," I found your so-called thought experiment upsetting and disturbing. If you had made that post about me and one of my projects specifically, and commented in my blog, I would have taken your comments down. Not because I think that you, specifically, are going to try to hurt me (I understand that you meant this as a joke), but because my life experience has taught me (perhaps wrongly, but who wants to take that chance?) that there are people in the world who might take you up on that suggestion. I wouldn't want a link from my blog to your blog if you had said that about me. It would make me feel scared. A similar experience is, in fact, why my blog is not linked in my metafilter user profile.

You may find my reaction hyperbolic, but probably no more so than I find your suggestion that moving six books once in a bookstore is going to affect a person's livelihood hyperboic.
posted by carmen at 10:03 AM on August 19, 2005


I'm amazed at some of the overreaction here (Goedel I'm looking at you). I've also worked in a bookstore (as well as many other retail stores) and I just don't see how it's such a huge deal. I mean I'm not saying it's a wonderfully clever idea or anything. At best I probably would have found this somewhat amusing. At worst it would have been mildly annoying. But it's hardly something to get outraged about.
posted by Stauf at 10:50 AM on August 19, 2005


only someone who's never had to pick up after others

Wow. Once again you know me so well.
Can't handle someone who's actually done the job (read the thread again) and has a different opinion? Have anything other than personal attacks to offer? Sorry but "you must think this way OR have not experienced X" is not much of an argument in the real world. When I'm working a busy store, I don't have the luxury of being bothered by the little things, because there's too much freakin work to do -- displays, customers (sorry, I don't know the title or author, but can you help me find it?), thieves and would-be thieves, and on and on. But I said that earlier. Of course, you were too busy being offended on general principle, and so ignored it. Fine. Count me as the odd man out, but don't tell me that because I have a different opinion that my experience just doesn't matter, or must be limited, etc, etc, etc. It is insulting, ignorant, and incredibly arrogant.
posted by dreamsign at 10:54 AM on August 19, 2005


I have to admit I was overly harsh and egged on by some of the detractors in the thread. I've known a few people who have worked in (large chain) bookstores and I can't imagine this bothering any of them that much. They might even find it mildly amusing. I think the idea of leaving used copies in public areas is a great idea, other than the fact that some people will go "eww, someone's nasty wrinkled book" and throw it in the garbage. When there's some weird game to it, people are often easily lured into the sort of game where they might buy a book they might not have just to get to the bottom of things. So there's some merit here.
posted by mikeh at 12:09 PM on August 19, 2005


Final update: Comments have been suspended on this blog in accordance with Godwin's law.
WTF!
posted by thomcatspike at 1:14 PM on August 19, 2005


mikeh, you might find Book Crossing interesting.
posted by carmen at 1:26 PM on August 19, 2005


I once saw "The Beach" by Alex Garland shelved in the Literature section of a bookshop, and complained to a clerk. No, really. She pointed out that they didn't have a Trash section.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 2:42 PM on August 19, 2005


I just got this mental picture of lots of folks pouring over copies of 1984, moving their lips and dragging fingers over pages...
posted by paulsc at 5:00 PM PST on August 18 [!]


My mental image to jonmc's comment was Navin R. Johnson-esque yelling "The new manuals are here! The new manuals are here! This is the kind of spontaneous publicity we need! Things are really going to start happening to us now! "
posted by Smedleyman at 3:54 PM on August 19, 2005


goddamn cans.
posted by carsonb at 5:25 PM on August 19, 2005


Update: My store was hit by someone doing this today. No one noticed until the store was closed after which we made fun of the people who did it because their notes were wrong we don't have a current "events" section, it doesn't make sense in true crime, etc.
posted by drezdn at 11:24 PM on August 22, 2005


Why don't they leave little note cards/bookmarks in the top selling books of the current events section (or any best sellers really) suggesting that people also read 1984? That way no actual books are moved, everything can still be found where it is supposed to be, but they would still be getting their message across?

If this happened once in a bookstore I worked in, I probably would be slightly amused and a wee bit annoyed at the same time. If it happened more than once in the same store, I'd lurk behind the shelf with 1984 on it wielding an unabridged dictionary as a weapon.
posted by Orb at 4:29 AM on August 23, 2005


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