Saturday, October 24, 2009

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO Home Video, Seasons 1-7)

Waste My Time, Please

Hands down the stupidest meet-the-public conversation I've had in almost ten years of bookstore ownership:

Young Female Hipsters #1 and #2 enter the shop. Handmade accessories, nice shoes.


CJB: I don't think so, but I might. Check in two places. [GIVES DIRECTIONS]

YFHs #1 and #2 head into the stacks. CJB carries on receiving new books, ringing up sales, etc. After a few minutes, YFH #2 wanders up and stands opposite the desk, observing him.

YFH #2: Is this your place?

CJB: Yup!

YFH #2: Don't you ever feel guilty about it?

CJB: Guilty? No.

YFH #2: Really? Not even for a moment?

CJB: Why would I feel guilty?

YFH #2: Because of how environmentally unfriendly your business is? [Gesturing] All these cut-down trees?

CJB: What should we do instead?

YFH #2: We could read less. We could share. Or we could use computers.

CJB: Computers powered by electricity?

YFH #2: Sure.

CJB: Electricity produced by coal-fired plants and hydroelectric dams?

YFH #2: I read on a website that if wind farms covered Nevada they'd produce enough electricity to power all of North America.

CJB: Nevada, eh? I wonder how the local flora and wildlife would like that?

YFH #2: Now you're making fun of me. Nevada's just a flat desert, there's nothing there. [Pause] You're pretty arrogant when your fixed ideas are challenged.

CJB: I sure am. Making fun of you, that is. You seem to be talking without thinking, without any first-hand knowledge of the subjects you're discussing. Your pose of "environmental consciousness" seems rooted in a self-righteousness and arrogance that puts mine to shame.

WFH #2: Well I won't be shopping here.

CJB: You sure won't. Get outta here.

Three days later I'm still mad at a consciousness -- no matter how young; no matter how naive -- that can dismiss Nevada, one of the loveliest places I've ever visited; one of the only places I've ever felt at home -- as a relative of Stein's Oakland, no there there. This is at its heart a conservative, colonial worldview, one that finds surprising parallels with Allan McEachern's racist description of British Columbia as an unpopulated "vast emptiness." And as Chris C., the shop's manager, points out, the book is one of the most environmentally friendly technologies ever devised. When a book wears out, it goes in the blue box. When a computer (or a Sony e-reader, or a Kindle, or an iPhone) wears out, it goes to a special segregated recycling facility, where its plastics, heavy metals, lithium batteries, etc. are contained and only partially recovered.

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