Thursday, August 18, 2005

Sack And Stick The Ministry of Reshelving

These are the rules for Sack and Stick The Ministry of Reshelving:

1.) Get a large sack, such as a burlap laundry bag or a potato sack. Then get a small stick, certainly smaller than a baseball bat. A broom handle sawed in half should do nicely.
2.) Go to your local bookstore.
3.) Go to the fiction section, and look for 1984 by George Orwell. Bookstores are often arranged alphabetically by the author's last name. Keep all copies of 1984 under discreet surveillance.
4.) When a member of The Ministry of Reshelving goes to misplace these copies, for some sad and trite artistic statement that a junior in high school might make, take this miscreant, this vagabond in hand and escort him or her outside. Remember, we don't want to get our friends at the bookstore in trouble.
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.
6.) When you are done delivering the artistic statement, take the sack off of the miscreant, and then stuff the cards that they would use for their 'art project' in their mouth. Hopefully, they'll have learned their lesson.

(This is obviously a parody and satiric commentary on the Ministry of Reshelving. I don't want anyone actually hurting anyone else. Except maybe with their mind rays.)


Blogger Wahoo said...

The way I have handled artistes a few times is asking them what point they're trying to convey. I ask them to explain what they're trying to "make me think" about. And, provided they have worked out what it is they're wanting you to think about, and it's not just some bored punkass prank (see: flash mobs), ask them what kept them from just coming up to me and telling me directly. And then, the sack and stick. And then I stencil something subversive on them. And stuff.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Wahoo said...

here you go, peter. someone ranting about it:

12:31 PM  
Blogger Michael "VendorX" Heaney said...

You know, Pete, I understand that you're mostly funnin', and that the book store is important to you, but seriously, this is exactly the kind of thing YOU AND I are always planning out re: Reality Freaking. I mean, seriously, if you didn't work at a Barnes and Noble, you and I would probably be out doing this very thing ourselves.

That said, I grove on these peoples' website. I think I might keep up with it for awhile.

Jeremy, in my mind, subversive behavior is its own reward. The human mind, and by that token, the human society, are prone to static behavior. To save time and energy, we all come to latch onto rituals, assumptions, subconscious behaviors and beliefs. It's good to have odd, surreal or eye opening behavior around merely for the fact that it often forces people to, for a time, think more consciously and openly about their environment. The way I see it, you don't always have to have a point to be worthwhile (DADA FOREVER BABY)

4:57 PM  
Blogger munkee girl said...

Wouldn't that be the PATENTED Sack and Stick Method? Huzzah.

I, for one, would love to see the effort that goes into this "consciousness raising" applied to actual problems, such as volunteering to teach someone to read or working with Habitat for Humanity. Why is it these folks only want to inspire others to go out to do good works? Are they too clever to get their hands dirty? Being snarky and superior is FUN!

6:28 PM  
Blogger Wahoo said...

I don't really want to know the point, I just like making 'em sweat a little bit. Call me joykiller, I guess.

I agree with what you're saying, Mike, but most of the time, it's not subversive, odd, surreal, or the least bit eye opening. I just run into this kind of thing a lot (well, okay, not a lot. I mean, I live in Oklahoma), and it sort of offends me to have some punkass assume that I'm in need of eye-opening. Like if they didn't "make me think", I wouldn't be able to do it on my own, and they're somehow qualified or even have the ability to blow my mind.

Or, the short version is, if they're going to do it half-assed, they're just stroking their egos and wasting my time.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Michael "VendorX" Heaney said...

How do you know that they don't? As for 'actual problems', you have to understand, Munkee, that many of us consider the current level of 'social awareness and thought' in the U.S. to BE one of the biggest problems. After all, what's the point of building houses in one part of the world if we're bombing them to rubble at a faster rate elsewhere? We can't make any lasting progress until we can convince people to stop fostering warmongers, promoting corporate exploitation, etc.

7:48 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

Well, bringing this back around to the topic of the symposium, it is my opinion that their so-called art project is trite. Just my opinion, obviously. Who am I to say this? Me. That's who.

And I'm all for wierd or silly, subversive art projects, but I guess it's the old curmugeon in me, I'm against people being dicks or assholes. And that's essentially what rearranging books in a bookstore makes you, in my eyes.

Call me a crank. I don't care.

9:48 PM  
Blogger Michael "VendorX" Heaney said...

You guys are gonna hate to hear this, and I'm going to try and say it in as nice a way as possible, but that's the sort of rigidity of thought and demand that I'm speaking out against.

I have always stated that people do not need, do not deserve, and are not benefitted from having environments so tailored to every little taste and whim. Most of these tastes and whims are baseless, even irrational, things tailored to add faux importance to the daily routines of our lives.

People should never take the arbitrary aspects of their lives so seriously, nor seek to tailor them so absolutely. I can't quote him exactly at the moment, but John Cage expressed that those who decide to demand such minor absolutes needlessly closing themselves off to experience, learning, pleasure. It's no different than a phobia.

If someone were, say, rearranging your entire bookstore, you might have what I see as a valid complaint. As it is, they're specifically reshelfing a few copies of a single title, and they've given you clues as where to find them.

So, thus informed, if for some reason someone comes into your store and says they can't find 1984, a book you KNOW you have in stock, finding it should take all of, what, a dollar's time by the wages you're currently paid to run the store? And if you weren't doing that task, you'd be earning that dollar in some other way.

I'm not trying to chastise, but in significance, the bookstore worker is cost nothing. They work an eight hour day for a larger entity for a set rate of pay. Exactly what task they're doing at any given minute is largely irrelevant. So why, exactly, does it matter to you if you are reshelving copies of 1984 left on the sofa chairs by people wanting to read them or left in Modern Crime by some silly person? The difficulty caused by a few copies of a single title being very specifically replaced really affects no one's life in any sense strong enough to constitue a valid 'negative', so at what point does this even become an action to have a 'reaction' to?

Society is fluid, and the artist, the trickster, the person realizing that we grow and change and explore and develope, both good and bad, because art is experiment and exploration, not morality or status quo, these people, to my mind, are doing important work. Weighed against having to reshelve a book, well, no, I'm sorry, I can't agre that your demand that your universe remain so rigid and clockwork holds any value against a little creative play.

Could I come up with a better prank? Yes, yes I could, but Mozart doesn't make They Might Be Giants irrelevant, or worthless, or trite.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Wahoo said...

I guess it all depends on whether you're the trickster or the person the trick is getting played on. Pranksters never have a problem with other pranksters, and when the prank is over, they go home and are relatively punk'd-free until they think of something else, and go back out to find some targets. And usually, the pranksters feel like the targets of their prank should be grateful that the prankster's taken the time to enlighten them in some way.

I don't know if that relates to this "game", or anybody else's experiences, but there always seems to me to be this attitude that the targets of these pranks are somehow uptight and close-minded for not getting into whatever the artists are shoving in front of them. These kinds of artists love to make things less clockwork and rigid, but they always want someone else's universe to be that way, never their own. No one makes these kinds of intrusions into their lives, it's "wouldn't it be cool if WE did this thing to THEM. THEY would be so freaked out, man."

I don't know, I just have a natural resistance to people who are going to "save" me from my "boring" life. This is probably because I am uptight and narrow-minded in some way.

Also, they are in my yard, and I am not happy about that.

12:21 PM  
Blogger Wahoo said...

Damn it, this is making me sound like an uptight whiny bastard who doesn't like pranks. I do! I promise! I watch Jackass and stuff!

12:23 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

Mozart totally makes They Might Be Giants trite. And worthless.

Just kidding. But I hear those guys take WAY too much acid.

I think I'm going to ignore your argument Mike. And agree to disagree on this. Maybe I'm too uptight. About this, I don't give a hoot. Maybe those merry pranksters are inconsiderate at best.

I can't help but think that my granddad would want to take them out back and give them a taste of Ol' Hickory, know what I mean? Not that he'd ever do such a thing, the man was a saint. But the sentiment is there.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Michael "VendorX" Heaney said...

I think a lot of this comes back to the relationship you're envisioning, Jeremy.

First of all, when striking at a public bookstore and posting their efforts on the web, you, personally, are probably not the target. More, it's there, in sort of a Matt Groenig way, to amuse the people it's going to amuse and offend the people who it's going to offend.

I doubt they care (and I know that I don't) if people don't get 'into' it. Art and prank are much the same, they don't require appreciation from everyone. The only reason I'm even piping up is because of adjectives being thrown around like 'stupid' and 'trite'. That's not 'not getting into'. That's some heavy judgment, there.

Pete and I, I remember, came up with this thing he mentioned recently about dropping all the pianos from a high place in a large auditorium for the sake of art. Most people I describe that to call it similar names, but what they're really saying is, "I, personally, don't get it and am not into it, but I'm such a shallow prick that if I don't get it, or am not into it, then I'm going to call it stupid."

Not that I think you or Pete are shallow pricks, but I do think that perhaps the adjectives your using may be more subjective gut reactions than legitimate appraisals of other peoples' works. Especially YOU, Pete, given some of the stuff you find hilarious or worthwhile.

My father, likewise, would probably find this a beatable offense, but, once again likewise, I could never for the life of me figure out the criteria by which that man finds some pranks high art and others unworthy crap.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Wahoo said...

I don't know, maybe I have more of an issue with the motive than the action. And I'm probably reading their motives wrong anyway. But I definitely think it's incorrect to tie "getting it" to "getting into it". I mean, with this reshelving thing specifically, it's pretty easy to "get". Not everything has to have a point, I know, but this particular thing does. And I think a lot of the problems people have with it cover a lot of ground.

I, for instance, personally just don't find it very funny. That's just a personal opinion though. Then there's the part of me that's irritated with people who feel the need to try to enlighten everyone else. That really doesn't have much to do with this specific project. And then there's part of me that thinks that this is kind of like something a first year sociology student or a really really timid Fight Club fan would do. I think it's a legitimate appraisal, in a way that an art critic might say something was cliche (like comparing modern times to the book 1984 is).

I think this is one of those agree to disagree things (which each of you can use as: I am thinking about this rationally, and the rest of you are flying off the handle ;-) ).

Either way, I deeply appreciate how this has distracted me from my workday.

4:09 PM  
Blogger Michael "VendorX" Heaney said...

Man, hear hear to that (workday comment.)

I can't deny that I find the prank fairly silly (simple) at a level, or the message frankly passé (it was funny when people were wearing Vote Bush/Cheney in '84) shirts, but hey, weren't we all first year sociology students our first year?

I appreciate this as people taking the time. It's nice to see that people are out there freaking, whether it be or some Friscans reshelving books. You gotta start somewhere, and given time, motivation and healthy encouragement, I'd like to see what Avante Game could wow us with.

I mean, I thought the zombie mob was pretty damned cool. But then, I like zombies. A lot. (Though I fear them, also.)

4:53 PM  
Blogger munkee girl said...

Hey, Mike, I still find consciousness-raising lame. People can't eat consciousness. People can't sleep under a consciousness roof. I'm not saying don't be politically active, just that people should ALSO do something concrete to put their money/time/'lite skills where their mouth is.

10:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a "game." Go to a bookstore, or a Starbucks, or whathaveyou and, taking care not to be seen in the act, make some kind of minor mess that will take 3 or 4 minutes to repair. Sit back, observe the poor wage slave as he or she takes the 3 or 4 minutes. Decide if that 3 or 4 minutes was "no big deal." Imagine the weight of that kind of 3 or 4 minutes many times during the workday, work week, month, year of life.

No big deal.

How on earth can people be so smug about something so stupid? Besides the part where it's human nature, I mean?

12:19 AM  
Blogger Michael "VendorX" Heaney said...

Munkee, I think both are equally important. It's important that we survive, but it's also important that we do MORE than just survive. Breathing ain't living, as the old saying goes. Currently, I would argue that at least half of our population forgets that fairly regularly. Things like this help us a little to remember, sometimes.

And anon, if you really think that being paid to reshelf a book, run that through your mind, being paid to reshelf a book, is such a horrible thing, then you're life has grown way, way, too complacent, to the point that your value assessments are, in my mind, no longer really rational. There is no harm being done here. None at all. Anyone who gets mad that they're being paid to reshelf a book? I mean, how can I even argue that if you don't get it on the surface. You're getting mad that you're being paid to reshelf a book. It's not that I think this 'suffering' is minor enough to overlook. It's not suffering. It doesn't count as suffering. You're being paid to move books around, same as you would be if people weren't using their order to express ideas. What vastly good part of society or life is being damaged? What, exactly, are you trying to protect?

3:58 AM  

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