Arts & Entertainment

NAKED CITY – PROGRESS AND REGRESS!

Compared to some of the calamitous events abroad and the many large scale problems we face in this country, the following gripes – like the colour you are allowed by Council to paint your own house and the new high tech ‘self service’ borrowing machines in the Kings Cross Library – may seem like small and insignificant issues. Add them to a myriad of another annoyances though and you start to wonder just where everything is heading these days.

Let’s start with the Kings Cross Library, for decades a real municipal cultural hub in a suburb not renowned for its community spirit. The Library has recently reopened after a short closure to install a pair of automatic borrowing machines, not unlike those you’ll find in your local supermarket.  When I visited earlier last week I was not the only one shocked by the library’s new appearance. The once welcoming lending desk has been completely removed along with most of the friendly and chatty staff who once served behind it.

It’s like the heart and soul of the place has been ripped out and replaced with a couple of machines – admittedly easy to use but cold and foreboding. Oh yes it’s progress and even luddites like myself will eventually get used to it – but it’s all horribly impersonal. Unlike the local Coles or Woolies, where you at least have the option to boycott those horrendous self service machines, the KC library offers no choice. It’s just another portent of the world envisioned by Isaac Asimov in his book “I, Robot.” Rumour has it the Library’s own copy has been officially removed from the shelves so as not to further antagonize those unhappy with the recent changes.

In the same week that the ‘robotapocalypse’ swept through the beloved KC Library, we read that the Sydney City Council is forcing an 88 year old pensioner to change the colour of his inner city terrace, which he recently painted an eye catching blue. Not in keeping with the usual heritage colours they say, waiving their big punitive stick and the threat of some ridiculous fine. Meanwhile paint peels off surrounding terraces and buildings with graffiti daubed everywhere.

A similar scenario took place in Brougham Street in Potts Point a few years ago where one resident chose to decorate their tiny terrace with a kind of hip hop/DJ theme as part of an overall paint job. Whilst the surrounding terraces remained unloved and unpainted, their imaginative façade was a breath of fresh air in an otherwise dull block of houses. It wasn’t long before this expression of urban merriment caught the stern eye of the Council and the mural disappeared overnight.

It all adds new resonance to the term ‘Council compliance’ – what you can do, more often what you can’t do and as technology asserts its robotic grip – what you are bloody well going to do – whether you like it or not!

So let’s end on a note of both total nostalgia and a warning of what might be just around the corner. Firstly, remember those wonderful days when you would present your library book at the librarian’s desk, how they would greet you cheerfully and often comment positively on the books you were borrowing. With a swift swipe of the old inky pad they would stamp the slip in the front of your book with the return date and you would leave with a glint in your eye.

So how will the new whizbang lending machines react when you return a book that is possibly way overdue? “Exterminate, exterminate, exterminate!”

By Coffin Ed.

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