In Memoriam Pleasures of Past Times

“…for more than thirty years my happiest dreams have been of second-hand bookshops…”

-Graham Greene, 1973, in Reflections, 1991

 

One of my favourite things of London is its second-hand shops. Over the years I’ve developed personal routes where, when I have the time (read: make the time for it) I walk from one to another in a sort of individual pilgrimage often including book shops, record shops, comics shops and other pop culture memorabilia, maps, stamps, all sorts of print and material culture shops.

These establishments (without them necessarily knowing it) become a type of friend, someone you get to know intimately who can offer just the right thing to satisfy a particular need at a given moment in time. This need is not only materialistic or consumerist. It’s not what people call “retail therapy”. It’s more like a type of emotional, spiritual counseling or mentorship- one pays a visit to these shops because they offer, like libraries, serendipitous journeys of discovery. One steps into them often without looking for something very specific in mind- it’s not the item that gets you there but the place itself, its reputation as the consequence of careful or accidental curatorial work. The drive to visit them can be described as a very particular type of physical and intellectual hunger for a special, unexpected artifact waiting for the right collector to appreciate its relative rarity or uniqueness, a star in a constellation with links waiting to be traced, a lost piece in the ever-growing jigsaw puzzle of who we have been and are in the process of becoming.

Over the years I have seen many of these establishments close down. The other day I added another one to my own personal graveyard of closed shops- Pleasures of Past Times (PoPT), on 11 Cecil Court, which had stood in that same location since 1967, as its store sign proudly announced.

How can one explain the feeling of loss when one arrives to a location and finds it empty and closed for good? This feeling can be easily dismissed as conservative, retrograde and dangerous nostalgia. This is not to deny it is a nostalgic feeling: it is, of course, since we are talking about second-hand shops of a particular type, a feeling always-already embedded in nostalgia understood as an ongoing attempt to recover, as collector, what one always wanted and never had, or what one feels deserves appreciation, for one reason or another, beyond its relative obsolescence or even practical meaninglessness in the contemporary world. I’d argue that it’s not necessarily toxic or dangerous to feel a sense of loss when we witness a transformation in the urban landscape, particularly when it is tied to changing paradigms in our relationships to otherwise symbolically meaningful objects that increasingly are thought of as obsolete.

Can such contradictory, complex emotion be entertained or described? Benjamin’s theses on the philosophy of history, his reading of Klee’s Angelus Novus? I feel like there can be a type of critical, self-aware nostalgia that, rather than idealising a mythical past, performs itself as a critique of “progress” disguised as higher rents, the rejection of the symbolic in favour of the strictly practical (estate agents, food and clothes, not print books, music in physical formats or non-digital art) as expressed by the ongoing demystification of material culture, accelerated by the belief that all experience can be digitized, that material objects are clutter, etc. A kind of “progress” defined by an ethos of individualism and isolation: why go anywhere if you can just get it delivered to your own home?

Storefront of Pleasures of Past Times,  11 Cecil Court, London WC2N 4EZ
Pleasures of Past Times, 11 Cecil Court, London WC2N 4EZ, now closed
11 Cecil Court blue plaque, "In a building on this site W.A. Mozart and his family lodged in April-August 1764
11 Cecil Court blue plaque

Checking PoPT’s website I realise it is now only an online shop- which is better than the worse alternative of its total disappearance, and a fate many other similar shops have had of late. The sense of loss for its brick-and-mortar address is not necessarily for the items it used to stock, buy and sell, but for the social, collective, cultural experience it contributed to as part of a bigger formal or informal network of similar shops. I could never afford to spend much money at PoPT, and I must say I used to find it a tad intimidating- my limited budget meant sometimes I just looked at its window and marveled at much stuff I would have loved to add to my collection.

In what could potentially be called today a “psychogeographic” essay titled “Second-hand Bookshops” (1973), Graham Greene describes evocatively his passion for these establishments. “I don’t know how Freud would have interpreted them”, writes Greene in the opening line, “but for more than thirty years my happiest dreams have been of second-hand bookshops” (I personally rarely dream of bookshops, but indeed for more than thirty years my happiest memories include them).

Greene also describes the always-changing landscape of second-hand bookshops in London:

“No, the West End is no longer my hunting ground any more than Charing Cross Road, but, thank God! Cecil Court remains Cecil Court…” (Reflections, 1991).

In a way, Cecil Court still remains Cecil Court. But it is rapidly changing. Without PoPT Cecil Court is, for those of us who have visited it over the years, significantly different- Pleasures of Past Times will be missed as a shop that once made Cecil Court remain Cecil Court.

Addressing Sylvia: A Comic about Sylvia Plath’s Last Address

Panel 5 from Priego, Ernesto (2019): Adressing Sylvia. figshare. Poster. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.7803530
Panel 5 from Priego, Ernesto (2019): Adressing Sylvia. figshare. Poster. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.7803530
In early January 2019 I took a walk.
I made a comic about it and shared it on Figshare. (I subsequently did a a new version with a minor revision, and updated the description in the record; the link should take you to the latest version).
Priego, Ernesto (2019): Addressing Sylvia. figshare. Poster. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.7803530

Pint of Science: Comics, Humans and Technology in the Pub! 16 May 2017

I am pleased to announce I will participate at the following Pint of Science event:

Humans and technology: in life and in death

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Doors open 6.30 PM, Event 7.00 PM – 9.30 PM

The Artillery Arms 102 Bunhill Row,
London EC1Y 8ND

Come along and live it up – it’ll be dead fun.  The function room is on the first floor, with no wheelchair access.

Technology is everywhere. Its involvement in our world changes across the lifespan. This evening will explore some of the ways researchers are applying different technologies as we age. You’ll hear how technology can be used both as we live and as we die. Expert speakers from City, University of London will introduce you to a world of smart homes, virtual rehabilitation and mobile phone autopsies – a world where online comics are being used to make sense of both life and death.

Full programme info and registration at https://pintofscience.co.uk/event/humans-and-technology-in-life-and-in-death-

Hope to see you there!

1:AM London Altmetrics Conference: A #1AMconf Twitter Archive

1:AM  London 2014 logo

I have uploaded a new dataset to figshare:

Priego, Ernesto (2014): 1:AM London Altmetrics Conference: A #1AMconf Twitter Archive .  figshare.
http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1185443

1:AM London, “the 1st Altmetrics Conference: London”, took place 25th—26th September 2014 at the Wellcome Collection, London, UK.

The  file contains a dataset of 4267 Tweets tagged with #1AMconf (case not sensitive). These Tweets were published publicly and tagged with #1AMconf  between Thursday September 18 17:29:56 +0000 2014 and Sunday September 28 16:07:49 +0000 2014.

Only users with at least 2 followers were included in the archive. Retweets have been included. An initial automatic deduplication was performed but data might require further deduplication. The Time column (D) has times in British Summer Time (BST).

Please go to the file cited above for more information.

 

“Popy!”

From my present:

At the Natural History Museum, London
At the Natural History Museum, London, photo taken 2014-05-25, 16-02-56 BST.

 

From my past:

Página final de "Mundo Perdido", autores desconocidos, con introducción de Georgina Llorente, Compañía General de Ediciones, México, DF, 1979. Página 46. Colección del autor. Fotografía tomada 2014-05-25 20.49.45 BST.
Last page of  “Mundo Perdido”, authors unknown, with an introduction by  Georgina Llorente, Compañía General de Ediciones, México, DF, 1979. Page 46. From the author’s collection. Photo taken 2014-05-25 20.49.45 BST.

Sensational Butterflies

Natural History Museum 2014-05-25 14.09.04
Natural History Museum 2014-05-25 14.09.04 photo CC-BY Ernesto Priego

 

More living creatures

-organisms-

in a teaspoon of soil

than human beings

on Earth.

A butterfly landed

on a girl’s head

fluttering laying

eggs, as the girl’s

mother took photos

and the girl

stood still.

 

To be a butterfly:

the whole life

process for life’s sake

briefly, with its

moments of gruesomeness,

fear and beauty.

All worth it.

#LibPub Sessions 4 & 5: Scholarly Publishing and Reference Books -and comics!

Screen Shot from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encyclopedia
Screen Shot from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encyclopedia

I‘ve been so busy I just couldn’t find the time/energy to write a post for the fourth session of our Libraries and Publishing module at #citylis last week. But here I am!

Blogging is a great way of leaving a public register -even if limited- of the module sessions; I also like to feel like we are sharing a little bit of what happens within the four walls of the lecture theatre with other interested parties out there. Blogging therefore is definitely well worth the effort, but sometimes it’s just very hard to do it as regularly as one would like to.

Anyway, our fourth session last week was about scholarly publishing, which is one of my favourite topics. I really enjoyed being able to dedicate a whole session to it. We focused on scholarly publishing in the UK and I aimed at presenting a general picture of academic journal publishing today, what it means and how it generally works, particularly in relation to libraries and users.

We looked at some reasons why libraries cancel journal subscriptions and went over the “serials crisis”, gradually moving towards open access publishing, the different options out there, the differences between editorial workflow, access type and business models; briefly mentioned institutional/national mandates, as well as challenges and opportunities posed by openness, including licensing and atttitudes towards intellectual property.

Gosh Comics London: The Culture of Comics
Gosh Comics London: The Culture of Comics

This week a group of us also did a “research field trip” to two Central London comic book shops, Gosh! Comics and Forbidden Planet. This was an activity related to our third session, on comic book publishing and libraries. Though both shops sell comics they are two completely different establishments, and we went there hoping to get some insights into what different strategies they use to organise, classify and display their stock. We also came out with some nice books! (Thank you to those who came last Tuesday or who visited the shops in other days on your own!).

Gosh! Comics window... The Encyclopedia... #LIbPub everywhere!
Gosh! Comics window… The Encyclopedia… #LIbPub everywhere!

Tomorrow, for session 5, the topic is the past, present and future of reference book publishing. I have preapred two case studies, Palgrave Macmillan and Oxford University Press, to present an overview of how these two major publishers work, focusing specifically on their online products.

We will also have the honour of welcoming Dr Katharine Schopflin who will talk to us about her research in book history on encyclopaedias as a form of the book. Her lecture is titled “Encyclopaedias: publishers, librarians and end-users”, and will provide an overview of the status of the encyclopaedia from its origins to the present, inviting us “to consider whether the encyclopaedia has a generic signature which carries beyond the material form of the book.”

SpotOn London 2013: Interdisciplinary research: what can scientists, humanists and social scientists learn from each other?

Logo Spot On

This year’s SpotOn London conference will take place at the British Library.

I have cancelled my appearance. If I have time I might write a post about it later.

SpotOn is a series of community events for the discussion of how science is carried out and communicated online. The flagship conference is the annual SpotOn London two day event, formerly called Science Online London, and now in its fifth year. They also host monthly SpotOn NYC events in New York City.

This year I’ll be participating in the following workshop:

SpotOn London 2013: Interdisciplinary research: what can scientists, humanists and social scientists learn from each other?
Friday 8 November, 2013 4:30 pm-5:30 pm.

Academics are increasingly turning to interdisciplinary working to maximise the potential of their research. Benefits allegedly include increased access to funding, resources, knowledge and impact (to name but a few) – but how do these partnerships work in real life? What can researchers from polar opposites of the academy learn from each other? And can we ever really get along? This will be an interactive session which will include drafting of a new contract for interdisciplinary scientists, humanist and social scientists.

Coordinator: Dr Philippa Grand (Head of Social Sciences, Palgrave Macmillan, @PalgraveSoc)

Contributors:

  • Dr Simon Bastow, (Senior Research Fellow, LSE Public Policy Group @simonjbastow)
  • Laura Hood (The Conversation, @Lahoo)
  • Des Fitzgerald (Sociologist at Kings College London, @Des_Fitzgerald)
  • Dr Ernesto Priego (Lecturer in Library Science, City University London @ernestopriego)

Session hashtag: #solo13hss

72nd World Science Fiction Convention: Diversity in Speculative Fiction: Digital Comics Panel (Call for Papers)

#Loncon3 logo

Yesterday I posted on the Comics Grid blog a call for papers for a digital comics panel to take place within the Academic Programme of Loncon 3, 72nd World Science Fiction Convention.

I have copied and pasted the call below.

Call for Papers

Diversity in Speculative Fiction: Digital Comics Panel

Loncon 3, 72nd World Science Fiction Convention

Thursday 14 to Monday 18 August 2014, London, UK

#loncon3

@academicloncon3

The academic programme at Loncon 3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, is offering the opportunity for academics from across the globe to share their ideas with their peers and other convention attendees.

To reflect the history and population of  the host city, London, United Kingdom, the theme of the academic programme is “Diversity”.

This is a call for academic papers on digital comics. Proposals are particularly welcome on the works (and adaptations of the work) of the Guests of Honour, London as a location and under-represented areas of research in digital comics, particularly those fitting within the ‘speculative fiction‘ label.

By digital comics we mean any comics (printed or not) making uses of digital technologies, as well as media-specific comics made to be read on digital devices (online comics, webcomics, motion comics, mobile comics). Examples of these may include, but are not limited to:

  • Digital comics: media, medium, form, genre?
  • Digital comics and market diversity in the comics publishing industry
  • Digital archives of comics and questions of digitisation and preservation
  • London, geolocation, psychogeography and mobile comics
  • Connections between computer technologies and speculative fiction in digital comics
  • Adaptation, translation and transmediality in digital comics
  • Representation of alternative bodies, gender and sexual orientations in digital comics
  • Digital comics by black and ‘minority ethnic’ authors and publishers
  • Representation of characters of different ethnic origin in digital comics
  • Social class and digital comics: issues of access, representation, production
  • Approaches to non-English language digital comics

The deadline for submission is 31 December 2013.

Participants will be notified by 1 February 2014.

All presenters must have acquired convention membership by 1 May 2014.

Please read the Academic Programme’s Frequently Asked Questions.

Abstracts will be included in the Academic Programme Book, which will be available to download from the Loncon website, and selected papers might be invited for submission to an edited volume showcasing the diversity of scholarship in current academic research and The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship.

To propose a paper (presentations should not exceed 20 minutes), please submit a 300 word abstract to Ernesto Priego at Ernesto.Priego.1@city.ac.uk.

The Good Old Days: Charity Shop Music

Near Obsolescence: Charity Shop Music

“Everything comes from somewhere…”

-Paul Morley, Words and Music, 2003

Getting old is hard. It’s hard not to feel that when the stuff you love is becoming obsolescent you yourself are rushing to obsolescence. Suddenly we find our past left behind in charity shops. The stuff you bought once with much effort is suddenly there for a quid.

Recently someone left a sizeable collection of recent-ish, mint CDs in one of my (several) local charity shop. I had bought all of those CDs once in the past (not the same CDs, but the same, in a work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction kind of way), but due to several migrations they got lost along the way. As a record collector and frequent scavenger of second-hand and charity shops, I often wonder about previous owners, and the pieces of biographies they leave behind when they get rid of a collection.

This time around I took the opportunity of recovering some of these objects, that, even as compact discs, still hold on to the aura of valuable, meaningful objects, embedded with collective and individual memories. The newest of those CDs is from a decade ago, and boy, does that still feel like yesterday to me.

Anyway, I have made a ‘mixtape’ (many times in my life I used this word non-metaphorically) with some songs from some of the albums I found in the charity shop. There is nothing rare or ‘underground’ here (particularly for the UK context, pretty much the opposite) but where I come from some of these CDs were precious possessions to be treasured.

I have called this “The Good Old Days (Charity Shop Rock Sr Priego Set)”, and you can listen to it if you click here.

Meeting the Beholder Halfway

“…technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations which would be out of reach for the original itself. Above all, it enables the original to meet the beholder halfway, be it in the form of a photograph or a phonograph record. The cathedral leaves its locale to be received in the studio of a lover of art; the choral production, performed in an auditorium or in the open air, resounds in the drawing room.”

-Walter Benjamin, 1936

The other day walking down London’s Tottenham Court Road I was struck by the window displays at Heal’s. “Masterpieces”, read the blue lettering printed on the glass.

As part of the sofa displays, very large high-definition reproductions of Van Gogh, Rosetti… in the past such massive reproductions would have been either impossible or incredibly expensive to make.

Digitisation and large format digital printing suddenly announced here as the possibility of not only turning your home into a gallery– this has been going on for more than a century now, with both originals and reproductions of varying quality– but of enlarging art, reproduction as magnification. (Miniaturisation has had a longer tradition– art reproduced in postcards, t-shirts and the like, but high resolution digital files to be printed on plotters is fairly recent).  It all had the whiff of an aesthetic preference I tend to relate to drug lords or chain hotels, but hey.

At home I found a blog post on “Heal’s Reveals” (28 March 2013) about it:

At Heal’s, we like to think our sofas are works of art. Viewed from any angle, they are inspirational, sculptural artefacts created by master craftsmen. So that got us thinking… we decided to take some of our most iconic sofas and display them side by side with a complementary work of art – by the likes of Van Gogh, Gainsborough and Rosetti – exquisitely reproduced on large scale canvases by Surface View (creators of amazing bespoke interior print products). The result? Heal’s Masterpieces.

I thought these displays and the fact a company is dedicated to ‘creating bespoke interior print products’ that are giant enlargements of classic artworks was a poignant example of the decay of the aura of original art in the digital age. ‘The cathedral leaves its locale”: the religious image desacralised in its new digitally manipulated giant size, taken to the window display and presumably to the ‘drawing room’ of those whose budget and taste can afford it.

There is indeed an in-between-ness about this concept and images, the concept of department store sofa as a work of art, and the should we say arrogance of the technological power to reproduce, manipulate, enlarge, commoditise, turn into an interior design product. From outside the shop the displays and the images greet us back with our own reflection and the reflection of the city and its passerbys, here yet there, something but not quite that something that was supposed to be once, the promise of what meets us as beholders only ‘halfway’. ‘Masterpieces’: to this beholder, neither art nor interior design, niether here nor there.

I took some photos of the displays and I share them here with you. What would have Walter Benjamin written about them?

Heal's Masterpieces. Photo 1 by Ernesto Priego, taken 2013-04-02 17.23.55

Heal's Masterpieces. Photo 2  by Ernesto Priego, taken  2013-04-02 17.25.09

Heal's Masterpieces. Photo 3  by Ernesto Priego, taken  2013-04-02 17.24.08

At the British Library: Open Access Monographs in the Humanities and Social Sciences Conference

 Open Access Monographs in the Humanities and Social Sciences Conference

As many of you already know the Open Access Monographs in the Humanities and Social Sciences conference will take place the 1st and 2nd of July 2013 at the British Library in London.

I will participate within the second strand, titled “How exactly do you get your monograph published in open access?.” I will focus on issues around copyright and Creative Commons for HSS researchers.

I am honoured for the kind invitation; the whole programme (still being updated) is looking amazing!