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I could feel the rain and the wind before I opened my eyes; the house was cool and damp. I hoped it would be in the mid 40s, at least; the battle’s not lost if you’re still in the 40s. Gnat woke me by pulling up the shades, and there it was: the big green world hiding behind a scrim of fog and drizzle. I checked the temp.
Thirty four. Two mere degrees from snow. I turned on the fireplace and made breakfast. We looked at the newspaper, talked about the day to come. The morning passed quickly – Jasper went to the door to go outside; he stuck his head out, sniffed, and went back in. Interesting little act of judgment: sure, I could take a leak, but is it worth it? Let’s wait. Dogs can do cost-benefit analysis if required. Just doesn’t often come up.
Lunch. Peanut butter sandwich with the crusts trimmed off. (She won’t eat Uncrustables any more, which is fine. I don’t know what that stuff is, but it’s not bread. More like finely spun Styrofoam. Even then she would ask for the crust of the Uncrustables to removed, which presents an almost Zen dilemma. Does the crustless sandwhich not have a crust of its own, in a way? Yes, says the four-and-a-half year old.) I had a peanut-butter sandwhich of my own.
“Do you believe in magic,” she sang to herself.
“Do you believe in maaaaagic,” she belted out in her Ethel Merman voice.
“Where did you learn that song, hon?” I was curious, of course, because that was the song from which I drew the line about teaching a stranger about rock and roll at the end of yesterday’s entry.
“From the movie about the magic kid.” Right. A Disney flick from 2005. See what I mean? These barnacles will go down with the ship; they can’t be removed.
One of my co-workers came looking for me today; I wasn’t there. Wandered over when I got in to the office: what’s up?
She handed me a photocopy of the library ad I wrote about a few weeks ago. Seems some people agreed with me. Seems some were rather exercised by what I said. Seems some wrote angry hate mail to the ad agency . . . from TAIWAN.
So now there’s going to be a story in the paper about it. Ha! Between this and the Walker story, my name is going to be a byword for mulish kneejerk idiocy in the Arts circles, I suppose. Apparently the creators of the ad believe the original story from which I took the information misreprented the ad, and I exacerbated the matter by omitting the copy. Well, here’s the ad. On one side, the usual icon of Mao; on the other, a picture of the new library. It says MAO under you-know-who and MPL under the library. Both have asterisks. Mao’s asterisk:
“A former librarian, who created the 3rd largest economy in the world (and least diverse collection of books.)
The library’s footnote:
“Our future library, which will house the 3rd largest collection per capita in the country (including a few copies of Mao’s little red book.)
There’s more to libraries (and librarians) than you might know. Now you can become a part of our story with your gift to the new Minneapolis Central Library at www.friendsoffmpl.org. Opening May 2006, thanks to you.”
Well, I can’t see it makes any difference. I make the same point: how many tens of millions of people do you have to kill before you’re regarded as an inappropriate icon for an amusing ad campaign? No, it doesn’t endorse Mao – although I would suggest that having an insufficiently diverse collection of books may have been among the least of his sins. But what’s this about creating the 3rd largest economy, anyway? China's rise has less to do with the Great Helmsman’s economic vision and brilliant managerial skill than the grow-rich-is-glorious policies of his sucessors, who turned away from the stupidities of dogmatic Marxism.
You can find stuff like this in, you know, books.
Well, if the Mao ad is okay, then so is this: (Click for larger version.)
If it's not okay, why?
The Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library has a page about the ads, and it appears to have been put up after the Skyway News story and my subsequent post. (Google dates it as May 11, or Wednesday.) They admit that Mao is controversial, but can’t help stepping in it again:
In the most politically charged ads, MPL, which is predicated on free speech, tolerance and the open exchange of ideas, is contrasted with Mao and Hoover, who both worked in libraries early in their lives but pursued policies antithetical to an open society (to put it mildly).
Mao and Hoover. Peas in a pod. I’m no Hoover fan, but they’re not exactly in the same league. Besides, Hoover’s big target was the Reds, whose vision was far more antithetical to an open society than anything J. Edgar dreamed up. There, I’ve said it: Mao was worse than Hoover. And these distinctions are important. There are of course many right-thinking people who will agree, but they squirm in their seat as they do so, waiting for a chance to launch a BUT missile into the gap. The effect of communism on some countries was of course horrible, in a sense, BUT you had to admit that the McCarthy witch trials and blacklisting of screenwriters is a dark chapter in American history, no?
They may not like communists, but they really don’t like anti-communists. Communists may be deluded, but they meant well in some abstract sense that surely has to count for something. Whereas God knows what the anti-communists really want.
I'm not suggesting that the authors of the ad or the Friends of the MPL subscribe to that view; I've no idea. I may be misinterpreting the tone of the excerpt above - but to me it sounds rather testy and defensive, and I'm accustomed to that tone of voice when I'm being lectured by someone who has realized I obviously don't get it.
Well, I’m one of those retrograde hidebound anti-communists, alas. And why? From a book review of a memoirs of a Red Guard, an account of life under J. Edgar – uh, Mao Zedong:
The chilling story opens with a book burning that excited the 12-year-old as he saw banners at the edge of a great bonfire that read “Burn the sentimental bourgeois culture” and “The new society will be built on the ashes of the old.” “Baby Dragon and I walked to the edge of the fire,” Shen writes. “The heat was so intense I could feel it burn my face. I set the bag down on the gray ash-covered ground and pulled out the first book from the bag. It was entitled ‘A Doll’s Adventures,’ a children’s classic I had read a dozen times. I hurled the volume as far as I could and watched with satisfaction as the book landed, burst into flame and quickly disappeared into the fire ball. ... A few feet from us, a small girl, perhaps four or five, toddled forward with a big book. ‘Go on, Little Flower,’ urged her father, a man with thick glasses. But the book was too heavy and it plopped to the ground just outside the reach of the flames. ... ‘Allow me,’ Baby Dragon said. He flipped over the volume and, with false sadness on his face, showed me the title. It was a collection of two years’ worth of issues of ‘The Young Scientist’ bound in black leather. He knew the volume would be of some interest to me since I was considered a science whiz in our school. ‘Does it have a red cover?’ I asked back. And we all knew the answer. Only the Great Leader’s books have red covers and thus the right to live.”
Yeah, him and Hoover. Tweedledeath and Tweedledrag. To put it mildly.