Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Medium is Paint and the Message is Mixed

Okay. I need to bring this up, because I have been in London for like eight months now and if I don't bring it up soon I am going to go out of my mind. Let me put aside the Terrible Crossover Fanfiction Idea Generator for a second ("Your challenge is to write crossover fanfiction combining Doom and They Might Be Giants. The story should use a blizzard as a plot device!" haha what) and talk about this item of interest, because I have come face to face with it so many times that it practically demands my attention.

This is the mural painted outside the entrance to the Cherryhill branch of the London Public Library, taking up a sizeable chunk of wallspace within the Cherryhill Village Mall. The single-level indoor mall is populated almost entirely by captive elderly people from the surrounding... er... 'retirement communities' and the whole building has this sublimely depressing aura that seems to leak from its very pores, but that's a topic I can get into another time. Look at this mural! Behold it!

I understand the intent of the mural, and I'm sure you do as well. Combating the long-held stereotypes that surround a library -- especially important when dealing with an audience that may have held these views unquestioningly for half a century now -- this mural seeks to emphasize the diversity, the vibrancy and the sense of community spirit that a public library serves to foster and enrich at all times. This is funny to begin with because this particular public library branch is, and I'm not kidding, attended at all times by packs of territorial seniors who will give you funny looks if you try and befoul their periodicals with your grubby young-folk hands -- but the thing I like most of all about this mural is that it seeks to tout the vim and vigour and vibrancy of libraries by portraying actions and behaviours that would make a librarian from any era seriously consider stabbing you.

Let's go around the mural and consider, one-by-one, the items pictured here that are either passively discouraged or straight up disallowed within the library environment.

Please don't bring your cat, for starters. Please don't bring a cat into the library. I love cats dearly, let's establish that right now -- but even putting aside the incredible allergy and health risks involved, the basic fact of the matter is that if you put a cat on top of two library books you will have a cat and a pile of confetti within about thirty seconds. And then the sheer number of people around in any given public library (nineteen people in this picture, as an example, including five small children) would probably incite a bout of running away and/or freaking out in the poor cat, because any cat of any size in the entire world is fully capable of cloaking and weaponizing itself in a matter of milliseconds. (This is even if you'd had the cat declawed previously, but since declawing also involves the wholesale amputation of critically important paw bones it's safe to assume that the cat is god damn angry at you to begin with.) So while you've got a scared cat hiding somewhere in the stacks and dive-bombing unsuspecting passersby, let's see what other trouble you can get into.

Oh. Yeah, please don't eat while you're handling the library books. I know this may seem like kind of an old-fashioned position to the non-library set, but I've yet to run into a practicing librarian who looks forward to cleaning apple residue out of hardcovers. This isn't as bad as having to corral an aggravated cat, or anything, but all the same I'm not sure how promoting this is a good idea.

Speaking of bad ideas! The VHS tapes aren't too egregious, because they're sort of stacked in some sort of careful manner and they're a pretty tough medium to begin with, but if I ever catch you removing CDs from their cases and strewing them about upside-down for the entire world to scratch and destroy I will you murder you myself. This isn't a sentiment motivated by professional obligation; in fact it goes double if you ever pull this shit in my house, so commit this to memory. Who even does something like this?

Crimson Viper does, apparently. This is another important point: while cellphone use is no longer strictly prohibited in many public libraries, it's a safe bet that extended cellphone use while hogging an internet terminal is going to get you shanked by the other patrons long before the library staff can step in.

Not pictured on this mural are the other computer stations, where patrons plunk themselves down and masturbate to internet porn for hours on end; I think this is left unpictured for reasons that are entirely obvious, but in our library school program they've brought in public librarians who have literally assured us that we will run into these people far more often than we would like (which is to say, ever). This is actually part of why they have hand sanitizer stations on every floor of each branch! These are the kinds of high-level considerations that they prepare us for in the Library and Information Science program; perhaps now you understand why these jobs tend to pay so well.

I don't know if there are any enshrined library rules specifically outlawing a spirited guitar rendition of whatever this champion of cool would be playing (ten bucks says he's playing Clapton to try and pick up women), but if you pull this stunt in a library I'm reasonably certain they'll draw up some form of justification for siccing security on you within the first five or ten minutes. Especially if you're stomping your foot that hard, or bracing your foot on a stack of books like that, or... whatever he's doing. If I look at his legs for too long I start to seriously lose my sense of depth perception, so let's move on and see who else is--

Oh hell no. You have got to be kidding me. Free-range accordions are frowned upon just about everywhere; outside of certain festivals there are a very small number of people in the world whose performance on an accordion in public is tolerated, and none of those people are so desperate as to have to perform in public libraries between a stack of books and a guitarist with one rapidly melting leg. I don't care if they won't let you take the sheet music outside the branch, you photocopy that shit. Put away the accordion and take off that silly-ass hat, you banana-pudding-suit-wearing freakshow.

Well, at least I can take comfort in knowing that things can't possibly get any more ludicrous here at the local public l--


I can't tell from this artistic rendition whether the small child dumped one of the potted plants on the floor and meticulously arranged it to look like it belonged there or if this kid somehow managed to cut a hole in the floor and plant a small, somehow surviving tree into the ground below without anyone noticing and making an attempt to stop him or her.

Dear prospective patrons: please do not attempt to establish new plantlife installments inside the library building.

Your local public library! You never know what you'll find! I'm going to down a litre of whisky and lie down until I've forgotten that I ever saw this, just so I can react to it anew the next time I drop by. Stay strong, readers!


Gavok said...

Oh shit, is young Rachel Ray reading The Textless Adventures of the Rocket in Space? I loved that book when I was a kid!

As a guy who works in a bookstore, I'd be pretty pissed at those kids for sitting on the books. Especially that kid on the left, who appears to be a genetically engineered hybrid of Sophia Loren and Verne Troyer.

James Howard said...

I think the very best thing about The Textless Adventures of the Rocket in Space is how it fostered our imaginations. Leaving us as children with the freedom to make our own "VWOOSH!" and "WHEEE!" sounds whenever we wanted was critical to our development, and one of the reasons that people look at me funny when I'm on a bus.

VWOOSH! WHEEEE! go rocketship yaah

Also, I didn't notice this before, but the guy in the red hat is clearly showing off the corpse of that pink-sweatered gender-neutral human he just hunted and killed. I should have included that in the library suggestions somewhere, especially given the downtown branch in this city. (Well, in any city. Downtowns in general ain't doing so hot.)

I should note that I crack up a little every time I look at that cat, because JEDI MIND TRICKS

Gavok said...

Jesus, man. You have to do something about this comment text. Can't you make it white or something?

Bruce from Accordion Noir said...

Also, that guy is playing his accordion upside down (which is very hard to do). Or maybe he's pretending. He's a mime-accordionist! I don't know if they have rules against that. It would seem like mime would be one of the performing arts less frowned on in libraries, but I don't know.