Recent musings in this space about the record being broken for folding a single piece of toilet paper led to a surprising number of reader comments, but I was pulling my punches. For example, “Latest Gadgets from Japan,” an online article I came across, mentioned the “Puppy Mate,” a device that “reels out, folds and cuts toilet paper automatically,” an L-shaped “holder that allows you to tear toilet paper with one hand,” and the ceramic head of a grim, bucktoothed “miira,” or Japanese mummy,” that dispenses the roll from the top of its head after the cardboard tube is removed.
Toilet paper wedding dresses are featured at Origami-resource-center.com, which includes origami instructions printed on toilet paper. “The word “astound” comes from the Middle English “astoned,” meaning “to stun,” and astounding feats are being achieved by toilet paper athletes on RecordSetter.com, to whom anyone can submit if they keep the rules for setting their records “simple, quantifiable, breakable, and include sufficient media evidence.” For example, Abdullah Alshakih of Wilkes-Barre, PA created a tower using 144 rolls of toilet paper, Jordan Johnston of Didsbury, Alberta stacked 10 rolls in 4.61 seconds, and Guam’s Chris Dean unraveled a full roll in 4.28 seconds. I’ll leave Alyjha Williams’ records for longest continual face-licking by a dog (9 minutes 54.04 seconds) for another time.
I could fill several columns writing about advances in toilet paper technology but will desist in favor of a Guardian.co.uk article titled “Butt Out! Pakistan Telecom Watchdog Drafts Rude Text Message Ban.” The PTA, or Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, recently ruled that 1,109 English and 586 Urdu words and phrases can’t be used in text messaging. Besides the usual suspects, these include relatively innocuous terms like “butt,” “fondle,” “deposit,” and “flatulence.” This ban will certainly fail since new expressions will soon replace the forbidden ones, just as it’s happened since the Subcontinent’s people started writing long ago.
I enjoy the wild language of movies from Bollywood, as India’s film capital in Bombay is known. The actors dart from one language to another in a single film as the plot moves from action scenes to romance to slapstick comedy and back again, all leavened with sumptuously overproduced song and dance numbers. My roommate of 39 years and I recently ordered the 1958 classic “Dilla Ka Thug,” or “Trickster of Delhi,” from Amazon and were rewarded with a free DVD titled “Sar Aankhan Par.” The latter movie is “a tribute to 50 years of Indian cinema” that “was four years in the making,” but it’s awfully lame, even though it includes car crashes and a librarian.
Its plot revolves around a minor character-actor named Uncle Sunday who gives a career boost to a young starlet named Bubbly and matchmakes her with his son, a serious-minded librarian named Jai, who hates movies and hasn’t smiled since his mother, a stuntwoman, was killed filming a car crash. Libraries are serious business in India, which has been a hotbed of librariansim since S.R. Ranganathan devised his “Five Laws of Libraries in 1931.
Ranganathan’s laws are: “books are for use,” “every reader his or her book,” “every book its reader,” “save the rime of the reader,” and the library is a growing organism.” They mean “people should be able to read and borrow books,” “everyone should have the books they need,” “books should be useful,” “strive for efficiency in serving patrons,” and “libraries must constantly evolve to meet changing needs of its users.” The laws remain beacons for running libraries in today’s digital world, but maintaining their high standards requires constant vigilance. Like sharks, if libraries are dormant too long, they die.
Several local librarians are attending the Public Library Association’s every-other-year conference to discover new ways to keep our library vibrant and useful. It gives one pause to be where 8,000 perkily helpful librarians are congregated, like swimming in a pool of intellectual chocolate. It’s good stuff, but golly there’s so much of it. Nevertheless, their exhilaration about learning how to improve their libraries for the future is palpable. It would be suitable material for a serious PBS documentary, but not commercial TV. As Rod Serling pointed out, “It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.