May begins with a cool mood around these parts this year. Halfway from Zero and halfway from 100. Rain. Just took the dog for a walk in the dark, which I like to do when it’s not barren and cold. Nothing feels imminently warm. Nothing really feels imminently anything, but that changes in a second.
Scant top here today, because I have a monster week of deadlines next week, and want to save some stuff. It is, alas, evergreen. Although I shouldn’t use that term; we had an evergreen die over the winter, which is annoying: you had one job, right? Be Green in the time when naught else is.
II suppose I cold address the tableau in the banner above. Most of this year’s banners are from the 60s, but this one is a 30s number. I’m not sure why I chose that, let alone set it aside for this week. (The banners, as you no doubt know by now, suggest the time of the year.) It was only now that I noticed the golf club, which adds even more inscrutability to the scene. Why did they drive on the course? He looks surprised-but-not-surprised by something - her score? What’s Blondie McPlaidish doing? She’s looking at Miss Kite Lapels of 1937 to gauge her reaction.
The women are in cahoots about something, and savoring the moment when he realizes what’s up. Besides his pants, which are about six inches below his sternum.
It’s a car ad, by the way.
Let’s see . . . oh, right. A correction. Bob Sassone was correctly appalled that I said John Carson Daly instead of John Charles Daly; I don’t know what I was thinking.
If you remember 1984, the Party rewrites the past at will to fit the narrative of the future. Someone is declared an unperson, or is found guilting of old think - never mind if they’re dead, they’re now super-extra dead, vanished, evaporated in the fires of the memory hole.
“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” So wrote George Orwell in 1949, as if he had been reporting on the April 26 meeting of the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents.
This was the meeting where the Regents decided not to rename four buildings because the old dead men had opinions that do not conform with the opinions of the present, and acted according to the precepts of the day - in this case, segregated campus housing, and surveillance of suspected agitator-types.
So: If you decline to rewrite the past to fit the ideas of the present, that’s Orwellian. Also, you’re a Nazi:
Regents Michael Hsu, Darrin Rosha and Richard Beeson argued that these administrators could not have acted alone. Surely, they must have been directed to enforce discriminatory housing and student surveillance by the regents of the time, they argued. The administrators were just following orders!
Orwell was prescient. The fight over historic building names at the University of Minnesota is a symbolic battle over the future of the campus and the nation. Do we want a future of equality and inclusivity, or shall we continue to honor those who perpetrated the injustices of the past?
There is no end point that will satisfy the person who is more concerned than the author. The author may believe he represents the point of rational, balanced, necessary concern, but people who come later - say, tomorrow, or the day after - will regard him with pity for not realizing how much more work had to be done. Must be done.
Related: it is possible to not like Robert Crumb and oppose his eviction from the cultural warehouse. Now the enlightened are proudly unfurling the empty flagpole of the middle finger to Crumb, for his past sin. As I said, I don't like Crumb; I think his work is creepy and everyone looks like they smell, but if you're going to study 20th century illustration you have to study Crumb - if only to see an old visual vernacular filtered through a sensibility that was never expressed in the original. Reason reported on the new cartoonists heaving him into the joyous, lovely bonfire:
Today, many think that fine distinctions between racist art and art that satirizes or complicates American racism are a luxury for people who, because of color or status, don't have to personally endure bigotry or its vestiges. Whatever the intent, they say, a racist caricature is a racist caricature, and it's long past time for that sort of thing to disappear.
But those familiar with Crumb's history have reasons to be suspicious of the idea that some art is so vile and offensive that its creators, distributors, and even consumers should not be tolerated. That attitude has led to bad places, in living memory.
Like arrests, trials. But don’t worry! Just because the culture deemed something anti-social, then made space for it to exist on its own terms, then deemed it anti-social again by the new standards that arose from the lifting of societal restraintsm - well, that doesn’t mean that could happen to you!
Just to make sure it doesn’t, though, create your art with an eye towards every possible objection from people whose identity status means they have absolute moral authority to cancel you and your work.
If you don’t, you are abetting future violence. Hell, you’re practically committing future violence.
Let's see what sort of art comes out of this. Let's see how brave that world will be.
Remember this war?
It was the Turkish War of Independence. After the Ottoman Empire was defeated in WWI (what? They were in that? Oh, who wasn't) the Allies stepped in. The Brits were the last to go from Constantinople, I think. Everyone would be out soon. Note:
1918 saw the first time the city had changed hands since the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.
And yet the Hagia Sophia remained a mosque.
In local news of most lasting significance:
Or perhaps not. We'll get to that. I think you had to be there.
The Preus Machine refers to the Governor, J. A. O. Preus. Nolan was William Ignateous, who was Speaker of the House in the 23 session. (Nonpartisan Election-Conservative Caucus was his listed party affiliation, but he was AFAIK a Republican.) Collins was President of the Senate, also an R.
When Preus first ran for governor in 1920, he adamantly opposed the Farmer-Labor Party, a coalition of discontented farmers and laborers who had formed a new political organization. The party, he declaimed, represented "socialism – a political cult that would destroy the principles of private property, our religion, and our homes.”
Despite his reservations about the Farmer-Labor philosophy, Governor Preus nonetheless encouraged the legislature to meet some of the farmers' demands by broadening the legal powers of cooperatives, making low-interest loans available through the Rural Credit Bureau, and creating the Department of Agriculture.
Preus also demanded higher taxes from the owners of ore-rich mines on the Iron Range, expanded highway construction, and improved equal rights and election procedures. His political savvy, combined with an apparent desire to correct inequities, made Minnesota's twentieth governor a surprisingly prolific reformer.
After completing his second term, Preus became an insurance executive in Chicago. He returned to Minneapolis in 1958 and served until his death as board chairman of Lutheran Brotherhood, a fraternal insurance society he had co-founded in 1917. He also founded the Aid Association for Lutherans, which consolidated in the 1990s to become Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.
That’s the company whose new HQ we’re following on Fridays.
I can see the current HQ from my office.
Your occasional reminder of the days when there actually was a Klan big enough to merit notice:
Regarded with contemptuous humiliation, too. Here’s a real day-brightener:
Thanks, Mr. Ray O’Sunshine. Actually, a renowned figure of his day; eventual Harvard prof. I like this line from his Wikipedia bio: “Hillyer is remembered as a kind of villain by Ezra Pound scholars, who associate him with his 1949 attacks on The Pisan Cantos in the Saturday Review of Literature which sparked the Bollingen Controversy.”
The Bollingen Prize, after Hillyer’s articles, lost its association with the Library of Congress after that. This . . . well, I had no idea. The syndicated adventures of Prof. Augustus S. F. X. VanDusen!
I’ve told this story here before. In grade school I got a Scholastic book collection of Thinking Machine stories, and the first - of course - was the Problem of Cell 13. It captivated me completely.
There’s just one problem with this feature. This is 1923, remember.
Jacques Futrelle was last seen smoking a cigarette with J. P. Morgan in the early hours of April 15th 1912 on the deck of a certain stricken ship.
Remember the news about a new apartment building project? Across the river in St. Paul, this big news:
It's all gone now.
A massive redevelopment is replacing the auto plant with housing.
No single family, though. That's not fashionable.
Finally: A pioneer you never hear about today.
JL Roop, a pioneer of stop-motion. His work endures to this day,
That'll do; enjoy the update, and I'll see you around.