â€¢ The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has scored still another blow for the dignity of man. In the Christmas just past, merry proletariats celebrated the Joy of Marx with a blissful new holiday gift sensation: toilet paper subscriptions. Due to the responsibilities of international leadership, the USSR's resources are a bit strained lately (like the past 64 years, approximately), and the traditional T.P. is rather tough to come by. This is a small sacrifice that all socialist workers for brotherhood and justice are happy and honored to make so as to advance the cause (and Red tanks in Kabul). Yet, a nice wipe would be a great gift idea. And so…voila! Sovietland's "toilet paper futures" now grant the bearer of such card to be the first in line whenever any store actually has the single-ply (they must be singlesâ€"any more would be too wasteful) tissue available for purchase. "My mother enrolled for a subscription," proclaimed one Russian revolutionary, "and she thinks it's wonderful. She called me all excited and said, 'I hope for the day that you too can buy toilet paper this way.'" Oh, just give 'em time. What's the rush? There is always Pravda.
â€¢ At least morals are still alive in India. The world's largest democracy (oops, well, sort ofâ€"until Indira started throwing everybody in jail, anyway) has given life to gangs of "Marxist-leaning intellectuals" who "are trying to wage war against dramas with scenes they consider sex-provoking and bad for morals." The Commie-Puritans have labeled half a dozen Calcutta plays "obscene" and "perverted." The protesters rally outside performances complaining about the sex scenes and urging patrons to boycott "filthy shows put up by filthy people who think art and culture are centered only around one's groin." They blame "the bourgeois culture whose aim is to dynamite the people's movement and woo people toward cheaper things." It must be true. The shows have continued to play to packed houses for more than a year.
â€¢ Elsewhere around the globe, the red menace is just warming up. In China, for instance, they're getting all hot and bothered. In a titillating volume delicately labeled Sexual Knowledge, the Chinese Communists have broken the three-decade silence on certain well-known bodily functions especially popular in Hollywood (and rabbit colonies). A skimpy 74 pages long, the booklet has sold out quickly and may be headed for a second printing of another two and a half million. While giving no specific directions on what goes where, it does have pictures of private parts and helpful hints on how often the Big Number ought to be performedâ€"they've had quite enough if they "feel tired, heavy-handed, if their legs are tingly and ticklish, if their hearts beat rapidly and they're short of breath or lose their appetites." The no-no to be watched, of course, is the ever-popular "hand lewdness." Flying solo is said to promote "guilt, insomnia, impotence" and, in the case of several American presidents, "a complete nervous breakdown." Also taboo are stimulants and dirty pictures; helpful to the cause are sports participation and a warm foot bath before bed. Above all, sex must not be confused with the greatest thrill of all: "Labor and serving the people is the most glorious, great and prestigious cause."
â€¢ A San Francisco woman has died in a fire, while city firefighters sat through "a four-hour abalone dinner." Their fire station was but a half-block from the burning apartment building but was closed down while the public servants traveled across town to feast on the shellfish gathered by another city fire station. Louise Jenkins, a 66-year-old widow, died on the fourth floor when no one at the nearby station responded to neighbors' yells.
â€¢ Tom and Jane Fonda-Hayden are really getting screwed. I mean, they've got this nice little piece of property up in Santa Barbara, and they paid good money for itâ€"their moneyâ€"$500,000 big ones back in 1977. And now they want to put a magnificent children's theater up there so as to entertain all the swell youngsters who will be going to their super summer-camp in years to come. It's their land, and they own it, and they aren't hurting anyone else, and why can't they do what they want? Right? Wrong, Tom and Jane. You can't. Tough Taco. No way. See ya later. It's just like this: There are these things called "land-use controls." And they give local politicians the right to decide about what people can do with the land they own. Now, Tom and Jane, y'all thought it was pretty nifty when all kinds of scummy developers and low-income people were bounced right out of those really pretty suburban hideaways you $500,000 ranch people like to hang out in. But the same scoundrels whom you gave the power to decide land-use then, they've got it nowâ€"right when you need a permit just to let kids have a theater. And these politicians, neighbors of yours, they don't like you. They think you're Reds! They think you're gonna "brainwash" those kiddies! And so they can stop you from putting that theater in on your land. They are The People, and they have The Power. Thank you, Tom and Jane!
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".