Gnat doesn’t like Diego, probably because he’s related to Dora, and Dora annoys her. So she wanted me to read the Diego book in a mocking voice. I agreed: anything to ease her mind, and take it off the looming prospect of A SHOT. We had to visit the clinic today to investigate the cause for a rather comprehensive rash. I’m banking that subject for a column, so I won’t go into it here, except to confirm what a few parents are probably thinking: Parvovirus B19! Better known as Fifth Disease. Basic childhood rash. Part of nature’s pointless gantlet through which all must run. There was no needle-stickery involved, and afterwards we sat in the sun and had a snack. She had a cookie and I had some wasabi almonds, and everything was grand: to paraphrase Churchill, there is nothing more exhilarating than to have the result be without shot.  

We drove home, windows down, Sibelius lecturing away about the virtues of Finland. Once home it was time for piano and homework, rash or no rash. Questions: name some things you can do that are good for the earth, and some things that are bad for the earth.

“Kill worms?” she suggested. I asked why. “Worms help make dirt, and dirt is the earth.”

True. But worms can be used as bait to catch fish to make fishsticks. How about kill too many worms?

“Okay great.” She wrote it down, then thought about some other bad things. “Cut trees?”

But we cut trees to make paper.

“Cut down too many trees?”

Exactly. And so it went with each of the suggestions, as I gently steered her towards moderate responses. I want her to think about good things she can do, but I don’t want her to worry about the earth. Or blame it for inventing parvovirus B19.

It’s always the tossed-off opinion about something I know little about and which holds a particular place in the hearts of others that gets me in trouble. As you can guess, I got lots of mail in defense of Mildred Davis, the young lady in the silent movie.

Actually, no. It was “Canticle for Leibowitz.” Rather than trouble myself to go back and read what I wrote, I’ll just say that I meant to criticize the post-apocalypse genre, not the book. I’m listening to an audiobook version, and it’s wonderful; the post-apocalyptic setting is just a framing device for a critique of human nature and religion, as far as I can tell. Taken as such, it’s rather broad, but the details are delicious.

It’s the ultra-multi-column day, as you know. So some pictures, then. First, an old 60s sign from Lake Street in Minneapolis. I hope the "i" falls off some day, so the sign says PARK N REAP, which conjures up Coop-like images of the Angel of Death in an Ed Big Daddy Roth hot rod.

I think this was a hobbyist's store, catering to military board-game fans. The cannon precedes the sign, in other words. Not the greatest design, but reminiscent of a style and era now gone. So it must be preserved! At all costs! Right?

No. As long as it's not in danger of falling down and OPENing the head of a pedestrian, sure, keep it up; it gives the street that old rusty funky visual flavor that comforts the hipsters and reassures them that they are having a genuine urban experience. (If you kept the sign and replaced the circles with Starbucks logos, it would RUIN EVERYTHING.) But it's rather ugly. See all those bulbs? You like the sign, bub, you lean out and change one in January when it's snowing.

Across the street, the rocket of my childhood:

You may recognize this, and if you don’t, well thundering typhoons what do they teach you bashi-bazouks these days? It’s the rocket Tintin rode to the moon.  I had one Tintin book as a kid, and it was “Destination Moon,” the first of a two-parter. I didn’t get the second part for five years, such was the anemic penetration of Belgian culture to our part of the world. As with many things that meant a great deal to me, I still have the book – in fact I have it on my desk right now. It’s falling apart, but the illustrations still have that fascinating meticulous clarity, and all the characters are still old friends. Except for dull old dependable Tintin, of course. I never wanted to be him; I wanted to grow up to be Captain Haddock.



Sent along by a Bleat reader, this old British cure for Cram’d Bowels. Apparently one of the ills produced by constipation is “poorly carried-off transvestitism.” The ad notes that stopped tubes can make one feel “liverish,” a term that’s gone out of vogue entirely. I’ve done my part over the years to use “splenetic,” but I leave “liverish” to others.







As long as we're on old ads, here's an ancient piece of documentation on the latest scientific innovation, the Sealed Wax Package:

I'm not sure what this stuff was called; maybe you can help. Jal-E, or perhaps Joll-A. Well, it'll come to me. The same brochure has this picture, and it reinforces a long-held belief that all advertising depictions of children prior to 1940 are just downright creepy, somehow preternaturally knowing:

Yes, it's Master Thomas, winner of the 1904 Cat Rectum Impersonation Contest.

Back to work; columns to finish. Much more tomorrow; in the meantime, enjoy a brisk refreshing Quirk and a new entry in the weekly Comics section of the Institute. See you Wednesday morn!