Nothing Is Happening In Apartment 3-G: Where Did My Spring Go?


Sorry to stand in the way of Apartment 3-G but I do have a mathematics blog to support. I’ve had things to say about the integers — the counting numbers — some of which may surprise you. And though I don’t figure to have another installment until tomorrow, I do regularly review the comic strips that mention mathematical topics. It’s my chance to talk about several of my favorite subjects together.


So, I have heard nothing in the past week to suggest that Frank Bolle and Margaret Shulock’s Apartment 3-G is not doomed. (Their official blog has nothing to say, of course.) I would not be surprised if James Allen of Mark Trail was pushing to get King Features Syndicate to change its mind. It seems a long shot, but the syndicate does obviously make some of its decisions sentimentally. They run Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead, after all.

I like Zippy, and I understand why it would make sense to have tried it out a generation ago. But have you ever seen it on an actual newspaper’s comics page, and if so, does it make sense existing even in the same medium as Over The Hedge or JumpStart? Yet it’s still running. That fact is logical only when you consider that reality has merged with Zippy the Pinhead. As the character said long ago, life is just a blur of Republicans and meat.

As a more obvious triumph of sentiment over economics, the syndicate still has Hy Eisman draw new installments of The Katzenjammer Kids. That can only make sense as a point of pride. I accept that the economics of Apartment 3-G are marginal. I would nevertheless like to try “good art, strong stories” a try. If nothing else, it would be happy if the strip were to close out on an improving year.

As for what the heck happened this week. I suspect the Just End The Story Already Fairies have gotten a deadline for when everything has to be wrapped up. And lacking other tools, they’ve used the climax of Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man and are tearing apart the very idea of perception. The backgrounds have gotten to be so generic that it’s really not possible to say they’re insides or outsides or wrong or anything, and by Friday they weren’t even there.

The Thursday and Friday installments suggest we are actually literally going to have an “it was all a dream” resolution. After the exhausting nothingness of this year’s non-story I’m willing to accept this. I haven’t been so willing to accept an “it was all a dream” resolution since I was three-quarters of the way through Stephen Baxter’s god-awful novel Titan. (Spoiler: the book was bad enough that it wasn’t even all a dream.)

'Margo, it's me, Greg. I told you I'd be back. We'll get through this and when ...' And then Margo opens her eyes and demands, 'Where did he go, Tommie?' 'Where did who go, Margo?'
Frank Bolle and Margaret Shulock’s Apartment 3-G for the 29th of October, 2015. Greg who is not Eric is, possibly, the witness to Margo waking out of her coma. If Greg exists. Margo seems remarkably well-dressed as she demands to know where “he” went of Tommie, portrayed in the second panel by Penny Marshall immediately after being hit in the face with a football.

Dead fiancée Eric has most recently appeared on Monday, ordered by Tommie to go get some sleep. Tuesday saw the arrival of Greg, a bundle of strange backstory for Margo. While Margo was working as a publicist, Greg was her boyfriend and an actor who landed the part of James Bond. We’re to take it to be that James Bond. Margo and Greg broke up for the reason of there was some reason, probably. On Thursday Margo suddenly opened her eyes and demanded to know where “he” had gone. Friday Margo demanded to know where “the man who loved me” had gone. I would have thought Shulock would know better by this point than to use any pronouns. On the other hand, names don’t help much either because there is literally no guessing who Bolle is going to draw into any scene. Is she talking with Tommie? Eric? Greg? Why not Dost Mohammad Khan, founder of the modern Afghan state, at this point?

Margo demands 'the man who loves me, where is he, Tommie?' of Greg, while Margo insists she means 'the other one'.
Frank Bolle and Margaret Shulock’s Apartment 3-G for the 30th of October, 2015. Margo addresses Greg or possibly Eric as “Tommie”. Perhaps she is hallucinating, since she is wearing a stylish blazer while in her hospital bed. Unless the hospital bed was part of the hallucination and nothing happened the whole past year because it was all a dream.

The action this week reminds me of some single-season sitcom that blew my young mind. The last episode had the male lead going off to Other Land Somewhere, with a teary farewell scene at the airport, and he exits. Then the guy came back on camera and said he wasn’t going, because “it was cancelled”. “The flight?” “No, the series,” and the actors turn to the camera and wave bye. At that age I didn’t know you could do that, at least not outside shows that were built around talking to the audience, like Rocky and Bullwinkle. Maybe we are building up to the whole roster of jilted, abandoned, separated, and deceased boyfriends popping back in and saying their goodbyes in front of a blank wall. I hope it will be better than that.

Failing that, well, let’s just have the whole cast on stage to sing the Kinks’ “Where Did My Spring Go?” and call that an end.

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What I Have Learned About Curing Werewolves And The Danes


First I should warn it was idle curiosity. My love and I were not looking up werewolf cures out of any need. We’ve had no trouble with the werewolves in the neighborhood. The ones down the block even took down a diseased tree before it could become an eyesore, never mind a menace. It’s left a sad unshaded spot on the street, and it’s enraged the squirrels who were still using the tree as a major traffic route. But it is responsible property management from the neighborhood werewolves. If all our neighbors were like this our neighborhood would be set for gentrification.

What we had done was start idly talking about werewolf remedies. Silver bullets, sure, everybody knows that. But what did people do before they had bullets? And there’s no way that’s a universal cure, because there isn’t even a universal treatment for vampirism. The thing to do with a vampire depends on what cultural tradition the vampire comes from. It had to be the same for werewolves. So I could find some dubiously-sourced, arguably grammar-based explanations I dashed off to Wikipedia. Well, not dashed, because I’m scared of making my back angry again. But off to Wikipedia and I wasn’t disappointed.

And, yes, the silver bullet thing is a modern movie-created thing. Of course it is. Stuff is never as old as you image. The concept of zombies is actually newer than the Battlestar Galactica reboot. The first-ever reporting of the Loch Ness Monster dates to six years after Rerun van Pelt was added to Peanuts. There are no references to the legendary “Jersey Devil” from before March of next year. Most of the spooky creatures of our imagination are the result of scenes padding out Rankin/Bass specials.

Werewolves aren’t so completely new, though, if you believe Wikipedia. I choose to accept what Wikipedia says because that’s easier than doing research. I’m not disappointed.

The Ancient Greeks and Romans, allegedly, “believed in the power of exhaustion in curing people of lycanthropy”. Apparently, if you just put them to a lot of effort the werewolf would conclude it was too much work to go on being a werewolf and they’d go back to human. Or maybe they’d go to wolf, if that’s what they were better at being. I don’t know if the Ancient Greeks and Romans would be fine with a werewolf who stuck to being a wolf. I suspect so. I mean, yes, humans have always gone off hunting and persecuting wolves. But they’ve always gone off hunting and persecuting humans, too. Someone who won’t commit to being human or wolf must be particularly ire-raising. If they’d settle to one thing or another then society would know what to persecute them for.

But exhaustion as a way of curing lycanthropy. It suggests society could handle an invasion by werewolf hordes just by setting them to raking the leaves and painting the houses. We could save society and raise the property values all down the street. Of course I don’t know that the Ancient Greeks and Romans cared about raking the leaves. They got into some weird things, all the weirder when Pythagoras got involved. And now I’m sorry that I don’t know anything Pythagoras said about werewolves. It would surely have been among the ten funniest things humanity has ever expressed.

Wikipedia keeps delivering imagination-capturing data, though. I started reading: “In the German lowland of Schleswig-Holstein” and right there I stop and say, “The German lowland? I wonder what Danish Wikipedia has to say about that! I certainly recognize the territory Otto von Bismarck used as a cats-paw to manipulate Austria out of German unification! Nor have I forgot how the Schleswig-Holstein plebiscite Prussia agreed to hold following the 1866 war with Austria got repeatedly postponed until after World War I!” I’m not a history major. I’m not Danish. I’m not Austrian. I’m a mathematician. I took exactly six credits of history in college and that was all United States history. I have absolutely no reason to care about Schleswig or Holstein. I admit having enjoyed some products of the latter territory’s cows. This is why I wasn’t cool enough to get into the Dungeons and Dragons circle back in middle school.

Anyway. Back to stuff that does not make people want to slug me. Allegedly, a Schleswig-Holsteinian werewolf can be cured “if one were to simply address it three times by its Christian name”. And “one Danish belief holds that simply scolding a werewolf will cure it.” That can’t be all there is to it, can it? Or maybe Danish scolding is particularly chilling. But how are Danish werewolf parents supposed to keep their children in line?

“Jaan Damian Tage, you get in here right — oh, now he’s not a werewolf! Honey, run to the store and get some Lycanthrope Powder.”

“What, Jael?”

“I said, run to the store — ”

“I’m upstairs, Jael, I can’t hear you.”

“Run to the store — ”

“Let me get downstairs, Jael.”

“Oh, now we need a double case! Oh, Radolf, Radolf, Radolf, what are we ever going to — ooop!”

Anyway. I guess this all is why I don’t know any Danish werewolves. I can’t say I’m any wiser for all this, but it’s good to know.

A Vignette That Is Made Up Yet Also Entirely True


“And you know what the annoying thing is about vegetarians? They always tell you they’re vegetarians! You can’t sit down next to one and suggest that you ever ingest any form of nutrition without them pointing out how they’re vegetarians. And how everyone else would be too, if they were even slightly decent people. They just won’t let you be in peace, they’ll shove their vegetarianism down your throat,” declares, to no one in particular, the guy three unoccupied seats down at the bar who’s wearing a Woot-class T-shirt that reads “Bacon-wrapped bacon is my spirit animal”. I grin as noncommittally as I can while continuing in silence to eat my red-bean-patty olive burger.

I Missed This Event And Yet I Must Nitpick


We’re catching up on TV shows around here. There’s this commercial coming on just about every break of every show, though, advertising some program where you get to see animatronic dinosaurs. Apparently you could even ride some of them, which we have to admit would be cool. The thing is, here’s the first line about this animatronic-dinosaur “educational” show:

“For the first time, prehistoric Earth comes alive!”

I keep looking at that sentence. And walking around and coming back and seeing that it’s still that, once again. I try hissing at it, but it’s still the sentence, “For the first time, prehistoric Earth comes alive!” And it’s for a show of animatronic dinosaurs.

I kind of admire the advertiser for coming up with a sentence that logically self-destructs so completely.

Caption This! Contests On The Starship Enterprise


Troi, Riker, and O'Brien are sitting up on the beds in sickbay. That's most of the action.
The 24th Century enjoys a great number of medical advances, but the one that makes the biggest difference is they have shiny blankets.

Troi, Riker, and O’Brien rehearse for the deciding round of this year’s Sit Like Kermit The Frog Contest.


Right caption? Wrong caption ? Let me know if you’ve got a better. Also, my mathematics blog talks more about comic strips, and you’d be stunned how quickly I’m able to get from a Popeye strip into demon-summoning!

Generally Updating Things (Back Edition)


I know people worry about my health. Sometimes I even consider worrying about it too. But to give an update: after a couple days of rest and Aleve and therapeutic twitching and whimpering, my back no longer feels like it’s been hit by a truck picking a fight with me in a bar. It has advanced to the point that it feels like the truck saw me, and then slammed me against the wall. Then it called in a hitman. The hitman then rushed over, sized me up, and composed an EP-length album that went triple platinum. Then the triple platinum discs were grabbed and smacked against my spine repeatedly. While this is still generally fitting the description of “hit by a truck”, being slugged repeatedly by decoratively-sculpted chunks of platinum is a much better sort of truck hit than before. And, not to brag, but I have walked up and down several different flights of stairs since Thursday. Things are looking up, although I must admit, I’m not looking with them because that kind of hurts too.

Statistics Saturday: Why I’m Always Running Late. Plus: Apartment 3-G News?


Before the big funny picture of the day: it appears that Mark Trail cartoonist James Allen has confirmed that Apartment 3-G is cancelled. I can’t tell you exactly what he found, or how desperately final the cancellation is. Posts on his Facebook account require a Facebook account in turn to read, and I haven’t got one. But https://www.facebook.com/groups/228474710549025/permalink/990545454341943/ has the news, if I understand the commenting about this correctly. I am saddened, not merely because it’ll hurt my readership to have fewer people coming here trying to figure out what is going on in the strip.


Well. On to my report on measuring something or other for the week, then.

Why I’m Always Running Late, And Sad

The enormous block of time I figure it'll take. About 95 percent of it is time spent evading whatever it is I need to do. About two percent is the time it actually takes. The rest of the time is spent in shame and regret.
Not depicted: the time I spend thinking I could probably draw better-looking rectangles and shade them so they look a little more artistic if I really, really tried.

Nothing Is Happening In Apartment 3-G: Has Apartment 3-G Been Cancelled?


Before chatting about Apartment 3-G, may I remind you that I regularly talk about comic strips over on my mathematics blog? In this series I explain mathematically-themed comic strips, which lets me talk about monkeys a lot more than you might have guessed. I’ve also been doing a sequence of essays about the kinds of sets mathematicians see a lot. It’ll completely revolutionize your sense of small talk.


On to Aparment 3-G. Let me first get this out of the way. From Sunday’s recap strip:

'It's time we took a walk outside', says Martin, outside.
Frank Bolle and Margaret Shulock’s Apartment 3-G for the 18th of October, 2015. Honestly. Look at that first panel.

I mean, honestly. Let’s look at that first panel again:

'Time we took a walk outside', says Martin, 'At the E.R.' that has a bush and a clear blue sky in it.
Seriously, this is the first panel of a Sunday Apartment 3-G. At some point it crosses the dividing line between sloppiness and sabotage.

RrrrrrrrrrrRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRrrrrrgh.

So. I trust you’re all here because you heard the rumor. According to Joe McQuaid’s Publisher’s Notes column at the Manchester (New Hampshire) Union-Leader — a newspaper that dropped the strip earlier this year, citing its catastrophic decline — Apartment 3-G is to be cancelled later this year.

It’s a plausible enough rumor. No story strip is in good shape, reader-wise, and few of them are in creatively good shape. Mike Staton and Joe Curtis’s Dick Tracy is producing good, energetic stories, but they’re all built on fandom-pandering and nostalgia. (The current storyline appears to be some kind of Mirror Universe/Earth-3 plot. This lets them pull out every character that got killed off in the 40s back on-screen, to be killed again.) James Allen’s produced several exciting and well-paced stories at Mark Trail, although they’re all based on nature trying to kill us. This makes for some rollicking adventures but seems off-message.

I can’t find confirmation, though. All the reporting on this seems to be based on McQuaid’s comment. And in the same column McQuaid talks about having lunch with “my friend, The Donald” and how they totally should have played nine holes of golf like he said even though The Donald mistakenly thought the weather would be too bad. So McQuaid deserves to be wrong, and punched.

Frank Bolle’s web site is obviously derelict. Its latest news announces Bolle’s upcoming appearance at San Diego Comic-Con for July 2004. Margaret Shulock’s blog was last updated in June of 2012, with a post that she was back, she thinks. Comics Kingdom’s News Around The Kingdom blog today has nothing to say about the strip one way or another, even though the strip’s fate is the biggest news about a King Features Syndicate comic strip property this week. Syndicated comic strip fans live in a weird space.

But there is the blood in the water. I can’t think of any comic-strip cancellation rumor from the past five years that turned out to be wrong, with the possible exception of Dick Tracy. (I forget just what rumors were running at the end of Dick Locher’s tenure on it.) Still, apparently James Allen is pitching himself as a new artist, possibly new writer, for Apartment 3-G to King Features. (I say apparently because he posted this on Facebook, in an account not available to folks like me that happen not to be on Facebook. I’m inferring its content from what other people say about his posting.) I do not know how his revitalization of Mark Trail has gone financially. If good work were rewarded, the strip would be holding its own or growing in subscribers again, and we would live in a world different to this one.

And many have noted that the occasional “flash forward” week done that Francesco Marciuliano writes for Sally Forth. These depict Hilary Forth and her friends Faye and Nona ten years in the future, as a trio of women sharing an apartment while struggling as young women in The City. The resemblance is uncanny. Coincidence? Perhaps, although Staton and Curtis did write and draw a Dick Tracy adventure with the serial numbers filed off to show what the comic strip could be like, with fresh writing and solid art. Why not Marciuliano and Allen? (I have no information to suggest Marciuliano is interested. The original flash-forward read as a simple lark, and the premise is enough to sustain revisiting it now and then.)

Future Hilary Forth listens to Nona's advice not to give up on her writing career, and takes it. Jetpacks are mentioned.
Francesco Marciuliano and Jim Keefe’s Sally Forth for the 16th of October, 2015. This is part of a flash forward sequence depicting Hilary and her friends in the future, a trio of young women making it in The City.

I would like to think so. If Bolle and Shulock aren’t interested in, or aren’t able to, carry on the strip then I would like it to be in enthusiastic hands. Soap opera syndicated comic strips should be good, and the people who like reading them should have them available. And I would sincerely like to see more soap opera strips be good enough that they don’t support snarky, ironic readership. It’s not a law of nature that the story strips have to be bad. I hope that if Shulock or Bolle are leaving the strip then King Features Syndicate will find interested talent who can give us interesting, well-drawn stories.

What I Think Of Whatever It Was I Just Got


I don’t know why they want this sickness reviewed. What the heck. There’s a chance for a $250 Amazon gift certificate, right?

OK, so, this past week’s worth of sickness has been a real treat. The high point, by volume, has to be the bug I caught on Monday that we dubbed “stomach flu”. That’s a cute, friendly name, evoking as it does the 20th Century’s greatest killer, against stiff competition. But you know the kind of bug it is. You start out the day feeling fine. Then in midafternoon you realize how appealing it would be to sit still and disgorge a two-inch-thick layer of sweat. That done, the next task is to not move for eighteen hours. The alternative, moving, runs the risk of your body exploding like a paintball capsule only worse in every possible way. And of course the rotation of the Earth about its axis becomes too fast-paced and irregular to deal with.

The bug must be awarded style points for choosing to wait until I was visiting my love’s parents to take real effect. Not only could I be sick, and worry that I was making a horrible mess in someone else’s bathroom, but it carried just the hint that somehow I had got food poisoning from their pack of store-bought Dutch windmill cookies. (They weren’t actually Dutch windmill cookies, but I forget what we actually had. I think it might have been sugar cookies. But those are much less funny to get food poisoning from, if that’s even possible.) So the cure for this was to go throw up in my car, and sleep for 36 hours, without getting any less tired.

That all would have been hardly worth mentioning if it hadn’t piggybacked on the week’s other bodily complaint, though. That was some lower back pain. I run a little stoic, and even after a pretty lousy week I don’t want to make too much of it. But the ache started out last Friday morning, got so bad by Saturday that I even said something about it, and then started to fade again. Then this morning I was showering, and coughed, and it came back in full force. I don’t want to give up coughing in the future. I’ve had a nagging cough going on since 1998 and it’d be a shame to lose that. But if showering and coughing is going to give me this kind of backache I’m just going to have to give one of them up. I guess it’ll be coughing, since I don’t need to be less pleasant to be around than I already am.

To give some idea what it feels like, my lower back feels as if it’s been hit by a truck. I don’t mean that it feels like a truck ran into me in traffic. I mean it feels like a big 18-wheeler, the kind with a trailer and some sticker on the back promising that this trucking company gives no aid or comfort to the enemy, no way, noticed my distracted eye in a bar. And then the truck, a touch belligerent-drunk, stormed over to demand I explain myself. I’m never good in these sorts of situations. I answer something like “huh?” The truck overwhelmed the friends trying so hard to hold it back. Then it pushed me up against the change machine that doesn’t give change for $5 bills printed since 2008. It punched my spine just above the tailbone, twice. And then kicked it for good measure. The truck’s friends promised it’s normally not like this and offered to buy me a drink. But I only had a diet Coke that the bar refills for free anyway. The truck got in one more punch before it could be coaxed over to the other side of the bar and berate the karaoke machine. That is the kind of “hit by a truck” it feels like.

I’m not looking for sympathy, though you’ll notice I’m publishing this where anybody can see anyway. But the ache has been a chance for me to discover all sorts of things I can do while standing like someone who’s impersonating Groucho Marx without having ever seen Groucho Marx or any impersonator of Groucho Marx. It turns out this is nothing. Or if I do have to bend the slightest non-Groucho-Marx bit, how much I can get done by groaning about the pain oh the pain oh dear lord why are there steps in this house.

To sum up: truly effective sequence of ailments. Would not buy again. Would not recommend except to some people I’m feuding with. I’m not going to win the gift certificate either, I bet.

Bob and Ray Put Up The Storm Windows


I’m still feeling a little woozy and a more bit lazy, so let me give you something to listen to today. This is another Bob and Ray Present The CBS Radio Network. an episode from the 23rd of October, 1959. It’s seasonal. I’d be putting up the storm windows myself if I quite felt up to it right now.

The center sketch of this, One Fella’s Family, is a parody of something specific. The tone of it probably gives that fact away. What it’s a parody of is probably as forgotten as it used to be famous. They’re playing off the series One Man’s Family, a radio soap opera that ran from 1932 to 1959. And it kept the same actor for the main Man, J Anthony Smythe, for that whole run. (It also had two short-lived TV adaptations, one in prime time and one in daytime.)

The show had an irresistible comic hook. Episodes were introduced as being from a particular book and chapter of the tales of the Barbour Family. I would say that’s the high point of the episodes, honestly. The show strikes me as the tale of Henry Barbour sighing and grumbling about how his kids won’t listen to him, until they finally decide to listen to him. It’s a style of drama I don’t get much into.

Bob and Ray don’t have the great arcs of the kids figuring they’re too smart for college or whatever else went on in One Man’s Family. As with many of their bits, the story is of characters not quite able to do simple things. The closer you listen, the more absurd it all is.

Why I’m Not In A Good Mood (Kinda Icky Edition)


I am not at my best right now. I might argue it’s been years since I was at my best, but I’m not even at a local high right now. I am working on the end of a stomach flu, or whatever cute name you give that disease where you’re just fine, and then you suddenly feel yourself exploding in alarmingly-colored fluids, and then you lie down for 28 hours and aren’t any less tired. Also my back has been aching, which is totally out of character for it. So I apologize for all that going on, although I feel worse about it than you do.

Anyway. In the Nothing Is Happening In Apartment 3-G update last week — and yes, I’ve heard the rumors too; I plan to comment Friday night if I can get more information — I forgot to mention my mathematics blog, so I hope you’ll forgive my mentioning it here. There’ve been mathematically-themed comic strips covering days up to the 14th and then covering up to the 17th of October. Please give them a try, since while they do talk mathematics they’re meant to be quite accessible stuff.

Why I’m In A Good Mood (Cedar Point Edition)


Yes, I recognize the content of this sign is boilerplate. And I recognize that drawing amusement from boilerplate applied to a situation in which it’s not precisely appropriate but it’s too much bother to make something marginally more exact is one of the lower forms of humor. And I am aware of logical reasons for each one of these rules. Still: this is the sign outside a couple of desks set up for kids to use while coloring with crayons.

Charlie Brown's Coloring Zone Safety Guidelines: * Children must be under 54'' to participate. * Finish food and drink before entering. * Shoes are required. * Follow all directions given by the attendant.
New, I think, at the Cedar Point amusement park (Sandusky, Ohio) for 2015: Charlie Brown’s Coloring Zone. It’s several long tables set up with sheets to color in. Crayons are provided. And this explains it all.

H L Mencken’s Bathtub Hoax


So, you’ve heard about how H L Mencken created the story of Millard Fillmore being the first president to have a bathtub in the White House. Ever read it? Me neither, which is kind of a strange thing. I’ve always had a love for the mock-fact article. There is a real skill in creating something that has the cadence of actual facts, something that captures grand sweeps of events and the weird specificity of real life.

I finally got prodded to looking up Mencken’s bathtub hoax; it’s online, among other places, at http://hoaxes.org/text/display/a_neglected_anniversary_text. Reading it makes it clear why this should be such a successful hoax. It has the craggy grit of authentic history, the switch of focus from great themes to little homey details, this magnificent sense of scope delivered with a perfectly straight face. It’s great. If you haven’t read it before, take this chance now. It’s worth it.

A Neglected Anniversary

On December 20 there flitted past us, absolutely without public notice, one of the most important profane anniversaries in American history, to wit, the seventy-fifth anniversary of the introduction of the bathtub into These States. Not a plumber fired a salute or hung out a flag. Not a governor proclaimed a day of prayer. Not a newspaper called attention to the day.

True enough, it was not entirely forgotten. Eight or nine months ago one of the younger surgeons connected with the Public Health Service in Washington happened upon the facts while looking into the early history of public hygiene, and at his suggestion a committee was formed to celebrate the anniversary with a banquet. But before the plan was perfected Washington went dry, and so the banquet had to be abandoned. As it was, the day passed wholly unmarked, even in the capital of the nation.

Bathtubs are so common today that it is almost impossible to imagine a world without them. They are familiar to nearly everyone in all incorporated towns; in most of the large cities it is unlawful to build a dwelling house without putting them in; even on the farm they have begun to come into use. And yet the first American bathtub was installed and dedicated so recently as December 20, 1842, and, for all I know to the contrary, it may still be in existence and in use.

Curiously enough, the scene of its setting up was Cincinnati, then a squalid frontier town, and even today surely no leader in culture. But Cincinnati, in those days as in these, contained many enterprising merchants, and one of them was a man named Adam Thompson, a dealer in cotton and grain. Thompson shipped his grain by steamboat down the Ohio and Mississippi to New Orleans, and from there sent it to England in sailing vessels. This trade frequently took him to England, and in that country, during the ’30s, he acquired the habit of bathing.

The bathtub was then still a novelty in England. It had been introduced in 1828 by Lord John Russell and its use was yet confined to a small class of enthusiasts. Moreover, the English bathtub, then as now, was a puny and inconvenient contrivance — little more, in fact, than a glorified dishpan — and filling and emptying it required the attendance of a servant. Taking a bath, indeed, was a rather heavy ceremony, and Lord John in 1835 was said to be the only man in England who had yet come to doing it every day.

Thompson, who was of inventive fancy — he later devised the machine that is still used for bagging hams and bacon — conceived the notion that the English bathtub would be much improved if it were made large enough to admit the whole body of an adult man, and if its supply of water, instead of being hauled to the scene by a maid, were admitted by pipes from a central reservoir and run off by the same means. Accordingly, early in 1842 he set about building the first modern bathroom in his Cincinnati home — a large house with Doric pillars, standing near what is now the corner of Monastery and Orleans streets.

There was then, of course, no city water supply, at least in that part of the city, but Thompson had a large well in his garden, and he installed a pump to lift its water to the house. This pump, which was operated by six Negroes, much like an old-time fire engine, was connected by a pipe with a cypress tank in the garret of the house, and here the water was stored until needed. From the tank two other pipes ran to the bathroom. One, carrying cold water, was a direct line. The other, designed to provide warm water, ran down the great chimney of the kitchen, and was coiled inside it like a giant spring.

The tub itself was of new design, and became the grandfather of all the bathtubs of today. Thompson had it made by James Cullness, the leading Cincinnati cabinetmaker of those days, and its material was Nicaragua mahogany. It was nearly seven feet long and fully four feet wide. To make it water-tight, the interior was lined with sheet lead, carefully soldered at the joints. The whole contraption weighed about 1,750 pounds, and the floor of the room in which it was placed had to be reinforced to support it. The exterior was elaborately polished.

In this luxurious tub Thompson took two baths on December 20, 1842 — a cold one at 8 a.m. and a warm one some time during the afternoon. The warm water, heated by the kitchen fire, reached a temperature of 105 degrees. On Christmas day, having a party of gentlemen to dinner, he exhibited the new marvel to them and gave an exhibition of its use, and four of them, including a French visitor, Colonel Duchanel, risked plunges into it. The next day all Cincinnati — then a town of about 100,000 people — had heard of it, and the local newspapers described it at length and opened their columns to violent discussions of it.

The thing, in fact, became a public matter, and before long there was bitter and double-headed opposition to the new invention, which had been promptly imitated by several other wealthy Cincinnatians. On the one hand it was denounced as an epicurean and obnoxious toy from England, designed to corrupt the democratic simplicity of the Republic, and on the other hand it was attacked by the medical faculty as dangerous to health and a certain inviter of “phthisic, rheumatic fevers, inflammation of the lungs and the whole category of zymotic diseases.” (I quote from the Western Medical Repository of April 23, 1843.)

The noise of the controversy soon reached other cities, and in more than one place medical opposition reached such strength that it was reflected in legislation. Late in 1843, for example, the Philadelphia Common Council considered an ordinance prohibiting bathing between November 1 and March 15, and it failed of passage by but two votes. During the same year the legislature of Virginia laid a tax of $30 a year on all bathtubs that might be set up, and in Hartford, Providence, Charleston and Wilmington (Delaware) special and very heavy water rates were levied upon those who had them. Boston, very early in 1845, made bathing unlawful except upon medical advice, but the ordinance was never enforced and in 1862 it was repealed.

This legislation, I suspect, had some class feeling in it, for the Thompson bathtub was plainly too expensive to be owned by any save the wealthy; indeed, the common price for installing one in New York in 1845 was $500. Thus the low caste politicians of the time made capital by fulminating against it, and there is even some suspicion of political bias in many of the early medical denunciations. But the invention of the common pine bathtub, lined with zinc, in 1847, cut off this line of attack, and thereafter the bathtub made steady progress.

The zinc tub was devised by John F Simpson, a Brooklyn plumber, and his efforts to protect it by a patent occupied the courts until 1855. But the decisions were steadily against him, and after 1848 all the plumbers of New York were equipped for putting in bathtubs. According to a writer in the Christian Register for July 17, 1857, the first one in New York was opened for traffic on September 12, 1847, and by the beginning of 1850 there were already nearly 1,000 in use in the big town.

After this medical opposition began to collapse, and among other eminent physicians Doctor Oliver Wendell Holmes declared for the bathtub, and vigorously opposed the lingering movement against it in Boston. The American Medical Association held its annual meeting in Boston in 1849, and a poll of the members in attendance showed that nearly 55 per cent of them now regarded bathing as harmless, and that more than 20 per cent advocated it as beneficial. At its meeting in 1850 a resolution was formally passed giving the imprimatur of the faculty to the bathtub. The homeopaths followed with a like resolution in 1853.

But it was the example of President Millard Fillmore that, even more than the grudging medical approval, gave the bathtub recognition and respectability in the United States. While he was still Vice-President, in March, 1850, he visited Cincinnati on a stumping tour, and inspected the original Thompson tub. Thompson himself was now dead, but his bathroom was preserved by the gentlemen who had bought his house from the estate. Fillmore was entertained in this house and, according to Chamberlain, his biographer, took a bath in the tub. Experiencing no ill effects, he became an ardent advocate of the new invention, and on succeeding to the Presidency at Taylor’s death, July 9, 1850, he instructed his secretary of war, General Charles M Conrad, to invite tenders for the construction of a bathtub in the White House.

This action, for a moment, revived the old controversy, and its opponents made much of the fact that there was no bathtub at Mount Vernon, or at Monticello, and that all the Presidents and other magnificoes of the past had got along without any such monarchical luxuries. The elder Bennett, in the New York Herald, charged that Fillmore really aspired to buy and install in the White House a porphyry and alabaster bath that had been used by Louis Philippe at Versailles. But Conrad, disregarding all this clamor, duly called for bids, and the contract was presently awarded to Harper & Gillespie, a firm of Philadelphia engineers, who proposed to furnish a tub of thin cast iron, capable of floating the largest man.

This was installed early in 1851, and remained in service in the White House until the first Cleveland administration, when the present enameled tub was substituted. The example of the President soon broke down all that remained of the old opposition, and by 1860, according to the newspaper advertisements of the time, every hotel in New York had a bathtub, and some had two and even three. In 1862 bathing was introduced into the Army by General McClellan, and in 1870 the first prison bathtub was set up at Moyamensing Prison, in Philadelphia.

So much for the history of the bathtub in America. One is astonished, on looking into it, to find that so little of it has been recorded. The literature, in fact, is almost nil. But perhaps this brief sketch will encourage other inquirers and so lay the foundation for an adequate celebration of the centennial in 1942.

Nothing Is Happening In Apartment 3-G: But It Is A Lovely Day Outside


When last we looked in on Frank Bolle and Margaret Shulock’s Apartment 3-G the flow of time had broken down entirely, with something like ten months of reader time taking about two days in-strip. I was willing to let that pass. Margo was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, and her dead fiancée Eric was sent out to tell her parents.

This past week has seen Eric, who spent months (our time) hovering around a confused Margo without telling her who he was or why he was there, doing his bang-up job communicating Margo’s condition to her parents. To be fair, he did meet Margo’s Dad. In the daily strips Margo’s Dad turned out to be Eric drawn from the other side. In the Sunday recap it turned out Margo’s Dad was Eric but fifteen years younger. He got them to the hospital, which appears to be the same room as the diner and every apartment in the strip. Margo’s Dad suggested they go outside for no reason other than the strip was going to start being drawn outside anyway. Margo’s Mother didn’t understand this, or why Eric wouldn’t come along, and they started bickering.

They kept this up all week, ultimately making Tommie appear out of the aether to join them in squabbling. Tommie asserts that Margo’s taken a turn for the worse. This might be because she disappeared on the streets back on the 22nd of September and wasn’t seen since. Invisibility will complicate even the simplest of medical conditions.

Eric materializes at Margo's Parents' place, and informs them he has always loved Margo. Also Margo is in the hospital.
Frank Bolle and Margaret Shulock’s Apartment 3-G for the 11th of October, 2015. Certainly the natural answer to your fiancé’s question, “Do I know you?” is “It’s a long story, but I’ve always loved Margo.” Also, I don’t want to nitpick, but Margo’s Dad picks up the name “Eric” from nowhere. I’m assuming at this point that Eric is his actual name. There was an equally existing character named Tim in the strip recently and if they swapped places I couldn’t tell.

The storytelling has been stumbling ahead all right. The Eric-and-Margo’s-Parents thing looked like action without actually being anything. But it’s at least consistent with Eric’s incompetence at telling people things he is aware they ought to know. And Margo taking a turn for the worse is at least a development, placed reasonably at Thursday, a spot where it can be reiterated enough times for people to get that it happened.

The art continues its sad decay. Margo’s Dad — Martin — may have swapped ages with Eric; I’m honestly not sure. That’s been more or less consistent for the week, at least. Margo’s Dad suggesting they leave the Apartment Diner Hospital in favor of outside almost looks like writer Margaret Shulock working around artist Frank Bolle’s background shifts. When they suddenly start Wednesday’s strip outside the reader can suppose the characters chose to go outside and we were spared the details of the decision. The backgrounds look almost natural.

This implies that characters are now going to start suggesting they change their locations, so that when the backgrounds do inevitably shift it’ll have some narrative justification. This also implies the conversations will turn into a series of characters saying, “Let’s go to the diner”, being answered, “Let’s go outside”, and countering, “Let’s go to the apartment”, with nothing ultimately happening. I am not sure this is worse than the actual dialogue, which this week ran something like this:

Margo’s Mom (Gabby): What about you, Eric? Why don’t you come with us?
Eric: That’s very kind, Gabby. Maybe later.
Margo’s Mom: Why later? Do you know something we don’t?!
Margo’s Dad (Martin): Calm down, Gabby. You’re scaring yourself for no good reason.
[Suddenly outside] Margo’s Mom: You don’t understand how a mother suffers! You have no feelings, Margin!
Margo’s Dad: I’m not going to fight with you, Gabby. There’s no point.
Eric: Martin and Gabby, please don’t argue. We’re all very upset.
Margo’s Mom: See, Martin?

I know a story stalling for time when I see it.

So that’s this week’s action, for all who are confused. Margo’s Parents are now aware that she’s in distress, and is getting worse. And they’ve apparently gone to one of those famous Hospitals Without Walls, so it just looks like everything is happening outdoors. They’re in front of that car that might be pointing either direction.

What Is Art, And What Can It Do To You?


Why do we art? And if we must art, can anything be done about it? These are questions that come to mind if we’ve already worked out what we mean by ‘art’, or by doing artistic things. Let me explain what art is. Art is the way you make yourself feel inferior whenever you observe something you used to enjoy.

Let’s say you enjoy drawing. If you just like drawing, you can find drawings and look at them and enjoy them. If they’re bad drawings, you can enjoy laughing at them. If they’re great you can pass them around to people who don’t care about visual arts and demand they respond. They’ll finally nod and agree that’s an awesome whatever the heck it is. Also, they’re moving to a secret location inside a linen closet, beside the towels, so don’t need any more pictures, thank you.

If you attempt to draw, though, you can’t enjoy drawing anymore. Any really skilled drawing is a reminder of how awful you are at it. You can’t do that thing where a line is drawn so it looks like a line. Your best attempts at drawing a foot earned you hate mail from the Foot-Drawing Hall Of Fame. And that’s even though you never let it out of the spare room where you hide all your creative dreams and you don’t know how they got your address. You’re not allowed to look at feet now, says the Hall of Fame, which seems like an excessive reaction since you weren’t even attempting socks.

No, you were just making yet another attempt to get any good at drawing. This time you were following the instructions in some How To Draw Fifty Popular Cartoon Characters For Kids book. It’s a fun book, what with how its title implies Mutt and Jeff or Hardy Har-Har or the cast of comic strip Boner’s Ark are characters kids love, or have ever heard of. The book’s a reprint from 1984, which makes it a little better, but still. If you completed the book perfectly, it implies, you might be able to finally draw! Some strange figure named Wash Tubbs! In exactly one pose ever! But what you actually have are a series of off-model Felix the Cats and the haunting discovery that while Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble have toenails, Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble do not. Why? Why? Why?

So you can feel worse about yourself, of course. You can put time in. You can put in better materials, too. I mean, you can draw just using a sheet of paper stolen from the printer and the pencil that’s supposed to be near the phone for messages and never is. But down at Michael’s you can get a nice quality sketchbook and some mechanical pencils and a few basic ink pens for little more than all the money you have. And it comes with a coupon good for forty percent off anything except purchases at Michael’s. Really, it’s just worth it to be in the line that consists of four people, none making a complicated purchase, that somehow still doesn’t move until someone from outside, dressed for winter in so many layers of clothes they’re a tumbling sphere of laundry, rolls in and knocks people over.

None of that matters. You can put in all your time and your best effort and best materials and it will always look to you like you’ve drawn lovable alien monstrosity Stitch as a potato, using potatoes smeared onto tree bark. You can scan it and try to touch it up in software, and so get Stitch drawn as a potato using smeared potatoes on tree bark, but airbrushed. And you can’t look at a picture of Stitch, or worse, the whole movie Lilo and Stitch, anymore without feeling inferior.

I’ve picked on drawing, because it’s easy to understand. Everybody used to draw, and most of us stopped doing that and felt good about ourselves instead. But the same effect applies in any field. Photography, singing, music, writing … There are even people who say computer programming is an art, because they don’t have to deal with people who use their programs. But look close at people who’ve taken up any of these fields. You’ll find musicians trying to do something that sounds like the Kinks’ “I’m Not Like Everybody Else”. They’re growling at the guitars and cursing out Ray Davies’s chord progressions, just like everybody else.

Or consider writing. I’ve done a lot of it, and I like to think I’m decent in the pop-mathematics and the humor fields. Back in August I caught an episode of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. It mentioned among other overpriced Whole Foods nonsense items “a plate of grain blown back and forth between two fans”. Every day since then I’ve chuckled at that phrase, and that video. The only thing stopping that chuckling is my anguish that I can’t even imagine my writing something that effortlessly absurd. If I didn’t write, I would just enjoy the line. But because I do write, it makes me feel inferior.

What if you already feel inferior? I’m sorry to break this to you. I don’t know who wrote the line about the fan-blown plate of grain. But I can tell you this, truthfully. That writer is haunted by how much worse that joke was than something she’d read not a month before. And how she might someday, maybe, write something that’s close to how funny she wanted it to be. So not only will your art make you feel inferior, but your feeling of inferiority will be inferior to other people’s feelings of inferiority.

I’ve got further thoughts about the sensible thing to do. You can catch me with them, on line at Michael’s. I’ll be jotting ideas down on my iPod and screeching out unfunnily bad notes on the violin I took up in third grade. See you there.

Cyborg Kangaroo Voyager Dreams


I spent a considerable part of that dream trying to work out exactly which crazypants episode of Star Trek: Voyager it was. It was yet another episode where Tuvok comes down with temporary insanity. This time I’m pretty certain it was meant to teach an endearingly sincere but klunky message about toleration. It just did it in the form of Tuvok being caught in a quasi-hallucinatory state where he shifts between the starship and being maybe in the past, maybe shifting back to Actual Planet Vulcan where he’s gradually realizing he’s too enthusiastic about hunting down the packs of cyborg Vulcan kangaroos rampaging through the endless desert. I think the cyborg Vulcan kangaroos might have had antennas, which suggests they might be an invasive species, possibly from the Andorian worlds. No, they didn’t display any ice powers.

Anyway, the cinematography on this was just fantastic. I mean, this was clearly the episode of the year where they were trying, with a deliberate color design and on-location shooting with deep focus so you can do stunts like have the attention on some tiny thing in the distance and have someone walk in the near foreground, crisp and sharp. I think they might’ve been using 70mm film for some of it. So I’m a little disappointed I didn’t see how it all turned out, but I’m going to go ahead and suppose that Tuvok came to decide he didn’t want to be prejudiced, but rather wanted to come to hate people individually and for his own reasons, not those he picked up from society.

I think it was an episode from before Seven of Nine joined the show. I’m pretty sure they rescued Neelix from the cyborg Vulcan(?) kangaroo mob, unless it turns out that he only died in a hallucination or something like that. That’s to be expected I guess.

Our Pet Rabbit Meets A Dog


I’ve been known to exaggerate some aspects of interaction with our pet rabbit so I want to be clear this isn’t one of those times. We had brought him in his little pet carrier to the veterinarian. He’ll put up with being in the pet carrier while he’s actually being carried. Set him on the floor with nothing going on and he’ll give you about two minutes before deciding he should be out. He starts punching the bars of the carrier to remind us that he’s inside the carrier and could be outside instead.

The trouble is the vet’s was crowded, and they weren’t quite ready for us, so we had to wait. He wasn’t into the waiting. I told him, “You don’t really want to go out now.” He wasn’t buying it. He punched again. I told him, “You won’t be happy with what you see out there.” He was unconvinced. I rotated the carrier so its door faced away from the wall.

Our pet rabbit has met dogs before, mostly those of my love’s parents. Those were very senior, very shy, amazingly timid dogs terrified by such things as our pet rabbit, or me, or the existence of sounds. He’s not bothered by them. What he hasn’t seen before is dogs that’re still very good about being dogs, such as a German Shepherd snuffling around and working out what might be interesting in the area.

He stopped punching. And while I turned the carrier back around so he didn’t have to acknowledge the existence of dogs any more, he also didn’t start punching again. Back home, he spent the whole day inside the innermost reaches of his hutch, sulking. He’s only come out to eat and glare at me since.

(The German Shepherd left moments later, but I didn’t turn the carrier back around. The only other dog in the area was some small dog, maybe a Pomeranian, I forget which and called it a ‘chinchilla’ when describing the situation to my father. But it was smaller than our pet rabbit and I didn’t figure anything good could come of introducing that to the situation.)

To Explain The Situation


I was going to be away from any computer most of this weekend, because I was busy with stuff that was’t the computer. And so I set a couple of posts to appear automatically, on schedule, which is why on Saturday night my time both the Statistics Saturday thermostats thing and then the S J Perelman “Nothing But The Tooth” article came up at once. When I found the mistake I rescheduled the Perelman piece, of course, and it disappeared and then reappeared a day later. That second time around didn’t get announced on Twitter.

And I just knew that the “Insights” statistics panel that WordPress posts, which sows how many posts were put up each day, would conclude Saturday was a two-posts thing and Sunday a zero-posts day. I was wrong; Insights figures it was all one-day posts, except for this time back in March which was nothing of the sort. I have no explanation for this.

However, I do want to explain the misdated posting of the Perelman piece. I choose to lay blame on AT&T. Their DSL service may not have anything to do with my entering the wrong date on when these posts should have been scheduled, but their DSL service is pretty awful, and if they’re not going to be ashamed of that, they should be ashamed of something, anything.

S J Perelman: Nothing But The Tooth


Trade journals are fascinating, as long as you’re not in the trade. Journals for another field give a peek into how the magic of things are done. S J Perelman had an experience with a dental trade journal once, and shared his thoughts. Why not enjoy tonight, since my last dental visit went wonderfully smoothly despite my cold?

Nothing But The Tooth

I am thirty-eight years old, have curly brown hair and blue eyes, own a uke and a yellow roadster, and am considered a snappy dresser in my crowd. But the thing I want most in the world for my birthday is a free subscription to Oral Hygiene, published by Merwin B. Massol, 1005 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pa. In the event you have been repairing your own teeth, Oral Hygiene is a respectable smooth-finish technical magazine circulated to your dentist with the compliments of his local supply company. Through its pages runs a recital of the most horrendous and fantastic deviations from the dental norm. It is a confessional in which dentists take down their back hair and stammer out the secrets of their craft But every time I plunge into its crackling pages at my dentist’s, just as I get interested in the story of the Man with the Alveolar Dentures or Thirty Reasons Why People Stay Away from Dentists, the nurse comes out slightly flushed and smoothing her hair to tell me that the doctor is ready. Last Thursday, for example, I was head over heels in the question-and-answer department of Oral Hygiene. A frankly puzzled extractionist, who tried to cloak his agitation under the initials “J. S. G.,” had put his plight squarely up to the editor: “I have a patient, a woman of 20, who has a full complement of teeth. All of her restorations are gold foils or inlays. She constantly grinds her teeth at night. How can I aid her to stop grinding them? Would it do any good to give her a vellum rubber bite?” But before I could learn whether it was a bite or just a gentle hug the editor recommended, out popped Miss Inchbald with lipstick on her nose, giggling, “The Doctor is free now.” “Free” indeed — “running amok” would be a better way to put it.

I had always thought of dentists as of the phlegmatic type — square-jawed sadists in white aprons who found release in trying out new kinds of burs on my shaky little incisors. One look at Oral Hygiene fixed that. Of all the inhibited, timorous, uncertain fumble-bunnies who creep the earth, Mr. Average Dentist is the worst. A filing clerk is a veritable sabre-toothed tiger by comparison. Faced with a decision, your dentist’s bones turn to water and he becomes all hands and feet. He muddles through his ordinary routine with a certain amount of bravado, plugging a molar here with chewing gum, sinking a shaft in a sound tooth there. In his spare time he putters around his laboratory making tiny cement cup-cakes, substituting amber electric bulbs for ordinary bulbs in his waiting-room to depress patients, and jotting down nasty little innuendoes about people’s gums in his notebook. But let an honest-to-goodness sufferer stagger in with his face out of drawing, and Mr. Average Dentist’s nerves go to hell. He runs sobbing to the “Ask Oral Hygiene” department and buries his head in the lap of V. C. Smedley, its director. I dip in for a typical sample:

Question — A patient of mine, a girl, 18, returned from school recently with a weird story of lightning having struck an upper right cuspid tooth and checked the enamel on the labial surface nearly two-thirds of the way from the incised edge toward the neck. The patient was lying on a bed looking out an open window during an electric storm, and this one flash put out the lights of the house, and at the same time, the patient felt a burning sensation (like a burning wire) along the cuspid tooth. She immediately put her tongue on the tooth which felt rough, but as the lights were out she could not see it so she went to bed. (A taste as from a burnt match accompanied the shock.)

Next morning she found the labial of the tooth black. Some of the color came off on her finger. By continually brushing all day with the aid of peroxide, salt, soda and vinegar she removed the remainder of the black after which the tooth was a yellow shade and there was some roughness on the labial surface.

Could the lightning have caused this and do you recommend smoothing the surface with discs? — R. D. L., D.D.S., Oregon.

Well, Doctor, let us take your story step by step. Miss Muffet told you the sensation was like a burning wire, and she tasted something like a burnt match. Did you think, by any chance, of looking into her mouth for either wire or matches? Did you even think of looking into her mouth? I see no mention of the fact in your letter. You state that she walked in and told you the story, that’s all. Of course it never occurred to you that she had brought along her mouth for a reason. Then you say, “she removed the remainder of the black after which the tooth was a yellow shade.” Would it be asking too much of you to make up your mind? Was it a tooth or a yellow shade? You’re quite sure it wasn’t a Venetian blind? Or a gaily striped awning? Do you ever take a drink in the daytime, Doctor?

Frankly, men, I have no patience with such idiotic professional behavior. An eighteen-year-old girl walks into a dentist’s office exhibiting obvious symptoms of religious hysteria (stigmata, etc.). She babbles vaguely of thunderstorms and is patently a confirmed drunkard. The dentist goes to pieces, forgets to look in her mouth, and scurries off to Oral Hygiene asking for permission to smooth her surface with discs. It’s a mercy he doesn’t take matters into his own hands and try to plough every fourth tooth under. This is the kind of man to whom we intrust our daughters’ dentures.

There is practically no problem so simple that it cannot confuse a dentist. For instance, thumb-sucking. “Could you suggest a method to correct thumb and index finger sucking by an infant of one year?” flutters a Minnesota orthodontist, awkwardly digging his toe into the hot sand. Dr. Smedley, whose patience rivals Job’s, has an answer for everything: “Enclose the hand by tying shut the end of the sleeve of a sleeping garment, or fasten a section of a pasteboard mailing tube to the sleeping garment in such a position as to prevent the bending of the elbow sufficiently to carry the thumb or index finger to the mouth.” Now truly, Dr. Smedley, isn’t that going all the way around Robin Hood’s barn? Nailing the baby’s hand to the highchair is much more cozy, or, if no nail is available, a smart blow with the hammer on Baby’s fingers will slow him down. My grandfather, who was rather active in the nineties (between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues — they finally got him for breaking and entering), always used an effective method to break children of this habit, He used to tie a Mills grenade to the baby’s thumb with cobbler’s waxed thread, and when the little spanker pulled out the detonating pin with his teeth, Grandpa would stuff his fingers into his ears and run like the wind. Ironically enough, the people with whom Grandpa now boards have the same trouble keeping him from biting his thumbs, but overcome it by making him wear a loose jacket with very long sleeves, which they tie to the bars.

I have always been the mildest of men, but you remember the old saying, “Beware the fury of a patient man.” (I remembered it very well and put my finger on it instantly, page 269 of Bartlett’s book of quotations.) For years I have let dentists ride rough-shod over my teeth; I have been sawed, hacked, chopped, whittled, bewitched, bewildered, tattooed, and signed on again; but this is cuspid’s last stand. They’ll never get me into that chair again. I’ll dispose of my teeth as I see fit, and after they’re gone, I’ll get along. I started off living on gruel, and, by God, I can always go back to it again.