Give Me Toilet Paper, Or ….

Given the current issues with Covid-19 and our desire to keep breathing, we are sticking pretty close to home. Unfortunately, we were dangerously close to hitting the end of our supply of personal hygiene items, namely toilet paper.

This probably falls under the category of too much information, but bear with me, as we’ve managed to resolve the difficulty with creativity and perserverance.

I read an article on Mental Floss about what people used prior to toilet paper and let me tell you, we are very lucky. The Romans used a sponge on a stick which was kept in a bucket of very heavily salted seawater.

We’ve come a ways since then, though corncobs , pages from mail order catalogs, and whatever paper happened to be available were in fashion for a while. Northern Tissue advertised as late as 1935 that their toilet paper was “splinter free”, which no doubt was an important selling point.

The bidet, while popular in Europe, never quite made it in the US. I suspect the shortage of toilet paper due to people panic buying will greatly improve its appeal.

If you’re really desperate, this article has 15 different alternatives to consider, including the aforementioned sponge on a stick (Now with more salt!), bidet and newspaper. There is also something called the bum gun, which is essentially a power wash for your perineum.

If you’re not too squeamish you can also consider using what is used in many locales, water and your left hand. This is also why offering your left hand to shake hands is considered extremely rude. Being a lefty must be really rough in those places.

We finally broke down and ordered some baby wipes from Amazon. We thought about ordering toilet paper, but seeing that one of the items on sale had a pack of 60 double rolls with 1 used offer, we were a bit concerned.


I’m not a fan of horror movies (at least for the most part). A lot of them seem to substitute horror and gore for terror and suspense. The difference I usually see is the difference of being grossed out and horrified by what you do see, vs the terror and suspense of what you might see.

In a way, things got gorier and not nearly as scary as the techniques for the special effects involved got cheaper and more sophisticated. CGI ruined a lot of it, in my mind. When the effects got better, the camera could linger on the carnage instead of look away and imply the carnage. The problem with that is that I think people get desensitized when that happens. Your imagination is the best, most sophisticated, and in many cases, most realistic special effects engine their is. There is a reason that reading a Stephen King story is usually much scarier than a Stephen King movie.

There are exceptions to this. Many of the Korean and Japanese horror movies specialize in being disturbing, rather than gory. To me, they are much more frightening than the slasher flicks. Movies like “The Grudge”, “Paranormal Activity”, even “The Blair Witch” have shown that a film maker can scare people without splashing the walls with buckets of blood and guts. Again, it’s what you are afraid you might see, than what you do see. Hard to see the zipper in the monster suit, if you never get a good look at it.

“Alien”, the most formative horror movie (and yes it was a horror movie) of my youth, lost a great deal of its scariness, once we got a good look at the monster. The chest burster scene was horrifying because we didn’t know what the hell that thing was, not because the character’s lungs and heart were painting the walls.

Once we got a full look at the monster, it stopped being something we needed to be terrified of, and became something we could blast apart with big cartoon guns and robot suits. Fear of the unknown is still the most potent emotion.

Writers like H.P. Lovecraft mastered this emotion by making that fear into an existential crisis. Not only were the monsters unknowable, but the very act of of knowing them drove characters insane, to the point that they would do things that were beyond human experience, breeding with creatures from the deep ocean, deep space, or even other dimensions.

Lovecraft remains one of my favorite writers for this reason, even though I think his prose is a bit overwrought a good deal of the time. My favorite horror writer is Robert Bloch, who was talented at telling stories with an economy of prose and a sense of humor that warped my youthful mind in the most delightful ways.

Hope and Disappointment

I went to see a new orthopedic guy this week, in hopes that maybe he could do something to help with my knee, which hasn’t worked right since I broke my leg 2 years ago. Unfortunately, he gave me the same answer as I’ve gotten before.

“You have severe traumatic arthritis, and you’re looking at a total knee replacement sooner than later.”

The arthritis is traumatic, but that’s not what he meant. I crushed the top of my right tibia about 25 years ago when I slipped on some ice. That resulted in a piece of steel and 8 screws in my lower leg. The injury two years ago resulted in a steel plate and a dozen screws to hold the leg together.

Needless to say, I’ve had my share of traumas. That’s what traumatic arthritis is, arthritis due to a trauma or injury, and I’ve had my share.

The funny thing was, when I showed my oldest the x-ray, I told him the metal at the bottom was 20 years old. His response was funny, but a bit dismaying.

“Did they put in used?”, he asked.

After I stopped laughing, I reminded him that I had broken it 25 years ago, although I don’t blame him for not remembering, he was only 6 or 7.