Episode 47: Magical Eraser, Warning – Shel We Read a Poem?
British Voice: Shel We Read a Poem?
Russ: Hello and welcome to Shel We Read a Poem. I’m Russ.
Lauren: I’m Lauren.
Russ: And now I have all of the 5G.
Lauren: Congratulations on your booster, Rus. How was that?
Russ: It was, I mean, it was booster-y. That is the classiest highball glass. Oh my god, did you knock down a 100 year old woman and take it from her?
Lauren: You know… So it’s this green glass and I haven’t actually put it under a blacklight to see if it’s uranium glass, but I don’t think it is.
Russ: Oh, that thing better be giving off lots of alpha waves.
Lauren: Well, it has tonic water in it. So I’ll have to wait until it doesn’t have tonic water to put it under the blacklight. Because tonic glows in black light, too.
Russ: How much tonic is in tonic water nowadays? It’s not very much, is it?
Lauren: You mean, like, quinine?
Russ: Yeah, because back in the day, it was a malaria dose. And these days, it’s microscopic amounts.
Lauren: Well, I figured that that’s what the bitter flavor is in tonic water.
Russ: Now I want to Google. Let’s see here. Okay, so a therapeutic dose of quinine is considered between 500 and 1000 milligrams. But these days, in a liter of tonic water, you will find no more than 83 milligrams of quinine.
Lauren: Wow. Tonic water must have been really bitter at some point.
Russ: Really bitter back then. And so let this let it be known folks, Shel We Read a Poem is telling you your health information to fight malaria. Make sure you’re drinking at least six liters of tonic water per day.
Lauren: Hmm… quinine doesn’t work very well on malaria anymore.
Russ: Again, so that’s six liters coming to you from Shel We Read a Poem.
Lauren: I don’t know maybe that much would do something. I guess. Well, Russ.
Russ: So. What are we talking about?
Lauren: Well, I want you to go first today.
Russ: Oh, boy, I get to go first. Okie dokie. I am reading–and it is a stretch at this point–but I am reading “Magical Easer.”
She wouldn’t believe
This pencil has
A magical eraser.
She said I was a silly moo,
She said I was a liar too,
She dared me prove that it was true,
And so what could I do—
I erased her!
And the illustration is one of those weird adult looking children that Shel draws, but looking very smug with with an eraser in their hand. And then there is a mostly erased other human, which creates a lot of images of body horror and existential fright.
Lauren: I’m also going to be keen on the body horror today. So why did you pick this poem, Russ?
Russ: What you should never do when you have something that you want to talk about. And then you try to relate a poem back to it, which is what I am guilty of today. Because it’s the idea of offering up proof that will not make a difference. And it was fresh in my mind because I had my booster today and I got to thinking about all of the anti vaxxers out in the world how no matter—once someone goes anti-vax, like they never come back. It’s it’s like it’s just okay, they’re lost to us forever. But I went down a rabbit hole on Reddit as I sometimes do.
Russ: And ran across a study, with which I was previously unfamiliar, and it came out in June of last year. And it was positing what the overlap is between adults with a crippling fear of needles and anti vaxxers
Lauren: I only know one person with a crippling fear of needles, but she’s not anti-vax.
Russ: Hmm, this study was conducted in the UK and the findings were that needle phobia could be responsible for as much as 10% of vaccine hesitancy, at least in the UK.
Lauren: Well, I can understand that to an extent. If I had to deal with my phobia, every time I did something that was a hassle, it also hurt, and also made me feel sick afterward, and it coincided with my phobia, I could really be disincentivized to do that.
Russ: And I can’t figure that one at all. Because, one they don’t hurt anymore. And…
Lauren: What are you talking about?
Russ: Shots don’t… You’ve gotten as many. You’re up to three now just like I am and I even asked the nurse today, “Are needles different than when I was a kid? Because they don’t hurt anymore.” It’s like when I was a kid I remember shots being so painful. And now it’s just like, I get worse treatment from a paper cut.
Lauren: Well, some of the shots we got when we were little are more painful vaccines. The tdap is no fun. That one sucks quite a lot. And I mean…. we should get boosters of it every 10 years, but it’s not that frequent. I don’t remember maybe the MMR is a particularly… Oh, I actually have gotten an MMR recently. I don’t remember if it particularly hurt or not.
Russ: Tetanus lights me up. Tetanus hurts so bad. The needle for me. I’m told that some people have reaction to the tetanus booster and I do—a lot. It makes that arm unusable. I mean, like for a week, it hurts.
Lauren: Well, some vaccines hurt more when going in than others like it’s less the needle itself, that hurts and more that the needle plus the fluid entry is like, “Ah! That burns!” sometimes.
Russ: Laughs. And so to me, from now on all anti-vaxxers are just going to be people with a fear of needles, and that will be my go to make fun of.
Lauren: I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to use the poem “Eraser” for people who are anti-vax. Because whenever I look at that poem, I think a lot about the various conspiracy theories, because people have been cutting each other off a lot lately. And people who are, you know, on the side of reality and are pro-vax, and know that Trump lost the election and that Black lives matter and things like that, have cut off people who are, you know, making life worse for people. And people who are making life worse for people have been cutting off people who aren’t. You know?
Russ: Everyone is guilty of it. But it seems to be a conservative hallmark that “this isn’t a problem unless it happens to me.”
Lauren: Yeah. A lack of imagination. I think it’s a lack of being able to imagine that something bad would happen to you.
Russ: I remember—god, this is going way back—my first exposure. When I was young, in my younger and more formative years, I worked in a cubicle next to a fellow that, at the time, was a Bush 2 supporter. And he and I would rail against each other basically every day. And I remember how anti-abortion he was. (Lauren makes a raspberry noise.) But then later, I would find out that his wife had had an abortion. But it was the justification: But here’s my reason. And this is why it’s okay, great thing.
Lauren: Well, they don’t think anybody else has a reason.
Russ: Oh, that was so interesting. I remember that like it was yesterday. I was like, wow, that’s how you think, isn’t it? You think that’s okay.
Lauren: It’s really common. It’s really common. A lot of people who work in abortion clinics and stuff say that a lot of people will be out protesting one week and then in the clinic the next week, and then back out protesting the following week.
Russ: I wish I could understand that level of cognitive disconnect.
Lauren: I mean, I think I do, because there isn’t really a disconnect. Like, they think that what they’re doing is the exception, and they don’t consider that other people might be in exactly the same position. People who are anti-abortion who get abortions tend to assume that other people are using it carelessly it’s just a simple birth control, like they can’t be bothered to use birth control, or they’re just sleeping around. And and, you know, there’s nothing wrong with sleeping around, but they’re not being virtuous. So if you’re virtuous and you need an abortion, then you can have an abortion, but everybody else is unvirtuous just by the fact that they need an abortion.
Russ: We are—I promise to everyone out there—we are actually good and happy people that usually…
Lauren: I’m not. Laughs.
Russ: Oh, come right on. I’ve been around you for a very long time. You’re a wonderful person who enjoys life and finds the joy in things.
Lauren: Thank you. I do.
Russ: Then we get on this freakin podcast and it’s like, “here’s why everything is terrible and people suck.”
Lauren: I think it’s because we like to ask why. Why do things suck and do they have to suck?
Russ: I just got a text from—I don’t even sure where this came from—Health Vancouver? I don’t know. But it’s thanking me for getting my booster. And then it gives me like, the lot number of the shot I got.
Lauren: Oh, that’s good. That’s actually important.
Russ: I can look that up on my health gateway and they gave me another vax card. So…
Lauren: Do you know why they make sure you have the lot number?
Russ: I don’t. Why did they do that?
Lauren: It’s in case you have some sort of effect that isn’t common. So if you have an uncommon effect, they want the lot number so they can see if other people have had it. And then they can know if something’s wrong with that particular lot.
Russ: That makes quite a lot of sense. Well, what are you reading?
Lauren: All right, I’m going on a wild ride.
Russ: Oh boy, I like wild rides.
Lauren: I am doing “Warning.”
Inside everybody’s nose
There lives a sharp-toothed snail.
So if you stick your finger in,
He may bite off your nail.
Stick it farther up inside,
And he may bite your ring off.
Stick it all the way, and he
May bite the whole darn thing off.
And there’s a picture of a guy whose hair is really frizzy, kind of like Einstein. He has a giant nose with one finger up in it. And he’s clearly a man rather than a child based on what he’s wearing. And the fact that that I guess it can bite a ring off.
Russ: I remember this poem, more than any other poem from this book. Maybe it was the illustration. Maybe it was the feeling of that.
Lauren: It’s quite a threat.
Russ: But golly, I remember being affected by this poem.
Lauren: It’s interesting that he’s so anti nose pickers but gives a pass to thumb suckers, in terms of habits that other people find disgusting. But I am going off today in a couple different directions. One, let’s talk about noses. Because Shel has a thing about noses. Here are the poems—and this might not be a complete list of poems that are in Where the Sidewalk Ends—that have to do with the nose: “The Acrobats,” “Ourchestra,” “Sick,” “Snowman,” “The Razor Tailed Wren”—and now, I have to point out that this one doesn’t contain the word nose; it just has a drawing of someone’s nose being cut off—”Betsy Blue Bonnet,” “Bandaids.” And that might be it. But that is a lot of poems in one book about noses.
[Note: “Captain Hook” as well]
Russ: It’s not just in that one book. In Falling Up, he has a poem entitled “My Nose Garden.”
Lauren: Wow, he likes noses. Or doesn’t like noses. Or there’s yeah, there’s something about noses. Who knows-es why? Did he like them? Did he not like them? Did he just think they were really silly? Is it just that kids find noses really silly, because they are very strange organs?
Russ: I’m definitely giving this a Quentin Tarantino and feet kind of a thing.
Lauren: Well, tell me about that, Russ.
Russ: Quentin Tarantino has a foot fetish. Like that’s well documented.
Lauren: Well, did he say he has a foot fetish? Or is it just that like, oh, wow, Uma Thurman sure is looking at her feet for a long time.
Russ: Well, it’s not just Uma. It’s any actress. My Holy Grail would be if I can get a TikTok of Quentin doing blow off someone’s foot. That would be ideal.
Lauren: Well, the idea that, one, you would have a viral TikTok and, two, that you would be able to get private footage from Quentin Tarantino of him doing something very illegal is such a stretch.
Russ: Well, I mean, what if he’s on a yacht or something? Like he’s… I mean, it’s only illegal if you’re not rich.
Lauren: Good point. Well, the other thing I wanted to talk about today is snails.
Russ: Oh, okay. I don’t know anything about snails other than a fire sex darts at each other, which I enjoy.
Lauren: That’s a pretty cool thing about snails. So how much damage do you think a snail could do?
Russ: Are we talking like on an agricultural scale? Because, profound.
Lauren: Right. Well, I mean, like, if a snail had a vendetta against you.
Russ: Oh, are we talking about the snail that follows you unstoppably?
Lauren: Laughs. You mean the cone snail?
Russ: Yes, yes, yes.
Lauren: Yes. The deadly cone snail. So they’re pretty aggressive and they will come after you if you were just, like, in their area, in the ocean. They’re from the tropics and subtropics and the ways in which they will fuck you up, from Wikipedia: “symptoms of a more serious cone snail sting include intense localized pain, swelling, numbness and tingling and vomiting. Symptoms can start immediately or be delayed for days. Severe cases include muscle paralysis, changes in vision, and respiratory failure that can lead to death.” Since the cone snails have this pretty deadly venom. There are some therapeutical uses for it in pain treatment. The thing about cone snails is they’re extremely pretty.
Russ: I’ve seen those cones.
Lauren: I know they’re so pretty. That’s actually one way people get stung by them is when they pick them up for shell collecting and they can fire their dart through someone’s glove or wet suit.
Russ: Got to be honest, I didn’t think that’s where you were going. I thought you were going with the immortal snail that kills you if it touches you.
Lauren: What are you talking about?
Russ: This started maybe five years ago on Reddit, but then it recently found new life on Tik Tok, as many things do. And the original premise was, you get an amount of money, like some large amount of money, but you and one snail both become immortal. And if the snail comes in contact with you, you die instantly. And this magical snail always knows where you are, and will never stop following you. So what do you do?
Lauren: I mean, what kind of habitat can it live in?
Russ: Well, and that’s the thing: it’s unstoppable. Like, if it needs to cross the bottom of the ocean, it can do so.
Lauren: It seems like you would just keep changing places. Like you wouldn’t stay in any one place for a very long time, and you should be okay.
Russ: And so you had people that came up with their plans, such as it is, to beat the snail. And a lot of them involve some sort of travel eventually. The snail has trouble going through space; like it’s still bound by the limits of reality. And so if it can sneak its way onto a rocket ship—like if you’re immortal, and can invest properly and then travel to another terraforming planet—well, you’ve pretty well beaten the snail, unless it can sneak onto some sort of rocket that’s also going to your planet.
Lauren: It seems like it probably would, though.
Russ: A lot of what cropped up on TikTok was people making peace with the snail after millions of years of immortality.
Lauren: They’re just like, “Come and get me, snail. I’m ready.”
Russ: It was the whole greeting death as an old friend sort of a thing.
Lauren: And then does the snail get to die, too?
Russ: Unclear. One assumes. It could be that the snail just longs for death, but I’m not sure that was ever explicitly stated.
Lauren: Well, the cone snails are actually known for coming after you. You can’t die by touching them, but you can die if they… Russ laughs. So, I mean, it doesn’t sound that far fetched.
Russ: And here’s Lauren bringing it back to reality.
Lauren: There’s also a snail called the American oyster drill or the drill snail and…
Lauren: So the poem “Warning” talks about a snail biting through fingers and, as we know, snails don’t have teeth. They do have mouths that they can release some digestive enzymes through and dissolve things. But, you know, biting isn’t really their thing. But the oyster drill shell does about what it says on the label. It drills holes in organisms with shells, so it could at least drill a hole through your finger, probably.
Russ: What does it drill with?
Lauren: I believe the same thing the cone snail stings with. Let me see. Oyster drills are a small predatory snail found in Rhode Island. And they make a small hole through the shell using a drill like organ called the radula. I don’t know what a radula is.
Russ: I think I know that word. But that’s about the end of it.
Lauren: I don’t think it’s the same organ that this cone snails used to harpoon their victims.
Russ: I’m disappointed to learn that there are no universities that feature snails as mascots.
Lauren: There’s the banana slug in California.
Russ: Yes, you have UC Santa Cruz that has the banana slug. This is true. You also have Evergreen State that has the gooey duck as its mascot. There is the boll weevil. There is fighting okra. And there is simply the tree with Stanford. But we have no snails. Someone get on that.
Lauren: Yeah. Well, the one last snail horror thing I want to talk about is the idea of whether a snail can live in your nose or not.
Russ: I think it could.
Lauren: So there’s one known case, at least, of a person ending up with snails in their skin.
Russ: Oh, god.
Lauren: So there was this kid in Southern California who scraped his elbow on a rock. And then he got this, like, weird blister pustule under his skin. At first the doctor was like, “Oh, it’s probably fine, whatever. Just Just keep an eye on it.” And then finally it got nasty enough that they decided to drain it. And there was a snail inside. It was a checkered periwinkle sea snail and it was tiny.
Russ: But your expression. It’s terrifying, right?
Lauren: I think what happened is that the kid, when he scraped his skin against the rock he got a tiny four millimeter adult snail. I thought maybe it was one that was wasn’t yet adult, but I think it was just an adult snail that—you know, like you get an abrasion and you get some gravel or something in it. It was alive when they found it.
Russ: So is it surviving or thriving?
Lauren: I think it was surviving. But yeah, so body horror: snails.
Russ: Nature is terrifying. It’s not a snail, but you might have heard of the case of Sam Ballard that Australian fella that ate a slug at the ripe old age of 19. Wouldn’t you know what the snail was infected with rat lungworm.
Lauren: Oh, I know about rat lungworm it’s a big problem in Hawaii.
Russ: Well, this fella got himself a nice case of meningitis and ended up with severe brain damage. And he died nine years later. After many complications and becoming paraplegic, and severely brain damaged and things. So don’t eat snails or slugs, folks.
Lauren: Oh, I mean, you can from like a French restaurant, but don’t lick them if they’re raw. Cook them. Yeah, you can cook them but don’t don’t eat them… And don’t undercook them either. They do have a problem with people under cooking snails and getting rat lungworm.
Russ: For the record, I have eaten loads of snails in my day.
Lauren: What are they like?
Russ: Have you eaten octopus from a sushi place?
Russ: It’s that consistency, but they usually taste like butter because it’s French. It’s kind of like swallowing an eraser.
Lauren: Didn’t really like octopus, so I probably wouldn’t like snails, then.
Russ: See an octopus can be good if it’s cooked well and most octopus is not cooked well.
Lauren: No, I mean, I had plenty of tako in Japan and it was not my thing.
Russ: Well, do you have any uplifting thoughts to leave our listeners with?
Lauren: I have a cute thing. So it’s a decently warm day and I had the doors open and a couple flies got in. But then Minerva hunted them down and murdered them and ate them and it was freaking adorable.
Lauren: It was savage but Minerva is shaped like a fluffy blimp. So like, super cute.