Saturday, February 7, 2015

Ashley Sterne A Page for the Pets

I found this short Ashley Sterne article in Judge magazine (1927, Volume 93) on Google Books and assembled nearly all of it from snippets.  The article was originally published in Passing Show. 

Reference is made to lunar caustic.  This is another name for silver nitrate, which has the property of staining the skin black.

A Page for the Pets

When a few weeks ago I very kindly answered in these columns a number of letters from fair readers who had sought my advice on certain harassing problems connected with spring-cleaning, I did not anticipate the somewhat astonishing sequel which has now evolved.

For of late my daily post has included several missives from children, of ages (judging by the calligraphy) varying from a few hours to the earlier teens, all craving light and guidance on the many perplexing questions that from time immemorial have puzzled the juvenile mind.

Here before me lie your letters, you darlings, and now let me explain away all the difficulties which are worrying your dear, curly heads.

BOBBIE (aged 3) – From the tone of your letter, Robert, you seem to be a perfect little beast, and I refuse to have anything to do with you.

ERNIE (aged 1 1/2) – So you want to know why the back of Uncle Henry's watch flies open when you puff it?  Ah, Ernie! many older heads than yours have puzzled over this, though the explanation is really quite simple.

When you exhale, the force of the breath impining upon the back of the watch acts as a kind of ellipsoidal fulcrum, and Nursie has probably told you that pretty fairy story of Fechner's Law which enunciates that the intensity of a sensation varies directly as the logarithm of the stimulus.

Thus you see that you have really established a dear Parallelogram of forces, which, acting by catalysis on the molecular components of the watch-metal, causes the co-efficient of expansion to be modified inversely as the square of the pressure applied.

Naturally the back flies open...

[A missing paragraph begins the response to Eric, a young boy curious about why the sea is blue.]

... presuppose that you were acquainted with the elements, at least, of chromatology and spectrum analysis. 

You go on to say that when you put some sea-water in your little bucket, it wasn't blue at all, and you were very disappointed.  I'm surprised at you, Eric.  You must pull yourself together.

WILLIE (aged 5)  -- I can't say for certain what makes your Dadda's tumtum stick out so in front.  Possibly he belongs to several of those estimable eleemosynary organizations, the members of which meet periodically over substantial dinners to discuss the provision of very meager sustenance for the half-starved.

LIZZIE MARIA (aged 7) – What a pretty name!  Y-e-e-s, I like your photograph – parts of it – very much, but it is a pity about those freckles on your plump little cheeks.

All the same, I think it's very, very rude of big sister to call you Spotted Dick.  Have you tried sandpapering your freckles, or washing your face in lunar caustic?

As to your pug nose, a clothes-peg worn on it night and day would probably have the desired effect of ultimately converting it into a Roman.

MABEL SYLVIA (aged 11) – If you wish to give Mums an acceptable birthday present, why not knit her a little egg-cosy?  The following recipe will make an egg-cosy sufficient for two eggs:

1st row – 12 purl.  Carefully tell over each purl, every one apart, to make sure you haven't inadvertently cast one before swine, and then proceed.

2nd row – 6 plain, 6 colored.

3rd row – 6 treble, 6 mezzo-soprano.

4th row – Chain, then set to partners, and finish off with a small purl button.

Remember, Mabel, that all dropped stitches should be picked up and not left to make a litter on the floor.  Keep them in your work-box.  They will come in handy one day for darning the egg-cosy.

EUSTACE HUMPHREY BASIL (aged 12) – Congratulations! and I'm glad you've had such a topping day for it.  You are quite right, the "pretty lady" is undoubtedly your Momma, and equally certain the "silly-looking guy with the idiotic grin, who is making uncouth burbling noises" is your Pop.

– Ashley Sterne in Passing Show  


This volume of Judge magazine also had one of S. J. Perelman's early comic articles. 

The article is written in a George Ade vein, tricked out with Perelman's own zany, rapid-fire allusions.  The reader will note the comic inversion of King Lear's complaint: "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child!"  Harry Richman was a popular American entertainer.  Fay Lanphier was the 1925 Miss America.  I have no idea what the "Frisbee effect" refers to.

This is the beginning of the article.

Wanted – A Real Pal

Well, my little feathered friends, before I break into the routine I should like to embroider today's text with a little quotation from the works of the immortal Bard of Avon (Harry Richman) which reads somewhat as follows:  "How sharper than a thankless snake it is to have a toothless child!"  And now, if the ushers will kindly lock the doors and pour kerosene over the audience, I think I can supply a match.

Well, once upon a time there was a young bird by the name of Frisbie, but his misfortune did not end there.  This Frisbie effect had a pan (or kisser, to use the more refined term) which made Medusa look like Fay Lanphier.

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