Monday, June 29, 2009

Winky Dink and Me

My mother, God rest her soul, seldom threw away any of my stuff. As a consequence, I still have two of the three essential components of my Winky Dink kit--the magic window and the magic crayons--well, at least three of the four magic crayons. Somewhere along the line, the black one was lost. I've still got the yellow, green, and red ones in what's left of the original box.

The second component of kit, the magic window, was a sheet of thick green-tinted plastic attached to the television screen through the magic of static electricity, generated by rubbing the plastic sheet with the magic erasing cloth, which was the third essential element of the kit. My erasing cloth has been lost, and the magic window has acquired an oily film during its decades of storage. I'm not sure if this is due to toxic organic compounds leaching from the plastic or some primitive slime mold taking up residence on the screen. In any case, I don't think even vigorous rubbing with a magic erasing cloth--should one be located--could produce the requisite charge. For the carefully staged re-enactment below, I taped the magic screen to the bezel of my computer monitor.

Note that I am simulating drawing a red flower on the lapel of Winky Dink's Uncle Slim, whose image appears on the monitor. I would have drawn it for real, but then there's that issue of the missing erasing cloth. Plus, I don't think a modern LCD screen could withstand the same pressure which could be applied to the sturdy cathode ray tube of a vintage television.

For those who might not know, Winky Dink and You was a children's TV show that ran on CBS Saturday mornings in the mid-50s. The show was hosted by Jack Barry, who went on to a long career as a game-show host. Winky Dink was a little cartoon character with a star for a hat. The big attraction of the show was that pictures, such as Uncle Slim's picture above, would be left onscreen for a period of time so young Winky Dink fans could fill in details with their magic Winky Dink kits. This concept was brilliant on several levels. Since there wasn't a lot of action, production costs were low, and parents had to shell out the dough to buy little urchins like me a Winky Dink kit.

A full episode of the show is available at Here's a link to the video. Fair warning: It's about 28 minutes long. You only need to watch the first few minutes to get a feel for the show, including a live demonstation by an actual child applying the magic screen to a TV.

As I watched the show, I thought I recognized the voice of Winky Dink. Turns out it's the voice of Mae Questel, shown below in a picture from an earlier era.

In the 1930s, Mae was the voice of the cartoon vamp Betty Boop. Later she provided the voice for the cartoon characters Olive Oyl, Little Audrey, and Little Lulu. She appeared in commercials over the years, notably as Aunt Bluebell in Scott Towel ads. I think the main reason I recognized her voice was because I hear it every holiday season when I watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, where Mae plays Aunt Bethany, who wrapped her cat up as a Christmas present and recites the Pledge of Allegiance when asked to say grace at the Christmas Eve Dinner.

Bill Gates allegedly called Winky Dink the first interactive television show. It doesn't seem that we've made a lot of progress in that department, based on what's available on TV today.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


This week's entry for Shadow Shot Sunday and Monochrome Maniacs: A through-the-viewfinder (TTV) picture of a small plastic toy rooster illuminated by a flashlight.

Monochrome Maniacs
Shadow Shot Sunday

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Skywatch Friday No. 50

A minimalist photo for this week's skywatch--moon and clouds.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Early Summer

A few pictures taken on walks with the dog the last couple of days.

Ripening Blackberries
(Note: Since the original posting, I've learned these are blackcap raspberries)

Milkweed Blossoms

Mating Milkweed Longhorn Beetles

See more nature pictures at Rambling Woods

New Blog: Getting Pierced

It is time for a second spinoff from Lugubrious Drollery. In order to make the posts about Franklin Pierce which have appeared in this blog more accessible, I have moved them to a new blog, Getting Pierced. Stop by if you have a chance.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ditzels, Schmutz, and Grumus: The Language of Radiology



One of the things I find distasteful about writing for print media is the process of submitting my work. Once a piece is submitted, there are four possible outcomes. Frequently, an almost instanteous rejection occurs, raising doubt as to whether anyone actually read the piece. Second (rarely), the piece may be accepted after a reasonable period of evaluation. Third, the piece may be rejected after a reasonable period of evaluation. Finally, the piece may languish in limbo for a prolonged period of time without an editorial decision either way. The following falls into that category. I submitted it in March of 2008, over a year ago, to a periodical which states that a decision can be expected in four to six weeks! Despite additional queries to the editor, the article remains in queue, presumably unread. I present it here in the hopes that at least a couple of people may take the time to read it.

Gentle readers, this article contains 3 footnotes. It would please me greatly if you would click on the superscript numerals which link to the notes at the bottom of the article. At the end of each note is an upward-pointing arrow which will bring you back to the point in the article from whence you left. You can't imagine how long it took me to figure out how to do that in html code.

Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen with Radiograph of His Wife's Hand

In 1895, the German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen (or Röntgen, for you Teutonic purists1) discovered a type of radiation, which he called the X-ray, that could pass through solid objects. Shortly after his discovery, Roentgen used the mysterious ray to produce a picture (radiograph) of the bones of his wife's hand, which he could show around at scientific symposia, and possibly at cocktail parties. But might not someone outside Herr Professor Roentgen's circle of friends and acquaintances want to know what Frau Roentgen's phalanges looked like? Yes! And thus arose the need for someone who could look at the radiograph and dictate what we now know as a radiology report: “The bones are normal. There are no fractures. Mrs. Roentgen was unable to remove her ring due to consuming too much marzipan since her wedding.” And so forth. OK, it wasn't really as simple as all that, but eventually a group of physicians made it their business to produce and interpret radiographic images, or, as a patient once so delicately described it to me, to “look at people's guts all day.” In the early days, the specialty of diagnostic radiology depended solely on X-rays to produce medical images. Today, in addition to X-rays, images may be produced by sound waves (sonograms), radio waves in a strong magnetic field (magnetic resonance, or MR, scans), or minute amounts of radioactive material injected into the patient (nuclear medicine, known to some of its detractors by the anagrammic unclear medicine). In recent decades, medical imaging has been improved by rotating the X-ray tube around the patient, resulting in computerized axial tomography (CAT) scans. Even more recently, a new type of nuclear medicine scan, positron emission tomography, has become widely used, and nowadays is combined with the CAT scan to provide more precise diagnostic information. Thankfully, the more succinct “CT” replaces “CAT” in the name of the hybrid scan. Otherwise, we would be saddled with the PET/CAT scan instead of the PET/CT, and would have to suffer endless jokes about giving the family feline the once-over.

We enjoy the advantages of these new technologies today, but the early history of radiology was all about the X-ray, also called the Roentgen ray, in honor of the discoverer. To this day, one of the major professional associations for diagnostic radiology is The American Roentgen Ray Society, and their publication is The American Journal of Roentgenology, more commonly known as the AJR, or the Yellow Journal, not because of scandal-mongering editorial policies, but because of the color of the cover.

Like some early photographs, radiographs in the early twentieth century were recorded on glass plates coated with an emulsion. During World War I, if a medical officer wanted to locate a bullet in a doughboy's belly, he might have ordered a radiograph of the abdomen. The patient lay down under the X-ray tube with the emulsion-coated glass plate behind him. Today, even though radiographs are likely to be stored on a hard drive in digital format, the phrase "flat plate of the abdomen" refuses to die, and occasionally shows up in physicians' orders. Radiographs did not evolve directly from glass plates to digital images. A long intermediate step occurred when radiographs were produced on flexible films, like the ones seen hanging upside down in today's televised medical dramas. Before automated processors were invented, these films were dipped by hand into the developing solution and had to be hung up to dry. If the physician requesting the X-ray wanted to know the results immediately, the radiologist was asked to do a "wet read", or interpret the film before it had hung on the line long enough to dry. Even though it's been decades since films were hand processed, requests for wet reads still occur. More common terms today are STAT read or phone report.

Although not found in Dorland's Medical Dictionary, the term ditzel is universally recognized among radiologists as a very small nodule found in the lung. Such nodules are usually benign and related to a previous infection, but occasionally, a lung cancer can appear as a very small nodule if found early enough, presenting us with the daily dilemma of how to deal with these tiny lesions. The origins of this word are obscure. The only similar word I could find, ditz, emerged in the 1970s to describe a silly or inane person, and it seems unlikely that ditz morphed into ditzel. Even though ditzel does not appear in any dictionary, the word has been used in at least one article in the medical literature, specifically in the Yellow Journal.2

The suffix -oma (tumor, from the Greek -oma 'mass') is found frequently in medical parlance (lymphoma, sarcoma, hematoma, etc.). In radiology slang, the suffix is more loosely used to connote an abnormality. For instance, a lesion found on an examination performed for an unrelated reason may be referred to as an incidentaloma. Thus, a ditzel seen in the lung on a CT of the chest performed for suspected clots in the blood vessels could be called an incidentaloma. A ditzel that is hard to see might be called a vagoma. If it is so vague that only one radiologist sees it, it could be called an imaginoma by his snickering colleagues. If Dr. Hackenbush develops a reputation for seeing lots of imaginomas, these questionable abnormalities may then be called Hackenbushomas—a dubious honor at best for the good doctor. Disclaimer: I use the name Hackenbush for illustrative purposes only. I know of no radiologist, living or dead, named Hackenbush, and if there is or has been such a person, I am sure he or she is or was a fine diagnostician.3

While ditzel seems unique to radiology, some other unusual words, which can be found in dictionaries, are used in radiology reading rooms, if not in the medical literature. One of these is schmutz, defined as "dirt, filth, or rubbish," taken directly from Yiddish. In radiology jargon, the word implies something that doesn't belong, and is, in a sense, dirtying up the picture, as in “There is some schmutz around the pancreas. It must be inflamed,” or “There is a little schmutz in the right lung. Maybe the patient has pneumonia.”

I once attended a lecture about the coronary arteries, and the speaker talked about the grumus he identified in a vessel. This is a word I have heard occasionally bandied about in the reading room, used more or less interchangeably with schmutz, and pronounced grŭmŭs. The speaker, who used the same pronunciation, stated that grumus means a gelatinous blood clot. Being the skeptic, I resolved to research the word when I returned home from the conference. I was mildly surprised to find that no such noun appears in current editions of The Oxford English Dictionary or Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary, though grume, pronounced grūm, derived from the Latin grumus (little heap or hillock), is listed in the OED as "1. A lump, obs. 2. A clot of blood; blood in a clotted or viscous condition. Also, any viscous fluid or mass of fluid." My search for the elusive grumus took me to Lippincott's Medical Dictionary, published in 1906. There I found grumus, again pronounced with a long first u, nestled somewhere between Gruber's bougies (to paraphrase the definition, these were little medicated sticks of gelatin put in the ear canal) and guano (“. . .the excrement of sea-fowl . . . used with benefit, internally and externally, as a remedy in different forms of lepra.” Whoa!). Lippincott's defined grumus as "a clot of milk or blood; a curd; thick or viscid fluid, as pus."

Dessert, anyone?

Enough of etymology. I must return to the roentgenology department in search of the next fascinoma.

1. Note to Teutonic purists: It's much easier for me to type “oe” than to figure out how to repeatedly insert an “o” with an umlaut, so we'll stick with the English spelling of Roentgen

2. Mundsen RF, Hess KR. “Ditzels” on Chest CT: Survey of Members of the Society of Thoracic Radiology. AJR 2001; 176:1363-1369.

3. Hugo Z. Hackenbush was the character played by Groucho Marx in the movie “A Day at the Races.” By the way, the movie includes a hilarious scene with the Marx Brothers performing a medical examination on Margaret Dumont's character. When one of the other characters calls for an X-ray, Harpo responds by producing a stack of newpapers and silently (of course) hawking “Extras.”

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Angel, Bird, and Shadow

Nothing fancy for this week's Monochrome Maniacs and Shadow Sunday. I staged this shot in the basement with a Nikon point and shoot and the on-camera flash.

Sumac Pollination

A variety of winged insects on or approaching sumac blossoms.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Portrait of the Artist on the Way to Lake Waubee

Playing around with Photoshop, I combined a picture of the viewfinder of my grandfather's Wirgin Edina 35mm camera with a shapshot of yours truly at age three.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Yellow Salsify

When this plant goes to seed, it looks like a dandelion on steroids.

See more nature pictures at Rambling Woods

Skywatch Friday No. 49

Monochrome this week, with the clouds more or less following the silhouette of the trees.

See more at:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

12 Steps From Governor Sarah

Readers of a certain age may recognize in the title of this post the allusion to the movie, "Two Mules for Sister Sara" (1970), starring Clint Eastwood and Shirley MacLaine. Now the rest of you are in on the joke, whether you choose to be or not.

I need help. I admit it. I need to join Palinaholics Anonymous. I thought I could do it on my own. I thought I could ignore Alaska's governor, no matter how annoying she might be. I thought I could avoid responding to her, no matter how many non sequiturs she spewed forth. But I'm weak. I need a 12 step program.

I was doing pretty well through the recent feud between Gov. Palin and David Letterman. I didn't really care about Letterman's admittedly tasteless joke about Palin's daughter being knocked up by Alex Rodriguez during the seventh inning stretch of a New York Yankees game, and Palin's carefully staged outraged response. But then Letterman had to go and offer a possibly sincere apology, to which the governor responded.

In a statement to early today, Sarah Palin said of David Letterman's apology, "Of course it's accepted on behalf of young women, like my daughters, who hope men who 'joke' about public displays of sexual exploitation of girls will soon evolve."

Huh? Young women are hoping men will soon evolve who joke about public displays of sexual exploitation of girls? Governor, is this the way, in your words, to progress our great nation?

The erudite evangelical went on to say, "Letterman certainly has the right to 'joke' about whatever he wants to, and thankfully we have the right to express our reaction. "

Fair enough. But then she had to drag the troops into it:

"This is all thanks to our U.S. Military women and men putting their lives on the line for us to secure America's Right to Free Speech - in this case, may that right be used to promote equality and respect."

Makes me want to stick a magnetic ribbon manufactured in China on my truck: "I Support More Troops Than You," Thanks to the military for fighting for the right of David Letterman to make lame jokes and the right of Mrs. Palin to mangle the English language. If God wanted us to speak proper English, he would have made us lose the Revolution.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mellow Yellow Monday #23

It's doesn't get much yellower than this lilly.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Gargoyle and Shadow

Here is another image doing double duty for the Shadow Shot Sunday and the Monochrome Maniac memes. This is a garden gargoyle which usually keeps watch over our fishpond, but I moved him out to the porch to get this image. it's a through-the-viewfinder photo. I pointed an old Kodak Duaflex twin lens reflex camera at the gargoyle, then captured the image by photographing the Duaflex viewfinder with a Nikon D90 fitted with a 105mm macro lens.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Photo Hunt: Lock

I've published this photo once before, in a post about our trip to England last year. Through fellow blogger MyMaracas I've learned about the Photo Hunt meme. This week's theme is "Lock" and I thought this picture would be appropriate. As I was walking around the grounds of the hotel at Copthorne where we stayed the night before we left England last October, I happened across this lock on a gate that I'm guessing few people ever see.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Lilly Macro

While out in the yard this morning playing around with my new through-the-veiwfinder setup, the droplets on this lilly caught my eye. I decided to go for a shot without the TTV contraption. Using a fast shutter speed and the macro lens's vibration reduction, I was able to get this shot without a tripod.

See more nature pictures at Rambling Woods

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Skywatch Friday No, 48

For this week's skywatch, the view from the street in from of our house.

Sunset, St. Joseph County, Indiana
June 10, 2009

See more at:

TTV: Contraption and Results

Today, the Kodak Duaflex twin lens reflex camera I purchased on eBay arrived in the mail, marking my official entry into the cult of through the viewfinder photography. The optics of the Duaflex seem to have the requisite dust and other imperfections. As far as I can tell, there are two subgroups within the TTV cult--those who use contraptions and those who don't. A contraption is basically a more or less light-tight tunnel connecting the viewfinder of the TLR camera with the digital camera which actually captures the photo. The more cobbled- together the contraption looks, the better. I made mine out of black foamboard and duct tape. It is secured to the Duaflex with rubber bands. I may upgrade to Velcro eventually.

To take a photo, I insert a macro lens attached to my Nikon D90 DSLR into the top of the contraption and aim it at the viewfinder on top of the Duaflex. I can see already I'm going to have to refine the top of the contraption so the Nikon will be properly aimed at the TLR viewfinder without a lot of fiddling on my part.

This photo is one of my first attempts at TTV, done shortly after I got the Duaflex and before I put together the contraption. In an effort to find something to focus on, I laid the TLR on the floor, partially under my office chair. Then I lay prone on the floor, and aimed the DSLR at the viewfinder. An unintended consequence is that the Nikon and I are reflected in the lower part TLR viewfinder (the part under the chair). The sunlike thing in the upper right is a canlight in the ceiling.

Here's a picture of Mary in the door to the office. One property of twin lens reflex cameras I didn't appreciate until I got mine is that the image on the viewfinder is reversed left to right. It's easy enough to flip the image in postprocessing (as I did for this one), but unless you're a dentist, it's rather disorienting and difficult to line up the camera when everything is mirror-image.

This is an old metal toy drummer that seems suited to the vintage look of TTV.

And finally, here's a shot of a bobblehead of one of my favorite historical figures, President Franklin Pierce.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Worst TV Show Ever?

Model car kit like the one assembled by the author, ca. 1966

Regular readers of Lugubrious Drollery, if such a class of human beings exists, will be aware that the author has what some might call a disturbing fascination with the contempible. Previous posts have investigated the most boring book of all time, the closely related topic of the weirdest book title, the most hideously decorated cakes, the worst vice-presidential candidate (Sarah Palin), the lowliest weed (burdock), the most maligned mineral (asbestos), and of course, the worst U.S. Presidents, especially that perpetual object of scorn and rebuke, Franklin Pierce.

Recent interactions with fellow bloggers have started me thinking about a television show that has been ranked by TV Guide as one of the worst TV shows ever produced, ranking just above The Jerry Springer Show, which was designated as the worst. Considering the vast collection of dreck broadcast over the airwaves over the last sixty years or so, that's quite a distinction. The show singled out for this dubious honor was My Mother the Car. Thirty episodes were aired in 1965 and 1966, and then it was all over. I don't believe the show was ever brought back in syndication, although a few episodes are now available for viewing on YouTube.

What initially reminded me of MMTC was a post about the fantasy TV shows of the 60s, including The Flying Nun, at the blog of W.Z. Snyder, #167 Dad. He mentioned the premise of MMTC--a guy's mother is reincarnated as a 1928 Porter automobile--which reminded me that one of the many model cars I assembled as a nerdy adolescent was My Mother the Car (shown above). After that, I couldn't get this fragment of the theme song from MMTC out of my head:
A 1928 Porter
That's my mother dear
She helps me through
Everything I do
And I'm so glad she's here
As if that weren't bad enough, Matthew Coniam, at his blog The Marx Brothers Council of Britain, stirred up more memories when his post about director Norman Z. McLeod included a poster for the movie Swing Shift Maisie (1943). The poster features the young and beautiful star Ann Sothern, who went on to have her own TV show, and still later was the voice of none other than My Mother the Car.

Now that MMTC has been forced back into my consciousness, I have done some research and found out the following about the show:
Jerry VanDyke, brother of Dick VanDyke, turned down the part of Gilligan in Gilligan's Island to play Dave Crabtree, the lead in MMTC.

Two cars were used to film the series. Neither was a real Porter. They were assembled from parts of other old cars plus some custom made parts by George Barris, who also created the Batmobile for the Batman TV series, the Munster Koach, and many other cars for TV and the movies. The power train consisted of a 283 cu. in. Chevy V8 and a Powerglide automatic transmission. One of the "Porters" was a stunt car with the floorboards removed and equipped with mirrors so the driver could be out of sight in scenes where Mother was supposed to be traveling around on her own.
Was MMTC really any worse than shows about a witch in the suburbs, a Martian masquerading as an earthling's uncle, hillbillies living in a mansion, etc., etc.? In my opinion, it's a close race.

One thing MMTC had going for it was the fact it was created by Allan Burns and Chris Hayward, who also created The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, which usually had great titles for its episodes. Some of this same brilliance shines through in the titles of the MMTC episodes. The complete list follows:
"Come Honk Your Horn"
"The De-Fenders"
"What Makes Auntie Freeze"
"Lassie, I Mean Mother, Come Home"
"Burned at the Steak"
"I'm Through Being a Nice Guy"
"Lights, Camera, Mother"
"The Captain Manzini Grand Prix"
"TV or Not TV"
"My Son, the Ventriloquist"
"My Son, the Judge"
"And Leave the Drive-In to Us"
"For Whom the Horn Honks"
"Hey Lady, Your Slip Isn't Showing"
"Many Happy No-Returns"
"Shine On, Shine On, Honeymoon"
"I Remember Mama, Why Can't You Remember Me?"
"The Incredible Shrinking Car"
"I'd Rather Do it Myself, Mother"
"You Can't Get There From Here"
"A Riddler on the Roof"
"My Son, the Criminal"
"An Unreasonable Facsimile"
"Over the Hill to the Junkyard"
"It Might as Well Be Spring as Not"
"Absorba the Greek"
"The Blabbermouth"
"When You Wish Upon a Car"
"Desperate Minutes"
I've watched part of the first episode, "Come Honk Your Horn" (a takeoff on "Come Blow Your Horn," Neil Simon's first play, later a movie starring Frank Sinatra), on YouTube, and I'd have to say the title is the best part of the show.

TtV, More or Less

Ferris Wheel, Navy Pier, Chicago
December 5, 2008

I've just discovered an interesting type of photography known as Through the Viewfinder (TtV). In a blend of low and high tech, an old twin lens reflex (TLR) camera is combined with a modern digital single lens reflex (SLR). The old camera, typically a Kodak Duaflex, is focused on a subject, then a dSLR is used to capture the image on the viewfinder. The scratches, dust, and other imperfections of the old camera's optics lend an antique feel to the photo.

I'm going to try to get a Duaflex on eBay. In the meantime, I've learned how to get the TtV effect in Photoshop. Several people have posted photos of old TLR viewfinders on Flickr. These can be downloaded and layered on other photos to get the TtV effect. It appears this postprocessing technique is anathema to the true aficinados of TtV photography, but I say nowadays, why not take full advantage of the digital tools available?

For my pseudoTtV picture, I used a picture I took last winter of the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier in Chicago. I cropped it down to a square, adjusted the saturation and hue a bit, then added noise (grain) in Photoshop Elements. I am indebted to Amy Higgins, who contributed an Argoflex viewfinder to Flickr. The Flickr Noise and Dust Through the Viewfinder Pool has a bunch more similar photos. After downloading the Argoflex image, I added it as a layer to the Ferris wheel photo and Voila!--a "fake" TtV.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Busy Backyard

Today, a lot of bird activity centered around one of the birdbaths.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Sunday Shots

A couple pictures of a hummingbird in the backyard, and a damselfly at a nearby park.

Ruby Throated Hummingbird

Ruby Throated Hummingbird


Birdbath and Shadow

Once again, I'm publishing a photo to do double duty for Monochrome Maniacs and Shadow Shot Sunday. This was taken on the patio with the shadow produced by midafternoon sun. I used a fill flash to pick up some detail in the birdbath.


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