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Monday, April 4, 2016

The Writer's Life 4/4 - Ooh That Smell

In an op-ed piece in today's NY Post, Nicholas Eberstadt cites two invisible American underclasses. One is obvious -- illegal aliens. The other is significantly larger and more troubling -- incarcerated and free felons. A recent study estimates that there are nearly 20 million and growing in this category. To give this a bit of perspective, the total prison population is 2.2 million. Eberstadt complains that the problem is being ignored by leaders, but he is basically clueless himself as to how it should be addressed.

Here's a lit of smells that are disappearing, gleaned from
1. SPIRIT DUPLICATORS - In 1960's and '70's-era classrooms, it was an olfactory treat whenever the teacher passed out fresh-off-the-machine purple print ditto sheets. Virtually every student immediately held the page to his face and inhaled deeply. The sole company that still manufactures the fluid in the U.S. only sells a few thousand gallons per year these days.
2. BURNING LEAVES - Pollution concerns caused municipalities in the U.S. to enact open burning bans beginning in the 1980's, and today residents are encouraged to either rake and bag leaves or use them for mulch. Of course, compost piles do have their own aroma, and it’s not particularly enticing.
3. DIESEL EXHAUST - Reductions in the sulfur content of the fuel along with selective catalytic reduction gives today’s diesel burners more of a cat urine-y type of aroma.
4. FRESHLY-OPENED POLAROID FILM - The company ceased production of it in 2008.
5. MAGIC MARKERS - The classic glass bottle-bodied Magic Marker was first marketed in 1952, and until the early 1990's the ink formula included a mixture of two solvents which not only had a distinctive and not unpleasant odor, but which also contained intoxicating properties when inhaled. Today’s permanent markers get their color from less fragrant alcohol-based inks.
6. BUBBLE GUM CARDS - Topps stopped including a stick of stiff, hard-to-chew bubble gum in their trading card packages several years ago when more collectors than kids were buying the product and complaining about the gum sticking to and ruining the bottom card.
8. (OLD) NEW CAR SMELL - In 1960 the average American-made car contained 22 pounds of plastics; in 2012 that quantity had increased to 250 pounds. And there are flame retardants and antimicrobials added to the carpeting and upholstery for additional “safety” (even though some of the fumes have been proven toxic).
9. VACUUM TUBE ELECTRONICS - Old TVs and radios that were filled with tubes instead of transistors emitted a warm or hot engine smell as they heated. If you weren’t particularly fastidious with the feather duster, a fine layer of dust would accumulate on the equipment inside and add a slight burning aroma to the mix. The old movie and film projectors used in schools had a similar smell once the light bulb inside had been burning for a while.
10. TELEPHONE BOOK - Thanks to Google, very few people let their fingers walk through the Yellow Pages.
11. CHALK DUST - Much like cafeteria food and library paste, chalk dust simply smelled like school. With so many classrooms using whiteboards, chalkboard ledges with piles of white powder on them are becoming extinct.

The floating book shop was rained out today.
Vic's Short Works:
Vic's 5th Novel:'s 4th novel:
Vic's 3rd Novel:
Vic's Short Story on Kindle:
Vic's Short Story Collection:
Vic's 2nd Novel: Kindle:
Vic's 1st Novel:

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