Animator Kate J. Miller has created a highly accurate ode to the shelter-in-place experience using our most precious commodity: toilet paper.
“Two Ply Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” is the grand prize winner of KQED’s Homemade Film Festival. I worked on this festival, which was conceived as a way to inspire creativity and connection during shelter-in-place. Filmmakers were asked to submit a movie under 10 minutes long, created entirely at home. We expected a few entries, but, wow! We were hit with a cinema tsunami! A veritable tidal wave of amazing submissions. From an animated documentary about racism to a heavy metal ode to hamsters, there was really something for everyone. See for yourself here:
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Once you run out of toilet paper–and you will–make sure you keep the empty rolls so you can try making fantastic molecular models! Physicist and 3D software engineer Ricky Reusser flattened and linked the cardboard tubes into models of buckminsterfullerene and carbon nanotubes! He's even written a software simulator so you can keep making these even once you've used your toilet paper rolls in place of the toilet paper you can't get. From his guide, Toiletpaperfullerenes and Charmin Nanotubes:
Toilet paper tubes have the curious property that you can flatten them, cut out loops, and link the loops together without fasteners[...]
My brand is regular Trader Joe's toilet paper, though I have no reason to believe anything about the brand is particularly important, beyond consistency—with the exception of those cowards who make tube-free toilet paper rolls. Those won't work. I've considered side-stepping material collection and waiting to buy tag board when shelter-in-place eases, though to be honest, the recycled nature of the raw materials is no small part of what draws me to this project.
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Too soon? By way of Donald Bell's Maker Update comes this game where you send a shopping cart into a market in search of TP.
The simulation was designed by Jelle Vermandere. You can either play the game in a browser or Jelle shows you how he used an Arduino Uno and motion sensing to create a shopping cart handle controller for that true invisible zombie apocalypse adrenaline rush.
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I have, several times, heard the reasonable-sounding theory that America's at work pooping minimized the need for THAT MUCH retail toilet paper. Purportedly there are tons and tons of business-grade TP piling up unused.
What Everyone’s Getting Wrong About the Toilet Paper Shortage
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There’s another, entirely logical explanation for why stores have run out of toilet paper — one that has gone oddly overlooked in the vast majority of media coverage. It has nothing to do with psychology and everything to do with supply chains. It helps to explain why stores are still having trouble keeping it in stock, weeks after they started limiting how many a customer could purchase.
In short, the toilet paper industry is split into two, largely separate markets: commercial and consumer. The pandemic has shifted the lion’s share of demand to the latter. People actually do need to buy significantly more toilet paper during the pandemic — not because they’re making more trips to the bathroom, but because they’re making more of them at home. With some 75% of the U.S. population under stay-at-home orders, Americans are no longer using the restrooms at their workplace, in schools, at restaurants, at hotels, or in airports.
No, that isn't a deepfake. In 1973, the stock market crashed and an Arab oil embargo resulted in a gas crisis. With that as the context, a (false) rumor of a toilet paper shortage emerged and spread like wildfire via news outlets before it was further fueled by Johnny Carson (who later apologized). It's a fascinating story of shortage psychology and panic buying. From Priceonomics:
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In November of 1973, several news agencies reported a tissue shortage in Japan. Initially, the release went unnoticed and nobody seemed to put much stock in it -- save for one Harold V. Froelich. Froelich, a 41-year-old Republican congressman, presided over a heavily-forested district in Wisconsin and had recently been receiving complaints from constituents about a reduced stream of pulp paper. On November 16th, he released his own press statement -- “The Government Printing Office is facing a serious shortage of paper” -- to little fanfare.
However, a few weeks later, Froelich uncovered a document that indicated the government’s National Buying Center had fallen far short of securing bids to provide toilet paper for its troops and bureaucrats. On December 11, he issued another, more serious press release:
“The U.S. may face a serious shortage of toilet paper within a few months...we hope we don’t have to ration toilet tissue...a toilet paper shortage is no laughing matter. It is a problem that will potentially touch every American.”
In the climate of shortages, oil scares, and economic duress, Froelich’s claim was absorbed without an iota of doubt, and the media ran wild with it.
A good toilet paper is hard to find these days, thanks to everyone's totally irrational coronavirus panic buying. But that's not the biggest problem for our butts.
No, worse is that alt-TPs are messing with our septic systems, which makes an even bigger mess for everyone.
My colleague Doug Mahoney has a great new blog post over at Wirecutter that explains why you shouldn't flush anything but toilet paper down your porcelain throne, and also recommends some handy alternatives (and disposal methods) in case you do have a problem finding those cherished rolls of soft white butt scoopers.
Toilet paper is very fragile and is designed to self-destruct in water with very little agitation. Tissues, on the other hand, are made to stand firm against a 100 mph sneeze discharging from your nose. Although the two products might have the same general look and feel, this video shows the difference in their durability. It takes less than 30 seconds of agitation for the toilet paper to be almost completely broken down. The tissue, however, remains fully intact. In plumbing, the bits of toilet paper can speed down the waste lines, but tissues remain big enough to catch on something, contributing to a clog.
Out of Toilet Paper? You Have Other Options. Just Don’t Flush Them! [Doug Mahoney / Wirecutter]
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is a portable gadget that turns a plastic bottle into a bidet. I can't vouch for its efficacy but it seems like a useful alternative to wiping your bum, especially as toilet paper has become a high-value currency. Apparently CuloClean supplies are also running low but it seems like you could make one yourself that would at least approximate this $9 gadget's utility. From CuloClean:
You can easily regulate water intensity by exerting more or less pressure to the bottle. This way you will get perfect results, better than using toilet paper or wipes.
(Thanks, Bob Pescovitz!)
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Suburban Chicago restaurant The Beacon Tap is offering a free roll of toilet paper with each carryout or delivery order. Normally, restaurant providing toilet paper with their food would be an ominous promotion but in these times, it's boosted business! From NBC Chicago
"[We were] trying to figure out ideas, and one of our other general managers over at Cafe Touché said 'Hey what about this?'" (General Manager Tommy) Riemer said. "I immediately made a phone call to Trimark (which supplies toilet paper to the Beacon Tap) ... and ordered as much as I could so we could offer it to customers as a little comic relief."
Riemer ordered 300 rolls. He said the response from customers has been "amazing" and he has already given out 80 rolls.
image: GorillaSushi (CC BY-SA 2.0)
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In Oregon, the Newport Police Department posted a message on Facebook (pasted below) urging citizens not to dial 911 when they run out of toilet paper. The reason they posted this is because,
yes, people have been they expect stupid people will be calling 911 after running out of toilet paper. (Here's their update that spurred the correction.)
image: GorillaSushi (CC BY-SA 2.0)
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Out of toilet paper? Incapable of cleaning your butt without it? Got a well-stocked woodworking shop? Make your own from wood pulp! Quilted Northern's funny advert for "artisanal" toilet paper was satire in 2016, but now suggests a quality method for keeping your rear end America-clean during the coronapocalypse.
In all seriousness, many of you can clean your butt with the water in the toilet using your hand, which you then wash separately and thoroughly with soap.
Or you can do what I do: eat a pound of psyllium husks and graphite dust every morning and poop mysterious gray cylinders.
They won't flush, to be sure, but work quite well as control rods in third-generation pressurized heavy water reactors. Hey, it's better than ending up in a no-candu situation. Read the rest
"Somebody is going to get hurt!" a worker yells over and over, to no avail.
When the tribunals commence, teenage judges on their charmin thrones, the court will rise and be seated to the revolutionary cry merde sans frontières. Read the rest
In Hong Kong, knife-wielding robbers stole 600 rolls of toilet paper from a delivery worker outside Wellcome Supermarket. Police reportedly nabbed two suspects and recovered some of the toilet paper, a hot commodity as people stock up in fear of the coronavirus. From the BBC News:
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Other household products have also seen panic-buying including rice, pasta and cleaning items.
Face masks and hand sanitisers are almost impossible to get as people try to protect themselves from the coronavirus, which has already claimed more than 1,700 lives...
Authorities blame false online rumours for the panic buying and say supplies of food and household goods remain stable.
While walking the aisles of the supermarket this evening, a friend spotted some green tea-scented toilet paper, with lovely embossed tea leaves, too.
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UPDATE March 22, 2020: This post has never been more appropriate!
Is a dirt cheap bidet really the way to go? Our publisher risks his nethers to find out! Read the rest
The public bathroom at Beijing's Temple of Heaven Park now has a toilet paper dispenser outfitted with a camera and facial recognition technology to prevent toilet paper theft. From the New York Times:
Before entering restrooms in the park, visitors must now stare into a computer mounted on the wall for three seconds before a machine dispenses a sheet of toilet paper, precisely two feet in length. If visitors require more, they are out of luck. The machine will not dispense a second roll to the same person for nine minutes.
At the Temple of Heaven Park, one of Beijing’s busiest tourist sites, many people said on Monday they were pleased by the new machines.
“The people who steal toilet paper are greedy,” said He Zhiqiang, 19, a customer service worker from the northwestern region of Ningxia. “Toilet paper is a public resource. We need to prevent waste...”
I agree with park visitor Wang Jianquan, 63: “The sheets are too short."
"China’s High-Tech Tool to Fight Toilet Paper Bandits" (NYT) Read the rest
Paris-based artist Anastassia Elias created these papercraft cityscapes inside toilet paper cores. It was part of November's World Toilet Day, and it was commissioned to bring awareness to the sad state of toilet affairs in many large cities. Read the rest
Early this morning, a gentleman walked into the bathroom of a Nashville, Tennessee convenience store and emerged brandishing a gun, his face covered by toilet paper. He demanded money and then took off in a Ford Focus.
Seems that inspiration can strike anywhere.
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