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The Essay
Show #123
The Drool Chute
David Gunn
The modern mouth consists of a roof, or soft palace, two colonial walls on which dozens of sticky ligaments adhere, open, and close, and a floor, which is normally knee deep in mucilage. Sharing the space on a co-dependent basis are a uvula, the purpose of which is a source of considerable debate between tag teams of burly research associates, a set of tonsils, whose sole function is, if the possessor is adequately covered by medical insurance, to be removed, a tonguelike appendage for licking, lips for sucking, smacking or whistling, teeth numbering from six to 600 for grinding, a pair of gums, and a formidable array of spit valves. It is the lattermost which most concerns mouthologists, for the oral exudation of saliva has been a central theme in the history of mankind from time immemoratorium.

For centuries, mouthologists have spent untold thousands of research-funded hours studying the ebb and flow of saliva from its origins in the deep, slimy recesses of the spit gland to its egress through the drool chute. It is no exaggeration to suggest that saliva is the most important byproduct from the field of mouthology. And perhaps the man most responsible for forcing saliva onto the public and giving it the coffeetable book respect that it deserves was Ivan P. Pavlov, ol Mr. Saliva Flow. Pavlov was a Russian mouthologist best known for his discovery of the air-conditioned reflex. By 1903, he had carved out a comfortable niche teaching mouth sound physiology at the Moscow Conservatory. His position was funded only a semester at a time, however, so he embarked upon the study of mouth sounds as they related to the digestive process. To abet his research -- and by extension, his research grant -- he needed ample quantities of saliva, which he collected from his laboratory animals, clams. He stimulated saliva flow by placing radioactive isotopes in the clam's bivalves. Soon he noticed that the clams would begin salivating at the sight of the grant writer in the expectation of receiving the isotopes. Pavlov tried to pair other stimuli with the research assistants and found the clams would salivate to the sound of a Mobius strip being stretched between two parallel universes. But Pavlov's biggest breakthrough, at least in terms of quantitative funding, came when he began to systematically drop a 5,000 BTU air conditioner next to the clams while they were in pre- salivarical mode. The closer he dropped the 100-pound box to their vulnerably shelled bodies, the greater the amount of spit juice would pool onto the mucilaginous floors of their mouths. For this, plus other less savory discoveries -- including his magnum undergraduate thesis, Le phlegmbeau oriange, published under a justly deserved pseudonym -- Pavlov won the Nobel Prize for Digestion in 1904. Kind of makes you stop and think.

And of what are you now thinking, dear listeners? Are you thinking of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, and, more to the point, the 123rd episode, this portion of which is hankering for a hocker of musical phlegm to philosophically digest and spit out into the abstruse essence of radio hydroponics? We hope so, and as we turn to page 270 in our humnals, "Flow Gently Sweet Saliva," we invite you to drool along with Kalv.

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