Perchance to pick one’s nose

Musings on life, death and the nature of reality

by Jan Morris

This is what I dreamed. It was a short dream. I dreamed that Elizabeth said to me, casually over our coffee, “By the way, when you had the paper held up before your face before supper, was it because you were picking your nose, and didn’t want me to see?”
I had to admit that it was. “I have to admit that it was. It’s such an ugly thing to do, isn’t it, but sometimes I find it necessary. My nose gets so stuffed up. Do you suppose everyone does it? Does the Queen pick her nose when nobody’s looking?”
“I’m quite sure she does,” Elizabeth said, and there the matter dropped.
But it was a dream that was not entirely a dream. Was it a dream at all? Elizabeth tells me that we have never had such a conversation, but I have to admit that I had in fact picked my nose before supper, and had indeed hidden myself shamefaced behind the paper. It is such an ugly thing to do, isn’t it, though sometimes necessary even for the most fastidious. What has disturbed me about this little experience is its blending of sleep and wake, its accuracy so exact in some ways, so blurred in others, which has made me wonder where hallucination ended and memory began. Perhaps this overlap is true of most dreams but as I approach my eightieth year, I begin to wonder how much of it is true of life itself, and if the peculiarly easy, frank, inessential, glancing, but conclusive nature of our exchange over the coffee is what dying is going to be like.
Why, I wonder, should this particular inconsequential dream lead me to such portentous speculation? Something to do with childhood, you will doubtless say. It is true that I have one or two deeply ingrained phobias—for example anything to do with candles, like candlelit dinners, or candle wax—which I can only explain to myself by supposing they were planted by some experience in infancy. And it is also true that one of my most vivid memories, not a dream at all, concerns picking one’s nose.
Whenever I like, if I close my eyes and think hard, I can feel myself to be back within the few square feet of space, part light, part shade, that lies beneath the archway of Torn Gate at Christ Church College, Oxford. I have known it all my life, and whenever I please I can transport myself there. I’ll do it now. Sure enough, here I am in that shadowy archway, beneath the majestic tower, and even now its bell, Great Torn, reverberates around me, striking the hour. On my left is a fluttering bulletin board, and the usual jumble of bikes. On the right a stately porter in a bowler hat sits in his glass-windowed cubicle—the very same man, I swear it, who sat there in the 1930s, except that now he may be black. Students, dons and tourists sporadically pass through, and their progress in and out of the shadow of old Torn is like crossing a frontier.
For on one side the gate opens on to the tumultuous St Aldate’s Street, where the tide of the world thunders by, but on the other it admits its visitors to Torn Quad, one of the most magnificent quadrangles in Europe, regally serene and private. As I stand there halfway between the two it is like sniffing two drinks, a Heineken, say, and a Burgundy, whose bouquets seep in from opposite directions but never quite blend. They used to call this dichotomy “Town and Gown,” but nowadays it is a confrontation more subtle.
“Can I help you?” says the porter in a meaningful way, seeing me loitering there, half in and half out of the shadows of the gate. Christ Church College is a decidedly authoritarian establishment, founded in the first place by a cardinal and a king. But it is authority from the other side, the St Aldate’s side, the interference of the great world, of politicians and bureaucrats, of tabloids and ideologues, that I associate most pungently with Torn Gate. When I was eight or nine years old I was passing through the arch one day when I felt a tickle on my cheek, and scratched it with my finger as I walked.
At that moment there paraded down the pavement, walking in line ahead towards the police station along the street, half a dozen policemen, burly and helmeted in the manner of those days. They marched along, as they did then, in a semi-military way, and, with their antique helmets and their big boots, struck me as homely and rather comical. As they passed me one of them spoke out of the corner of his mouth. “Don’t pick your nose,” he said.
I wasn’t picking my nose! I was scratching my cheek! But I had no chance to remonstrate. The constables went dumping on, and seven decades later, as I meditate now, the resentment of that moment lives with me still. The unfairness of it! The arrogance! Perhaps it really is the emotion of that distant injustice, the latent dislike of authority that I feel to this day, which has obscurely linked the matter of nose-picking with the matter of mortality, via a short dream. Even if I had been picking my nose, what business was it of Mr Plod’s? And why shouldn’t I pick my nose now if I want to, whoever is watching, in my own house, seventy-eight years old?
But I protest too much. Shame enters my introspections. The habit of picking my nose only seized me, in fact, long years after that episode at Tom Gate, when a minor operation on my nose left it slightly dysfunctional—unable to clear itself by the normal processes of blowing or, I imagine, natural dissolution. Ever since, I have had to help it along by the unlovely process of picking it.
It’s such an unlovely thing to do, isn’t it, but d’you suppose everyone does it? I expect so, but since I am obliged to do so more often than most people, I am profoundly ashamed of it. As a matter of fact it is my only guilty secret, this unlovely habit. There have been times when I have been detected in the act. Passing motorists have caught sight of me picking my nose at the wheel, or at least I have thought they have, and although I have hastily scratched my cheek instead, and tried to persuade myself that they could not really have seen me, and anyway will never see me again, and probably don’t in the least care anyway, and are perhaps even gratified to find that somebody else does it too—even so, when they have flashed by, I am left ashamed of myself. It is such an ugly habit, isn’t it?
I am not actually ashamed of shame, if you follow me. Shame can be a saving grace, and certainly a consolation. We feel better ourselves if we are ashamed of something we’ve done, and, with luck, a show of shame can reduce the sentence in the courtroom, where slower-witted justices can be persuaded that shame is synonymous with regret. “My client is truly ashamed, m’lud,” counsel often successfully pleads, and he would have to be a moron to add, “but, m’lud, he doesn’t in the least regret it, and it would give him the greatest pleasure to do it again.” Shame and regret are certainly not the same things: je ne regrette rien, like charity, can cover a multitude of sins.
Shame can operate as a prophylactic, too. I first heard the word prophylactic when, with my batch of innocent recruits to the wartime British Army, I was given a welcoming lecture about the pitfalls of sex. I confused the word in my mind—why?—with little prayer-scrolls that used to be carried in leather pouches around the necks of rabbis, until my cruder comrades made songs and jokes out of it, and it was years before I realized that it had nothing either specifically sexual nor remotely Jewish about it, but merely meant a technique of preventive medicine.
The prophylaxis of shame can prevent bad behaviour before it happens. Often enough, like many another coward, I have been brave because I am ashamed to be frightened—or ashamed to look frightened perhaps, an even less admirable motive. Perhaps it’s true of everyone. I notice that shame, though it prevents me picking my nose in public, does not invariably bring out my better self when I am all alone.
But here’s a thought. Perhaps I was picking my nose that day, when the policemen marched past Torn Gate! I remember with absolute clarity that I was only scratching my cheek, but what if I wasn’t? It has been a dogma of my life that truth and imagination are not simply interchangeable but are often one and the same. Something imagined is as real, to my mind, as something one can touch or eat. A fanciful fear is as alarming as a genuine one, a love conceived as glorious as a love achieved. A virtual reality may only be in one’s own mind, imperceptible to anyone else, but why is it any the less true for that?
It is easy for writers, even writers of non-fiction, to think like this. Every sentence we create we have created from nothing, and made real, and every situation has been touched up in our memory. For years I remembered clearly how the roofs of Sydney Opera House hung like sails over the harbour when I first visited the city, until it was drawn to my attention that the Opera House hadn’t been built then. Every place I ever wrote about became more and more my own interpretation of it, more and more an aspect of myself, until in the end I determined that I was the city of Trieste, and Trieste was me, and decided it was time for me to give up travel writing.
I realized then that my dreams and my realities were merging. Could it be that much of what I had experienced in life I had not really experienced at all, except in my imagination? This was not at all an unpleasant conjecture—oddly soothing in fact, and it is what made me think that my dream about picking my nose, my shame about it, my secrecy, my denial, my realization that half was a dream and half wasn’t, the easy resolution of the conundrum, the sensation that it didn’t much matter anyway—all made me think that such a cloudy transition from one condition to another, or vice versa, might be what death will be like. If this essay is a muddle too, with its inconsequential repetitions—not at all my waking style—that is because I have allowed it to float along with the stream of instinct, among the weeds and little whirlpools, like Ophelia.
I always used to think that the most frightening words in literature were Hamlet’s “perchance to dream:” To die—to sleep/ To sleep, perchance to dream/ Ay, there’s the rub/ For in that sleep of death what dreams may come…
For years I laughed at Ivor Novello, who used the phrase as the title of a frothy operetta. But now I think the dreams of death may turn out to be much like my dream of life, mysteries gradually dispersing, shames forgotten, truth and fancy reconciled, drifting downstream through the weeds and the reeds—lazily, as Lord Salisbury once said of British foreign policy, “and only occasionally putting out a boathook to avoid a collision.”
“Picking one’s nose is a horribly distasteful habit, isn’t it,” I said, “though I don’t quite know why. D’you think Marilyn Monroe did it?”
“I’m sure she did. Edith Sitwell, too. I imagine Caligula did. Rabbis do it, spacemen do it, policemen marching down the street do it …” She was singing the words by now, to a familiar melody by Scriabin, but soon I woke up, and high time too.

Excerpted from the British literary journal Granta (issue 87, autumn 2004). Subscription information: Granta, 2-3 Hanover Yard, Noel Road, London N1 8BE, United Kingdom,,


Justin Timberlake’s nose pick

by Life Style Extra (UK)

Justin Timberlake has confessed he picks his nose.

The ‘SexyBack’ singer admits his worst habit is his penchant for a nasal rummage but insists he isn’t embarrassed to admit it.

He said: “I pick my nose and I’m not ashamed to admit it. If there’s a bogey there then just pick it man!”

Although he will proudly admit to picking his nose, Justin – who has previously dated Scarlett Johansson and Britney Spears – insists he “doesn’t” eat the contents of his nostrils.

Meanwhile, Justin has been seen kissing Jessica Biel at a Malibu party.

The pair arrived at a friend’s birthday party holding hands on April 6.

A source said: “If Jessica was talking to a group of girls, Justin would come over, kiss her neck and start making out with her.”

Shortly after Justin split from Cameron, he and Jessica were seen flirting at Prince’s post-Oscars party and also enjoyed a skiing holiday – but denied they were dating.

(C) Bang Media Intl.

Impossible dream: Pick the nose on 23-foot head

by Meredith May

Burning Man artists Don Bruce and Tracy Feldstein have a problem.

All year they’ve been consumed by their dream to build “The Disgusting Spectacle,” a 23-foot-tall head that picks its nose. It will run on people power, supplied by “burners” who run in a human-sized hamster wheel.

Their art is among the hundreds of irreverent, sublime or just plain weird sculptures that artists will haul to the Nevada desert this fall in keeping with Burning Man’s tradition of participatory public art. In years past, artists have created roller coasters, Viking ships, flaming waterfalls, and a jazz club-casino inside a massive rubber ducky.

But with just two months to go before Bruce and Feldstein unveil their contraption before nearly 40,000 desert merrymakers, they can’t make the hand pick the nose.

A test last month revealed a kink in the pulley contraption that transfers power from the hamster wheel to the hand. The hand wouldn’t twist up and down properly to get in the nostril. The metal bearings tore apart as easily as a hot cookie.

Not only that, the steel hamster wheel gained momentum too quickly and dumped a couple of human guinea pigs onto their heads.

Undaunted, the first-time Burning Man artists from Richmond taped a sign onto the hamster wheel, “This Will Kill You,” and gathered inside their work space at the NIMBY art warehouse in West Oakland to talk strategy.

“It seemed so simple at first,” said Bruce, who got the idea with his wife on their honeymoon in England, where they visited a mini-version of the Disgusting Spectacle at artist Tim Hunkin’s mechanical cabaret exhibit.

“Now we’re wondering whose idea this was!” he said.

Collaborating with an engineer friend and their two San Francisco crew members, Krista Bray and Jenne Giles, the group decided on the following fixes: a harness and handles for the hamster-wheel runner; an emergency brake for the wheel itself; and covering the wheel in softer, kinder, rubberized paint.

They replaced the wimpy bearings with NASCAR-rated rod-ends — a freebie from the owner of FK Rod Ends in Connecticut who couldn’t stop laughing when Feldstein called and explained she needed them for a nose- picking machine.

Then they decided the eyelashes should be on fire.

Their sculpture was missing an all-important pyrotechnic element, pointed out Giles, whose Burning Man resume includes flaming lily pads, a metal ribcage the size of a house and an enormous, illuminated Buddha chair.

The Disgusting crew plans to keep tinkering with their contraption every day until Burning Man starts in late August.

The artists have used their own money, about $3,000, to build the Disgusting Spectacle. The $850 fee to have the hamster wheel fabricated in a metal shop was the most expensive item. The rest of the money went for Home Depot pallet shelves bought on Craigslist, metal poles from Urban Ore salvage yard in Berkeley and fabrication tools such as a welder and buzz saw.

They scavenge as much as they can for parts such as the free wooden electrical spool top for the pulley and the automobile rotors for the hamster wheel. They’ll use an old church bus, formerly owned by two professional clowns, to cart the Disgusting Spectacle to Black Rock City.

“We have friends asking us why we are doing this,” Bruce said. “We’re just hoping to make people laugh. My question to them is, ‘Why not do this?’ ”

Bray and Giles are in charge of the head. They welded an elaborate face, with cheekbones, a chin and copper plating around the eyes and lips. They plan to cover it in lace and light it from behind with white lights.

“Except we’ll use two red bulbs behind his cheeks,” Bray said. “That way, we can make him blush.”

Although the mechanics of their creation — or temporary lack thereof – – is keeping the Disgusting crew awake at night, they do have a Plan B if the dang thing just won’t work.

Taking a page from the Wizard of Oz, someone will stand behind a curtain and move the hand up and down, while Bray serves as carnival barker to distract the crowd’s attention.

“You know, I think people will still appreciate it,” Feldstein said. “Our art isn’t like a lot of art you see at Burning Man … that serious kind that represents Gaia or your inner lotus flower …”

“Yeah,” Bruce cut in, “ours is stupid. That’s stupid with three ‘o’s,’ ” he said.

Meanwhile, they’ll keep their spirits up, take frequent pizza and doughnut breaks and stick to their motto: “Measure once, cut twice, safety third!”


This huge hamster wheel is key to the picking power for the nose.

I Wish I Could Pick My Nose

It’s sad to see the number of writers trivializing this most vital issue. How come? Because they have noses they can pick, so they at least have a choice. A choice they obviously take for granted.

It would be different if they had been afflicted by nasal vestibulitis like I was in the summer of 2003. Apparently, I picked my nose after having touched an infected goat in a petting zoo. Oozing pustules filled my nostrils for days as pus uncontrollably ran down my cheeks. I thought with a little chicken soup, an aspirin and bed rest I could cure this illness, but whoa boy was I wrong. The pustules grew in both nostrils until I could only breath through my mouth.

I had to have them lanced in Mexico by a 2nd rate doctor. Subsequently, scar tissue formed at the base of my nostrils so that it makes breathing through my nose very difficult and picking my nose nearly impossible. Which is why I have to use pipe cleaners to get at all the mucous buildup clinging to the lining of my sinus cavity.

How easy it used to be, picking my nose. The problem back then was were to put the pickings. Now it’s how to get at them. I rarely go out, have sex or stop and smell the roses because of the problems I’m having. Sleep is difficult. And so is living. So the rest of you ungrateful nose pickers, pick on someone else next time, because this is a my Myspace kind of place.

— Pete

Nose-picking game: Gooey Louie

gooeybox.jpg Pressman’s Gooey Louie
by Mr. Stinkhead

I love Gooey Louie. Made by Pressman Games in 1995, the game consists of a 10″ high hard plastic head with a large nose. You take turns digging in his nostril to pull out large rubber boogers. Or as Pressman puts it gooeys. At some point some unlucky soul will pull the gooey attached to the release latch, the back of his head pops open and his brains go flying out! Simple, yet entertaining. Plus you don’t need to explain the rules. Everyone knows how to pick a nose.

The plastic head has his face sculpted on both sides, and his single nostril is about one inch in diameter. If you have fat fingers you’re at a slight disadvantage. The gooeys feel like three year old gummy worms. Like you find when you’re folding down the back seats in your car to make room for some furniture your girlfriend bought.

This game was pretty hard to find. I started looking for him about two years ago. It took quite a bit of googling to find the right name, and then about six months of retarded looks from toy store employees to track him down. But alas he is mine now. The box is in such poor condition because I kept him in the back of my car to have available at a moment’s notice. Board meeting in a stand still? Whip out the Gooey Louie! Jury at a dead-lock? Sway the vote with a friendly round of Gooey Louie. Funeral just a little too depressing? Yes, it is appropriate.

Let’s talk game play. It’s true, after multiple times of serious digging, you may be able to find the magic gooey that unleashes the brain. I call this the hard to find g-spot. Oh God, that analogy was just too hard to pass up. I’m sorry. Anyway, if you’re playing with other experienced gold diggers, it will come down to a game of forcing the other person to draw that gooey.

articlegooey.jpgSo let’s say you’re the up part of the Ages 7 and up equasion. After all of the gooeys have been picked, you can line them up head to tail and see who has the longer line. The gooeys come in varying sizes! Yes, size does matter.

The brain itself is a little plastic sculp with a spring covered by a thin plastic sheath as the spinal column. It is a little startling when it first pops up, you have no idea what his distance is. When you’re done, you open up the latch that I guess is the bridge of his nose and load the gooeys back in. If you’re playing with a bunch of little kids, tell em this is how God does it every night. They’ll freak.

To sweeten the deal even further, Pressman included a little Gooey Louie Squirt Gun. Push in the brain and water come squirting out his nose. Sweet! You think girls hate being squirted by squirt guns, wait till they see it came from a big nose.


Here is a scan of the back of the box, which is just truly classic. Check out the verbage they use to directly avoid saying booger.


Nosepicking is great

Originally written in German, this fantastic book has already been translated into 12 languages. “Nosepicking is great” is already competing with “the Little Prince” and “DaVinci Code” in terms of yearly sales. Why, you wonder? Well, isn’t it obvious? The title itself says what we all longed to scream from the bottom of our lungs!

kulot.gif German author and illustrator,
Daniela Kulot

Daniela Kulot was born in Bavaria in 1966 and has been painting and drawing ever since early childhood, when even then she had wanted to become an illustrator of picture books. Her books has been publishing with great success since the early 1990’s ; they have been translated over 30 times. Her breakthrogh came in 1996 with “Nasebohren ist schon ” (” Nosepicking is great ” in English), which has been translated into various languages. The topic caused a certain amount of controversy among publishers, but then it became clear that it was the break in taboos that everybody had been waiting for. Then there were the brilliant colours in her pictures, her humorous approach to a difficult subject, the affectionate design of her pictures – all these aspects were highly convincing. The book was placed on the list of internationally recommended books of the “white ravens”.

But Daniela Kulot is not always provocative. Most of her picture books deal amusingly with the day-to-day problems of children (and adults), packed in an enthralling story. An example of this is the story of the little crocodile who is in love with the tall giraffe ; but the giraffe never notices the crocodile, simply because of the difference in their sizes . This book has been adapted for the stage.



German, French and Italian Editions of

“Nosepicking is great”

by Daniela Kulot.

“Nosepicking is great” can be purchased online on
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Scarlett Johansson misses picking her nose


Hollywood beauty Scarlett Johansson dislikes being an A-list star, because she can no longer pick her nose in peace.

The Lost In Translation actress is photographed almost wherever she goes.

She says, “All of a sudden you become very aware that you’re not alone any more and that the private moment you thought you were having is not private.”

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