One popular feature of Dirty Linen is the “spine tickler” — the little words of wisdom (or something) on the spine where one would normally expect to see a list of contents of that issue. When Dirty Linen changed from saddle stitched (stapled) to perfect bound (with a spine) starting with issue #26, we chose to use the space differently. Over the years many people have asked what they mean, so it’s time to explain.

1) If you read them all in a row they tell a story. You need to fill in a few minor gaps, though. This was a clever marketing trick to make people buy every issue for fear of not being able to follow the plot. (Years later this idea was stolen by the producers of “Lost.”)

2) That part of the cover was intended to be blank. The spine ticklers were added by aliens between the time we sent the magazine to the printer and when it arrived at the printer. We attempted various solutions, including the trilithium gonkulator ray, tin foil (shiny side out, of course), and various Babylonian incantations spelled out in a bowl of Rice Krispies one morning, all to no avail.

3) They are clues that will be included in a better book than The DaVinci Code. A high-budget Hollywood film will follow starring Tom Hanks as Uncle Biff, Cecil will be played by Big Bird, and James will play himself.

4) It’s one small way for the editors to remain sane in the face of a looming deadline.

5) It’s a manifestation of #4 not working.

You have to decide… More