Monthly Archives: June 2011

Practical Jokes and the art of the Jape

I’m a prankster and there is no denying it.  I have never believed in reincarnation, but, if I did I could, no doubt, draw something profound from the fact that I happen to share the same birthday with the most famous prankster of all time.  Of course I am referring to Horace de Vere Cole.  For those readers unfamiliar with Horice’s body of work I will now provide a few examples.

Horace was fond of walking the streets of London with a cows udder protruding from the open front of his pants.  When he had achieved the maximum level of outrage and disgust he would produce a pair of scissors and cut off the offending protrusion.  Horace once purchased a select and calculated number of tickets to a theatrical performance he found to be less than satisfying.  He handed them out for free to bald men in the street who, upon taking their seats for the next performance, clearly spelled out, when viewed from the stage, the word [S H I T] complete with the dot over the [i].  His most famous prank was The Great Dreadnought Hoax. On 7 February 1910  he fooled the captain of the Royal Navy warship HMS Dreadnought into rolling out the red carpet and mistaking himself and a group of his friends, including Virginia Woolf, for the Ambassador of Abyssinia and company.  My admiration for this man, as you can well understand, is immense.  It is also widely believed that he was the brains behind The Peltdown Man fiasco.

So, what is it about pranks and practical jokes that make them, to some, but, certainly not all people, so attractive?  Why are some of us clearly addicted to the performance of them while others are never anything but appalled?  My guess would be that it is genetic.  I, having been appropriately tested, was informed that I carry a double complement of a gene called [CL-48-62] known to geneticists as the cheap laugh gene.  Now this begs the question, of what possible survival advantage could a gene that forces its carrier to engage, uncontrollably, in what he/she finds to be hilarious nonsense and folderol in spite of the fact that other people find them rude, annoying and socially unattractive?  I have given this thought.  The conclusion I have come to is that people like myself and people similarly afflicted act as canaries in the coal mine of civilization.  We, being addicted, as a consequence of the dice throw of genetics, to the wholesale production of nonsense, bullshit and foolishness are, in fact, best equipped to detect its presence, or possibility, in both the population and the social circumstances we find ourselves surrounded by.  We cannot help but root out even the slightest “hint” of comedy potential and exploit it to the fullest.  As a result society benefits in the long run.  Who better to detect a bullshitting politician and expose their soft underbelly?  Who better to take the starch out of an overly snooty authority figure?  Who better to send an incompetent teacher running to a career councilor than the class clown?

My lovely wife of 42 years carries no [CL-42-64] gene.  Nature, in its infinite wisdom, I do believe drew me to her like a rat to cheese.  To this day she still smells the same and this, science knows, is a sure sign of healthy genetic diversity.  When we met I not only found her to be beautiful and smell great, but to be perhaps the most gullible young lady I had ever laid eyes on.  It was, as they say, love at first sniff.  To this day when I tell her anything her first response is inevitably…  “Is that true?”   It rarely is of course and I inform her of the fact.  I love her because she never even minds a bit.  But I digress.

The point of this little essay can be reduced to this.  There are basically two kinds of assholes.  There is the kind that everybody has.  The kind that helps us eliminate the shit “from the inside” of our lives.  Then, there is the other kind.  I like to think of them, and I myself have been referred to on many a proud occasion “as”,… The REAL ASSHOLES.   Our function is to detect and mitigate the effects of the overly serious ones in our population.  To poke fun.  To point out the absurd.  To act the fool as it were for the safety and benefit of all mankind.  I like to think of us as not merely assholes, but, the purveyors of little rays of sunshine in what otherwise would be a dim and cloudy day.

For the benefit of readers interested in the study of Assholery I am in the process of writing an autobiography containing a history of the practical jokes, foolishness and outright idiotic behavior I have engaged in throughout my life.  It will be entitled, “What an Asshole”.   Until its publication I offer, to the serious student of  Assholery, an essay of mine that was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for Essays.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t nominated by anyone even remotely connected to the Pulitzer organization.   It can be found at  To Everyone, from Prison.

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Waiting for Mr. Mole

This is what is going on in my back yard.

It has been three days now and that only makes any kind of sense if you know cats.  This cat’s name is Itzie and she showed up ten years ago.  She was a half starved, moth eaten, sickly looking excuse for a cat then.  Born in the wild and raised under a pile of brush she was the runt of the litter.  It was only desperation and near starvation on her part that caused our paths to cross.  I was drinking a big rum & coke, as is my way, and cooking on the Weber Grill poolside when she first crawled out from under the peonies.  She looked nasty and her tail was a bit sparse in the hair department.  She was afraid and she was hungry and the hungry won out.  She walked up to my foot, looked up and meowed and the rest is history.

Now, ten years and a lot of good times later, she is out back doing her cat thing.  Her plan, and I know her plans because I have seen them executed on more occasions than I can remember, is to wait as long as it takes for Mr. Mole to make an appearance.  When he does, and he will, they will play until Mr. Mole has so much fun that he dies.  That is a cat’s idea of a really good time.  I don’t imagine it is a mole’s idea of a good time at all, but, that is the way nature has things working and none of us are in any position to argue about it.

I have come to understand that people have a nature too.  It’s important to figure out a persons nature before you get yourself tangled up with them too much.  Not to do so, in my opinion, is probably the cause of more misery than almost anything else.  We understand cats.  Cats will never pretend or try to get you to believe that they are not “really” having a grand old time torturing a mouse.  We can’t understand people like that because half the time they don’t even understand themselves.  That is what makes human relationships so perilous.

John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902) is the one that said… “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

I always accepted that.  It seemed to not only make sense, but, explain why so many powerful men ended up in outrageous pickles right at the pinnacle of their power.  They were corrupted by power.  They were the victims of power.  They gained power and were overcome, through no real fault of their own, by the poisonous nature of the very thing they so sought.

I don’t believe that crap at all any more.  I was up half the night rummaging through the garbage pile out back for all the prejudices I threw away and all the preconceived notions I was talked out of keeping.  I found them and I’m keeping them because time has taught me that, mostly, people aren’t really much different from that cat sitting out back living out her nature to the fullest.  “Lord Action” I’m beginning to realize was pretty much full of shit.  I know, I know, I’m probably being a bit hard on “His Lordship” because, after all, he had power himself and you can’t blame a guy for making himself and his buddies look as good as he could.  But Frank Herbert, I think, hit the nail on the head with this quote….

Frank Herbert : All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible. Such people have a tendency to become drunk on violence, a condition to which they are quickly addicted.

It just rings truer.  It just explains so much more of what we all have experienced, concerning politics and political figures, in our lives here at the dawn of the 21 Century.  Politicians don’t “get” corrupted.  They are just used car salesmen in more expensive clothes.

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