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The Abels Raise Cain - An excerpt from Kembrew McLeod's PRANKSTERS

[Ed: I'm a huge fan of Kembrew McLeod, a writer, nerdfighter, media theorist and hoopy frood. From epic pranks like Freedom of Expression (R) to genius analysis like Creative License, Kembrew always amazes. Here's an excerpt from his latest: Pranksters: Making Mischief in the Modern World, with an introduction just for us -Cory]

Since I was a kid, I have been fixated on trickery, which played a role in why I grew up to be an occasional prankster (my dad recalls that, as an adolescent, I would surprise him by placing my Sesame Street Ernie doll in grim situations, such leaving him in a noose hanging from a shower head or pinned to the kitchen wall with a knife). Now that I am an adult, I spend most of my time as a teacher and professor being a bit more serious -- enough to take the subject of pranking seriously, which is why I wrote Pranksters: Making Mischief in the Modern World, published by NYU Press on April 1 this year. The word prank is more often used today to describe stunts that make people look foolish and little more. I'm not interested in celebrating cruelty -- especially the sorts of mean-spirited practical jokes, hazing rituals, and reality television deceits that are all too common in today's popular culture. Although "good" pranks sometimes do ridicule their targets, they serve a higher purpose by sowing skepticism and speaking truth to power (or at least cracking jokes that expose fissures in power's facade). A prank a day keeps The Man away, I always say. Nevertheless, I should stress that this book is not solely about pranking. Many of the characters who populate its pages aren't driven by noble impulses, and even those who are more pure of heart can muddy the ethical waters with dubious tactics. With this in mind, Pranksters examines everything from political pranks, silly hoaxes, and con games to the sort of self-deception that fuels outlandish belief systems. The following is an excerpt from Chapter Nine of Pranksters, about the exploits of a married couple named Jeanne and Alan Abel who began as professional pranksters in the late 1950s, and are still at it today.

Read the rest

HOWTO make your own head-in-a-jar illusion

By photoshopping a pair of mirror-flipped profile-shots of your face onto either side of a full-on shot, you can make a gimmicked photo that, when curled and placed in a jar of water, creates a convincing illusion of your head in a jar. Mikeasaurus's Instructable has easy-to-follow instructions for making your own.

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Prankster freaks people out at trade show

Prankster Jack Vale reads the nametags of passersby at 2014 NAMM, then says their name on a fake phonecall so they can hear him.

See also: Zombie Phone Prank and Wife on a Leash Prank. (Via Laughing Squid)

People posing for a photo that's actually a video

You know that awkward moment when you think you're getting your photo taken but the shooter accidentally has their camera set on video? From the Nottingham Trent Students Union, "here's a super awkward montage of lots of students mistaking our video camera for a stills camera."

Banksy sells paintings at deep discounts in Central Park

Prankster street artist Banksy continued his New York City residency this weekend near Central Park by setting up an art stall, manned by someone else. Banksy sold six original paintings, netting $420. Clearly, context is everything.

Chuck Palahniuk and the SF Cacophony Society, tonight in SF and streaming live

Cacophony LG Tales Book Cover

Did you know that one inspiration for Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Fight Club was the author's time in the Cacophony Society? You can hear about that this evening (9/23) at 7:30pm PT during "Chuck Palahniuk and the SF Cacophony Society: Creating Culture from Mayhem," a live event at San Francisco Castro Theatre that will also be streamed live here. What the hell is the Cacophony Society, you ask? Don't fret, you may already be a member. Launched in 1986, the Cacophony Society is a highly-influential, "randomly gathered network of free spirits united in the pursuit of experiences beyond the pale of mainstream society." This underground collective of pranksters, culture jammers, and thrill-seekers birthed Burning Man, pioneered urban exploration, and freaked out the squares with their proto-flash mobs of SantaCon. BB pal John Law, Carrie Galbraith, and Kevin Evans have finally revealed the hidden history of this (semi-)secret society in a beautiful new book, "Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society."

Tonight, join Palahniuk, Law, and Galbraith for a panel moderated by my old friend Brad Wieners, and plenty of other shenanigans.

Event details here at the Commonwealth Club site

Livestream will be here

Buy the book here

Browser plugin that adds NSA-trolling keywords to the URLs you load

Jeremy sez, "Flagger is a browser add-on that automatically puts red flag keywords (like bomb, Taliban and anthrax) into the web addresses you visit. Install Flagger and help us send a message: government surveillance has gone too far."

This is one of those ideas that sits on the threshhold between clever and dumb. You decide which for yourself.

It's time to make some noise.

Documentary about James Broughton, poet, filmmaker, Radical Faerie

James Broughton (1913-1999) was an icon of San Francisco counterculture and the Bay Area's Beat scene. A poet, filmmaker, and prankster, Broughton was one of the original Radical Faeries and a member of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. His gravestone reads: "Adventure – not predicament." I can't wait to see this new film about Broughton, titled Big Joy, that's currently on the film festival circuit! "Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton"

Man creates realist body-cut-in-two illusion and scares people [video]

Here's some fodder for concern trolls! (Via Uproxx)

Horrifying clown statue deep in the woods

This horrifying clown mannekin was reportedly placed on a hiking trail deep in the Oleta River in Aventura, Florida by a park employee who got it from the Enchanted Forest Elaine Gordon Park in North Miami.

If you went hiking through Oleta River in Aventura Florida last year, you probably shit your pants a couple miles in. (

Crossed bedside lamps turn each other off and on

Ry4an sez, "Today's maker project was a pair of bedside lamps that switch one another. The effect is really jarring because the switches are so near the bulbs they'd normally control." I love this -- it's just annoying enough that you can imagine it appearing unintentionally in, say, a hotel room (the most notorious source of terrible lighting controls in the developed world), and yet perversely pleasing.

Crossed Lamps (Thanks, Ry4an!)

Dove sneaks revert-to-original Photoshop plugin into art directors' toolkits

Alan sez, "The makers of Dove have taken their 'Real Beauty' campaign against P-shopped models into the realm of hacktivism. As the video explains, they sneaked out a Photoshop plug-in (called an Action) that supposedly added a fake skin glow but in fact restored the initial appearance of a model prior to the usual sort of Photoshoppification."

Dove: Thought Before Action

Sneezing powder considered harmful

The history of sneezing powder is unexpectedly fascinating, a tale of an obsessive prankster, whose burning passion to make people sneeze drove him to out-and-out chemical warfare:

No one's entirely sure what Adams used to make Cachoo. It depends on what he had easy access to. He worked for a company that made coal tar products, specifically dyes. Coal tar is what gets leftover when coal is made into more purified fuel. It's a viscous black substance that can be used to pave roads, but is also added to medicated shampoo, and used as a base for clothing or even food dye. There are plenty of by-products in the process that can - but probably shouldn't - be used as nasal irritants. These would be easily accessible, and, if they were by-products, cheap to acquire.

But more recent chemists think that to make Cachoo, Adams was actually pilfering one of the dyes that he was supposed to be selling. Dianisidine is a chemical that, with coal tar, makes a beautiful blue dye. It's also carcinogenic and, according to the CDC should be flushed from every part of the body it makes contact with. A sneeze response would certainly help with that. Dianisidine was first discovered in 1894, when people noticed that it, in combination with copper salts, made a pretty color on fabrics that set in faster than indigo. People would have been using it a great deal, especially in the manufacturing centers, testing out new products.

Unfortunately, over a few years they found out that it ran when exposed to acid, or even heavy perspiration, bleeding blue on anyone who wore clothing dyed with it. Its color might have worked for soap products, but it was useless in clothing manufacturing. The repeated testing, would have given Adams ample opportunity to see people sneezing. The eventual abandonment of it as a potential clothing dye may have given him the ability to pick it up at a good price for his initial stock of Cachoo. But is that what he did?

And this is why the FDA banned sneezing powder in 1919 [Esther Inglis-Arkell/IO9]

(Image: Archie McPhee)

Excellent drive-thru "invisible driver" prank, caught on video

Self-described "Magician Prankster!" Magic Of Rahat produced this clever video demonstrating an effective "invisible driver" prank to play on hapless fast food attendants. (thanks, Joe Sabia!)

Funny fake planning notices

Artist/prankster Phil Lucas puts up fake "planning notices" around Brighton, England, announcing his plans to radically improve the cityscape and inviting people to comment via the local government's planning authority.

I live in Hackney, which boasts England's "worst performing planning authority" (as one MP recently put it in Parliament), so I sympathise with these shenanigans. I've been through multiple planning petitions for permission to put a glass box on my disused balcony to grow plants in and use as a dining room in warm months, and have been turned down because it would "disrupt the street-scene" on my manky, dogshit-strewn, tumbling-down road in east London.

Planning Notices in Brighton (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)