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.

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Bizarre, paranoid warning about imaginary predators choosing victims through bumper-sticker-ology


Lenore "Free Range Kids" Skenazy points out a new and disturbing artifact from the weird parallel world of bubble-wrapped-kids: a post warning you that the treacly "My family" minivan stickers are an invitation to canny predators who are after YOUR KIDS. No one's saying that this has ever happened, just that they can imagine it, and if they can imagine it, bad guys can imagine it, and if you can imagine a bad guy doing something bad, then you should drop everything to prevent that imaginary thing from coming true.

When in trouble/Or in doubt/Run in circles/Scream and shout.

That Sticker on My Car Is NOT Endangering Me!

Life on the frozen-food-tasting line


Matthew, an odd-jobbing freelance artist, took a job as a frozen-food taster ("trained sensory panelist"), spending long days stuffing fried food in his mouth and rating it on 50-100 attributes, swirling mashed potatoes around his mouth, getting mouth-blisters from all the salt. If you've ever wondered how frozen food manufacturers decide how much cardboard taste is too much, here is your answer:

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Just look at this sinister banana sculpture.


Just look at it.

I... just... don't... know... o.0 (Thanks, Josef!)

Experimental 60s music sounds like a 80s video arcade

Enjoy 'Mixed Paganini,' by the Studio Di Fonologia Musicale Di Firenze. Published in 1967, it sounds like a weird, hectic video game from 15 years later. The songs were programmed by Pietro Grossi; the 7" disk was "distributed as a Christmas and new year gift by the Olivetti company." [via]

Gamestop as a fee-free, convenient banking institution


JWZ's law states that "Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail." A corollary is that every complex system expands until it becomes a bank. Yesterday, I wrote about how a chatbot for organizing coffee orders became a full-fledged bank.

Now, here's a 4chan post explaining a dumb/clever way of using Gamestop stores as fee-free banking institutions by pre-ordering (and pre-paying) for games, then cancelling your orders and getting a refund (to make a withdrawal), and ordering new games (to make a deposit). It's fee-free, and as a pre-orderer, you get all the bonus stuff (your bank pays you!).

This is probably more of a reflection of the total dysfunction of banking, where low interest rates and hidden inflation, as well as high fees, conspire to bleed out savers to pay for reckless speculation, but it's still a pretty clever way of getting fee-free banking from an institution with more branches, and better hours, than many banks.

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Afterlife with Archie: Archie comics go zombie


Afterlife with Archie is exactly what it sounds like: a series of comics in which Archie Andrews, Jughead, and the lovable gang are trapped in a horrific zombie apocalypse. It's more than a gag, too: it's got tight, tense storylines, genuine horror and real pathos. I just read issue four and was surprised by how moving and scary it is, and I also appreciated the EC-style horror mini-story at the end.

The singles are already selling at a frustrating markup on Amazon, so I think you're better off pre-ordering the $13 collection that comes out on May 13.

Trailer for a fan-supported film based on Jack Chick's "Dark Dungeons" tract

Dark Dungeons is a notorious 1984 Jack Chick tract that warns the readers about the danger of being embroiled in soul-destroying Satanic cults through playing Dungeons and Dragons and other RPGs. A group of fan-supported media creators obtained a free film license from Chick to make a film based on the comic, and they've released a trailer that hints at a very funny future for the project.

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Star Wars cup ad, 1977: you like laser swords, right?

Matt sez, "The Danny Devito-like schlub in this ad feigning excitement for 'Stah Woiz' and its 'layzah swoids' in order to pawn off some collectible cups has had me laughing all evening."

Star Wars Cups (1977) - Majik Market Commercial (Thanks, Matt!)

Child's illustrated garden of Satanic ritual abuse


In 1990, in the middle of the moral panic over Satanic ritual abuse (an almost entirely imaginary phenomenon), Doris Sanford published "Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy," which was "based on months of intensive research into the nature and practice of satanic ritual abuse." Sanford claimed that "Any child who has been ritually abused will recognize the validity of this story."

The story is a lurid, freakish illustrated tale ripped from tabloids and sensationalist memoirs, which was supposed to help parents, teachers and social workers help kids who'd been victims of this nonexistent epidemic.

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Miami Crimestoppers head eats a tip rather than hand it over to defense lawyer

Richard Masten is the executive director of Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers, a service that promises anonymity to the people who send in tips on serious crimes. So when a judge ordered him to hand over a tip -- with potentially identifying information -- to a defendant's lawyer, he ate it.

As Lowering the Bar points out, this is probably more of a symbolic gesture than a real defense of his source's anonymity, since there's likely a file-copy at Crimestoppers itself. Masten is going back to court this week to receive a punishment from the judge: "I'll bring a toothbrush and some pajamas."

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What happens when Louis Armstrong's batteries are low

Wherein the Mind of God is shown through His words. [Youtube via Arbroath] Previously.

Garfield without Garfield's thought-bubbles


You've probably seen Garfield Minus Garfield, a collection of Jim Davis Garfield strips in which Garfield himself has been removed, transforming the strip into a sinister portrait of Jon Arbuckle's descent into irretrievable madness.

But there's a good case to be made for Garfield without Garfield's thought-bubbles as the true standard-bearer for disorienting and unexpectedly great Garfield remixes. With this view, Jon Arbuckle is cast as a man who carries on detailed conversations with a cat, which is arguably weirder than the idea that he's merely wildly hallucinating.

Garfield without Garfield’s Thought Balloons (via Pipe Dream Dragon)

Photos from the Rothschilds' 1972 surrealist ball


Hang the Bankers has a set of photos from 1972 surrealist ball hosted by Marie-Hélène de Rothschild at the Château de Ferrières, with Salvador Dali in attendance. Hang the Bankers cites this as evidence of "the underlying ideology and the mind state of the occult elite," which sounds like hogwash to me. I mean, I'm all for reflexively condemning the hyper-rich, but if you're a weird shadowy billionaire aristo, better you should be spending your unimaginable riches on cool dress-up parties than tacky mega-yachts or sabotaging health care bills.

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Chocolate cookie milk shots: milk tumblers made from chocolate chip cookies


An Instagram post from cronut creator Dominique Ansel announced his new invention: a milk-tumbler made out of molded, baked chocolate cookie dough intended for serving milk. The "Chocolate Chip Cookie Milk Shots" will debut at SXSW.

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