” It Was Just A Prank, Officer…”

‘ Prank ‘ seems to be defined as a practical joke or mischievous act – both suggesting some form of lightheartedness. ‘ jape ‘, ‘ trick ‘, ‘ antic ‘, ‘stunt ‘, ‘ caper ‘, all are mentioned  – merry times, eh?

Gets a little darker when you get to the next line; ‘ fraud ‘, ‘ hoax ‘, ‘ escapade ‘…Go just that little further and you can get into ‘ assault ‘ and ‘ attack ‘ , and the magistrate starts to become involved…

With the rise of the smart-aleck radio and television teams who make program copy out of embarrassing and harassing people and the easy anonymity of the internet social forums, active meanness like this becomes all too possible. The commercial networks may be a little less inclined to indulge their sophomore announcers and actors as they are answerable to sponsors with lawyers. Governmental stations can do it more – they pretend such a respect for free speech ( as long as it supports their politics ) that they get away with sadder and meaner productions.

The saddest and meanest thing about it is the fact that they please an audience – who are always ready to excuse them. The actors have to fire extremely low – the viewers are not only riding Shetlands, they are riding them in trenches…

I don’t mind a good practical joke if it is actually funny. No-one must be hurt, and embarrassment caused should be private. Above all, the joke must be gentle enough that the victim can see the fun of it as well – otherwise it is just a bullying assault.

None of the above applies to that thing we did with the vat of glue and the lawnmower. The guy had it coming.


The Ever-Present Danger of Happiness…

Some days it doesn’t pay to let down your guard – the moment you do something nice happens to you and then the rest of the day is shot.

This is a real problem for grumpy older people who try to maintain the rage but find that they can’t get the parts any more. They are sometimes forced to abandon old grudges and either go out and buy new ones or just give up the sport altogether. This might sound like a good idea, but what do you do with all the clothing and accessories you’ve acquired to do it with?  There is only a limited market for poison darts at garage sales in this country.

It’s easy enough to avoid happy people in the shopping mall or the airport – anyone offering religious tracts or flowers can be seen at a distance and you can steer round them. If you are riding a gopher mobility cart you can steer into them but be prepared for sympathy and hot cups of tea from the security staff. Fortunately, security staff never seem to be happy in themselves so you can hang around where they are and cash in on the negative vibes. Just don’t make any sudden moves.

Being unhappy at home takes a little more effort. If your favourite television program is on in ten minutes and you have a fresh cup of coffee and a plate of biscuits you might as well sit down and get it over with – postpone your moaning until the advertisement breaks. If you’re lucky* these will be every five minutes. And then there is the telephone with telemarketers and scam merchants ringing up during the best part of the show – you can kill happiness efficiently there.

Sometimes all it takes to develop a really good grump is to review the daily news. Of course, if your side is winning this is no help at all. Then you are forced to go further into the paper until you get to the art or food reviews to get your boost o’ sadness. At least the average modern reviewer can be depended upon to be disappointed in something. It’s the reason they never get into Heaven…God is afraid they’ll take away one of his stars.

If all else fails you can sit on the front porch and yell at people to get off your lawn. In Australia we’re not allowed M1 Garands so we can’t go the full Clint Eastwood on the local teenagers but there is nothing to stop us planting double-gees in the grass and that keeps ’em off, no fear.

*  There’s more than one kind of luck…



The Backstabbers Guild Of Australia’s Guide To Fraud – Part One

A quick google of the word ” fraud ” will turn up definitions that include the terms ” wrongful “, ” criminal “, and ” deception “. The writers say that this is intended to result in financial or personal gain and apparently they are against it. Fortunately the Guild is here to help our members combat this sort of prejudice and negativity.

There are also legal definitions held in various statutes that seem to be equally discouraging – but the good news is that any thing that is written down and formally sealed in a legal sense is a known fixed position…and the sensible Backstabber will know how to circumvent this.

Let’s take the word ” wrongful “. A quick review of history shows that what is considered wrong in one society is very often considered right in another. The ancient Greeks disposed of unwanted babies by letting them die on cold hillsides – this is frowned upon today. A Po’Boy sandwich welcomed in Biloxi would be instant cause for a religious riot in Riyadh – but then would so many other things…

Wrongful is as wrongful does and the things that evoke the word are generally only wrongful to one of the parties: the one who benefits least. Deciding what is wrongful then becomes a case of numbers on a balance sheet. All we need do to reverse the decision is change where the numbers go.

Note: Still wrong to kill Greek babies. But if you get pickles and coleslaw with that Po’Boy, no-one could possibly complain. Goes well with a couple of beers as you chill out at the mosque.

” Criminal “? Well that refers to crime and crime refers to something that someone in authority wants to control. And that control can be for morals or moolah.

Is running a two-up game in Hay Street on Saturday morning a crime? Sure is. Is running a two-up game at the Burswood Crown Casino at the same time a crime? Not at all. The only difference is the fact that in one case the state government gets a cut of the takings and in the other they don’t. And as the state government has the handle on the law switch, they get to say what a crime is.

Let’s hope reading this weblog column does not become a crime.

More on the subject in the next column. Stay tuned to discover how you can deceive for fun and profit.



Opportunity Knocks Just Once

But importunity keeps trying to claw its way past the security screens…

I have sometimes been very remiss in my social relations. I’ve failed to address requests and demands in a proper way – never more so than when I’ve not given people the correct response to importunate demand.

In my defence, these sorts of things don’t happen very often, and I’m generally not prepared for that first assault. The beggar in the car park of the local shopping centre, the telephone solicitor, the strange caller at the doorstep…they all take me unawares and I am on the back foot for some time. I may acquiesce out of surprise. But the same should not happen if it is a repeated thing – I should be able to knock it on the head by the second contact. But so often I’ve just let it go on.

Oh, I’ve tried all sorts of ways to slide past the beggars – cultural dodges like the Japanese ” That, urrr, may be difficult…” or the British ” Oh, My Dear Fellow, how tiresome…” or the Canadian ” Well, I’ll be darned, eh? ” All of these are intended to be genteel signals that wave off the approach but they only work if the pest knows the culture. And even then they may not work if money is involved. I’ve been at wit’s end to know how to deal with some plaintiffs.

But recently I read a biography of a film star and discovered the perfect social response.

The bio was of Paul Newman – sometime rear gunner on a Navy Avenger aircraft and spaghetti sauce salesman. And Cool Hand Luke. He was importuned by Hollywood paparazzi to provide poses and pics out on the street and he evolved a standard response: ” I don’t do that.”

Brilliant. It does not say that he refuses the particular applicant and it makes no judgement about the request. It is self-centred in the best way. And it sounds official enough and final enough to stop further nagging.

I shall apply it when I am solicited to give money for someone else’s charity, to supply free files from my studio records, or to provide free shoots and graphic designs for no reward. Hopefully I can do it in the urbane and measured way that Newman adopted, and hopefully it will not lead to unpleasantness.

At least it will mean the in the future we don’t have ” a failure to communicate “.



Achtung! – Part Four – The Mindfield

Well, so far we have explored a number of ways to be horrible. As this is not a paid column I must keep some of the better ones back – they can result in money and it would not do to let this out.

But let us now deal with doing something amazing – making people think. You may not be able to make them think well, or think good things, but with a little effort you can at least get them going.

Remember we advised that books are a good mine? Well, they are, and if you select the right ones you can do a great deal of good. Okay, you can use the mindfield to get rid of all the marginal press that you have encumbered your own shelves with, and laugh at the thought of someone eagerly unwrapping a parcel that they have surreptitiously smuggled into the house…to find that it is the Road Boards Report from 1923. Laugh a minute, that one.

But who knows – the thing might inspire the reader to look up road-building on Google, or go to the Main Roads website, or ( gasp! ) go to the library and take out an engineering volume or a biography of McAdam. You might start a career in civil engineering with your mindfield.

Hard to say these days how limited people’s knowledge of the world might be. I have talked to perfectly sane young people of 25 and found that their schooling denied them any knowledge of the most basic of facts. One chap seriously did not know who Mussolini was…The discovery of a book in a mindfield might just supply something that modern society does not. Of course if the book is actual rubbish, like the quasi-mystical things that the new-agers sell, there won’t be much good done – but we can always hope that the inadvertent reader will recognise the valuelessness of the thing and fling it out of the window into the dungheap.

Note: I have rarely ever done this. The last time I can remember deliberately binning a set of books was in the 1980’s when I discarded a series purportedly written by an author called George Hayduke. It detailed ways to get revenge upon people. These were either highly imaginative pieces of humour or rather sordid encouragements to viciousness. I was willing to accept the one aspect but not the other…


How To Lay A Kindfield – Part Three

The business of being mean to people occupies a great deal of the time and thoughts for the world’s leaders. Whether they are plotting war, famine, disease, or death – or just kicking back with a beverage, they are constantly dealing with unhappiness. It must take a toll on them.

Far better for them to approach things in a different way – to promote goodness, mercy, thoughtfulness, and kindness. Properly done, with adequate resources and long-term committment, this policy has the potential to devastate large portions of the globe. As individuals we can do no better than to try it for ourselves.

I’ve some experience in this – I give out presents each year during the Chanukah-Christmas period and have had the pleasure of seeing the trouble it has caused. In year’s past I selected books at new and secondhand stores to match the interests and pleasures of the recipients. I put all the people down upon one long paper list and then another long paper list of the appropriate books beside it, carefully aligned. Then I simply slipped the second list down one space and gave out the books on that basis. One year I slipped it two names and lost a half-dozen friends instantly. It was one of the most successful holidays ever.

Lately I have resorted to wines in plain bottles, for which I make up suitable labels. The wines are local produce and sometimes quite drinkable, so I have no fear about actually poisoning the recipients. This would be unfair, and probably illegal. I am content with whatever biliousness, stains, and argumentative behaviour that may arise from the stuff as it is.

Being kind to children is part of the tradition as well, What child would not welcome a pop-pop lawnmower to push around the loungeroom while the parents have a hangover? What child would be unhappy with a plastic rabbit that lays real rabbit poo out of its bottom when you push it up and down? Particularly if it comes with a real bag of real poo. And then there are the dollies. Big, elaborate dollies. Dollies that need an entire new wardrobe every time the child goes to the store…

Now promoting happiness is one thing – promoting morality is, in some ways, even better. And you need not leave anyone out of this. There are any number of religious and moral organisations who wish to press tracts upon us for our betterment…in accordance with their beliefs. It is a kindness to them to accept of these – to even order them especially – and to lay them up for future use.

When you have sufficient stock, it is a simple matter of taking a walk in your suburb  after dark to put the correct pamphlet into the correct letter box. No good putting the 7th Day Adventist leaflet into the post box of the 7th Day adherent – they already know that song. Put it into the box of the Hindu person. Take the Vishnu Society booklet and pop it into the mailbox of the fervent Catholic in the street. And so on. If you are puzzled as to the exact nature of the beliefs of anyone, just make a note of their street address and sign them up for everything – including time-share units at Noosa. If their post box actually falls over in the mud from the weight of paper thrust into the slot, it is the fault of the makers.



The Virtual Infernal Device – Part Two

A note at the start of this column – never resort to laying virtual minefields by the criminal and deplorable act of making computer viruses or hacks or scams – whatever the current term for this sort of nuisance. It is illegal, immoral, and low. It may bring you to the attention of the law…or worse…other hackers and smart-arse teenagers.

No, the virtual mines that you need to lay are honest and decent objects. The best of them are bright, clean, shining examples of good fellowship and sound thinking. Given the proper target and an accurate fuse, these can detonate  wonderfully well.

Case 1.  You are a subscriber to the social media page ” F—book ” – and seem to have some hundreds of friends thereon. You might be scrapping to remember those faces if you meet in the street, but there they are every day at tea break on the computer screen.

In reality, you are connected to far more people by these contacts than you might think – for they all have further lines of communication that go out and connect to others – and what is written may be borne away or brought back from uncountable distances.

Not every contact on that great net is a smart one – nor are they all necessarily kind, polite, sane, honourable, and good-humoured. Your 200 contacts might be the salt of the earth but further out you find that they have mutated into salts of arsenic…

You may not want to mine your friends, but you can certainly reach further out to mine those marginal contacts. You can blow them up at a distance. The best way is to agree with them.

Now, everyone likes to be agreed with. If it can be accompanied by praise, so much the better. It feeds the ego and soothes the soul, even if the ego is swollen and the soul really needs a good scrub with a wire brush. If you are clever with your praise you can encourage the swelling so much that the victim explodes with hubris and rains down in social pieces.

Equally good is disagreement. If you make it just civil enough to stand up in front of a magistrate you need not resile – but every mild scorn you might show for the greatness of the not-quite-great ( or of the pretended virtue of the marginally virtuous…) is equivalent to a declaration of total war. They can be relied upon to detonate with rage and commit the most ghastly spelling and syntactical errors. And all in the plain view of their net of contacts.

Case 2.  Do you remember the great days of the sticker on the back of the car?  When the bumpers were chrome, I mean. They were a wonderful way for the occupant of the car to make fools of themselves at 60-80 Km per hour. Then the internet came and people could go onto the forums and ” F—book ” and be unpleasant or foolish without leaving home. It’s saved a lot of petrol, mind, but I rather miss the old days of seeing the hippie vans pour out of Fremantle coated in politics and faerie dust.

Well, those days need not be gone forever. If you have a computer connected to a cheap printer and you can get Avery sticky labels  from your local newsagent or office supply warehouse…you can travel back in time.

Whether you elect to travel back in your own car or via those of others is your choice. The idea is to make up a series of sticky labels with stirring slogans and display them on the rear of a vehicle. They can be political, derived from the current presidents, prime ministers, state premiers, etc or they can be religious, moral, or pop-cultural. It doesn’t take long to print up an ” Elect Hillary, Michelle, Oprah, and Pauline ” sticker in basic red, white, and blue and have it ready to clap on the back of a parked Mercedes. If you do it low down, it can be seen on the road by the following motorists but not readily by the driver. You won’t be there to see the rear-ender but then that’s the whole idea of minefields – you don’t want to be there when they go up.

Don’t be nasty with your stickers – there are enough nasty posters on the net trying to push their agendas. Be nice. Praise someone, even if it is only George Wallace or Idi Amin.