Why it's okay to deceive fools (says Casanova)

1725 - 1798

From the introduction to Casanova's Memoirs:
"You will be amused when you see that I've deceived, more than once, and without the slightest qualm of conscience, nitwits and scoundrels and fools. As to the deceit perpetrated upon women, let it pass, for, when love's in the way, men and women as a general rule dupe each other. But fools are a very different matter. I always feel the greatest bliss when I remember those I've caught in my snares, for they're generally insolent, and so self-conceited that they challenge intelligence. We avenge intelligence when we deceive a fool, and it's a victory not to be despised, for a fool's covered with steel armor and it's often very hard to find his vulnerable part. In fact, deceiving a fool seems to me an exploit worthy of an intelligent man. I have felt in my very blood, ever since I was born, a most unconquerable hatred of the whole tribe of fools, and it arises from the fact that I become a fool whenever I'm in their company. They're not in the same class with men we call stupid, for stupid men are stupid only from a lack of education, and I rather like them. I've known some of them - very honest fellows - who, with all their stupidity, had a kind of intelligence and an upright good sense, which are not the characteristics of fools. They are like eyes veiled with cataracts, which, if the cataract could be removed, would be extremely beautiful."
Project Gutenberg>>

Google books>>


One side is more deceptive than the other

The very attractive 1895-O Morgan dollar, 
made of 90% silver.
If it was uncirculated, this coin could sell for $35,000. 
About 450,000 real coins were minted.

This one is fake.

According to  F. Michael Fazzari, from Numismatic News:
"Many counterfeit coins have one side that is more deceptive than the other. That is the case for the 1895-O Morgan dollar that a dealer and collector asked me to authenticate recently. I found that several characteristics of this fake were interesting enough for me to share with you here."
Why do many fake coins have one side that's more deceptive? It's likely because of how they're manufactured, but I wonder if the idea that one side of a something that's fake is more accurate than the other side can be applied to anything else?

Crude '5' in Date Gives Away Fake from Numismatic News>>

Bugs Bunny deceives the criminals, again (in the cartoon "Bugs and Thugs")

 "Now don't move until I tell you to."

There's lots of deception in the 1954 cartoon Bugs and Thugs featuring Bugs Bunny against the crooks Rocky the boss and Mugsy the stupid sidekick.

Discussed at Wikipedia>>


A synopsis of the deceptive parts:

Bugs goes to his bank, where he keeps his carrots in a safe deposit box. When he gets into what he assumes is a cab, he’s deceived - it's actually the getaway car for Mugsy, who robs the bank.

Under the guise of having to go to a gas station restroom, Bugs tries to call the police, even borrowing a nickel for the call from the clueless Mugsy. But Bugs is thwarted, so afterwards he relies on his own wiles to defeat them.

First, at a railroad crossing, he gets out of the car and tells the criminals the coast is clear. Of course, the coast isn't clear, and their car is smashed by a train.

In the crook’s hideout, Rocky tells Mugsy, the stupid one, to bring Bugs into the next room and "Let him have it." After Mugsy brings him into the room, Bugs tricks Mugsy by telling him to "Alright, let me have it," meaning let Bugs have the gun, literally. Dimwitted Mugsy, confused, gives Bugs the gun.

Rocky decides he’s the one who has to kill Bugs, so Bugs, knowing he can't play the same trick on the slightly smarter Rocky, makes the sound of a police siren.

The criminals panic. Now Bugs acts like he's on the side of the crooks, and says he’ll help them hide from the cops. Bugs convinces them to hide inside a gas oven. Turning to the audience, Bugs tells us he can't believe how easily he's duped them.

With the crooks in the oven, Bugs pretends to have a conversation with an imaginary Clancy, a police officer. Bugs says, in a suspicious way, that the crooks are not hiding in the oven, making "Clancy" suspicious. So Bug says he wouldn't turn on the gas and toss a lit match into the oven if "my friend" was hiding in there, would he? So, of course, Bugs does toss the match, the oven explodes, and the pretend police officer is convinced and leaves.

The fire-blackened criminals climb out of the oven. Now there's the sound of a real police siren, and the real police arrive outside the house. The criminals get into the oven again. Bugs repeats the same routine, this time with the real police officer. But before he can toss the match into the oven, the criminals can take no more. They jump out and beg the real Clancy the policeman to arrest them.

In the last scene, Bugs is in his own office as a detective, and answers his phone: "Bugs Bunny, Private Eyeball - Thugs Thwarted, Arsonists Arrested, Bandits Booked, Forgers Found, Counterfeiters Caught, and Chiselers Chiseled." Bugs is now a professional.

The oven joke in this cartoon was taken from an earlier Bugs Bunny cartoon, 1946's Racketeer Rabbit, where Rocky is based on the voice and look of the actor Edward G. Robinson, and his sidekick Hugo is based on actor Peter Lorre.

In this earlier cartoon, Bugs is more of an unpredictable trickster. When Bugs pretends to be the police, he abuses Rocky by hiding him in a trunk, stabbing it with swords like a magician, slamming it up and down a staircase and finally handing Rocky a bomb which explodes, prompting Rocky to flee after the imaginary police to escape from the crazy rabbit.

"The aim of flattery is to soothe and encourage us by assuring us..."

Flattery, a pencil and watercolor sketch 
by Juan Gris, 1908

"The aim of flattery is to soothe and encourage us by assuring us of the truth of an opinion we have already formed about ourselves."

- Edith Sitwell (1887 - 1964) was a British poet and critic. 

She also said, in The Autobiography of Edith Sitwell (1965):

"The public will believe anything, so long as it is not founded on truth."

Friday Night Lights, fraud, high school, and rape

Did he just want to play basketball that badly?

Befitting the subject, this story has been plagiarized from various sources.

And composed in a telegraphic sportsmanlike style.

Like this.

High school sports has long been extremely popular in Texas.

Permian High School is a public high school located in Odessa, Texas.

The high school's football team was the subject of the book Friday Night Lights.

That inspired a movie and hit TV series of the same name.

The basketball team is also popular.

They're named the Permian Panthers.

Jerry Joseph was a basketball player on the Permian High School team.

Some coaches from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, saw him play.

They said the 16-year-old was really a 22-year-old named Guerdwich Montimere.

Two optical illusions - distorted circle and warped petals


Here are two optical illusions. In both, all the smaller darker-lined circles are exactly the same size. I'd seen the top one before, and I wondered if it would still work without the center black dot, so I created the second "flower petal" illusion with all four petals as perfectly round as the center.

(The illusion also works when the lines radiating from the center are not perfectly equidistant, since I eyeballed the design quickly using PowerPoint, of all things, as my graphics program.)

I think these work because you assume the radiating lines are literally going backwards into the distance, and you "warp" the small circle into an oval shape because you assume it must be moving backwards as well.

Why it's good to be wrong (you might invent the airplane)

This excerpt from a letter, by airplane inventor Wilbur Wright to his friend and fellow aircraft designer George Spratt (written April 27, 1903), may explain some of the more nuanced thinking which led he and his brother Orville Wright to develop the first airplane. The bold sentence is what is usually quoted, but the entire paragraph is worthwhile:
"It was not my intention to advocate dishonesty in argument nor a bad spirit in a controversy. No truth is without a mixture of error, and no error so false but that it possesses some elements of truth. If a man is in too big a hurry to give up an error he is liable to give up some truth with it, and in accepting the arguments of the other man he is sure to get some error with it. Honest argument is merely a process of mutual picking the beams and motes out of each other's eyes so both can be seen clearly, Men become wise just as they become rich, more by what they save then by what they receive. After I got hold of a truth I hate to lose it again, and I like to sift all the truth out before I give up an error."
Source: A History of Aerodynamics and its Impact on Flying Machines by John David Anderson

How to get in a locked hotel room without an ax

Provides a more subtle entrance than 
Johnny from The Shining

This method might deflate your illusions of security, and increase your paranoia. But, as many have pointed out, what good would this actually do? Let's say the bad guy is outside the room and he manages to defeat whatever lock you've locked, and now all he has to do is unhook the chain. If the chain is locked, then you must be inside the room. Isn't it possible that with all that mucking around with the door and the rubber band and the chain that you just might notice the bad guy?

So this video about deceptively hacking a hotel chain lock is itself deceptive.

Thanks to Lifehacker's Unlock a Sliding Chain Lock with a Rubber Band>>

Why is everything on my desk committing perjury?

Stephen Doyle is a graphic designer and principal of Doyle Partners. (I like the optical illusion David Byrne cover.) He's known for his visual work for the New York Times and for his paper sculptures. The work pictured above is different. It's called Forgeries. (Click it to enlarge.)

At first I wondered why the envelope and Post-it notes were all crinkled. Did they get wet? And it took me a while to notice the yellow pencil is crooked.

Of course, everything pictured is carved out of wood.

Familiar objects don't have to be perfect. If most of the details are correct, our brains don't focus in, and we stop trying to identify, especially if it's a group of objects that all go together.

Felt and Wire interview>>

The Devil's sinful definition of "day"

day (noun) - A period of twenty-four hours, mostly misspent. This period is divided into two parts, the day proper and the night, or day improper - the former devoted to sins of business, the latter consecrated to the other sort. These two kinds of social activity overlap.

- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

I'm not dishonest - I just steal books

 A "Bristlechin" burglar mask from a 1940s Wheaties cereal box.
Is our subject a burglar, or not? 

Confessions of a Book Pirate:
"He lives in the Midwest, he’s in his mid-30s and is a computer programmer by trade. By some measures, he’s the publishing industry’s ideal customer, an avid reader who buys dozens of books a year and enthusiastically recommends his favorites to friends. But he’s also uploaded hundreds of books to file sharing sites and he’s downloaded thousands. We discussed his file sharing activity over the course of a weekend, via email, and in his answers lie a critical challenge facing the publishing industry: how to quash the emerging piracy threat without alienating their most enthusiastic customers. As is typical of anonymous online communities, he has a peculiar handle: “The Real Caterpillar.” This is what he told me:"
An interview from The Millions>>

Does this relate at all to Abbie Hoffman's philosophy, found in Steal This Book?>>

I shaved my head to get cancer boobs

These photos are not of the breasts mentioned in the story

This story has everything a good story should have: cancer, fraud, pathos, marital deception, a shaved head and a boob job.

A young woman in Waco Texas was sentenced to one year in jail for theft for fraudulently claiming to have cancer and using benefit money to get new boobs.

Trista Joy Lathern, 24, falsely said she was getting chemotherapy, shaved her head, took $10,000 raised for her, and got breast augmentation surgery.

She hoped pretending to have cancer and getting larger breasts would help solve marital problems in her 7-month old marriage.

Her husband learned of her deception the day she spoke with detectives.

Earlier, she had gotten a biopsy for a small mass in her left breast, but it was benign. Before her biopsy results, did she get sympathy for her cancer scare, and decide to cash in? Or, more likely, did she feel good about all the attention, and let the fake cancer story get further and further along, without thinking about the inevitable consequences? Because, really, with all the medical bills you should be receiving for cancer treatment, how long can you fake it?

She pleaded guilty and has already paid $16,000 in restitution. I doubt that she's a mastermind of criminal deception. It sounds like she needs some sort of help more than jail time.

 Trista Joy Lathern

Her story at KWTX>>

Boobs from Chicago Breast Augmentation>>

Watch a bird god perform dove magic

Channing Pollock in the film Judex



Here's a clip of the greatest and most influential magician who's ever done dove magic: Channing Pollock.  Pollock does magic at a fancy costume ball as the disguised hero of the 1963 movie Judex, made by the great French director Georges Franju, who also did the similarly surreal horror film Eyes Without a Face.

In this scene, what makes Pollock's magic work is not only his considerable deceptive magical skills (all the magic was filmed live), but the idea that Pollock's character is a kind of enigmatic Bird God, who can restore dead birds back to life. This mirrors the plot of the movie, where characters seem to die but are also "magically" revived.

Another thing to notice is the "magical" part of the performance doesn't begin until almost two minutes into this three minute clip - it's the atmosphere and build-up that's important.

The visuals might also remind you of other artists who've made surreal imagery, such as Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau, as well as the expressionism of film director F. W. Murnau, who made the 1922 vampire film Nosferatu.

I think this scene is similar to some of the masked ballroom scenes in Stanley Kubrick's last film, Eyes Wide Shut, especially with its lack of dialogue, the eeriness of the anonymous masked figures, and the choice of music.

Cheating a casino with shufffle tracking

Phuong Quoc Truong and his "Tran Organization" unlawfully obtained up to $7 million by cheating casinos during card games by bribing the dealers into false shuffling and having pit bosses look the other way while they cheated.
Truong and others were using what card cheats call shuffle tracking.

Shuffle tracking is when a cheater follows a group of cards. After a round of play is finished, the cards are turned face up by the players and then gathered up by the dealer, put back into the deck and shuffled. Most shuffles are not perfect, so a cheat can follow the cards through the deck and predict where they are likely to appear.

There are different types of shuffle tracking:
  • In Zone Tracking, the tracker looks for zones of high cards, follows them through the deck and bets when they are likely to appear.

  • In a Key Card Location, the tracker follows a specific card, which is followed by other cards. When he sees his Key Card, he knows the other card or cards are likely to appear.

  • In Sequential Tracking, which is what the Tran Organization was using, the tracker records all the cards picked up by the dealer, usually with the help of a secret computer. Since the dealer has also been bribed, the dealer picks up the cards in a certain order so the cards will create a small "stack" or "slug" of cards whose order is known. The dealer then shuffles the cards, but does a false shuffle so that the small group of cards is not disturbed. When this "slug" of cards is dealt out to the players, a cheat now knows who will get what card, and can bet accordingly, sometimes with the help of a computer which tracks what hands are best.
If the pit bosses were paid off to ignore this, why didn't the casino cameras pick up the obvious false shuffles? The security cameras are at an angle where the dealer's false shuffles look like legitimate shuffles, which is why there are pit bosses and other professionals on the floor trying to spot cheating dealers.

Tran was sentenced to 70 months in prison. He must also forfeit $2,791,146 and to pay $5,753,416 in restitution.

The U. S. Department of Justice Indictment>>

How did this affect others? See The Casino, the Mayor's Son, and the Shuffle That May Have Suckered Them Both from Seattle Weekly>>

Want to learn shuffle tracking? See Blackbelt in Blackjack: Playing 21 as a Martial Art by Arnold Snyder>>

Why you can't get what you wish for (The Monkey's Paw)

Poster from the 1933 movie

In the compact, 4,000-word story of The Monkey’s Paw, we're warned that the dark arts - those things we don't fully understand - can deceive us, and that even when we think we have free will and free choices, we're constrained by fate.

By W. W. Jacobs, 1902


Without, the night was cold and wet, but in the small parlor of Laburnam Villa the blinds were drawn and the fire burned brightly. Father and son were at chess, the former, who possessed ideas about the game involving radical changes, putting his king into such sharp and unnecessary perils that it even provoked comment from the white-haired old lady knitting placidly by the fire.

"Hark at the wind," said Mr. White, who, having seen a fatal mistake after it was too late, was amiably desirous of preventing his son from seeing it.

"I'm listening," said the latter, grimly surveying the board as he stretched out his hand. "Check."

"I should hardly think that he'd come to-night," said his father, with his hand poised over the board.

"Mate," replied the son.

"That's the worst of living so far out," bawled Mr. White, with sudden and unlooked-for violence; "of all the beastly, slushy, out-of-the-way places to live in, this is the worst. Pathway's a bog, and the road's a torrent. I don't know what people are thinking about. I suppose because only two houses in the road are let, they think it doesn't matter."

"Never mind, dear," said his wife, soothingly; "perhaps you'll win the next one."

Mr. White looked up sharply, just in time to intercept a knowing glance between mother and son. The words died away on his lips, and he hid a guilty grin in his thin grey beard.

"There he is," said Herbert White, as the gate banged to loudly and heavy footsteps came toward the door.

What's deceptive about cosmetics?

"In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope."

- Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon 

Man (cheap, pathetic, hungry) deceives mourners

"A New Zealand funeral home has stepped in to stop a fake mourner who was attending up to four funerals a week to stock up on food, even filling up Tupperware containers to take home, according to media reports.

Harbour City Funeral Home director Danny Langstraat told local newspaper The Dominion Post that the "grim eater" appeared at up to four funerals a week in March and April to enjoy the finger food but clearly did not know the deceased.

The funeral company grew so concerned that it took a photograph of the man, thought to be aged in his 40s, and distributed the picture to its branches.

"Certainly he had a backpack with some Tupperware containers so when people weren't looking, he was stocking up," Langstraat told the newspaper.

He said the man was "always very quiet and polite, and did as the rest of the mourners did in paying his respects."

Langstraat said the man stopped coming after one staff member took him aside and told him he could come to funerals but could not take food home with him.

Funeral Directors Association president Tony Garing told the newspaper that such cases happened in the industry occasionally but it was difficult to stop people from coming or call their behavior theft because funerals were usually public events."
 From Reuters>>

The deceptive billboard that paints the sky (an optical illusion)

Here's my favorite deceptive optical illusion billboard from a collection found by the site Mighty Optical Illusions (which was found via Artatm.) Not sure how well this works as advertising, since the logo for Berger "Natural Finish Colours" is so small, but this billboard would get lots of attention.

What's actually happening is the supposedly rectangular billboard has been altered by cutting out pieces in the upper right corner and making thin pieces of white billboard stick up.

It's very difficult not to see the larger roller strokes as dominant, especially because the painter with his shadow sticks out. I can't tell if he's been painted or is a dummy figure. I also don't know how they get his paint roller to appear correctly. Maybe it's transparent?

This optical illusion plays with our assumptions - we think:

1) That must be a guy hanging there because he looks real and has a shadow (he's not real.)

2) Billboards are rectangular in shape (this one is not.)

3) Paint when applied to a surface covers something (this is not paint, and it doesn't cover but reveals something - in this case the sky.)

4) The wider "brushstrokes" catch our eye and seem closer to us (yet they are the ground - the background - and not the figure or foreground.)

5) Much of the billboard - the rectangular billboard surface, the guy hanging there, the painting with a roller - is possible and not fantastic, so seeing this we might at first assume that there's someone up there painting a billboard. The only odd thing is that he's painting the billboard the exact same color as the sky... which is impossible.

Here's the same photo manipulated to show a darker-colored sky:

Billboards from the great site Mighty Optical Illusions>>

Artistic optical illusions by Markus Raetz

Nichtpfeife, 1990-92 by Markus Raetz, view one

Wait for it - the pop will surprise you

Who is shimmying?

Where's the bottle? Where's the glass?

Nichtpfeife, 1990-92 by Markus Raetz, view two

Artist Markus Raetz

Why the liar can be far more civilized

The statues of Oscar Wilde and Estonian writer 
Eduard Wilde sitting on a bench, in Tartu, Estonia.

"The liar at any rate recognizes that recreation, not instruction, is the aim of conversation, and is a far more civilised being than the blockhead who loudly expresses his disbelief in a story which is told simply for the amusement of the company."

- Oscar Wilde

The cost of believing lies? Millions die.

Mr. Adolf Eichmann

These passages (edited into paragraphs) are from Hanna Arendt’s 1963 book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, written after the trial of the war criminal Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi officer responsible for managing the mass deportation of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps as part of Hitler’s Final Solution.  In this excerpt, she says that Eichmann’s evil did not arise from self-deception, but from the efficient, ingrained lies of the Nazi regime.

Eichman was hung in Israel in 1962.


"Is this a textbook case of bad faith, of lying self-deception combined with outrageous stupidity? Or is it simply the case of the eternally unrepentant criminal (Dostoevski once mentions in his diaries that in Siberia, among scores of murderers, rapists, and burglars, he never met a single man who would admit that he had done wrong) who cannot afford to face reality because his crime has become part and parcel of it?

Yet Eichmann's case is different from that of the ordinary criminal, who can shield himself effectively against the reality of a non-criminal world only within the narrow limits of his gang.

Eichmann needed only to recall the past in order to feel assured that he was not lying and that he was not deceiving himself, for he and the world he lived in had once been in perfect harmony. And that German society of eighty million people had been shielded against reality and factuality by exactly the same means, the same self-deception, lies, and stupidity that had now become ingrained in Eichmann's mentality.

These lies changed from year to year, and they frequently contradicted each other; moreover, they were not necessarily the same for the various branches of the Party hierarchy or the people at large. But the practice of self deception had become so common, almost a moral prerequisite for survival, that even now, eighteen years after the collapse of the Nazi regime, when most of the specific content of its lies has been forgotten, it is sometimes difficult not to believe that mendacity has become an integral part of the German national character.

During the war, the lie most effective with the whole of the German people was the slogan of "the battle of destiny for the German people" [der Schicksalskampf des deutschen Volkes], coined either by Hitler or by Goebbels, which made self-deception easier on three counts: it suggested, first, that the war was no war; second, that it was started by destiny and not by Germany; and, third, that it was a matter of life and death for the Germans, who must annihilate their enemies or be annihilated.

Eichmann's astounding willingness, in Argentina as well as in, Jerusalem, to admit his crimes was due less to his own criminal capacity for self-deception than to the aura of systematic mendacity that had constituted the general, and generally accepted, atmosphere of the Third Reich.

"Of course" he had played a role in the extermination of the Jews; of course if he "had not transported them, they would not have been delivered to the butcher." "What," he asked, "is there to 'admit'?"

Now, he proceeded, he "would like to find peace with [his] former enemies"…

…This outrageous cliché was no longer issued to them from above, it was a self-fabricated stock phrase, as devoid of reality as those clichés by which the people had lived for twelve years; and you could almost see what an "extraordinary sense of elation" it gave to the speaker the moment it popped out of his mouth.

Eichmann's mind was filled to the brim with such sentences."

To deceive, don't say where you're going, or show where you've been

Pass 4 - Le Tourniquet

These two simple rules of magic from the book Modern Magic are applicable in many other areas of deception: 1) Don't let the person about to be deceived know what's going to happen, and 2) Don't do the same thing twice in a row to the person about to be deceived.

Of course there are exceptions to these two rules, but most supposed "exceptions" are actually lies. When someone about to deceive you says they're going to tell you exactly what's going to happen, or says they're going to repeat something for you... they're almost always lying.

This is also true for acting. As Dennis Hopper related in an NPR interview when early in his career he asked James Dean for advice:
"He said, 'Don't worry about emotion. Learn how to do things: Smoke a cigarette, don't act smoking a cigarette. Knock on the door, then you see they have a gun in their hand, then you react.' Basically, don't indicate. Do something, don't show it. Don't anticipate," Hopper recalled.
Modern Magic, Chapter 1 - Introductory Observations:
"The first rule to be borne in mind by the asperant is this: “Never tell your audience beforehand what you are going to do.” If you do so, you at once give their vigilance the direction which it is most necessary to avoid, and increase tenfold the chances of detection. We will give an illustration. There is a very good trick (which will be described at length hereafter) in which the performer, after borrowing a handkerchief, gives it to some one to hold. When it is returned, it proves to be torn into small pieces. It is again handed to the holder, who is instructed, in order to restore it, to rub it in a particular manner; but when again unfolded, it is found in a long strip. These effects are produced by successive adroit substitutions, and the whole magic of the trick consists in the concealment of the particular moment at which each substitution is effected. Now, if you were to announce to the audience beforehand that you were about to cause the handkerchief to appear in several pieces, or in a long strip, they would at once conjecture that the trick depended on an exchange, and their whole vigilance being directed to discover the moment of that exchange, you would find it all but impossible to perform the trick without detection. If, on the other hand, you merely roll up the handkerchief, and ask some one to hold it, the audience, not knowing what you are about to do, have no reason to suspect that you have handed him a substitute; and when the transformation is exhibited, the opportunity of detection will have already passed away.

It follows, as a practical consequence of this first rule, that you should never perform the same trick twice on the same evening. The best trick loses half its effect on repetition, but besides this, the audience know precisely what is coming, and have all their faculties directed to find out at what point you cheated their eyes on the first occasion. It is sometimes hard to resist an encore, but a little tact will get you out of the difficulty, especially if you have studied, as every conjuror should do, the variation and combination of tricks. There are a score of different ways of vanishing a given article, and as many of reproducing it; and either one of the first may be used in conjunction with either of the second. Thus, by varying either the beginning or the end, you make the trick to some extent a new one. The power of doing this readily is very useful, and among other advantages will enable you to meet an encore by performing some other trick having some element of similarity to that which you have just completed, but terminating in a different and therefore unexpected manner." 
From the book Modern Magic - A Practical Treatise on the Art of Conjuring by Professor Hoffman (the pseudonym of the barrister and amateur magician Angelo John Lewis), published in 1876.

"It is always the best policy to tell the truth, unless, of course, you are an exceptionally good liar."

Illustration from The Adventures of Baron Munchausen by Gustave Gutknecht

The quote is by English writer Jerome K. Jerome in The Idler Magazine, 1892. His best known work is Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), a humorous travelogue first published in 1889 about a boat trip down the Thames in the UK.

A snippet:
"In the church is a memorial to Mrs. Sarah Hill, who bequeathed 1 pound annually, to be divided at Easter, between two boys and two girls who "have never been undutiful to their parents; who have never been known to swear or to tell untruths, to steal, or to break windows." Fancy giving up all that for five shillings a year! It is not worth it.

It is rumoured in the town that once, many years ago, a boy appeared who really never had done these things - or at all events, which was all that was required or could be expected, had never been known to do them - and thus won the crown of glory. He was exhibited for three weeks afterwards in the Town Hall, under a glass case.

What has become of the money since no one knows. They say it is always handed over to the nearest wax-works show."

Are green grape vines of betrayal, or jealousy?

Wild grape vines

This guy hears he’s being cheated on, and his girlfriend’s going back to her old boyfriend, and he’s very upset and shocked by the news. But is she really cheating on him? He hasn’t heard it from her, only some news via the grapevine, just some rumors. So is she deceiving him or not? Is this about her actually two-timing him, or about his worrying about her possible betrayal?

If he wrote a letter, would it sound like this?
I bet you’re wondering about this: how did I know about your plans to make me so sad with some other guy, you know, that guy you knew before? Your old boyfriend? You know, between the two of us, I’m the one who loves you more than he does. So, I gotta say, it really surprised when I heard about this yesterday. And you know how I found out? I heard it by listening to rumors, not even by you directly, but by the grapevine. From somebody else. I heard you’re going to leave me. You said you don’t want to be with me any longer. And I’m a man, and I’m not supposed to be crying if I’m a man, but I’m crying right now because I can’t hold my feelings for you inside of me. I mean, I can’t bear the idea of losing you. It would just kill me. You mean so very much to me, you know that? You could have told me, you could have told me that you’re in love with somebody else, instead of me hearing it the way I did. You know, people have told me I should only believe half of what I see, and I should believe nothing that I hear. But I’m confused. If it’s true, let me know! Tell me! Are you going to leave me for your old boyfriend? I’m going crazy with this! Are you leaving me? I just know you’re leaving me. You’re letting me go. I heard it. Is it true? I heard that it’s true. I heard it.

Ooh, I bet you're wondering how I knew
About your plans to make me blue
With some other guy you knew before
Between the two of us guys you know I love you more
It took me by surprise I must say
When I found out yesterday
Don’t you know that I

Heard it through the grapevine
Not much longer would you be mine
Oh I heard it through the grapevine
Oh I'm just about to lose my mind
Honey, honey yeah
(Heard it through the grapevine)
(Not much longer would you be my baby, ooh, ooh, ooh)

I know a man ain't supposed to cry
But these tears I can't hold inside
Losing you would end my life you see
'cause you mean that much to me
You could have told me yourself
That you love someone else
Instead I

Heard it through the grapevine
Not much longer would you be mine
Oh I heard it through the grapevine
And I'm just about to lose my mind
Honey, honey yeah
(Heard it through the grapevine)
(Not much longer would you be my baby, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh)

People say believe half of what you see
Son, and none of what you hear
But I can't help being confused
If it's true please tell me dear
Do you plan to let me go
For the other guy you loved before?
Don’t you know I

Heard it through the grapevine
Not much longer would you be mine
Baby I heard it through the grapevine
Ooh I'm just about to lose my mind
Honey, honey yeah
(Heard it through the grapevine)
(Not much longer would you be my baby, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)

Honey, honey, I know
That you're letting me go
Said I heard it through the grapevine
Heard it through the grapevine

Horses, lying and con games - a story

Ben K. Green (1912-1974) was a Texas writer. This excerpt is from his book Horse Tradin', published in 1967. It's best to read him as if you were listening to him tell the story, speaking all the parts in various dialects, and twinkling at you with his eyes. And be sure and give him a wee bit of leeway for stretching the truth a bit. In this story, he encounters an old con game when he trades horses with a sneaky Gypsy horse trader.

Gypsy Hoss Trade

My family had a high standard to raise children by, and as soon as they could tell that one wasn't going to be a credit to the family name, they shipped him West — which explains why I left home at such a tender age. After I was full grown and was an experienced cowboy and horse trader of about sixteen years old, I'd drift back to the farming country to visit my kinfolks, rattle my spurs, and loll around the farm boys.

I rode one good horse on this particular trip which was going to last about thirty days, and led another one that I hated — and only rode occasionally to rest my good horse. This horse was one of the few paints I had ever owned or rode. He was a nice-made horse and had a very stylish way of traveling. He walked and trotted just like he couldn't hardly stand to hit the ground. This beautiful paint horse had more bad habits than any horse I think I ever had. With all his style — and at that time his color was popular, too — he had about as much sense as a weak-minded West Texas jackrabbit. He was hard to saddle, hard to mount, and because he was so snorty, snaky, and boogery, he was hard to ride — although he was not bad to buck.

One of the worst of his many bad characteristics was the way he pulled back when you tied him. He broke his bridle reins and the headstall of his bridle several times, and I had made a habit of tying him with a rope halter. He had his head pretty well skinned up around his ears and across his nose from settin' back when he was tied hard and fast to a gentle telephone pole or a nice big tree that would hold him.

While I was visiting, I had led him out in a little pasture, and in a few days the skinned places around on his head had healed up and peeled off; he had a little bit of grass bloom on him and was in nice shape to trade off. On Trades Day in Greenville, Texas, I got up early in the morning, rode him pretty hard about fifteen miles into town, and came in on the trade square with some sweat and lather showing around on him.

It was middle morning, and the trade square was covered with work horses, work mules, the general run of milk cows, wagonloads of pigs, and so forth that might be seen at any trades day. Very few saddle horses were in sight. I moseyed around awhile on my horse and found a trader's wagon with a number of saddle horses eating fresh hay out of the wagon. There was a good dappled gray gelding about fifteen hands high, in hard, sound flesh, and he was properly shod. The hair was rubbed short over his loins, there was a light mark on each side where the cinch ring of the saddle had rubbed, and you could tell by his general appearance that he was very much a usin' horse.

Pretty soon the trader spotted me looking at his horses and came over. He walked around my paint and asked: "You want to trade stock?” — which was the usual way of opening up conversation.

110 tons of liquid mercury in Chicago

The sculpture called Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor at Millennium Park in AT&T Plaza in Chicago has also been dubbed Chicago Bean. It is 66-feet long by 33-feet high. If you did not know it was real, would you believe these photos, or assume these were deceptive photos created via PhotoShop?

A poop and fart practical joke story, from 1515

Modern culture did not invent this type of humor

The following is based on one of the tales of Till Eulenspiegel, a German trickster character.

If you're not into scatological humor from 1515, please skip this story.

Ollie and the Innkeeper

Ollie went on a trip to Cologne, where he stayed at a hotel for a few days without letting anyone know who he was. While he was staying there, he noticed that the innkeeper was kind of a scoundrel and treated people very badly. Ollie thought that any guests of this guy would not do well staying at his hotel, so Ollie vowed to find another place to stay.

That night he told the innkeeper he was going to look for another place to stay. The innkeeper showed all the other guests to their rooms, but ignored Ollie.

Ollie said, "Excuse me, but I paid as much for my room as they did for theirs, and you showed them to their rooms but didn't show me to my room. Where am I supposed to sleep, on this bench in the dining room?"

The innkeeper said, "You know what? I think you need some sheets," and he farted loudly.

Then the innkeeper farted again and said, "And look, there's your pillow!"

Then he farted a third time, and this was the worst one yet. It stunk up the whole room.

"There you go, there's your entire bed. Sleep here until morning, then leave them in a pile for me so I can find everything together!"

Ollie said nothing, but he thought, "I think one good scoundrel deserves another."

That night he slept on the bench.

The innkeeper had a beautiful folding table in his dining room. Ollie opened up the leaves, dropped his pants, took a huge shit on top of the table, and then folded the table up again.

In the morning, Ollie went to the innkeeper's room and said, "Thank you for your hospitality."

Then Ollie let loose with a huge smelly fart and said, "Those are the feathers from your featherbed. I left the pillow, sheets and covers all together in a pile."

The innkeeper said, "Thank you. I will look after them as soon as I get out of bed."

"Don't worry, just look around and you'll find them all right," said Ollie.

And then Ollie left the hotel.

The innkeeper expected lots of guests for lunch, and he told them they should eat at his beautiful folding table. When he opened up the leaves of his table, he smelled a revolting stench, and saw the pile of shit.

"He gives as good as he gets! He paid for my farts with his own shit," said the innkeeper.

Then the innkeeper sent after Ollie, because he wanted to get to know him better. Ollie returned, and they appreciated each other's gags so much that, from then on, whenever Ollie was in town, he got a good bed.

"For what we call illusions are often, in truth, a wider vision of past and present realities..."

"If a cynical sprite were present, riding on one of the motes in that dusty room, he may have made himself merry at the illusions of the little minister who brought so much conscience to bear on the production of so slight an effect. I confess to smiling myself...but I never smiled at Mr Lyon's trustful energy without falling to penitence and veneration immediately after. For what we call illusions are often, in truth, a wider vision of past and present realities - a willing movement of a man's soul with the larger sweep of the world's forces - a movement towards a more assured end than the chances of a single life. We see human heroism broken into units and say, this unit did little - might as well not have been. But in this way we might break up a great army into units; in this way we might break the sunlight into fragments, and think that this and the other might be cheaply parted with. Let us rather raise a monument to the soldiers whose brave hearts only kept the ranks unbroken, and met death - a monument to the faithful who were not famous, and who are precious as the continuity of the sunbeams is precious, though some of them fall unseen and on barrenness."
Quote from the 1866 novel Felix Holt, the Radical by George Eliot (the pen name of Mary Ann Evans)

The 2,400 year old hypocrite

The Wolf and the Sheep

A WOLF, sorely wounded and bitten by dogs, lay sick and maimed in his lair. Being in want of food, he called to a Sheep who was passing, and asked him to fetch some water from a stream flowing close beside him.

"For," he said, "if you will bring me drink, I will find means to provide myself with meat."

"Yes," said the Sheep, "if I should bring you the draught, you would doubtless make me provide the meat also."

Hypocritical speeches are easily seen through.
Author: Aesop, from the 5th century B.C.
Translator: George Fyler Townsend, from the 19th Century A.D.

In the movie The Grifters, cons are serious games

 Anjelica Huston as Lilly Dillon in The Grifters 

The Grifters understands the tragedy underlying all con games - in successful cons, everyone gets hurt.

The movie stars John Cusack, Annette Bening and Anjelica Huston.

It's based on the book The Grifters, written by Jim Thompson, who is the king of the pulp crime novel. Thompson wrote bleak, pessimistic, violent and sometimes surreal books. Besides The Grifters, his books The Getaway, The Killer Inside Me and Pop. 1280 were also made into movies.

The Grifters
screenplay was written by the prolific mystery writer Donald Westlake and directed by Stephen Frears, who had success with deceptive treachery in his movie Dangerous Liaisons. It was produced by Martin Scorcese, who understands the allure of criminals (he did Goodfellas the same year.)

The Grifters
was nominated for four 1991 Academy Awards.

In this YouTube clip, Myra explains how she worked the "wire-room" long-con swindle similar to the one used in the film The Sting.

"Society drives people crazy with lust and calls it advertising."

The growling greedy need that can never be satisfied

John Lahr on Lust
The Guardian, August 2, 1989.

Lust has a voice. It's a predatory growl. "Oh yes... Oh baby... I'd like to..." The voice is unnaturally low, like a cat's keening that gets the adrenalin going in its prey to make the meal taste better.

Lust is the dream of wanting without the disappointment of action. Lust's voice is a braggart: "Get a load of this... I'm gonna..." In lust's code, sentences are rarely finished but the ravishment is complete, which is why people in lust's grip seem to stare into the middle distance. They are watching their conquest go by.

Lust has a look. It's a narrowed eye seized by a sense of its hunger. Anything - the back of a leg, the pouting of a mouth, the way the hair falls over the shoulder - can suddenly infiltrate the mind and turn it inward, Lust's only aim is self-gratification; being irrational, the need can never be satisfied. Lust is the imperialism of appetite which is why it is deadly. In the fretfulness of desire and the violent impulse to slake it, there is no open heart or hand, which is why Christianity ranks it as a sin. Lust sees no glory in the flesh, only greed.

Lust, in its deadly form, is not robust adolescent appetite but a dedication to calculated pleasures. The young are exploring their sexuality, the lustful are projecting their fantasies of fulfilment on to objects. Society drives people crazy with lust and calls it advertising. Blue jeans, coke bottle, cars, food are sexualized. The dream of wanting and the fantasy of fulfilment coalesce. The irresistible images punish us as they please. We must have it. Now. This agitation is both thrilling and unhappy, an itch we must scratch.

Lust's sin is that it is about possessing the world, not embracing it. Lust's spiritual dilemma is the longing to be filled. Fulfilment does not come from things but from one's relationship with the world. Lust, says novelist Fredrick Beuchner, is the craving for salt by someone dying of thirst: "Lust only aggravates the sense of emptiness it tries to fill. Those seized by lust act out an infantile fantasy of having everything all the time: the more they get, the farther their detachment from the life around them."

Today sex has lost its sense of sin and robbed the act of its thrilling danger. Nowadays, lust is primarily part of the human comedy; and perhaps laughing at the follies of appetite is the best way to demystify lust.

I remember with delight that permanent state of tumescence called adolescence. In the Fifties, before the Pill, before braless coeds, lust played merry with our imaginations. I memorized diagrams in sex manuals and imagined making love to my favourite sex object, Rita Hayworth. Rita talked to me (Rita, I still love you!) and in my lusty bravado I pleasured her. But pleasure in sex was harder to achieve than the lust for it.

I remember the ache after a date in which one got nowhere. Lust was one of many fierce ambitions in that American state of perpetual longing. "I dream of wanting," writes Rumanian philosopher E. M. Cioran, "but everything I want seems to be worthless."

The early Church saw lust as an incarnation of original sin and preached its repression. But a little bit of original sin, it seems to me, does you good. St. Augustine agrees. "Give me chastity," he wrote. "But not yet."

How a toy noisemaker saved lives on D-Day

Reproduction of a toy originally made by the ACME Thunderer Whistle Co. in England

Before we had any sophisticated electronics, how did soldiers know who was friend or foe at night in enemy territory? During World War II, when paratroopers were dropped on the night before the invasion of Normandy, the soldiers carried small metal clicking toys called "D-Day crickets." These, along with passwords, were used to click to each other to signal that they were friendly and not the enemy.

An excerpt from the book D-Day with the Screaming Eagles by George Koskimaki>>

More on Mark Bandoo's website about the 101 Airborne>>

Want to buy a reproduction clicker?

Better stay off this guy's lawn or he might kill you

A man from the UK super-glued locks on a dental office, sprayed the building with black paint and stole a sign. But when he put a ticking box with exposed wires on the steps, and the army bomb squad shut down the street and evacuated homes, he got in serious trouble.

Why did he do all this? Because 84-year-old Peter McShane felt he had been overcharged by his dentist.

His lawyer said: "He is now extremely remorseful. He had not fully appreciated what he was doing. Now, he is shocked by his behaviour."

Hmm. "I didn't realize what I was doing..."

Isn't that what teenage hoaxsters say when a prank goes bad?

Mr. McShane only avoided jail time because of his age.

He must also be supervised for 12 months, was placed under a curfew, and was also banned from ever visiting his dentist.

Source: BBC News>>

Why it's better to buy yourself a big fake rock

Model EB26
50" (W) x 52" (L) x 26" (H)
Approx. Weight: 400 Lbs.
Your Price: $395 (Shipping Extra)

"Our 200-400 lb. Estate Boulder reproductions are the practical alternative to the cost and difficulty of acquiring, moving and installing a real boulder weighing up to 2 1/2 tons, an expensive and time-consuming procedure that almost always requires extra manpower, a crane or other heavy equipment."
Many people tout the advantages of organic, locally sourced, or natural products. This rock is none of those things because it's fake, ships long distances and is completely artificial. What are its selling points? Besides being cheaper, it also allows the buyer to know exactly what the rock will look like instead of being surprised at any old rock from a quarry or other source.

And it will likely fool anyone who sees it, because who expects to see a fake rock?

Rocks Factory>>

Can you spot the fake smile? (A quiz)

Is it true, or is it false?

Take a look at 20 short videos and answer the question, "Is this person's smile genuine or fake?" I got 13 out of 20 right. How well do you think you'll do?
From BBC Nature and Science, based on Paul Ekman's work>>

The world's most ingenious thief, Gerald Blanchard

His girlfriend rolls around in money, 
but it wasn't about sex. 
It was the thrill of the score.
"Carefully, Blanchard entered through the window he had unlocked the previous day. He knew there was a chance of encountering guards. But the Schloss Schönbrunn was a big place, with more than 1,000 rooms. He liked the odds. If he heard guards, he figured, he would disappear behind the massive curtains.

The nearby rooms were silent as Blanchard slowly approached the display and removed the already loosened screws, carefully using a butter knife to hold in place the two long rods that would trigger the alarm system. The real trick was ensuring that the spring-loaded mechanism the star was sitting on didn’t register that the weight above it had changed. Of course, he had that covered, too: He reached into his pocket and deftly replaced Elisabeth’s bejeweled hairpin with the gift-store fake.

Within minutes, the Sisi Star was in Blanchard’s pocket and he was rappelling down a back wall to the garden, taking the rope with him as he slipped from the grounds. When the star was dramatically unveiled to the public the next day, Blanchard returned to watch visitors gasp at the sheer beauty of a cheap replica. And when his parachute was later found in a trash bin, no one connected it to the star, because no one yet knew it was missing. It was two weeks before anyone realized that the jewelry had disappeared."
From Wired. Art of the Steal: On the Trail of World’s Most Ingenious Thief>>

Need a job in the UK? Be a spy!

 You could work in a very nice building on the bank 
of the River Thames in London.
"TURN on the radio in Britain these days and you could hear an advert for a job in the shadowy world of intelligence: it's an unusual bid by the country's spy service to shed its image as stuffy, macho and upper-class. Diversity is the watchword in a publicity campaign that portrays a career in the Secret Intelligence Service or MI6 as fascinating and family-friendly, albeit with moments of risk.

The drive is part of a policy of openness that constitutes a big cultural shift for a service that 20 years ago was so secret the government would not publicly acknowledge its existence, even if it still enjoys more anonymity than its close CIA ally."
From The Straits Times>>

The Secret Intelligence Service website>>

29-year-old murderer tries using salt water science to escape

A man in jail for murder tried to escape from jail by corroding his prison bars with a science trick. He said he corroded the bars over several months by putting salt water on them and attaching a live electrical wire. Maybe he was trying this?

From The Australian>>

Pencil vs. camera and more

Lots of illusion happening here. It's the artist holding his pencil drawing in front of a photo of a statue with printed wallpaper of real books on the walls. Or were you distracted by the nudity?

See more of Ben Heine's work at flickr>>

I also like his cat.

Ha! I tricked you! Now buy something!

It's always good to fool your potential customers, right?

I found an interesting commentary on a blog about "false negative advertisements" that trick you into noticing them, such as "error tones" on gas pumps that are actually alerts to try to upsell you more products, or the ads attached to supermarket floors that look like spills from a distance.

He doesn't mention my favorite ad to hate: fake currency lying on the ground. You reach down to pick up the fake bill and it's not a bill - it's an ad or a business card.

Here's a site that will make you one-hundred-dollar-bill business cards for you to throw on the ground "for free and continuous MLM network marketing!" They claim they're better than those other cheaper fake bills because these are die-cut to look more realistic. Don't you like that they call the prospect a "victim"?
"Our money cards look so realistic, everyone swears they're real. If someone sees an abandoned $100 bill, they are going to pick it up & read your ad inside. Fake money or not, they can't part with it . . . the BILL-BOARD® is the perfect advertising tool to keep you on their mind for years! The best part . . . your "victim" (prospect) will keep your BILL-BOARD® drop card and will try it on someone else. Talk about free and continuous MLM network marketing! Drop cards everywhere and watch how sales pick up! -- Now that's a sizzle card!"
Come on, buy some business cards from them and start out by cheating your potential customers!>>

Read the original post from Lady, That's My Skull, found via Boing Boing>>

And if you want to trick someone with money, try nailing this to the floor: