Pranksgiving Fest

It’s not hard to accept the idea that man’s earliest attempt at humor was a fart joke. It feels right. But the second was probably a prank of some kind.

I have never been a fan of the game some DJ’s play when they make and broadcast prank telephone calls because it seems so unfair to make a show out of mocking strangers. This is odd because I did morning radio for more than 25 years. Fooling any unsuspecting person for your own amusement was a base element in the chemical profile of your standard wake-up show back then. Still is, probably.

And even though I didn’t care for elaborate put-on and almost never committed one, some of my fondest memories from those years are connected to one April Fool’s morning when we said, as straight-faced as possible, that we had been knocked off the air by a technical difficulty and did not know when we could get back on. The size of the problem was unknown, I told listeners, but we were trying to plot the extent of the outage by sticking pins to a map on the wall.

“Call the studio,” I said, “if you can’t hear us.”

The audio is still online, here. We start the prank about 100 minutes into the show. Honest.

We did get quite a few calls from people who got the joke immediately and wanted to participate in the fun. But among the respondents was one clearly confused older woman who couldn’t understand why we were talking about being off the air when she could hear us as clearly as ever a the intersection of Winnetka and Bass Lake Road.

A friend called me at my desk a few hours later and in a make believe voice chastised me severely for “… publicly humiliating my elderly aunt! Have you no decency, sir?”

I was halfway through my apology before he ‘fessed up. The woman was not his Aunt, but he felt a little sorry for her even though he, too, laughed at her bewilderment. Now it was my turn to be mocked. The tables had been turned, and appropriately so.

All this came to mind when I saw that Alan Funt’s son Peter was at it again, shooting new episodes of the classic TV prank show, Candid Camera.

In a commentary for the New York Times, Funt confessed some trepidation at trying to fool savvy moderns. He said “I worried briefly that people are now so tech-savvy that some of our props and fake setups wouldn’t be believed. Instead, we found that the omnipresence of technology has reached a point where people will now accept almost anything”.

And really, isn’t that the lesson of the past 20 years? Virtually any crazy thing is possible. Such as:

Can you tell a convincing lie?

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Ask Dr. Babooner

We are ALL Dr. Babooner.

Dear Dr. Babooner,

While I was on an extended trip overseas, I found out that the people back in my home country are suffering from the widespread outbreak of a terrible, fatal disease. My boss asked me to come back immediately to face Ebola with the rest of my countrymen, but since I am not a doctor and can’t do much personally to halt an epidemic, and because I am, like most people, primarily interested in self-preservation and do not see myself as much of a hero, I declined.

When my boss found out I had done this, he fired me immediately..

As you might imagine, I have mixed feelings.

While no one appreciates being fired, the fact that I no longer have a job back home is just another great incentive for me to stay far away from the disease. However, that also means I have to find a new job in this new land full of perplexing rules and beguiling opportunities that look a lot better at a distance than they do up close.

As I go out job hunting, I’m uncertain how much to tell prospective employers about my situation. Sometimes, if you have even a tangential relationship with sickness, it can become a problem for people. For instance, I have some American friends who know the entire story. They’re very supportive, but they won’t come to my house.

One friend told me in all seriousness (via e-mail) that the word “Ebola” should never appear in a cover letter.


She says any association with the word leads non-infected people to exhibit strange behavior, like putting on gas masks even though you’ve never been near anyone with the disease and it can’t be transmitted through the air anyway.

“Better,” she says, “to remain quiet and let them figure it out AFTER you’ve been hired.

I’m sure she has a point, but I worry that if I don’t mention “fleeing from Ebola” as one of the reasons I have not gone home, I am only telling part of my story. And if I purposely omit any mention of the epidemic from my resume, then I don’t have a good explanation about why I’m still here. I have a feeling that could come back to haunt me later on.

Dr. Babooner, I’m conflicted. Should I put the whole story out there, including my decision to flee from Ebola, or should I be cagey and say I’m here on an extended visa because my aunt is very, very sick?


Connie Tagious, Outbreak, Pennsylvania.

I told Connie that honesty is always the best policy because you never have to try to remember which version of the truth you used with which person or group. And with a name like “Connie Tagious,” it is best to stay far, far away from any explanation that requires the listener to accept the idea that someone is ill.  Especially if it’s not true.  We don’t like illness, and often don’t know what to say about it. Plus, if you tell prospective employers that your aunt is sick when she’s not, that’s lying. And lying is an even more widespread epidemic than Ebola.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?


Stand Up Guy

With yet another new research fragment drawing us toward the conclusion that sitting is a hazard, I urged Trail Baboon Poet Laureate Schuyler Tyler Wyler to take up his pen to write an anti-sitting poem.

STW wrote back immediately to say that he was “offended.” As a Serious Poet, he does not produce doggerel on newsy topics for the purpose of entertainment. He argued that he finds nothing inspirational in sports medicine research, and besides, if the latest data is correct my request that he write a poem is essentially a demand that he shorten his life, since creating poetry is one of the sitting professions.

I told him to try writing standing up, but he answered with a firm declaration that such a thing is simply impossible. “It takes intense concentration and focus to create a work of genius.” He said “Having to remember to keep my balance will dull the edge of inspiration.”

STW noted that great poets, like Billy Collins and Charles Wright, have already written on the topic, and their work is unabashedly pro-sitting. How could he contradict people he respects and maintain his integrity?

I answered with an assurance that the audience for this blog is very close to zero, so his reputation will not suffer. And “a work of genius” is never required for a mere blog post. I suggested that if he felt stuck, he could give himself a head start by stealing the work of someone else, like the wooden-legged Welsh poet W.H. Davies.

Then I offered him $50 to drop the complaints and get me something within the hour. He thanked me and got to work.

A person can stay trim and fit,
As long as they can’t stand to sit.
So learn a lesson from the cows.
Take to your field in stately rows
to watch the world before you pass.
and never plop down on your grass.
Your buns will become firm and tight.
Your frame will thin, your face will light
With other benefits. Perchance -
much longer-lasting seats of pants.
And if you’re standing like a crop,
when death arrives, there’s room to drop.
But have them stand you up again,
for vertical internment‘s in.
Upon your narrow tombstone fit
these words: “He couldn’t stand to sit.”

What’s your favorite type of chair?


A Ceremonial Send-Off

Today’s guest post comes from Renee Boomgaarden, known as Renee in North Dakota.

A couple of weeks ago, husband and I were invited to a ceremony that a Native American friend organized to commemorate the fourth anniversary of his mother’s death. Our friend is Arikara, a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara) who live on the Ft. Berthold Reservation in western North Dakota.

The ceremony took place in Bismarck while our friend was camping at the United Tribes Technical College Pow wow. It was conducted by Eric, a Lakota Indian from the Pine Ridge Reservation. He is our Arikara friend’s spiritual advisor. Eric explained that the Native American period of mourning lasts four years, and the purpose of the ceremony was to set free the mother’s spirit and bring her children out of the mourning world.

Our friend and his five siblings lined up by the camper and we observers sat across from them. A plate of food and a glass of water for the mother’s journey into the next world was set on a nearby table. The ceremony began with all present getting smudged with cedar smoke, fanned on us out of a shell with a leather-bound bunch of eagle feathers. Eric then stood between us and the siblings and directed two Lakota traditional singers to sing the song to help the mother’s spirit leave this world and travel to the next. He said prayers in Lakota to the four winds/directions. Then he brushed each of the siblings head to toe with the eagle feathers and wiped under each of their eyes with his fingers to remove any tears.

Eric then directed the singers to start the Song of Welcoming, to welcome our friend and his siblings out of the world of mourning into our world. Each sibling was given a taste of corn meal and a drink of water. We observers very formally shook hands with each of the siblings while Eric said another Lakota prayer. We then sat down to a potluck supper, the oldest person going through the line first.

Everyone mourns in their own way and in their own time. Our friend was very happy at the conclusion of the ceremony, surrounded by friends and family, sharing a meal, at peace.

Describe a ceremony that gives you comfort.


The Scottish Ploy

Today’s post comes from perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden of Wendell Willkie High School.

Hey Mr. C.,

Well, school has been going for a couple of weeks now and so far no real surprises, except that Mr. Boozenporn moved his “Nations of the World” unit from January up to Right Now.

It ends with a “Nations of the World Festival” in the gym. We get assigned a country in a random drawing and we have to write a report about it, and make a display, and dress up in a traditional costume and then all the parents (well, not ALL) come on a Tuesday night and they poke around and kinda quiz you about your project while you stand there, sweating.

But I don’t worry about it too much because I’ve been a sophomore for a lot of years and I’ve done enough nations that I’m starting to get them a second time, which is really cool because you can kinda re-use your work and who’s gonna know?

Except last year I got Egypt again so I handed in the report I did back in 2005 and Mr. B gave me a “D” and held it up for the whole class to see because now they have a different president and everything else I said about Egypt was pretty much wrong too, except that they have pyramids and the Nile.

“Follow the news!” Mr. B. said. “If you don’t know the latest happenings in your country, you will get a ‘D’ for ‘don’t know anything’.”

So this year I drew Scotland.

I’ve never done Scotland before, but I took Mr. B’s advice and checked the news, and boy was I ever glad I did! It turns out they’re having a vote (today!) to decide whether or not to be an independent country. Which is funny because I thought they already were! (And so did Mr. B., I guess, because otherwise why would it be a choice?)

Doesn’t matter, though, because I feel super lucky. The way I see it, Scotland is a free pass on the “Nations of the World” assignment since the Festival is next Tuesday night.  I’m counting on Scotland to vote for independence so the festival will happen on what will only be the fifth day of existence for their country.

That means I get to make a super short report.  Maybe I could get away with just a shrug! Who coulda guessed that Scottish independence would set me free, too?

After all, it’s not like the Scottish people have history that goes much past last week, right? So it should be smooth sailing for me – nothing to worry about unlike those guys that drew places in, like, Africa. I hear some of them are going to have to wear dresses!

At least Scottish guys don’t wear silly clothes like that, just goofy, poofy hats. As far as the rest of the wardrobe, somebody told me anything with a pattern would work. Is that true?

Your pal,

What is your greatest miscalculation?


Eclectic Outpost

Today is the first day of the fall membership drive at the little radio station where I direct most of my time and energy these days.

KFAI Fresh Air Radio is in its 37th year and has, over the decades, been home to some of the most unusual, creative, soulful, earnest, nonsensical, transcendent and impractical radio programs ever made. There is a history buried under the worn-out carpet and hidden behind the dusty racks of obsolete technology, fondly recalled by old-timers when they sift through a program names graveyard that includes provocative titles like Little City in Space, Ideal Cafe Jukebox, Frogucci, Root of All Evil, Radio Rumpus Room, Musica Mundana, One Bubble Off Plumb and Indian Uprising. And lest you think those out-of-the-mainstream days are gone, consider some of the current programs like Strictly Butter, Fubar Omniverse, Rocket Ship Ska Trip, and Crap From The Past.

Experts say the radio business is personality-driven but there are only a few personality types permitted in commercial broadcasting, all fitting a certain vocal quality standard and each of them turning out to be a slightly different flavor of loudmouth. On KFAI you can hear shouters, sweet talkers, mumblers, whisperers and people who sit quietly in front of the microphone waiting for the sound of a needle to drop. Yes, there are still turntables. And people who walk in off the street can wind up with a show someday if they demonstrate persistence and creativity. Try that at KSTP and let me know how it works out. Twelve languages are heard on the station, and no, there are no translations. When there is an Oromo, Somali, Eritrean or Hmong program on the air you either already get it, or you sit back and enjoy the sound of the words as a form of music, which, of course, it is.

Every show host works for love and freedom of expression. Even staff members who do shows are “off the clock” when they’re on the air. The rest of the time staff supports the volunteers, who struggle mightily against the tendency of all things electronic to eventually short out, break down or freeze up. In this way the place continues to run in spite of all odds and completely against the accepted theories of what radio stations should do. Among programmers there is a passionate devotion to that oddball listener who can’t find what she wants anywhere else and doesn’t even know what that is until she hears it. And because there is very little money for traditional marketing, the audience recruitment strategy relies heavily on chance. We fill the bird feeder with seed and hope customers will wander past and have their heads turned by an exotic flavor.

As you might imagine, that approach requires a zen-like patience interspersed with moments of panic..

So I invite you to tune in, stream the audio at your desk or download the app for your smart phone and give us a chance. Fair warning, though – with most radio stations, you’ll be able to get the gist of what they’re trying to do in about ten minutes. Commercial formats are designed to transparent and easily digested. But if you really want to figure out what’s going on at KFAI, it would help to set aside a few years.

When has investing extra time in a project proven to be worth it?


Head Slap Moment

Today’s post comes from idea man and dealmaker Spin Williams, who is always in residence at The Meeting That Never Ends.

I’m really excited to be alive today and grateful that I’ve never had a concussion!

I work primarily with my brain and my mouth. If either one becomes damaged or disabled, even for a little while, I’m out of business for sure. It’s a good thing I’ve managed to stay healthy, and an even better thing that people in corporate meetings who want to have the attention of the whole group typically don’t run at the person who’s talking, grab at the microphone with their fingernails and with pounding biceps and flailing elbows do everything in their power to claw away the PowerPoint clicker.

But of course for N.F.L. players that scenario describes what is simply another day on the job. And sometimes they pay the price for it with terribly jangled brains.

At The Meeting That Never Ends, we found these new concussion statistics appalling – and we responded by immediately doubling our bets on last Sunday’s games because it all suddenly became crystal clear what is about to happen. The key signs are there and it all adds up.

  1. The cost of providing the product is outpacing the ability of customers to pay for it.
  2. Yet fans are showing an inexplicable appreciation of on and off-field mayhem and an unshakeable loyalty to certain nicknames and color schemes.
  3. Technology is quickly developing new capabilities lead us to wonder why it’s necessary to use human labor at all.

That’s why we believe the day is drawing near when all N.F.L. games will be played by robots!

Don’t believe me? It took 10 seconds to find this compelling bit of evidence on You Tube.

Once there is a robot model that can run, jump, throw, catch, spit, swear, and pat the behinds of the other robots on the sidelines, people will be completely removed from the equation and the machines will be sent in to battle it out. In fact, we predict the N.F.L. will dress the robots in throwback gear and old-style helmets, just to humanize them a bit.

Thats why our group just bought a leather hat manufacturer!

The Coming Thing
The Coming Thing

Now we realize that some fans will resist this advance, arguing that the physiological and mental differences between individuals is what keeps the game interesting. But don’t you worry – in the world we envision, each mechanized player will still have a human operator on the sideline, or in a Star Box or someplace where we can watch them push buttons and twiddle joysticks to control their alter ego out on the field.

That way we’re convinced the N.F.L. will be able to maintain professional football’s reputation as a game played by human jackasses!

In my business, you win by figuring out how things will change just a little bit before everyone else gets it.   In this case, we at The Meeting That Never Ends were so sure we called this one correctly, we sent our mechanized avatars out on the town to have a drunken celebration!

A few of them did get arrested, but what a party!

Your foresighted fanboy,

When have you correctly predicted the future?

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