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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
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Sunday, January 12

Practical & Impractical Jokes

My sister sent me a book for my first Christmas in Korea, H. Allen Smith’s The Compleat Practical Joker. That was in 1953 and I had just turned twenty. She and I had very similar senses of humor and she was sure I’d appreciate a book of practical jokes. Smith, in his forward, suggested that probably the first such joke wasn’t so much a joke as it was an attempt at physical humor, but humor only for the joker, but a kind of cruelty for the jokee. It’s the “goose,’ a gesture as ancient as man. Some people are goosie and some are not. It’s always the goosies who get the goose bacause that’s what the gooser finds delightfully funny—to see someone leap in anguished frenzy when someone sneaks up behind him and jabs, or gooses, him in the butt. I think it’s a joke for bullies, in that same category as giving someone a wedgie or stuffing him in a locker or giving him a swirlie (head in toilet), noogies, pantsing, nipple crippling, towel snapping, wet willies and putting a “kick me” sign on the back. A catalogue of Three Stooges stuff. True practical jokes don’t have to rely on cruelty to be funny. Smith tells of a time when he decided to tie a piece of string around his ear with the other end in his mouth. He wanted to see how many people would notice it and if anyone would ask him why. He could go whole days with everyone secretly looking at him but no one asking. Finally, aboard a plane, a young man came up to him and asked him, hesitatingly, what the string was for. Before boarding, a friend of Smith’s had given him some kumquats to take home with him. On the spur of the moment, Smith explained that he was involved in an experiment to see how certain fruits affected the gastric process and that he and his colleagues had each been assigned a citrus fruit, each to eat nothing but that citrus for a week, with a tiny gold bucket attached to a string and lowered into the stomach. Once a day he would retrieve the bucket and send the contents to a lab. His assigned fruit was the kumquat, at which time he took one out of his pocket and offered it to the young man. The joy of the joke was in considering how the young man would spread the story to his friends, and they to other friends, the story of the strange scientist who had a gold bucket in his stomach.
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