pranks

#pranks

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Long cigar ash. Pixabay photo by ulleo-1834854 (<a href=https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/>CC0</a>)
Long cigar ash. Pixabay photo by ulleo-1834854 (CC0)
U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Loren A. Smith, a maverick cigar smoker, became a legend at a meeting on election law. The other participants, in an elegant, white-carpeted conference room, watched in disbelief as Smith repeatedly declined an ashtray for use with his eight-inch cigar—which he calmly smoked until seven inches of perfect ash bedecked its end. "I was testing something Clarence Darrow used to do," he later explained. "I had inserted a straightened-out paper clip before I lit up..."
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Walt Disney Studios
The Alameda Avenue entrance to the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. Coolcaesar (<a href=https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/>CC BY-SA 4.0</a>)
The Alameda Avenue entrance to the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. Coolcaesar (CC BY-SA 4.0)
When it rains in Burbank, California, water flowing from the roof of Michael Graves's "Team Disney" building causes which of the seven dwarves to appear to be urinating upon everyone who enters the building? a) Happy b) Dopey c) Grumpy d) Bashful e) Sleepy The answer is B (Dopey).
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The Tyburn Tree
William Hogarth's The Idle 'Prentice Executed at Tyburn, from the Industry and Idleness series (1747)
William Hogarth's The Idle 'Prentice Executed at Tyburn, from the Industry and Idleness series (1747)
Jonathan Wild masterminded several robberies using organized gangs of thieves (many of whom he had met in debtors' prison). He also built an intricate network for the disposal of the stolen property. Finally arrested for theft in 1725, he was sentenced to be hanged at Tyburn gallows. On the day of his execution, Wild, having picked the pocket of the priest called to the gallows to administer the last rites, died triumphantly waving the cleric's corkscrew at the crowd below.
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Harvard Bridge, Cambridge
Postcard showing Harvard Bridge, looking toward Cambridge and MIT sometime between 1916 and 1924
Postcard showing Harvard Bridge, looking toward Cambridge and MIT sometime between 1916 and 1924
The Harvard Bridge, linking Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, is notable for a series of prominent "Smoot" marks which define distances along its walkways. Here's why: In 1958, Oliver Reed Smoot, Jr.—a freshman pledge at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)—was 'honored' by his fraternity (Lambda Chi Alpha) with the selection of the "Smoot" as a unit of measure for the bridge's span. Smoot's five foot, six inch height made the bridge exactly 364.4 Smoots long—plus one ear. [According to legend, what did Paul Bunyun's blue ox, Babe, measure between his horns? 42 axe handles—plus a plug of chewing tocacco.]
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Portrait of the British actor Peter Sellers at his home in Belgravia, London, England. Credit: Photograph by Allan Warren Derivative by Keraunoscopia (<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0">CC BY-SA 3.0</a>)

Portrait of the British actor Peter Sellers at his home in Belgravia, London, England. Credit: Photograph by Allan Warren Derivative ...(more)

While appearing on "The Goon Show," Peter Sellers received a curious letter from one of the program's fans: "Dear Mr. Sellers, I have been a keen follower of yours for many years now, and should be most grateful if you would kindly send me a singed [sic] photograph of yourself..." Encouraged by his friend and fellow-comedian Harry Secombe, Sellers carefully burned the edges of one of his publicity photographs with his cigarette lighter—and sent it off by return mail... Several weeks later, another letter arrived from the same address: "Dear Mr. Sellers, Thank you very much for the photograph, but I wonder if I could trouble you for another as this one is signed all round the edge..."
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Ted Radcliffe
Ted Radcliffe
One day the star Negro League pitcher Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe threw Ty Cobb out while he was trying to steal second base. Only then did Cobb notice the inscription on Radcliffe's chest-protector: "Thou Shalt Not Steal!"
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John von Neumann. Credit: LANL
John von Neumann. Credit: LANL
The mathematician John von Neumann was an inveterate practical joker. After creating his famous "electronic brain" for the US government during World War II, Neumann dubbed the machine a 'Mathematical Analyser, Numerical Integrater, and Computer'. Several days passed before scientists realized that the name formed a curious anagram: MANIAC. ["It would appear we have reached the limits of what it is possible to achieve with computer technology," von Neumann declared in 1949, "although one should be careful with such statements; they tend to sound pretty silly in five years."]
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The Lost Village Schoolroom. Flickr photo by Donald Ogg (<a href=https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/>CC BY-SA 2.0</a>)
The Lost Village Schoolroom. Flickr photo by Donald Ogg (CC BY-SA 2.0)
"Novelist and essayist George A. Birmingham was in his nonliterary life a clergyman in Ireland where he was pestered by bishops and other authorities to fill in recurring questionnaires," writes Patrick Ryan, in Smithsonian Magazine. "He took particular umbrage against the annual demand from the education office to report the dimensions of his village schoolroom. In the first and second years, he duly filled in the required figures. "The third year he replied that the schoolroom was still the same size. The education office badgered him with reminders until Birmingham finally filled in the figures. This time he doubled the dimensions of his schoolroom. "Nobody queried it. So he went on doubling the measurements until 'in the course of five ...
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Promotional photo of film director Marshall Neilan. Credit: Wikipedia user Evans, L.A. (Public domain)
Promotional photo of film director Marshall Neilan. Credit: Wikipedia user Evans, L.A. (Public domain)
Director Marshall Neilan cultivated a first-rate rivalry with MGM chief Louis B. Mayer. Before a large MGM preview one day, attended by an array of executives and stars, Neilan altered the soundtrack so that when Leo, MGM's legendary trademark lion, appeared on the screen at the beginning of the picture, rather than giving its usual roar, all that came out was a kitten's meow.
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While browsing in a second-hand bookshop one day, George Bernard Shaw was amused to find a copy of one of his own works which he himself had inscribed for a friend: "To —, with esteem, George Bernard Shaw." He immediately purchased the book and returned it to the friend with a second inscription: "With renewed esteem, George Bernard Shaw."