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Tuesday, February 25, 2003
Sleight of hand

Anatomy of a very simple scam. Approached by a squeegee merchant at a set of traffic lights, we let him quickly clean the (almost opaque) windscreen. What can you do? Given that the car was filthy, this probably deserves a few coins. Reach into a jeans pocket - not easy, sitting down - and scrabble about for a pound coin. The window only opens a crack so I press the coin into his palm; by this time the lights have changed and people behind are getting irate. But then he drops the pound! To have such a small amount of money promised and then cruelly snatched away seems so unfair. We panic - there's no more hefty change in my pocket so I snap at my partner to give me some more. The money exchanged, the lights finally go green and we're away. At the next opportunity I look down for the dropped pound but can only find a two pence piece, nestling in a fold of my jumper. I say nothing. A few minutes, as we're entering a carpark, I finally venture: 'You know, I have a feeling that that guy ripped us off - I don't think he dropped the pound coin at all.' To which she replies, 'I'm glad you said that - I could have sworn I still saw the pound in his hand when he dropped the coin.' Probably the oldest one in the book, but very neat nonetheless.

More diversions and distractions. 'I know what you're thinking' is an interview with Derren Brown (good site), just about to become the UK's number one magician - or 'mentalist'. A bit like a less creepy David Blaine, the article tells how Brown used to be able to get himself free meals in restaurants, just by persuading the management that he'd already paid. There's also a lovely anecdote from the writer, Jay Rayner:

Coincidentally, I have known [Andy] Nyman for a few years. Early on in our friendship he came to dinner and, after the main course, I implored him to do a few tricks. He first got me to choose a card which I was to place in my shirt top pocket without showing him. Then he ran through a few other impressive card routines. Finally he returned to the card in my top pocket. It was the three of clubs, he said, and, of course, it was. He left the room and returned with a copy of that day's Times open to the announcements column. The first entry read 'Andy Nyman's flash image is that Jay Rayner will choose the three of clubs.'

Still with psychological manipulation, or why diamonds are forever - this fascinating article at The Atlantic reveals all. ‘To stabilize the market, De Beers had to endow these stones with a sentiment that would inhibit the public from ever reselling them. The illusion had to be created that diamonds were forever -- "forever" in the sense that they should never be resold.’ (thanks to tmn).

Some galleries. Winkerya has a set of thingsy photo galleries (see: I, II). UK equivalent (with landscapes too). A Dr Seuss advertising art archive. Pineapples in popular culture. Scanned faces at Brushstroke. Postcard galleries at 404 Object Not found (emphatically not boring). The site also has found objects and photos. Single-make car sites that are as comprehensive as this one make us happy. Dogs in Cars (via cheesedip). Just don't tell the RSPCA.

We've just finished Mark Kurlansky's Cod, so the historic photo archives at the The NorthEast Fisheries Science Center were more interesting than one might imagine. Also fishy: Cape Cod.