Deuce of Clubs Book Club: Books of the Weak

To Deuce of Clubs index page

I'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski

Guy Debord: Revolutionary

No Place to Hide

Command of Office

The Christ-Myth Theory And Its Problems

The Christian Delusion

Lincoln's Wrath

How to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself

The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex

Bossypants

Zombie Spaceship Wasteland

Catching the Big Fish

Dig Infinity

The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones

Crazy for God

Basin and Range

Anarchy Evolution

The File

John Ringo

The Supremes

End the Fed

Burning Book

The Hohokam Millenium

God's Middle Finger

Narcocorrido

In Heaven Everything Is Fine

The Shunning

Wisdom Sits in Places

The Marvelous Country

Hamilton's Curse

The Secret Life of Houdini

The Trouble with Being Born

Schulz and Peanuts

First Into Nagasaki

Joe Miller's Jests

Human Smoke

Dirty Tricks Cops Use

A Futile and Stupid Gesture

All For A Few Perfect Waves

Systemantics

Death in the Desert

American Signs

Secret Proceedings and Debates of the Constitutional Convention

Secrets Of A Stingy Scoundrel

The Self-Made Tapestry

A Constitutional History of Secession

The Neurotic's Notebook

Interrogation Machine

Monster Midway

The Harlot by the Side of the Road

Forced Into Glory

Imperial Life in the Emerald City

J. G. Ballard: Quotes

The Compleat Practical Joker

Laugh with Hugh Troy

Pranks!

A Liar's Autobiography

Cobb

Chasing Rainbows

Letters from Tucson, 1925-1927

The Five Fosters

The Giant Cactus Forest and Its World

How to Cheat Your Friends at Poker

World Famous Cults & Fanatics

That's Not All, Folks!

God's Problem

Will Christ Return By 1988?

Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology

The Whiskey Rebellion

FDR's Folly

Wilson's War

Bully Boy

[If] I Did It

The Dark Side

Secret Origins of the Bible

Godless

The End of Faith

Why I Became An Atheist

"Life's Calendar for 1922"

Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War

The Negro Cowboys

EXPECT RESISTANCE

Monty Python Speaks

Baseball Between the Numbers

The Psychopath's Bible

Satisfaction

J. G. Ballard: Conversations

Days of War, Nights of Love

Gospel Fictions and Who Wrote the Gospels?

The Real Deadwood

Deadwood

The Revolution: A Manifesto

45

The Secret Man

Stormin' Mormon

From Psyche to Soma

I'll Gather My Geese

The Osama bin Laden I Know

Alias "Paine"

A Man Without Words

The Wild Trees

The World Without Us

Arizona's Changing Rivers

The Phoenix Indian School

Realm of the Long Eyes

John Dillinger: The Life and Death of America's First Celebrity Criminal

Buckey O'Neill: The Story of a Rough Rider

Thanks For Tuning In

Adventures in the Apache Country

Waylon: An Autobiography

My Life: Sunrise to Sunset

Mimes and Miners: A Historical Study of the Theater in Tombstone

The First 100 Years: A History of Arizona Blacks

Enter Without Knocking

City in the Sun: The Japanese Concentration Camp at Poston, Arizona

House by the Buckeye Road

Vanished Arizona

The Big Con

The Astronomy Cafe and Back to the Astronomy Cafe

A Handbook on Hanging

The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right

A Mind Restored

Mr. Show: What Happened?!

Reclaiming the American Revolution

Stumbling On Happiness

Treasure Maps of the Superstitions

Sunny Slope

Did Genesis Man Conquer Space?

Look Homeward, America

Radicals for Capitalism

Kayaker's Little Book of Wisdom

God Is Not Great

The Echoing Green

The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll

K Foundation Burn a Million Quid

The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes and The Tao of Willie

Just Six Numbers and Our Cosmic Habitat

Wild Goose Chronicles

Behind Bars: Surviving Prison

Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce

The Gang They Couldn't Catch

Manhunt

A History of the End of the World

Al Sieber: Chief of Scouts

Apaches & Longhorns

Deep Survival

Captured

DINO

Sock

Bo: Pitching & Wooing

You Are Worthless

You And Your Hand

Access All Areas

Field Guide to the Apocalypse

The War on Terrorism

Those Idiots From Earth

September 11: An Oral History

Mortal Questions

The Heresy of Self-Love

The White Flag Principle

Medieval Panorama

An Honest President

Those Words

À rebours

Peterson's Incident Report Book

Boo! Culture, Experience, and the Startle Reflex

Victory Denied

Nothing, Arizona

A Porcine History of Philosophy and Religion

O Holy Cow!: The Selected Verse of Phil Rizzuto

DOME COMPENDIUM OF TOPICAL TREATMENT IN PROCTOLOGY

¿Hablas conmigo

Thirty-three Candles

Black Monk Time

Men of Distinction

Alexander the Corrector

Space Viking

Mark These Men

Hallucinogenic Plants

Prohibition: An Adventure in Freedom

JESUS! He's Our President

LOVE

How to Watch Football on Television

Merrill Markoe's Guide to Love

Lincoln: The Man and The Car

Whatever Men Know About Women

Biographies of Italian War Heroes

ABC of Espionage

Art Colony Perverts

Devil-ution

Starting Right with Bees

Planet Earth is a Cult

Baseball Letters

Fetish

Dopey Doings

Democracy: The God That Failed

Handgrenade Talk

Hi, How Are You?

het zingen van het ijs

The Museum of Jurassic Technology Jubilee Catalogue

The Rector and the Rogue

Colorful Cacti of the American Deserts

Odd Jobs: The World of Deviant Work

The Hungry Man's Outdoor Grill Cookbook

How to Get Invited to the White House

How to Work for a Jerk

Never Work for a Jerk!

The Mentality of Apes

Your Vigor for Life Appalls Me

Dr. Strange: Sorceror Supreme

Nautical Notions for Nibbling

A Short Introduction to the History of Human Stupidity

The Fake Revolt

Coup D'Etat

History of the Town of Felicity

Hood of Death

Dolls' House Bathrooms: Lots of Little Loos

Border Security / Anti-Infiltration Operations

Living on Light

God is for Real, Man

Did the Apostle Paul Visit Britain?

Twin Peaks

2001

Power Phrases

The Truth About Wagner

The Life of the Bee

Tombstone

Science Looks at Smoking

The Chiricahuas

The New Dark Ages Conspiracy

The Big Question

Everybody's Book of Epitaphs

The Death of the Fuhrer

Mindfuckers

Gorbachev! Has the Real Antichrist Come?

The World's Worst Poet

Alyssa Milano: She's the Boss

Home is the Desert

Nine Lives: From Stripper to Schoolteacher

How to Start Your Own Country

How to Found Your Own Religion

Sex Objects in the Sky

Indian Oratory

Bastard Without Portfolio

The Bedside Book of Bastards

Hopeless -- Yet There Is Hope

Bible in Pocket, Gun in Hand

Margie Asks WHY

Death of a Hippie

Wake Up or Blow Up

Feeling and Form

Guilt

A Mile in His Moccasins

Mojave Desert Ramblings

Passing of the Outhouse

This Way to Happiness

The Happy Life

Young Only Once

The Monkey Gland Affair

Bert Bacharach's Book for Men

The Two Babylons

For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes...

Why Christians Crack Up!

Why Do Christians Break Down?

Hava Nagila!

Beethoven or Bust

How to Abandon Ship

Livin' in Joe's World

The Last Democrat

Salvation Mountain

The Varmint and Crow Hunter's Bible

Love in the Western World

Jack the Ripper: Light-Hearted Friend

Little Men of the NFL

No One May Ever Have The Same Knowledge Again

The Secret Museum of Mankind

James Bond's World of Values

We Did Not Plummet Into Space

The Boy Who Didn't Believe IN CHRISTMAS

The Great Escape From Your Dead-End Job

All About Tipping

My Loser Godfrey

A Haircut in Horse Town

Mucusless Diet Healing System

Jefferson Returns

Lincoln Returns

Churchill Returns

Corporation Freak

Null Bock auf DDR

So You're Going on a Mission?

Nudes in My Camera

Why I Hate the Nazis

Flesh, Metal & Glass

The James Beard Cookbook

Mortal Refrains

Deadbolt

Amy Grant: A Biography

The X Cars

We Were Five

Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder

Hello ... Wrong Number

I'll Kill You Next!

Murder in Vegas

Did MAN Just Happen?

Terror at the Atlanta Olympics

Criswell Predicts

Your Next Ten Years

They Pay Me to Catch Footballs

The Phantom Menace

Just For Fellows

The Lopsided Gal

Astrology and Horse Racing

The Cokesbury Stunt Book

The Origin of Things

Remarks on the History of Things

U.S. Government Sewing Book

Funeral Tributes II

Blinky, the Friendly Hen

The Serbs Choose War

My Mystery Castle

Iggy

Funeral Customs the World Over

The Right to be Let Alone

Mormonism and the Negro

The Church and the Negro

Preacher with a Billy Club

Fighting Parson of the Old West

Invisibility: Mastering the Art of Vanishing

How to Disappear Completely

The Gentle Art of Making Enemies

How to Catch a Man, How to Keep a Man, How to Get Rid of a Man

Langenscheidts Konversationsbuch

Marlene Dietrich's ABC

The Bible in the Hands of Its Creators


How to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself

Robert Paul Smith (1958; rpt. 2010)

 

I find kidlore endlessly fascinating (maybe you remember, e.g., the Clothes Pin Match Gun page). I don't know whether kidlore persists as strongly as it once did. Maybe kidlore has been replaced by memes, or will be, and that'll be a shame, because memes are as temporary as anything can be, whereas kidlore went on and on and on.

Anything by Robert Paul Smith is worth reading, but my favorite book of his is How to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself It was Smith's belief that in the 1950s, American kids had become somewhat wussified and unschooled in how to entertain themselves.

How to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself

Imagine what Smith would think of us now. When I was a kid, every kid carried (or was presumed to be carrying) a pocketknife. There were no searches, metal detectors, or freakouts—and, oddly enough, an alarmingly low number of stabbings (I only ever saw two knife incidents that could be classed as accidental). As kids, we were told "The police officer is your friend," and we didn't believe it even then, when cops were slightly nicer, and somewhat less automatically brutal.

Nowadays, however, unfortunate kids forced into government schools get in trouble for, oh, say, biting a breakfast pastry into the approximate shape of a gun. And today's government school teachers and administrators often don't merely send kids to the principle: instead, uniformed and armed police officers come and book children—children—into jail. I'm not joking: kids these days are arrested and toted from one jail (school) to another jail (jail) for such horrific crimes as spraying themselves with perfume, throwing paper airplanes, or even just belching ("on a scale of 1 to 10 according to a risk assessment given by the jail staff, 10 being extremely dangerous," the burping child "scored a - 2").

All of that to say: kids, have a blast with this stuff, and let no one stop you!


If things were as they should be, another kid would be telling you how to do the these things, or you'd be telling another kid. But since I'm the only kid left around who knows how to do these things - I'm forty-two years old, but about these things I'm still a kid - I guess it's up to me.
These are things you can do by yourself. There are no kits to build these things. There are no classes to learn these things, no teachers to teach them, you don't need any help from your mother or your father or anybody. The rule about this book is there's no hollering for help. If you follow the instructions, these things will work, if you don't, they won't. Once you have built them my way, you may find a better way to build them, but first time, do them the way it says.
First thing is a spool tank. For this you need an empty spool. Here's one place your mother can be ootzed into the deal. You can ask her for a spool. If she hasn't got an empty one, you'll have to wait until she does. In the meantime, build something else. (9-10)

Now go outside and find a very smooth stone, like a sidewalk, and rub, gently, until the washer is nice and flat on both sides. You don't really need a stone, you can do it on a wooden floor, if your mother is someplace else. (11)

The other night, a friend of mine, who lived only six blocks away when we were kids, told me that he used to make the washers out of the paraffin that used to be on the top of jars of homemade jam. Now he tells me! (11n)

Another thing we used to do was make what we called a button buzz saw. This is something you can make in about five minutes any time you've got nothing special to do. (14)

[I]f you can't find a button or a spool at home, take a walk and go to the tailor shop, or cleaning store, or whatever they call it in your town or neighborhood. As I said this book is things you do yourself; so don't ask your mother to do this. (16-17)

While we're at handkerchiefs, we used to make blackjacks out of them. Not real blackjacks, not heavy or hard enough to injure anybody, but they were pretty good for fighting. You could catch a kid a pretty good shot with one, and he could thump you pretty good, but they didn't do any real harm. (20)

There were a couple of fairly idiotic things we used to do when we were just sitting around in the grass, which you might find fun. (22)

You may have noticed by now that the things in this book don't come in any sort of order; that some of the things I've told you about are for indoors, some for outdoors, some for spring and some for fall and some for winter: as I told you before, you're not supposed to do all the things in this book in order: when you've got the spool, build the spool tank. When you've got the burrs, make a burr basket. I think the best way to use this book is just to read it through once, and then put it somewhere where you can find it when you want it. And then one day, when you've got nothing special to do, hunt out an old handkerchief and make the parachute. Or find a button and make the buzz saw. But read the book through once. At the back, I'll put an index so that you can find out what you want when you want it.
One thing you're sure to have any old time is a pencil; and here are two things we always did with pencils, as soon as we owned a pocketknife. Right now, before I tell you about the pencils, let's have a little straight talk about a knife. I don't know how old you have to be before you get a pocketknife; that's up to your father. If you ask your mother, it'll probably turn out that she thinks you ought to be twenty-one before you can have one. I think you'll be able to work out something reasonable with your father. (26)

Now, here's something else that you're just going to have to argue out with your mother; I did with my mother, my kids did with their mother. A sharp knife is safer than a dull knife. A sharp knife cuts more easily, you don't have to use as much force on it, and you can control it. Nobody can do good work with a dull knife—and ask any carpenter, nobody can do safe work with any dull tool.
Now, it's got to be a good knife to be sharp. Nobody can put a good edge on a poor knife. A good one will cost more than a cheap one, but it's worth it. It'll take a good edge, it will hold it, and it will last practically forever. When I was a kid, we all thught the only good knife was a Case knife. They still make them, they're still good knives; there are lots of other good knives, but I know about Case. (27)

The only reason I'm even mentioning it is that people I've talked to claimed they knew a kid when they were kids who was able to make willow whistles. Maybe I'm just a dope about willow whistles and you'll be very good at making them. But everything else in the book I've made. I made them when I was a kid, and I made them again as a grownup, and they work. This is a guarantee. (31)

If you don't know what a willow tree looks like, go to the Public Library and get out a book about trees. You'll notice that all through this book, I advise you to go to the library when you want to find out something. I think just plain going to the library and getting out a book is a swell thing to do. It's something to do, when you've got nothing to do, all by yourself. It's a thing I still do when I've got nothing special to do. I just wander around until I find a book that looks interesting; let's say, a book about shipbuilding, or rockets, or a story by some author I've never heard of before. Now, chances are I'll never build a ship, or ride in a rocket, and maybe I won't like the way the author I never heard of writes. But it's interesting to know how someone else builds a ship, or plans to fly in a rocket, or how the author feels about things. (31-32)

Here's another place where the people I've been talking to don't agree. Some of them say sure, they remember this one, others say they don't. I think sometimes we did and sometimes we didn't. You see, in the days when I was a kid, you learned mumbly-peg from another kid, and the rules you learned were his rules. If he came from another part of the country, he taught you the way the kids played there: nobody, so far as I know, ever tried to write down the way to play mumbly-peg until I got stuck with the job. And believe me, the last thing in the world I want to see is an official rule book of mumbly-peg, or mumbly-peg leagues or championships. You can leave this one in, or take it out. It's your game, and you play it the way you think is right. Just be sure that when you play it with another kid, you're both playing the same game. (37)

The reason there'll still be arguments even with the rule is that sometimes it looks as if the guy is ootzing the knife up with his two fingers. It mostly looks that way when it's the other guy, rarely when it's yourself. Anyhow, this argument, like all arguments with your equals, is something you'll learn to straighten out by yourselves. (42)

Those people are around again, telling me how they played mumbly-peg. Okay, they called Wind the Clock "Slice the Cheese," and I told them that on my block Slice the Cheese was something entirely different, and it had nothing to do with slicing, cheese, or mumbly-peg. I feel sure your father will show you Slice the Cheese, or maybe he calls it Slice the Ham, but I don't know how happy you'll be to learn it. (52)

In any case, you hit the peg into the ground, and the loser had to pull it out with his teeth. Of course, if you got the peg far enough into the ground, the loser had to eat a little dirt to get at the peg, and chances are when he got his mouth full of dirt, he mumbled something—just what, I would not care to say. So, he mumbled the peg, and the game was called mumbly-peg.
But as I say, we never did that. I'm sure we would have, if we'd known it was a way to make somebody eat some dirt. You can do that part of it or not, as you please. It all depends on how you feel about getting a mouth full of dirt. (52-3)

It has been brought to my attention that some kids don't know how to make paste any more, that they think paste is only something that you can buy. With us, it was the other way around. We knew how to make it, and later on found out it was possible to buy it. Well, I'm not going to draw any pictures or give any careful instructions here. You take flour and water and mix it until it's paste, and if you have some salt you can put it in, too. I don't know if the salt does any good, but we figured we had nothing to lose. It wasn't our salt. (54n)

So I guess right here, there better be another little speech about danger, like the one about knives. It's my belief that things themselves are not dangerous. It's the people who use them. One man driving a car is safe as houses; another is a menace to everybody on the road. I thnk the man who is safe is safe because he knows how to drive a car properly, and the man who is a menace is a danger because he hasn't ever really learned to drive. Sometimes the dangerous man is dangerous because he just doesn' t care, which is even worse. You know kids like that, I'm sure.
But it doesn't seem to me the answer to safe driving is to do away with automobiles, nor does it seem to me any more sensible to do away with bee-bee guns because some kid you know is a dope.
I can't give you any better argument than that to use with your parents about any of the few things in this book that are dangerous; and I must say that as far as I am concerned, with my own kids, I show them how to use the dangerous things, then watch them do it for themselves, and if I see they don't do it just exactly the safe way, they don't get to use the dangerous thing until they prove to me that they know how to be careful.
It's got nothing to do with age, by the way; I know kids of seven that I'd trust with a knife, and I know men of fifty that I wouldn't trust with a sharp lollypop stick. (56-7)

I think you'll be pleased to find that this dart, used indoors, will stick to practically anything, curtains, furniture, sometimes even walls, and it does not leave a mark. I wouldn't suggest aiming it at the very best antique table in the livingroom, because even a little mark would convince your mother that the dart was dangerous.
Of course it is, and I'm here to tell you if I ever saw a kid throw one of these at another kid, there'd be a ruction in the house that wouldn't die down for a long time. (58)

If you want them [horse chestnuts] to shine more, take them and rub them up against the side of your nose. Perhaps you've seen your father or someone do that with a pipe. There's oil on everybody's skin there and it oils up the chestnut or the pipe and makes it shine. (65-6)

I'm not sure that we called these next things bull-roarers when we made them as kids, but I've since found out that's what they're called. I've also found out that they make them in many parts of the world, and in some primitive tribes, they're used by the grownups to scare devils away. We just used them to make enough noise to drive grownups away. (73)

You have now learned, even if you don't know it yet, something about the science of physics. I won't tell you what it is, but later on, when you study science, or right now, if you are studying science, you'll find out. The reason I won't tell you is because if I don't, maybe you'll go to your library again and get out a book about elementary physics, and that'll be one other nothing you can do with nobody. (75)

There was a kind of shopping we used to do when we were kids, which was just walking down our block and seeing what people had thrown away in the trash can, and taking out those things that looked useful. (80)

But if, after all this, you do happen to run across a busted umbrella, the first thing to do is to get all that remains of the cloth off the ribs, and then pry the ribs loose from the center part. You can use brute strength, pliers, or intelligence. The thing is to get them loose. (81)

I made a lot of them, and took them to school with me, and I guess my teacher liked to shoot miniature slingshots, too, because she made a collection of mine. (84)

I don't know how old you are, and I really don't know any more how old I was when I did the different things in this book, so if you find that some of the things are too old for you—wait until you're old enough to do them. If you find that some of the things in the book are too young for you, first figure out if they're really too young, if nobody else knows that you're doing them. I know that when I was a grown man, my wife and I went to live in Mexico for a while, and walking down the street one day, I saw a whole bunch of kids playing with what was, for me, a brand new toy. It was a yo-yo, and I'd never seen one before. I bought one—I told the shopkeeper that it was for my kid, but I didn't have a kid then, and I brought it home with me. Now certainly a yo-yo, as a matter of fact any toy, was too young for a man almost thirty years old, so I used to sneak out in the back yard when I wanted to learn how to use a yo-yo, and any time anybody came to the house when I was doing it, I stuck it in my pocket and pretended that I had been out back doing something important and grownup.
So, first of all, remember that the name of this book is How to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself and if some of the things sound a little childish, figure it out: do you think they're too childish, or do you think that if someone else saw you doing it, he would think it was childish? And if you really are too old to do some of these things, why don't you show your kid brother how to do them, or your little sister, or any little kid on the block? He or she will think they're great things, and they'll think you're great for showing them. (90-1)

Silly? You bet. But sometimes it's fun to be silly, and didn't you laugh just the other night when the man on television put on a funny hat? (93)

If you'll pluck the string, holding the whole thing by the yardstick in your closed hand, bending the yardstick into more or less of a bow, you'll produce a kind of ba-voom noise, which sounds very much like some of the noises you've heard on television when the man with the checkered suit has had one drink too many. (99)

I don't know what the name of this is. It's just a ba-voom thing. (100)

Teachers used to take these away from us, too. (109)

There's a way of making a helicopter, too. By the way, when I was a kid, it was clearly understood that there never would ever be a real full-size, man-carrying helicopter. It had been very carefully proven, scientifically, that it was impossible ever to make one that would get off the ground. (114-15)

I'm not making fun of scientists; it wasn't so long ago that all the scientific theories in the world were based on the theory that it was impossible to split the atom. Well, of course. Everything is impossible until it's done. Then whatever has been done is possible, and there's a new thing that's impossible. (115)

That stuff called Silly Putty works, too, but that costs money. (119)

Of course, you never know how long it's going to take for the match to come loose. I'll guarantee only one thing; it won't ever let loose at the exact moment you're expecting it. If you put it on the table next to your father when he's making out his income-tax return, it should produce some interesting results. He may tell you what he did to scare his father when he was a kid, and he may even show you what his father did to him when he scared him when he was a kid. (120)

There are lots of other things you can do, all alone, by yourself, but these are about all I can think of right now that aren't specialized in some way.
I'm really serious about the library; that's the best place to learn more. We did lots of other things when we were kids, like collecting bugs, and wild flowers, and frogs, and snakes, and stones—and in the library I promise you there will be a really expert book on each of these, and on many other subjects, written by people who've made a life study of those special things. There will be books about trees and radio sets and telescopes and badminton and Indian crafts and metal work, about how to make bows and arrows, how to swim, how to—oh, there's no end. There's even a book on how to find a how-to book.
Some silly grownup has even written a book on how to read a book.
But if you've gotten this far, I know you know how to read a book.
There's only one thing left to tell you: the name of this book is How to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself. I understand some people get worried about kids who spend a lot of time alone, by themselves. I do a little worrying about that, but I worry about something else even more; about kids who don't know how to spend any time all alone, by themselves. It's something you're going to be doing a whole lot of, no matter what, for the rest of your lives. And I think it's a good thing to do; you get to know yourself, and I think that's the most important thing in the whole world. (120-1)


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