Divided Review Project: Prank the Monkey - the ZUG Book of Pranks

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On Sunday, January 28, 2007, I dropped 162 envelopes in the mail. Each envelope contained a single page from Sir John Hargrave's literary masterwork, Prank the Monkey. Hundreds of volunteers stood by their mailbox, ready to help with this massive project: Reviewing an entire book. The first reviews came in almost immediately, the pages were a hit!  Below, and continuing for the next five pages are the one-page reviews of this modern epic of pranks.

My thanks go to everyone who helped with this project.

Cover The cover of "Prank the Monkey: The ZUG Book of Pranks", seemingly simple at first glance, is fantastically complex. Note the dual cycles, first in the title beginning and ending with a variation of "prank", and a photo of a chimpanzee quite possibly photoshopped by a chimpanzee. (As a side note, even the chimpanzee is aware he is not a monkey as the title would imply, but a member of the Hominidae family.) Even hates-the-word-"blogger" Maddox chimes in with a Shakespearean endorsement on the upper right corner. Note the iambic pentameter when he writes "I have become a blubbering fanboy". All of this is cleanly wrapped up with the author himself, who is so respectful he even calls himself "sir".
Title/Copyright pages Page numbers? I ain't got no page numbers! Guess you could call them Title Page and Copyright/Information Page. Title page is one of the best title pages I have ever seen. The font just leaps off the page at you. It scared me. I liked it. Next comes "The ZUG Book of Pranks". What's a ZUG? Zionist Under Ground? Zebra-striped Underwear Guys? I am intrigued. Next, a delightful cartoon of a banana peel. Pranks, get it? Next comes the author's name, Sir John Hargrave. Any book written by royalty has got to be hilarious. Illustrations by Al Natanagara? An obvious anagram. At the bottom of the page is a crenelated tower, which conjures up images of trapped princesses, myself starring as the heroic knight. Finally, we come to the information page. Just chock full of facts and numbers. Publishers address, copyright date, design credit,Library of Congress Control Number, it's all here. It even has two ISBN numbers! Fantastic! I can honestly say that I have never read a more interesting page in my life. So much for the early birds getting all the worms. Steve
Preface Page ?-? (Appear to be "Pre-Chapter 1" tidbits) "About ZUG.com" A shameless plug for ZUG.com spiced up with humorous rhetorical questions. Useful for those who hate their jobs, are contemplating suicide, or both - who's to judge? After reading it, I feel oddly compelled to visit ZUG.com. And I like my job... The back side of "About ZUG.com" is covered in hand-written scribble. It's either the ramblings of a madman or a primer on how to fool spam filters. With such insights as "all the truth is so coal ruby are the lies always rich" and "but you didn't see 2 brothers from Spain", it is truly to be taken to heart and offers inspiration to us all. (Note: quotes may not be accurate as the writing appears to be that of a drugged up psychopath... or a doctor...) Overall - the best incomprehensible gibberish I've read since James' _Turn of the Screw_. -jrg
Advance Praise Page number: no page numbers I received the page containing Advance Praise for "Prank the Monkey" and Advance Rejection for "Prank the Monkey." This page contains blurbs from other authors or web page creators, praising "Prank the Monkey". People who liked "Prank the Monkey" include Maddox (author of "The Alphabet of Manliness"), Drew Curtis (FARK.com), Jonathan Ames (author of "Wake Up, Sir!"), Ze Frank (zefrank.com), Legendary prankster Alan Abel, and George Ouzounian (creator of The Best Page in the Universe). People who rejected to review or write a blurb for "Prank the Monkey" because their schedules were too busy include "Weird" Al Yankovic, Dave Eggers, John Hodgman, Penn Jillette and last but not least Dave Barry, who thanks the author for some Marlins tickets but still refused to do a blurb. I'd also like to add that this book seems to be bound with very good glue. The page was stuck to itself when I first tried to unfold it after removing it from the envelope.
Title Page Title Page (Not the library of Congress ISBN Copyright page, but the actual title page) The title page is smooth and white to the touch, no noticeable scent. The font is a bold condensed sans-serif, possibly Univers 65? What I dislike is the change in style and format. The font sizes changes from title and subtitle, and format is all over the place. "Prank" and "Monkey" are all caps bold, "the" bold but all lowercase, "Zug" all caps but not bold. Overall I find the title page a disappointment and lacking in pranks. Review by Steven Jones 2/10/'07
Page 1-2 1-2 Wow, what an honor to receive the first two pages of "Prank the Monkey"! I was rolling on the floor laughing at these 13 paragraphs (a literal ROTFL)! Like a crack addict who needs a fix, I'm anxious to pick up my copy of this cleverly written book. I bet this is some sort of prank by John Hargrave... get Rob to pass out pages of a book, then see how many people buy the whole thing... wait, that's not a prank, that's a clever marketing strategy... hmmmm. In any case, a brief sinopsis of my pages are that Hargrave gets caught "testing" the anti-theft gates at CVS, then belittles the security guard. Page 2 ends with him getting arrested, but only my imagination can finish the story! In any case, here is the review you requested... you can put this quote on the back of the book: "Best two pages of a prank book that I have read this year". After I finished with my review, I let my fish take a gander at the pages. They seemed to like it, and the shrimp seemed especially excited by the new reading material. Up to now, they've just been reading "thermometer.... thermometer.... thermometer...." They seem to indicate that this writing is better than that single word. <>. --Daniel Lunsford
Page 3-4 Pages 3 & 4: My portion of the introduction begins with the end of what appears to be a captivating story. I base this purely on the fact that any story ending with a paddy wagon must be a good one. The introduction then goes on to explain the very nature of pranks: "A good prank doesn't have to bring down The Man, but it does have to get a laugh at The Man's expense." It then goes on to explain, in a sarcastic yet captivating tone, the duality of the author's existence.
Page 5-6 5 & 6. On page five, Sir John explains why he pranks. And I completely agree. Why the hell do the pools have so many stupid rules? (It makes sense. Just read the book.) Page six is mostly blank. Only one paragraph graces the page. I heartily recommend page five to anyone, but I feel that page six was a bit disappointing. Still, if these pages are any indication, the book will be a pleasure to read.
Page 7-8 Pg 7 and 8 Page seven has the words CORPORATIONS very prominitly displayed with a dandy border and some little clip art that in my opinion do everything remind one of the cruelties of child labor, rich people getting richer, poor people getting poorer, and the American way. Page 8 is a very well written intro to a Wal-mart Prank. It has many facts which it sites in the side, that may come in useful if you were to do a Public Forum Debate in Speech 1 of your freshman year of highschool. ~ David Spiva, Modesto CA.
Page 9-10 Page 9 and 10. WOW, How cool is it that I got the beginning of a section! Part 1. Reasoning. John talks about his encounter with wal-mart representatives concerning the editing of his book in order to get them on wal-mart's shelves. Page ten is very funny where he describes his conversation with Rob Conner ending with "uniporn" Awesome. I wonder what page 11 is like!
Page 13-14 Pages 13-14. I received the tail end of Part II and the start of Part III of the Wal-Mart Prank. Coming in right before the punchline is tough, but something I anticipated when signing up to review one page of a book. I guess it's better to know the end than the beginning. Sadly, the end wasn't good. The Wal-Mart prank involves duplicating Wal-Mart tags and putting them on items prohibited from sale at Wal-Mart. Then you try to get Wal-Mart to resell the items to you (along with some standard purchases). It took some effort, but the folks at ZUG finally managed to buy forbidden items to a tune of almost $50. Unless I missed a wrinkle earlier, the prank it getting a major corporation to charge you for something you already bought somewhere else. Way to not stick it to the man! Part III repeats the experiment with pornography, something most cashiers would likely catch. At least in that instance being caught is much more likely, which could expand the prank to include managers and other customers. If you want to give Wal-Mart a hard time, I find not shopping there works better than giving them cash for a quick laugh. They're probably laughing a lot harder than the folks at ZUG.
Page 19-20 19-20 I was gonna write one more review, lauding the humor and general enjoyability of Prank the Monkey but then my copy-editing wife got hold, of it. In her honor, I'm not going to figure out whether I'm supposed to put the title of the book in quotes. In fact, I'm gonna go back right now and insert a few unnecessary commas. *********************** [Rob: this review is for pages 19-20; a photo of my wife's editing marks is being emailed for inclusion with the review.]
Page 21-22 Pages 21-22 I would like to take this opportunity to thank the gracious Mr. Cockerham for the privilege of participating in this monumental project. To think that someone with his stature, his poise, his complex view of the natural world we live in, and its impact on todays hair styles, to think that a man such as this would involve me in this intriguing challenge, well, it's very flattering to say the least. To be able to facilitate ones own thoughts on such complex subject matter and be among peers that can identify with the result is like discovering ambrosia in the back of your freezer! And this project is REAL ambrosia, it's not freeze dried or anything, true greatness. We are bringing a divine intellectual process to the masses with this project. Rejoice at the opportunity! And while I do apologize for meandering a bit I do hope you will indulge me. For I have a charming story to tell about how I received pages 21 and 22, or as I like to call them, BlackJack and his retired brother. It had been a long day at the office, the weather was crummy, the attitudes of my coworkers were crummy, a blue day to say the very least. The office refrigerator had expired. My Healthy Choice meal had thawed and turned, and I believe the cleaning boy, Steve, had managed to perforate my Slim Fast shakes with that ice pick he carries around. What a card that boy! So the clock finally hits the hour of 5 and I head home in thrilling fashion, driving my 1983 Datsun hatchback as hard as physically possible, so I could get home to a delicious boxed wine. I had just given mom her medication and settled down with my Slurpee glass of Franzia and settled in to spend the night watching my Fresh Prince of BelAir boxed set. I managed to secure all 148 episodes and had been watching them all in order for the past several weeks. After 7 episodes I checked on mother. She was sound asleep. I was a tad naughty and helped myself to a few pills when I recalled that I had not yet checked the mail. So after breaking in another box of Franzia, I believe it was the red this time, I went to check the mail. And low and behold, an item from California! After some initial disappointment that this was not in fact a screenplay acceptance letter (a mental response delayed no doubt by the wine and pills! So naughty!) I recalled something about examining a book deal, or a book signing, book sale? Weekly Reader? Eh, whatever it was, I am sure it will come to me. Where was I? Oh yes, the page. I apologize Mr. Cockerham. I woke up that night at a late hour with a desire for crapes, but no real desire to make them, so I rolled some canned pie filling up using that page. The page may have had something to do with receipts? Signing your life away? I recall a possible Mariah Carey mention and some CowLicking. Either way, it was delicious, a multi-layered flavor I could never have achieved without your help. So you see, I really am in a pickle. I apologize, the dog did not eat my homework. I DID! Isn't that precious? Again, I apologize. I would be happy to expand this interlude at your invitation should you provide the wine and an airline ticket, perhaps some pills and a muzzle for mother as well. Nathan C. Kansas City, KS.
Page 23-24 23-24 Wow, these two pages exemplify the one thing that I usually do when I have to sign the fun little receipt at the end of a transaction. Sign as someone else. The author uses names such as Zeus, Porky pig, and also used the infamous "Please Check ID." The final receipt in which he signs as "I stole this card" really brought up the fact that many retailers don't check the customers signature.
Page 25-26 25-26 This is terrible, I used to work retail and man, if a guy came in and immediatly asked for a $16000 purchase off the bat, I would pee my pants with glee, im sure much like this indian man did. Upon the customer signing NOT AUTHORIZED for the transaction, I would have had possibly the most dissapointing story of my life to share. Bravo.
Page 27-28 Pages 27 and 28 I instantly recognized these pages as the end of the credit card prank, a Hargrave classic, the first that I read in fact. I was really hoping to see some of his brand new material in these pages, but oh well. Definitely a good read, describes attempting to sign for a $16,800 purchase with "NOT AUTHORIZED" and how this is the first time a store actually checked his signature. Should be old hat to anyone familiar with Zug or Sir John's work, and I am definitely looking forward to reading the rest of the book. It's a steal at $9.95! I am mondo glad I got to take place in this, when I saw that too many responses had been gathered, and that some review pages had already been posted, I feared that I had missed out. But my joy was incredible when I saw the small envelope from Rob Cockerham. Big Rob from Michigan
Page 29-30 Pages 29 and 30.
Page 29 is pretty boring. It's got the last three sentences of a prank and a picture of the back of a credit card. Page 30 is a little better; there's a joke about Starbucks and a picture of a boob.
Page 31-32 pp. 31-32 Dear Rob and Cockeyed fans, Wow! What a page I got. I was worried about getting the table of contents or a section that made no sense without the context of adjoining pages. Not only was I lucky enough to be charged with reviewing a section that stands on its own pretty darn well, I also got one describing a prank against one of my least favorite institutions; Starbucks. Pages 31 and 32 within the “Starbucking the System” prank section boast a handsome inset graphic of a hoax business plan that was (I believe) actually presented to the folks at Starbucks corporate by the ZUG pranksters. Mocking the ubiquity of Starbucks and deriding its hegemonic destruction of the availability of coffee variety, the faux plan hilariously suggests that the only potential way for Starbucks to earn higher profits (short of “injecting coffee into fetuses”) is to create a sort of hierarchy of customers and charge more for an elite, speedier coffee delivery service within Starbucks’ actual stores. Complete with clever writing, splashy pie-charts, and nauseating brand-management speak, this page will make you sick, just like Starbucks’ coffee does. Sure, I’m against the corporate behemoth-ness of Starbucks but, much more importantly, their product is chalky and burnt tasting. I suggest buying your coffee, smooth and delicious, at the local Dominican joint on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Rosita, the shy one on the left of the photo, could give lessons to any barista. - Lon Hughes
Page 35-36 35 and 36 Sometimes just a taste is all you need to know if the cow and the badger are fixin' to bake a cake. That being said, pages 35 and 36 feel like they represent the entirety of the book pretty well. The prank seems to revolve around setting up a coffeeshop within a coffeeshop. I enjoyed the absurdity of the concept as well as the lengths to which the pranksters went to pull it off. However, the book reads more like a good web site one secretly visits during his workday rather than something you would want to go through the trouble of actually buying. Pages 35 and 36 did make me curious as to the other pranks in the book, and while not written to my liking, it sure beats the bullshit they try to push on pages 83 and 84! (pics to follow)
Page 37-38 Pages 37 & 38 Despite beginning and ending with sentence fragments. It took half a page before I had enough context to properly appreciate the lengthy onomatopoeia presented in the sixth line of text. In all, this was a forceful account of roughly five minutes of the Author's foray into pranking one of largest coffee retailers named after a Battlestar Galactica character. I was left wanting more as the excerpt concluded a mere 16 words into a passage titled "I Smell Bacon" (I so hope it was something to do with that goofy POV dog treat commercial that ran in the late 1990's). Craig Wilson - Milwaukee
Page 43-44 43-44 Pages 43-44 were hilarious. A prank is being played on several clothing manufacturers, and a shirt that has been worked out in for a week is being sent back due to unpleasant odors. I have to get the book now, as I need to know what happened before and after my pages. The prose flows, and I like this guy's style. Thanks!
Page 47-48 Pages 47 and 48 wrap up a prank involving attempts to return a shirt to various clothing stores. I'm not sure I really "get" the prank to begin with, but there's some pretty good jokes in this part of the writeup. I also enjoyed the helpful tables summarizing Hargrave's retail experiences. If you are reading this book, then you'll probably want to cover these two pages, just so you know how the prank ends.
Page 49-50 Pages 49 and 50. I had heard that you weren't sending out pages to everyone who had given you their address, so after I saw the first reviews pop up I concluded that I wasn't one of the blessed winners of this homework assignment. However, I was delighted when I found a wee envelope containing a page of Prank the Monkey! It came to me in the mail! Getting mail is always fun, especially when it doesn't want money from me. Inside was a folded-up page of the book, and a bitty orange thank you note. Unbeknownst to most, if you use your secret decoder ring on this peice of paper, you get a secret dirty joke. Page 49 contains a reproduced form letter from L.L. Bean to John Hargrave, and a check for $2.44. Presumably, wacky hijinks ensued in order for John to receive this wacky amount of money. Wacky. I found this page to be somewhat piquant, with a hint of oregano. Page 50 is the start of a new section of the book titled, "Fight the Power (Company)". Here John expresses his dislike of the power companies, and especially their bills. A copy of what is presumably his bill is included. A final paragraph starts to relate his call to the power company to complain. I can only quake in wonder at what crazed queries John presents to the stuffy CSR. I found this page to be overly rich. Perhaps less olive oil should have been used. After receiving my page, I made color photocopies of the envelope it came in, the page from the book, and the orange thank you note. I then promptly shredded the original documents, to keep them from falling into terrorist hands! I mailed the shredded documents back to Rob, for safekeeping. I was going to send photographs of my experiences with the mystery-page, but I lack a camera. Perhaps Rob should send out cameras to each of his reviewers next time. Thanks for including me Rob! Thanks for writing a book for me to say stupid things about John! Please feel free to review the separate paragraphs of my review per your whim.
Page 51-52 Pages 51 and 52. I laughed. I cried. I couldn't put it down. Arvil Saylor -- Florence, KY
Page 57-58 Pages 57 and 58 I was very elated when I received my little packet of ZUG. Page 58 features a full-page photo of the infamous Sir John himself, taken by a guy that looked like the Quaker Oats guy. It is even a color photo!...well, if you happen to be wearing colored 3-D glasses... So the previous page, page 57, picks up in the middle of a prank in the 'Corporations' section and provides some hilarious insight into the photo, although the complete structure of the prank is not contained on the page. I loved the final sentence of the page that described his reaction following this part of the prank: "I felt electric." I will most likely end up checking this book out to read about the rest of this prank, and end up enjoying everything else! It has a great transcript style that helps to enhance the funny-factor in these pranks. I've also provided some photos to document this divided review. ~Jeremy Apgar, Bethlehem, PA

Please continue reading page two of the divided review project, Prank the Monkey.

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