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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

The Borderline Sociopathic Book For Boys

My son received The Dangerous Book For Boys as a gift. It’s a right smart looking tome, with its old-fashioned cloth cover, Warren G. Harding typeface, and heavyweight off-white paper inside. I got to looking around in there.

Hmmm. How to play soccer. Make a paper airplane. Marbling paper.

Marbling paper? This is beginning to sound like the Dangerous Book For Emily Dickinson. It appears to my untrained eye that perhaps the only dangerous thing in this book is nine letters between “The” and “Book.” Well, we are not our hearty and hardy forebears, are we? But perhaps we can punch this up a bit. Kick it up a notch. There are plenty of things a boy can do to get himself in real trouble these days. Here’s my outline for new version:

The Borderline Sociopathic Book For Boys
(Since the Dangerous Book has upped the ante by claiming that learning to play chess makes you a ninja, we’ll have to stoke the furnace of hyperbole further to get noticed at this point.)

1. Ride a bicycle without a helmet. You heard me. And no spandex spangled with lavender and chrome yellow blotches and French words. You’ll wear canvas shoes, too. You will not have anything with you that people with helmets refer to as “hydration.” Eventually, you can get a blast of rubber-tasting hot water from a garden hose.

2. Tell your 5th grade teacher, when she starts in with the Vegan lecture again during a spelling lesson, that you’re going to kill and eat your supper as soon as you can get your hands on some weapons. Then inform her that if she gives you anything less than a ‘B” on any report card because you told her that, your father will have a phalanx of lawyers turn her life into a deposition purgatory. Then don’t pass in any homework for the remainder of the term. Let’s see who has the stones.

3. We’re playing FOOTBALL, without any equipment but the ball. There are no rules, so this chapter is short. Soccer is Irish stepdancing with a ball introduced. We don’t want any of that.

4. We’re going out with dad on Earth Day, and we’re cutting down a tree with a chainsaw. Dad is hung over and is in a hurry and there is only one set of ear and eye protection, so one of you risks blinding, the other deafness. Solidarity is the hallmark of any male bonding ritual. The chainsaw’s guard is cheap and flimsy, but that doesn’t matter because it came out of the box broken anyway. Which leads us to…

5. Duct Tape. We’re going to use a lot of duct tape. We are going to dress our wounds, splint our shins, fix our tools, and tape our little brother’s door shut with glorious, magnificent Duct Tape. When the womenfolk complain about the gummy residue it leaves on your siblings, we will remove it with rags soaked in acetone. These will be disposed of improperly. I guess. Who reads the MSDS sheet? Girls.

6.We are not cave men, son. Electronics are a part of our world now. You will find pictures of girls on the internet who are not clothed. You will educate yourself on the proper procedure for removing cookies and browsing history. You will leave one picture of a girl wearing only very steeply inclined shoes and a fetching pill-box hat on the hard-drive, and when it is discovered –by mom– you can deny, deny, deny. Then watch your dad squirm and sleep on the couch for a week.


8. You will have a sip of Dad’s beer while you watch the football game together. You will remark on the grooming, stature, or level of pneumatic charms displayed by a Baltimore Ravens cheerleader while doing so. Dad’s beer tastes awful, and dad knows it, so this isn’t all that dangerous for you. He, however, is risking a decade in the pokey over this. We’re in this dangerous thing together, son.

9. You will fight with your fists with the biggest jerk in your school. If you’re the biggest jerk in your school, you will fight with at least two classmates at a time, or any adult that rides a recumbent bicycle. You will all be in trouble, bigtime, with every adult involved. You will sit on the bench outside some boneless wonder’s school administration office, rubbing your shiners, and share the respect reserved only for the men in the arena. It’s the only real way to make friends with people you don’t like.

10. You will give the Dangerous Book For Boys to your little sister.

Update: Visit our Borderline Sociopathic Blog For Boys.

48 Responses

  1. Actually, I think suggestion number 2 is quite practical. It would work. Given the world we live in, it’s probably been tried already.

  2. The truly dangerous boy’s Christmas list would certainly include a hunting knife, a Zippo lighter, a hatchet, a slingshot, a rifle (BB, pellet, or .22, age-appropriate), a bow and arrow, a boomerang, a machete, an electric train, and a chemistry set.

    I recall wearing my hunting knife on my belt to school in the 4th grade, and not even standing out in the crowd.

    I once combined some chemistry set lore and the model train transformer into an electrolysis rig that cranked out some serious chlorine gas. No bugs in my bedroom!

    A chum also showed me a great trick with model airplane sparkplugs and firecrackers…

  3. On rainy days my cousin and I would get lead ingots to melt them down. They used to sell molds and we could make little soldiers and then paint them, probably with paint that contained lead. We also had a lot of fun handling mercury.

  4. #3 on your list was responsible for 2 broken noses and one concussion (or maybe two, a bit hazy on that point) own my on body, and one broken leg, numerous scrapes (watch out for those sprinkler heads), and a stitches requiring forehead wound on others in my presence.

    Good times, good times.

    Unsupervised playground time FTW!

  5. I shared this post at work, and heard about boys setting a gravel driveway on fire with firecrackers and bottle rockets (dipped in gasoline), exchanged knowing looks with every other male who read it, and got stared at strangely by females. It is indeed a solidarity thing.

  6. xwl-West Coast hardscape football represent!

    Mike and fred and glynn lived to tell the tale, which is proof positive the thing should be attempted.

    Ruth Anne- We are not qualified to raise girls. That was my “royal we” talking.

  7. As I said before, excellent post. Won’t bore you with my youthfoul history, but thank you for the diagnosis. Had many excellent weapons and experiences in my long ago youth. (Crayfish and gasoline, among others–they turn red. Sorry!) Gasoline does no not always burn if you drop a match into it.

    Thank God.

    Shot a Killdeer for the hell of it when I was about 14. Never shot an animal again. It shamed me. Still love steak though. Someone wrote every boy should kill an animal at least once and then decide. I don’t hunt anymore, but have great respect for those who do.

    Didn’t think of myself as a sociopath until today, (still don’t, just a kid) but thank you for the diagnosis, Dr. Sippican 🙂

    Excellent, as I said.


  8. The doctor is always in, for jd kelly.

    Hunters are the only people I’ve ever met that have any idea what actual animals are like. And farmers, of course.

  9. I still look back with a fond sense of wonder at the 4th, 5th, and 6th grade when we boys would go out on the playground and play dodgeball, smear the queer, and Vietnam War. When one of us was “wounded”, we would beg the others to shoot us and put us out of our misery.

    Good Times!

  10. Great idea.

    I think the Dangerous Book fashion is a good thing, even though it is, as you note, fairly mild. It’s a start, and there is some serious dewussifying to do.

    Point of comparison. I was not a particularly daring or aggressive boy of the 50’s and 60’s (we were more into projectiles than explosions) but even my recklessness would be considered pathological now.

  11. Mid-fifties England and 5th grade meant we strapped three clusters of three 1-inch rockets to the tincan, as boosters, to take the mouse into orbit.

    Or at least upward. RAPIDLY.

    It was VERY male-boy, VERY great fun and VERY informative when performing the post-mortem on the few mouse remains we recovered.

    A splendid time was had by the boys, and the girls all went, “Eeeeew! Yuck!”

  12. webutante is a great name. I’m afraid I’m not qualified to talk about girls. I have never figured out even one of them. My wife will testify to this.

    gagdad bob- Can we not channel T.E. Lawrence? We seek adventure, and fear no man.

    karridine- Splatnik

  13. At 12 years of age, armed with only a bicycle and gravity (courtesy of Sierra Vista Drive) I successfully separated a mailbox from its 4×4 post using my nose to focus the kinetic energy on the appropriate point. Didn’t need a helmet either.

    Great essay!


  14. LoL! Excellent!

    Roger on all of Mike Anderson’s suggestions too, knife, zippo, hatchet, wristrocket, pellet guns, arrows, trains… I even did the clorine experiment with a few extra added chemicals – parents came home in the middle of it though, so I corked the test tube, stuck it in my pocket and attempted to get out of sight. No luck, blew up right in my pocket. Yep, that hurt.

    Wait a minute though… where are the dirtclod fights? Hard to have a dangerous childhood without dirtclod fights. Big badge of honor there, being met at the school gates the next morning by an honor guard of your best friends, a big wad of cotton taped over the eye from where the doctor spent an hour picking chunks out of your eye with tweezers. Nothing like an after cub-scout-meeting night time neighborhood ravaging dirtclod fight. Ah yes, good times, good times.

  15. What about mumbly peg in the elementary school playground during recess?

    When I was in elementary school (1955-1963), every boy had a pocket knife.

  16. Luckily for me, I had only brothers and was raised as a boy. By time I was eight and had figured out that I was, in fact, a girl, it was too late. I’d spent my formative years fighting with dirt clods, performing anti-cosmetic surgery on my dolls, learning to tolerate the shocks from electric fences and terrifying the neighborhood by engineering the building of a dam which, when it broke, washed away all the vegetable patches and one workshop.

    Needless to say, my sons are well prepared to defend us against wussification and Jihadists. My daughters are better men than most of the androgynous male idiots their ages.

    And I volunteer to help Webutante electronically with the book for girls. My first suggestion is the proper use of nail polish, which of course is to paint bright pink and purple female tribal designs on the legs, backs and arms of oneself and one’s friends.

    Nice work, Sip.

  17. Boys like to jump from high places with or without fake parachutes. You are not a boy until you know what it’s like to be semiconscious with the wind totally knocked out of you. Remember how your best buddy sounded when he tried to talk but couldn’t breathe. Said exercise also introduces you to extreme pain and emergency rooms.

    My little brother jumped off the roof of our rancher into our back yard–a drop of about 15 feet. We allowed him to use our Dad’s golf umbrella because he was pretty little. During the descent the umbrella turned inside out and was destroyed. When he got his breath back, he started crying. Not because he was hurt but because he knew what would happen when our Dad found out about the umbrella.

  18. Yeah, I found that marbling paper chapter in the book. I was like — WTF? Making pretty patterns on paper? That’s something I would do. I’m pretty sure that if anything is something I would it do shouldn’t be in a “dangerous book for boys.”

  19. I do miss the old “how to” books for boys. When I was 12 I built an arc light in the basement using two carbon rods, a flower pot, the cord from an old toaster and the household current. Plugged it in and the basement lit up like the sun. The book said it could reach temps of 5000 degrees and melt stuff. Blew a fuse.

  20. I was going to leave a long winded comment about your list, but I have my own blog, so I posted most of it there. What I wish I would have posted is this:
    As kids, we played a game called ‘Cobra Dance of Death’ where we would go to the park during the days the sprinklers were turned on. They were attached to large hard rubber hoses, and we would disconnect one whenever they stopped, and when they started up again, the hose would become like a living snake, thrashing and spraying highly pressurized water all over us. The object was to get wet, without getting hit by the hose.

  21. Believe it or not, everbody–it ain’t “duct tape,”–it’s “duck” tape. jus’ like everbody says it.

    Got it’s name (in WWII) from its water-shedding ability, not for its use in repairing one of the thousands of things it’s useful for repairing. I mean–c’mon–who’d ever even remember that it was great for emergency surgery on a bile duct? Gimme a break.

  22. Ah yes, the fireworks, exploding B-17 models and the plaster bombs shot into the air from a wrist-rocket. To make: Insert one black cat firecracker into almost dry plaster circle about a nickel-size round. Squeeze plaster to encase firecracker. Let dry. Get wrist-rocket slingshot, pull back and have buddy light firecracker – then let go high into the sky.
    Be warned that if it blows up early you could put an eye out. Ignore warning. We did.

  23. Actually, number 5 should be updated to Gorilla Tape. Gorilla Tape is duct tape on steroids and a few gamma rays.

  24. Oh, yeah, all of this stuff is excellent. One thing that hasn't been mentioned is putting rocket engines into model cars, and running them up the street on a wire. (Cut a hole in the back of the plastic car with a red hot piece of metal. Insert rocket engine. Glue empty pen barrel or metal tube to top of car to run the wire through). Have the far end of the wire anchored to a brick for a spectacular rocket-powered collision. Best of all, insert a baggie with a small amount of gasoline in front of the rocket engine, so that when the engine burns through, it ignites the gasoline and car.

    Boys were boys back then. Maybe they will be again, if the neuterizing feminists can be dislodged from power.

  25. We had a game called 'Suitcase O'Death.' It required a ginormous suitcase, made out of cloth with a zipper to close.

    Procedure: Put suitcase on top of shelf in the basement. Insert a kid and zip him or her in. Knock suitcase off shelf onto bed, roll case & kid off bed and around the floor.

    Important note: All kids in neighborhood could play but had to be *quiet*! Suitcase had to be dropped on thin edge, so it was easy to roll.

    Mother must not know about this game because it was quite possible to break someone's neck. I quit playing with ME in the suitcase, since I was the oldest, biggest and most likely to die.

    Kept giving other kids rides, though. And, since 4 kids in ten families got law degrees, I can assure you that 2nd poster had it right.

    We know how to maim with a Purgatory of Depositions.

  26. Project Gutenberg's "The Boy Mechanic" seems like a good place to start.

    Gaffer's tape, think duct tape without the residue.

    Still carry around a pocket knife, now known as a multi-tool. Learned that a bully hates right cross to the nose. Did fish with carbide and a sealed can with puncture holes.

    Good times.

  27. I like number seven, but suggest that you change it to "fireworks" so that it will include bottle rockets, et al.
    Another suggestion, add to "bicycles" the instructions to learn to build a ramp, the bigger the better.
    Fun times, fun times…

  28. Great Blogs. I'm a Sixties kid, and made alot of plastic model ships and planes. Then recreated WWII blowing them up with M-80s, and gobs of Testor's glue for flame and smoke. All sorts of cool stuff available to 12 year olds for under a buck back then. BB guns were the least of our parents worries.

  29. You will before age 10 learn how to fry bacon and eggs into a delightful breakfast food on toast without burning down the house and you will make one for Dad too.


  30. I'm an oldster of 60 now, so I'm of the generation that would be considered terrorists if we acted the way we did, now. We commonly shot each other with BB guns and slingshots, hunted small animals with same; passed around M-80s and cherry bombs like kids have sparklers now, and used said explosives in interesting and funny ways, most of which would now be worth 10 years in the slammer. For instance, if you hang a cherry bomb by a thin thread tied to the fuse, it will drop just before it goes off. Put a cigarette on the fuse, it is a time bomb. Put a bucket of something underneath it, it becomes a volcano.

  31. Sometimes a man must raise a daughter, so I taught mine the three things ever woman must know:

    1. Duct tape. It is for fixing things that move, but shouldn't.

    2. WD40. It is for fixing things that don't move but should.

    3. Zip-ties. For everything that duct tape and WD40 can't fix.

  32. A word or three on so-called 'duct', 'duck', gaffers, or Gorilla tape: I first encountered said tape in the military where it was, and likely still is, known as Ordy Tape.

    It's olive drab in color and will darn near peel skin if applied incorrectly. We actually used it to patch through and through (non-structurally damaging) bullet holes in Helos. A bit of OT and some paint and she's good to go 🙂

  33. Except for the computer stuff, which we didn't have, it reminds me of every day business as usual in my boyhood. Oh yeah, and duct tape sucks no matter how cute you feel about using it.

  34. Another bit on Ordnance Tape – you will occasionally see a pic of a Corsair with a pattern of rectangles outlined on the fuselage ahead of the cockpit. Those engines leaked oil onto the windscreen. They mechs taped the seams of the cowling to stop it.

    I'm not going to tell you what we did to make rockets from paper matches. Suffice to say that, carried to extremes, it becomes ordnance. We did.

  35. If you mix some clayey dirt in water and mix in some straw, then roll some good sized balls and let them bake in the sun on some old roof tin, you can make some serious dirt balls that you can then launch using a couple of old bicycle tubes nailed to the hayloft door, with a tin can for a holder. And if you mold them with a hole to insert a firecracker, and steal some Camels to use to light them, well that right there is some good clean fun.

  36. Bleach and iodine make a wonderful low's a little unstable though. Blew the chemistry teachers drawers out of his desk in the sixth grade.

  37. In my neighborhood we used to have green apple fights. However armed-launched green apples fail to reach their full potential in terms of range and velocity. Therefore you will want to take your pocket knife (my grandad gave me mine at age 10) and make a launcher from a nice straight freshly cut branch about 2 feet long. Just trim off the little branchs and put a nice sharp point on one end to stick the apple onto.

    NOW you've got something useful. In fact, you can dent a car with one of these babies, and we're talking honest 60's Detroit sheet metal here. Still, we were tougher back then. Hit a friend in the forehead square on and he won't even cry … probably cause he's unconcious but still.

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