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The Essay
Show #105
The Mesmer Pocus
David Gunn
With but a half dozen daylight hours left to enjoy the myriad festivities of National Safe Boating Week, we'd like to commend to your attention the activities of Franz Anton Mesmer, born 3,156 weekends ago. Mesmer took safe watercraft practices to a new level by never actually setting foot in a boat. Instead, he applied himself to the invention and subsequent merchandising of the mind control hocus-pocus which bears his name, mesmerism. A bamboozler of the first order, Mesmer studied hypnotism at a trade school in Austria, where he pooh-poohed the ethical responsibilities demanded of the practitioner and instead mentally conned his classmates into giving him all of their shoes, which he immediately traded for a railway cattlecar. In both instances, the parties claim not to have been aware of what they were doing -- only that their collective eyelids had gotten heavy, heavy, and the next thing they knew they had awakened refreshed, albeit shoeless and cattlecarless, respectively.

Despite his success with posthypnotic suggestion psychotherapy, Mesmer acquired quite the charlatanical reputation because of his misuse of the eponymous technique at whiskers six draw tournaments, where he won big and often, to the mystification of his opponents, who could never remember even having played him. He finally got his comeuppance when he attempted to employ mesmerism in the haute couture industry. While his Austrian trade school classmates were learning various moral philosophies, Mesmer was busily sketching women's clothing that, in hindsight, closely resemble the vegetable grotesqueries in the hallucination scene which precedes the food fight scene in Bellini's "Norma." Still, Mesmer was determined to have a line of Franz Anton Apparel hanging in every boutique this side of the Volga River. But even with an intensive advertising campaign and compelling posthypnotic suggestions to major distributors in Paris, London and Albuquerque, he was unable to overcome the considerable obstacle that the dresses stunk. Literally. Mesmer had woven sachets of unprocessed shellfish into the linings of his peignoirs and adobe hats, and no amount of hypnohype could overcome what one critic called "nasty impediments to nosal serenity," or le flambeau oriange.

Temporarily abandoning his clothing, Mesmer turned his unbrindled attention to the study of matter transference, for which he displayed an equal ability to wholly misjudge. To this day, no one is sure if he actually built a machine that, like the transporter on the Starship Enterprise, successfully beamed him from one location to another without a fare, or if it was just more sleight-of-mind chicanery. Still, Mesmer kept showing up at the most unusual and illogical locations around the world at the drop of a hat, until one day he slipped into his machine and was never seen again. Did he hypnotize everyone into thinking he had disappeared, or did some untimely corporeal mismanagement send his neurons, electrons and positrons to Mars? Whoever knows isn't talking.

You listeners have but a half dozen daylight hours left to enjoy National Safe Boating Week. For the utmost in safe watercrafting, we recommend keeping at bay distractions such as ontological research, shuffleboard, taxidermic hypnosis, and listening intently to this radiophonic broadcast, i.e. the 105th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, this portion of which is acting in accordance with the Second Law of Fundraising Pluperfectry, which states that the amount of time spent requesting lucre during a public radio broadcast is directly proportional to the size of the larynx of the solicitor, i.e. me, sometimes, and, more often, Kalvos.

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