What Other Use?

March 10, 2000

"Not to be used for the other use." – instructions on a Korean kitchen knife

It’s recently been brought to my attention that duct tape (or, as it’s more appropriately called by some people, "duck tape") is good for just about anything but sealing ducts (for a complete article please see the Home Energy Article on Duct Tape).

Duct tape is defined as "any fabric-based tape with rubber adhesive", which apparently doesn’t include that mysterious black tape that bends light around it and cannot be cut with anything but very sharp industrial-strength scissors. Try to cut it with anything else, and it will simply expand, then take on a mysterious life of its own. Uncle Rupert once attempted to cut some of this tape with a rusty pocket knife. (He was building a bookshelf, although why he needed a bookshelf in the first place remains a mystery.) Within less than twenty minutes he was so hopelessly entangled that it took three local policemen to free him. The policemen declared that "duck tape" was almost as dangerous as Uncle Rupert himself. The bad news is that 90% of the homes in most first world nations are merely composites of "duck tape", drywall, and that sticky white stuff you use for filling in holes in drywall. Homes in less developed nations have to use less reliable materials such as wood and concrete. The good news is that no one has ever actually seen "duck tape" being used on ducts of any type. It’s more often used to hold up supporting walls, fire extinguishers, and to keep small children quiet. And, as Uncle Rupert and his buddies on the police force will tell you, its name is well-earned: it’s as useful for catching ducks as bright spotlights are for catching deer.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


After Quasimodo’s death, the bishop of the cathedral of Notre Dame sent word through the streets of Paris that a new bellringer was needed. The bishop decided that he would conduct the interviews personally and went up into the belfry to begin the screening process. After observing several applicants demonstrate their skills, he decided to call it a day when a lone, armless man approached him and announced that he was there to apply for the bellringer’s job.

The bishop was incredulous."You have no arms!"

"No matter," said the man, "Observe!" He then began striking the bells with his face, producing a beautiful melody on the carillon. The bishop listened in astonishment, convinced that he had finally found a suitable replacement for Quasimodo. Suddenly, rushing forward to strike a bell, the armless man tripped, and plunged headlong out of the belfry window to his death in the street below.

The stunned bishop rushed to his side. When he reached the street, a crowd had gathered around the fallen figure, drawn by the beautiful music they had heard only moments before.

As they silently parted to let the bishop through, one of them asked, "Bishop, who was this man?”

"I don’t know his name," the bishop sadly replied, "but his face rings a bell."

(but wait, there’s more…)

The following day, despite the sadness that weighed heavily on his heart due to the unfortunate death of the armless campanologist (now there’s a trivia question), the bishop continued his interviews for the bellringer of Notre Dame. The first man to approach him said, "Your excellency, I am the brother of the poor, armless wretch that fell to his death from this very belfry yesterday. I pray that you honor his life by allowing me to replace him in this duty."

The bishop agreed to give the man an audition, and as the armless man’s brother stooped to pick up a mallet to strike the first bell, he groaned, clutched at his chest and died on the spot.

Two monks, hearing the bishop’s cries of grief at this second tragedy, rushed up the stairs to his side.

"What has happened?", the first breathlessly asked, "Who is this man?"

(Wait for it…)

"I don’t know his name," sighed the distraught bishop, "but he’s a dead ringer for his brother."

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