• The Age of Stupid revisited: the Pet Rock and CO2 reduction.


    Above are two equally pointless guides. The guide on the left is funny and entertaining, the guide on the right, anything but.

    We had an early wake up call this morning. Or rather, our neighbour had an early wake up call this morning. Living in a semi-detached house, noise from one’s neighbour is inevitable and thus we were treated to being woken earlier than expected. You see, our neighbour has a little dog, a border terrier named George. This morning George, probably needing to answer nature’s call earlier than anticipated, decided to wake his owner rather early by running into the bedroom barking loudly. A bout of angry chastisement followed as our neighbour realised that he had to open the back door to “let the dog out.” As we were lying there listening to the commotion, we could not help thinking of one Mr. Gary Dahl and his invention, the Pet Rock.

    British Gazette readers may recall Pet Rocks.
    Their inventor, a Mr. Dahl, was having drinks with some of his friends one night in April 1975 when the conversation turned to pets. Mr. Dahl was an unusual American for he possessed an extremely dry wit and a sense of humour that appreciated satirical irony. Mr. Dahl informed his friends that he had considered dogs, cats, birds, and fish all a pain in the neck. They made a mess; they misbehaved; they cost too much money. He, on the other hand, had a pet rock, and it was an ideal pet – easy and cheap, as it required no food, made no mess, did not smell and never needed a vet! It also he told them, had a great personality! His friends joined in the humour and soon they were all tossing around the notion of a pet rock and all the things it was good for.

    Following this humorous evening, Mr. Dahl spent the next two weeks writing the “Pet Rock Training Manual” – a step-by-step guide to having a happy relationship with your geological pet, including instructions for how to make it roll over and play dead and how to house train it. The book featured such gems of information such as: “Place it on some old newspapers. The rock will never know what the paper is for and will require no further instruction.” To accompany the book, Mr. Dahl decided to actually create a Pet Rock. He went to a builder’s supply store in San Jose, CA and found the most expensive rock in the place – a Rosarita beach stone, which was a uniform size, rounded gray pebble that sold for a cent. He packed the stone in a gift box shaped like a pet carrying case, accompanied by the instruction book.

    The Pet Rock was introduced at the August gift show in San Francisco (the gift market being much easier to break into than the cut-throat toy market), then in New York. The famous Neiman-Marcus department store ordered five hundred! Mr. Dahl sent out homemade news releases of himself accompanied by a picture that showed him surrounded by boxes of his Pet Rocks. Newsweek did a half-page story about his new enterprise, and by the end of October that year Mr. Dahl was shipping ten thousand Pet Rocks a day!

    By Christmas Mr. Dahl had sold two and a half tons of rocks had been sold! A million rocks at U.S. $3.95 apiece had been sold in just a few months and Mr. Dahl – who had decided from the beginning to make at least one dollar from every rock – had become a millionaire.

    Unfortunately, our neighbour is a commonsense Yorkshire-man and would unlikely be persuaded to part with his canine companion for a lump of rock from our garden – or his! Things are not so bad however, George is a very friendly dog and we like him.

    Of course British Gazette readers will draw comparisons between the silly 1970s fad of Pet Rocks and the present daft notion that CO2 is threatening humanity’s continued existence on planet earth. Both fads – for that is what they both are – will be shown by history to be equally daft – and demonstrate that human beings have an innate talent for stupidity. This talent exists in all of us – Editor included – but some of us are more prone than others. For instance, our neighbour’s capacity for stupidity is virtually nil. Others, such as Mr. David Cameron, Mr. Nick Clegg and Mr. Ed Miliband – all fervent adherents for reducing CO2 – have an extremely high capacity!

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