Tools for acts of prestidigitation or obfuscation. A must for those who would attempt the wizardry of Oz. You can fool all of the people some of the time. You can fool some of the people all of the time. But if you want a guaranteed ROI, you'll get the best smoke-and-mirror setup you can. This is how George W. Bush (SAT combined: 450) can be the presidential front-runner. Smoke and mirrors hide the latter-day smoke-filled rooms of US politics. And much of the corruption.

smoke = S = smoke test

smoke and mirrors n.

Marketing deceptions. The term is mainstream in this general sense. Among hackers it's strongly associated with bogus demos and crocked benchmarks (see also MIPS, machoflops). "They claim their new box cranks 50 MIPS for under $5000, but didn't specify the instruction mix -- sounds like smoke and mirrors to me." The phrase, popularized by newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin c.1975, has been said to derive from carnie slang for magic acts and `freak show' displays that depend on `trompe l'oeil' effects, but also calls to mind the fierce Aztec god Tezcatlipoca (lit. "Smoking Mirror") for whom the hearts of huge numbers of human sacrificial victims were regularly cut out. Upon hearing about a rigged demo or yet another round of fantasy-based marketing promises, hackers often feel analogously disheartened. See also stealth manager.

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

Smoke and Mirrors is a collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman. Many of the stories had never been published before, and Gaiman displays his power, wit, and originality that made him a true storytelling genius.

Among the stories in the book:

  • an elderly widow finds the Holy Grail in a pawn shop,
  • a stray cat battles with the Devil,
  • a little boy bargains for his life with a troll living under a bridge by the railroad tracks,
  • the cure for cancer comes with an interesting twist,
  • STDs are more dangerous and sneaky than you expect,
  • the end of the world is a tourist attraction,
  • the reason behind Lucifer's fall from heaven is finally revealed, and
  • you will never look at a certain well-known folk tale the same way again.

If this was not enough to tease you into buying the book, then go to your local bookstore and read the first few pages. That should do.

Smoke and Mirrors

Every day I live a deception of convenience. I blind myself with the bright and brittle moments that make up life, so that I can't see a dark strand of her hair, wound around her finger as she waits for class to end. My face is hard enamel and my eyes are full of nails. I am in control, but I pray to a god I no longer believe in that she won't notice me staring. That she'll notice me staring. She is achingly beautiful.

Her eyes? Her eyes are full of sex. Once I watched her sleeping, and when I realized that I wanted to kiss her I sank my teeth into the back of my hand and pressed my eyes closed. Later she laughed and asked me about the scattered drops of blood on the sheets. Someone always cares more, and I am that someone, and she is the puppet master with her musty red velvet and gleaming brass buttons. She has strings on her fingers, curly black strands of hair that she plays with as she leans her head on her hand in the corner of second period French. My glance is like a lover's, but I loathe the thought of wanting her.

Her eyes are full of the echoes of tears, spilled together. They are full of history.

When I was sixteen I carved a word into my ankle and she into the smooth skin of her upper arm, and we laughed at the glittering pain and felt hollow together, and then we could cling to one another. Because I miss her hands, smooth on my face, I bury myself in silly little pantomimes of love with boyish men. These often end badly. She is my sordid past, my everyday, and she holds a hundred clumsy firsts in her eyes. Sometimes we'll look at each other with mischief, with silence, no need for words in a joke we both understand, and I am consumed by her. She is achingly beautiful, but someone cares more and I am someone.

We swam in the ocean at midnight, shedding our clothes and running into black water so cold on bare skin that we screamed and rubbed our arms. Then we lay side by side in cool hollows in the sand, freezing and exhausted, sipping coffee from a stained white thermos. Later she kissed her boyfriend in a parking lot, and I laughed and nudged them. Get a room, you two, some old and stale joke. I melted, splashed on the ground and soaked into the waterlogged cement. Sometimes her boyfriend and I watch each other behind her back, unspoken and shared gazes, winner and loser of what we'll never say aloud. We each have our separate places in her eyes, and she has strings tied to her fingers. She sat with me under a flickering orange streetlight when I finally cried for my father, catching my tears with her fingers and spreading them, like glittering bits of broken glass, across her face.

Her eyes are full of sex and glass and tears and smoke and strings on her fingers, and she is achingly beautiful. She is beautiful, and that is my deception.

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