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August 2002
Bush to Hold Sham Economic Forum. At least, so claims the Democratic National Committee. I find it amusing when politicians start accusing each other of shams and staging events, since modern politics has become all about manipulating appearances and posing for photo ops anyway. Though in this case I'm inclined to agree with the DNC. The economic forum does appear to be what the historian Daniel Boorstin would describe as a "pseudo-event." Boorstin offered 3 criteria for identifying a pseudo-event:
1) It is not spontaneous;
2) Its success is measured by how widely it is reported;
3) Its relation to the underlying reality of the situation is ambiguous.
This checklist comes from Boorstin's book THE IMAGE: A GUIDE TO PSEUDO-EVENTS IN AMERICA. First published back in 1961, but still relevant reading today.
Categories: Politics
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 14, 2002
Comments (0)
Okay, I've been informed that Professor Higgins was actually the name of the professor in My Fair Lady, the broadway version of Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. At least I correctly sensed that it was an English name!


Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 14, 2002
Comments (0)
Someone wrote in with some new info about the Asian Prince website, which I have listed in my Hoax Websites Gallery. I stated that I wasn't sure if the Asian Prince was a hoax or not, but this reader reveals that the Prince's name "Wo-Hen Nankan" means "I am very ugly" in Mandarin. A clue that the site really is a hoax.
Categories: Identity/Imposters, Websites
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 13, 2002
Comments (2)
Interesting story in the Toronto Star about a man who was practicing medicine with fake credentials. But he didn't receive a single complaint about his practice. He was only exposed when the Ontario College of Physicians did a thorough check of the credentials of all medical practitioners in the area. It recalls the case of the Great Imposter, Ferdinand Waldo Demara, who once posed as a naval surgeon named Dr. Joseph Cyr and actually performed a lung operation on an injured soldier, even though he had never had a day of surgical training in his life. The operation was a success. He was only discovered to be a fake because someone recognized his picture when it appeared in a naval newsletter.
Categories: Health/Medicine, Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 13, 2002
Comments (1)
I went to the Del Mar racetrack this weekend. My betting strategy, as always, was to bet on horses whose names appealed to me in some way. So I bet on 'Professor Higgins' because it sounded like a character out of a '60s sci-fi movie, and then on 'Tricks Her' because it sounded like Trickster, and thus had a connection with hoaxes. Both horses won. Unfortunately, every other horse I bet on lost, leaving me down $20 for the day.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 13, 2002
Comments (1)
The Christian Science Monitor offers a brief history of the Crop Circle phenomenon, while also noting that SIGNS grossed $60 million in its first weekend at the box office.
Categories: Crop Circles
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 12, 2002
Comments (0)
Another case of a hoax photo. The KeySpan Corp. ran an ad showing some Long Island fishermen in order to show its deep ties with the Long Island community. The only problem was that the picture of the fishermen was actually taken in Seattle, which was obvious since they were holding up King Salmon, which aren't found around Long Island.
Categories: Advertising, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Sat Aug 10, 2002
Comments (0)
The Guardian reviews a new book about the South Sea Bubble of the 1720s, titled A Very English Deceit by Malcolm Balen. It seems pretty timely, given all the financial scandals of today. Apparently all the Enrons and Worldcoms don't even compare to the South Sea Bubble when it comes to truly world-class fraud on a grand scale.
Categories: Business/Finance, History
Posted by Alex on Fri Aug 09, 2002
Comments (0)
Interesting piece by Neal Gabler in the NY Times about the American love for the fake over the real, as applied to the entertainment industry. Gabler argues that at the movies and on tv we now experience only the 'illusion of entertainment,' as opposed to entertainment itself. He argues that the audience itself is to blame for this, basically because they're lazy. The 'illusion of entertainment' frees them from the burden of having to be emotionally engaged with whatever is on the screen. Entertainment becomes something like junk food for the brain, instead of being healthy. Of course, critics have been making this same accusation about the shallowness of popular forms of entertainment for hundreds of years. What I think they fail to acknowledge is that modern entertainment largely serves the purpose of relaxation. We don't always want to be emotionally engaged by it. Just diverted. The stresses of modern life emotionally engage us quite enough. We come home from work, we're exhausted, and we just want to collapse in front of the tv for a while. We don't want to have to commit ourselves to the subtleties of an elegantly produced drama. Just bright lights, laughter, and a few special effects will do just fine. Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with this. Nor do I buy into the argument that this mindless entertainment is going to overwhelm and crush 'true art' with a flood of mediocrity. Mindless entertainment and more carefully crafted art can and will live happily side by side.
Categories: Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Thu Aug 08, 2002
Comments (0)
A strange case of a prank gone awry. Two men rushed onto the field during a rugby match wearing nothing but the logo of Vodafone, a mobile phone company. The logo was painted on their backs. Amazingly, Vodafone had actually approved the stunt. The presence of the streakers caused one of the players to miss a penalty kick. On the subject of odd forms of 'guerrilla marketing,' here's a website that claims it will connect you with corporations who are willing to pay you to wear a tattoo of their corporate logo. They're called tADoos. It's a hoax, of course. But it's not original. NPR presented this exact scenario as an April Fool's Day joke back in 1994.
Categories: Advertising
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 07, 2002
Comments (0)
The "Crying Indian" was a fake! The guy who starred in all those "Keep America Beautiful" ads during the 1970s turns out not to have had a single drop of Native American blood in him, despite his claims to the contrary. He was actually an Italian-American named Oscar DeCorti.
Categories: Advertising, Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 06, 2002
Comments (6)
Anti-gravity technology has been getting a lot of attention lately, on the heels of the news that Boeing is testing some kind of anti-gravity device. Salon reviews THE HUNT FOR ZERO POINT by Nick Cook, an editor at Jane's Defense Weekly. It's all about the US Government's classified research into anti-gravity technology. Sounds interesting, but it also sounds like the author got seduced by the idea that such technology might exist and began making some pretty far-fetched assumptions.
Categories: Free Energy
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 06, 2002
Comments (0)
A reader sent in this hoax website, though it actually seems more like a scam website than a hoax website. It's GetPaidDriving.com. For just $24.95 they'll let you access their database of companies that will pay you to drive your own car. This brings up memories of the Freewheelz hoax. I think people would be well advised to save their money and not shell out any money for info on how to 'Get Paid Driving.'
Categories: Business/Finance, Websites
Posted by Alex on Sun Aug 04, 2002
Comments (4)
Article in SFGate.com about crop circles briefly mention's Joe Nickell's list of the Top 10 paranormal hoaxes.
Categories: Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Thu Aug 01, 2002
Comments (0)
The Wall Street Journal reports on the new trend in 'guerrilla marketing.' Hired actors and actresses (though not famous ones) will be paid to use products in trendy places where the use of the product will be seen by a lot of people. So now if you notice someone talking on a new cell phone next to you, you'll have to wonder if the person is for real or just an actor.
Categories: Advertising
Posted by Alex on Thu Aug 01, 2002
Comments (0)
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