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June 2004
A Phishing scam is... well, I'll just let the webopedia define it because I'm too lazy to write a definition myself. Phishing is "the act of sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft. The e-mail directs the user to visit a Web site where they are asked to update personal information, such as passwords and credit card, social security, and bank account numbers, that the legitimate organization already has. The Web site, however, is bogus and set up only to steal the user’s information." Here's a very good example of a phishing scam that David Mitchell received in his email and put up on his site. It looks pretty convincing. I could see how people would be fooled by it.
Categories: Email Hoaxes
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 04, 2004
Comments (2)
image A guy calling himself Eric Bruderton has some dramatic footage up on his website of people (soldiers or mercenaries? It's hard to tell) being attacked by unseen assailants wielding rocket-propelled grenades. Bruderton himself admits he doesn't know what the footage is about. As he writes, "I don’t know these people, I don’t know who’s shooting at them and I don’t know why they are being targeted. I don’t even know where they are. Maybe the Middle East." But he insists that the footage is important, and that he has somehow put himself in danger by making the footage publicly available. The whole thing reeks of a Blair-Witch-style publicity stunt. But the footage, if it is staged (which I'm guessing it is), is pretty high production value. (the video takes about 20 or 30 seconds to load). (via Chapel Perilous)
Categories: Conspiracy Theories, Military
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 04, 2004
Comments (26)
A couple of people have sent me links to this meteor hoax that the AP fell for. The AP reported that a meteor about the size of a small car hit near Olympia, Washington early this morning. Its source for this story was one Bradley Hammermaster, supposedly an Astronomy professor at the University of Washington, who called in a report of the meteor to Seattle's KIRO radio. The AP later had to admit that, "No one by the name of Hammermaster is known to the astronomy department, and the description given by the caller to the station of the object... was clearly bogus." However, it does appear that there really was meteor activity over Washington state, but nothing the size of a small car has been found. This hoax reminds me of a similar hoax perpetrated by the newspaperman Joseph Mulholland back in the 1890s. Mulholland claimed that a meteor had fallen in western Pennsylvania, but he also went on to claim, more dramatically, that it had set fire to much of the surrounding country.
Categories: Journalism, Science
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 03, 2004
Comments (2)
If you break down by the side of the road, what should you do? Use your cellphone to call for help, of course. Or, if you're a complete idiot, you can pretend that you and your buddy are fighting so that concerned motorists will call the police for you. A group of budding geniuses in Massachusetts chose option B, and soon ended up in jail after a policeman showed up and ordered them to the ground at gunpoint.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 03, 2004
Comments (2)
On Monday illusionist Derren Brown performed a seance live on Britain's Channel 4, successfully channeling the spirit of 'Jane,' the victim of a mass suicide. Only after the show did he admit it was all a hoax... an attempt to debunk seances by showing how easily people can be manipulated into believing that they're real. Still, the show managed to attract more complaints than almost any other show in British history, although most of the complaints were lodged before the show aired (evidently because those complaining... church groups mostly... had seen into the future and knew they wouldn't like it before they saw it). Darren Brown is the same guy who pretended to play Russian Roulette on British TV back in October 2003. But for my money, it doesn't sound like Brown's faux-seance quite rivalled the drama of 1992's Ghostwatch Halloween seance.
Categories: Entertainment, Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 03, 2004
Comments (6)
UKTV has come up with the ultimate reality TV show: Watching Paint Dry. As the name suggests, viewers get to watch the thrilling spectacle of paint drying, broadcast live, 24 hours a day. And viewers can vote for their favorite paints: Matt, Gloss, Silk, Satin, etc. UKTV notes that, "Every other reality show is full of boring drips so we thought that we would go one step further." Is this real? Well, sort of. UKTV feels watching paint dry is "too boring" for TV, so it's only going to be broadcast on the internet. (via J-Walk)
Categories: Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 03, 2004
Comments (1)
image First there was head-vertising. Now there's ass-vertising, which appears to be just as real as headvertising was (which means that, as odd as it seems, it actually is real). The concept behind assvertising is pretty simple. Slap an ad on an attractive woman's ass. I guess men are looking there anyway, so some advertiser (Night Agency, to be specific) had the brilliant idea to put the ads where the eyes are focused. Even though assvertising is real, tADoos (which are corporate-sponsored tattoos) remain a hoax. (via Adrants)
Categories: Advertising
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 02, 2004
Comments (0)
Yesterday I suggested that the anonymous blogger 'Rance' might really be a cartoonist/screenwriter named Keith Thomson because Thomson's name kept popping up when I tracked down who was initially hyping Rance in internet discussion groups. But people have pointed out that movie studios and talent agencies often create phony identities that they use to hype projects they're working on. Maybe the phony identities they used to hype Rance just happened to have been used earlier to hype Thomson's work. Could be. And whoever runs Defamer seems to feel confident that Rance really is a celebrity.

So I'm willing to consider that Rance is a celebrity. If this is the case, then it would be a celebrity who's a client of International Creative Management, and who probably is also a client of Nick Reed, the same agent who represents Keith Thomson. I searched for celebrities who fit this profile and the person I came up with is Kevin Pollak. He's a comedian; and he's represented by Nick Reed. Plus, what he writes on his online diary sounds a bit like Rance.
Admittedly Pollak is a shot in the dark. But I'm pretty sure that someone at ICM (most likely Nick Reed) helped hype Rance, so ICM somehow holds the solution to the mystery of who he is.
Categories: Identity/Imposters, Technology
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 02, 2004
Comments (13)
I posted an entry a week or so ago about unfortunate last names. On a related subject, here are some unfortunate URLs. First we have cummingfirst.com. It's the website of the Cumming First United Methodist Church located in Cumming, Georgia (via The Presurfer). It's definitely a real church and not a joke. Next we have IPWine.com, home on the web of the Ingleside Vineyards in Virginia. I actually visited the Ingleside Vineyards (it's a nice place), and when they told me their website url I had to ask them if they were joking. Incredibly, it didn't seem to have occurred to them what their url spelled out. Along the same lines is IPAnywhere (also not a joke). And WhorePresents.com. The classic joke url is PowergenItalia.com (or Power Genitalia), which has nothing to do with the real company called Powergen.
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 02, 2004
Comments (13)
Proving, yet again, that truth is stranger than fiction, I present you with VIP Fibers (I'm assuming this is real... I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be). Send VIP Fibers a bundle of your pet's fur, and they'll turn it into any knit good of your choice, except socks. As the site explains: "Many dogs and cats have a fine and lustrous undercoat so suitable for spinning. It does not, however, have the crimp or elasticity such as found in wool from a sheep, and therefore is not suitable for all projects such as socks." My cat sheds constantly, but it never occurred to me that all that fur on the floor could be put to good use. Now I have the perfect christmas presents for my entire family. (via Red Ferret Journal)
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 01, 2004
Comments (4)
The latest buzz in the blogosphere is about the weblog of 'Rance,' an anonymous blogger who claims to be a well-known, A-list, Hollywood celebrity. Or as he coyly puts it on his weblog, "I can tell you what it's like to see your picture on the magazine rack every now and again when you pay for groceries." For a couple of months he's been dishing up dirt on life in Hollywood, and he's succeeded in attracting a huge following. He even got interviewed (anonymously) by Reuters last week. But of course, he won't reveal who he is... which just makes everyone crazy to find out the secret. Is Rance really a celebrity, or is he just an average schmuck pretending to be a celebrity?

There have been quite a few theories about his identity. Xeni Jardin, over at BoingBoing posted a rumor that he was Owen Wilson, though she conceded he could just as easily be George Clooney or Mr. Potato Head. The Defamer weblog posted a clever theory from one of their readers that an LA-based ad agency named Butler, Shine, Stern, and Partners is secretly behind Rance's weblog. Their reasoning was that Rance's url is captainhoof.tripod.com, and the ad agency has a mascot called Captain Hoofers. Defamer also has suggested that Rance is really Ben Affleck, because Rance once made a reference to the initials 'OV,' and Ben has 'OV' tattooed on his back (seems like a bit of a stretch to me).


Anyway, I got hooked by the mystery and decided to see if I could find out anything about the identity of Rance, and I now have a lead suspect of my own. I think Rance is a cartoonist/filmmaker/screenwriter named Keith Thomson.

Here's my reasoning. What immediately struck me about Rance's weblog was that it attracted a very high number of comments from very early on. Within two hours after Rance posted his first entry on December 29, 2003, four people had left comments on his site. Most weblogs, by contrast, struggle to get anyone to read them, let alone leave comments. So how was he attracting so many visitors to his site straight off the bat?

What I discovered was that immediately after Rance posted his first entry on Dec. 29 at 4:49 EST, someone going by the screen name 'InvaderFromPluto' began posting messages about his weblog on various fan discussion groups. For instance, at 5:52, about one hour after Rance had posted his first entry, a message from InvaderFromPluto appears on Yahoo's thematthewperryplace message board. It reads:

i read slate reported a famous tv actor keeping a weblog under
pseudonym "rance" at http://captainhoof.tripod.com/blog/
it's hard to know if it is him, but it might be as it is funny and
seems witty in his sort of way


Obviously Slate hadn't written anything about Rance's weblog. Rance's weblog, at that time, was only an hour old. So how did InvaderFromPluto know about Rance's weblog so quickly, and why was he so interested in promoting it? Perhaps InvaderFromPluto was Rance himself. Makes sense to me.

InvaderFromPluto can be found promoting Rance's weblog in other discussion groups. Here he is with the same message over at HugeHughGrantFans.

So how can we find out who InvaderFromPluto is? A simple Google search revealed that throughout 2002 and 2003 InvaderFromPluto was busy on various message boards promoting the cartoon work of Keith Thomson. He even promoted what seems to be an early Keith Thomson hoax: an online petition trying to stop Britney Spears's lawyers from suing him (even though Spears's lawyers don't seem to have had any intention to sue him).

So I think it's very likely that InvaderFromPluto is Keith Thomson (who else would be so tirelessly promoting his work). Therefore, by extension, Keith Thomson is also Rance. To put it in mathematical form: Rance = InvaderFromPluto = Keith Thomson.

Or, if Rance isn't Keith Thomson, then, at the very least, Thomson seems to be involved somehow.

Here's a bio of Keith Thomson from the atomfilms site:

Keith Thomson played a season of semi-professional baseball in Europe before becoming a political cartoonist for New York Newsday. His work appeared in many other publications, including GQ and Howard Stern's book Miss America. His short film, "Cupidity," played at Sundance and can now be seen on Atomshockwave. He has since written feature film screenplays for Imagine, Paramount and Sony. He also wrote for Bill Plympton's animated MTV show, "Helter Shelter." Thomson is represented by Nick Reed of ICM.

So Thomson is a guy who knows Hollywood. Plus he has a sense of humor. Sounds a lot like Rance to me.
Update: David Emery just emailed me some more evidence linking Keith Thomson to Rance. Check out the
screen name ("Captain Hoof") on this 2002 newsgroup post that links to a Keith Thomson video.
Update 2: Another theory to consider is that the person using the screen name InvaderFromPluto wasn't Keith Thomson. It could have been Thomson's agent at ICM, Nick Reed (Reed gets a 'co-created by' credit on Thomson's films, so he would be just as likely to promote the films as Thomson). If this is the case, then Rance could be Nick Reed. Or he could be one of Reed's other clients.
Update 3: I just posted some second thoughts about the Keith Thomson/Rance connection. I still think Thomson is a prime suspect, but I'm not 100% sure.
Categories: Identity/Imposters, Technology
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 01, 2004
Comments (29)
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