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July 2004
image Rumors of a new wireless iPod (i.e. no headphones cord) have begun floating around based upon this advertising poster that was supposedly "IM'd to a family member of a person working in an Asian PR firm by accident." Hmmm. Since I just got an iPod about two months ago, it would suck if a new and much better model came out so soon. But then again, that would be just my luck. However, I have a feeling that the advertising poster is just a fake.
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 30, 2004
Comments (13)
image Clubbo.com is definitely one of the most elaborate, in-depth hoax websites that I've ever come across. The attention to detail is astounding. The only site I can think of that rivals it in this respect would be Boilerplate, the Victorian Era Robot.

Clubbo.com purports to be the homepage of an indie record label that's been representing bizarre, one-hit (or in many cases, no-hit) wonders for decades. The fun thing is that they actually provide mp3 samples of all the artists, as well as tons of background material, so you can literally spend hours going through the site. My favorite parts so far: the Soda Pop Shop song by the 'Beethoven of Burps' Clipper Cowbridge, and the theme from The Spooky Bunch. Oh, and the link to their privacy policy is also worth clicking on.

I found out about Clubbo.com from an article in Slate by Paul Boutin that reveals it to be the just-launched fictional creation of Elise Malmberg and Joe Gore. Boutin links to a credits page on Clubbo.com that discloses the whole thing as a hoax, but just poking around the site on my own I couldn't figure out how he found this link to the credits. The Clubbo hoax also extends well beyond the confines of the Clubbo.com website. For instance, one of its bands, Action Plus, has its own website. And on eBay you can bid on a 'Clubbo: Guitar Pick used by Rockfinger's Tommy Lamb!!!!' (that looks an awful lot like the tab of a soda can). The starting bid is only $1999.99.
Categories: Entertainment, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 30, 2004
Comments (2)
At first glance, Manchurian Global looks like any other faceless corporation. Its website is full of corporate jargon about mission statements, international client bases, and holistic visions. But, of course, Manchurian Global isn't a real corporation. Its site is part of the advertising campaign for The Manchurian Candidate, which opens today. The illusion of reality that the site maintains is actually quite convincing. They've really made it look like a real company. Only until you dig far into the site do you arrive at suspicious stuff, such as a video showing one of their scientists, Dr. Atticus Noyle, talking about how they can control people's personalities at a genetic level. Paramount has been running an ad on my site for The Manchurian Candidate for the past two weeks, which I thought was pretty cool since I've always liked the original 1962 version of the movie starring Frank Sinatra. I'm hoping the new version can live up to the original.
Categories: Advertising, Entertainment, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 30, 2004
Comments (23)
The British government recently put up a website, preparingforemergencies.gov.uk, filled with advice (most of it fairly obvious) on what to do in case of an emergency. In response York University student Thomas Scott put up this website, preparingforemergencies.co.uk, that looks almost identical but instead offers advice on what to do in situations such as being attacked by a zombie (destroy their brain), or alien invasion (negotiate using sign language). Anyone can see that Scott's site is a spoof... anyone, that is, except the British government, which promptly ordered him to take it down. Scott called their bluff and refused, and it looks like Scott is going to win. The government recently announced that it is "unlikely to take any further action." They must have realized they were making themselves look sillier than Scott's spoof possibly could. (Thanks to Andrew Nixon and Paul in Prague for the links)
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 30, 2004
Comments (0)
image After whining about the vacuum cleaner being visible in the picture of me that appeared in the NY Times yesterday, I got an apologetic note from the photographer, Alan Decker, which made me feel bad. The presence of the vacuum cleaner was, of course, my fault, since I was supposed to move it before he arrived. Anyway, as Alan pointed out, in the other pictures he took (a few of which he just sent me) you really couldn't see it... except in this one puzzling shot. And here I am in my 'Buy Dehydrated Water' t-shirt.

On another, more serious note, I got this email from Ken Deffeyes:

Mounting a small set of pronghorn antelope horns on a jackrabbit head is an ancient Wyoming taxidermist's trick. However, the horns in this morning's New York Times look like deer horns. You've been hoaxed. It's a jackdeer.
So my jackalope is a fake! I'm thinking of trying to get my money back.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 30, 2004
Comments (4)
image You wouldn't want to run into this thing while out for a stroll in the woods. It's a 1000lb wild hog with 9-inch tusks, nicknamed Hogzilla, that hunting Guide Chris Griffin claims to have shot in Georgia last month. To put this in perspective, 500lb wild hogs are considered enormous. No one has ever heard of a 1000lb wild hog before, so it's raising a few eyebrows. Plus, the only evidence for the creature's existence is a picture Griffin snapped of himself posing beside it. He says that he buried the hog soon after killing it. In the picture of Griffin with Hogzilla, the hog sure looks big. Hogzilla could be real. Or the picture could be photoshopped, though I haven't seen a good enough copy of the image to make a judgement on that. Or Griffin could have obtained a large hog from a farm. In the hoax forum, posters have pointed out that tricks of perspective might make the hog look bigger than it really is... though even taking distorted perspective into account, that still seems like a big hog. If I were Griffin, I'd dig the skeleton up to prove that Hogzilla is real, because a picture alone is not indisputable evidence.
Update: A better quality picture of Hogzilla can be seen at Kens-fishfarm.com, and David Emery notes that there have been previous stories about giant hogs caught in the wild.
Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu Jul 29, 2004
Comments (40)
image This is going to be an egocentric post, because it's about me. I got my picture in the New York Times today. So does that mean I'm famous? Can I walk into an expensive restaurant now and get a table right away? I'm not betting on it. I'm featured in an article by Daniel Terdiman about hoax weblogs. Not that I've ever created a hoax weblog, but I do write about them. My friend Odin Soli, who created the Plain Layne hoax, also got his picture in there (Odin and I studied American History together in Grad School at UC San Diego). That animal on the left side of the picture is a jackalope. And if you look closely you can see my vacuum cleaner behind me, partially hidden by my shoulder. The photographer swore to me that there was no need to move it, because he said it wouldn't show up in the picture. Guess he was wrong. Not that anyone would really notice it... except my wife. The first thing she said when she saw the picture: "And there's our vacuum cleaner."
Categories: Miscellaneous, Websites
Posted by Alex on Thu Jul 29, 2004
Comments (11)
A study by an anti-spam firm called MailFrontier found that, on average, 28% of computer users are fooled by email scams. But intriguingly, 20% of users misidentify legitimate emails from companies such as PayPal as scams. This becomes relevant because a lot of people recently received an email informing them of the possibility of joining a class-action suit against PayPal (I got one of these emails in my inbox this morning). The suit is real. The email is legitimate. But quite a few people assumed that it was just another scam and deleted it. John Dvorak, at PC Magazine, muses that the email "almost looks like it has been made to look like a hoax on purpose." Make people think it's a hoax and no one will join the lawsuit. Very clever.
Categories: Email Hoaxes
Posted by Alex on Thu Jul 29, 2004
Comments (5)
image Ear Candling is an ancient home remedy in which wax and other impurities are supposedly drawn out of a person's ear canal by sticking a burning hollow candle in their ear. The theory is that the hollow candle creates a vacuum that sucks everything out.
Butt Candling, by extension, is the same procedure, only with the candle placed... well, you can guess where it's placed. As the ButtCandle site (which is safe for work) puts it: "In length and diameter, [the butt candle is] similiar to common candles. However, a hollow channel is cut from bottom to top which causes air to be drawn from the base to the top. In practice, this creates a vacuum at the base which, when inserted in the rectum, gently dislodges intestinal and rectal blockage."
Ear Candling is a real treatment, though don't expect it to work. As QuackWatch says: "Since wax is sticky, the negative pressure needed to pull wax from the canal would have to be so powerful that it would rupture the eardrum in the process."
Butt Candling, by contrast, is just a joke. Though the guy who made the site is selling ButtCandle thongs and mugs on CafeShops. Yeah, that's just what I want to sip my coffee from in the morning: a ButtCandle mug. (Thanks to Jim Terr for the link)
Categories: Health/Medicine, Websites
Posted by Alex on Wed Jul 28, 2004
Comments (19)
Consumers in England have been alerted to be on the lookout for fake washing suds. Rogue boxes of 'Bold 2in1' are masquerading as the real thing. A government official is quoted as saying: "Consumers are aware of counterfeit DVDs and computer games but fake washing powder is unusual and goes to show the length that counterfeiters will go to deceive the public." I certainly wasn't aware of this problem. I think I could use washing powder for years without ever noticing that it was fake, because I tend to just dump the stuff in the machine and walk away. I never hang around to check out if it's sudsing up.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Wed Jul 28, 2004
Comments (2)
Will using a cellphone during a thunder storm increase your chances of getting hit by lightning? According to China.com it will. They've posted a news story warning people not to use their cellphones during storms. The article even lists some examples of cellphone users struck by lightning: an elderly person sightseeing at the Great Wall, a woman on a street in Changchun, etc. Does China.com know what it's talking about? Not really. All the credible information I can find agrees that using a cellphone during a thunder storm poses no risk. For instance, one poster over at Google Answers notes that cellphones do produce ionizing radiation, which could theoretically attract lightning, but the amount involved is so negligible that it's very unlikely. The National Weather Service site actually urges people to use cellphones during storms, rather than land lines. On a related note, Myth Busters proves that metal tongue-piercings don't attract lightning either. My theory about those Chinese cellphone users is that they weren't really hit by lightning... instead, they had all just received a call from one of those killer Nigerian phone numbers. wink (via textually.org)
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Wed Jul 28, 2004
Comments (5)
The Toronto Sun reports that exotic dancers applying for a visa to enter Canada are now expected to submit photos of themselves performing in the nude... to prove that they really are exotic dancers. Immigration lawyer Mendel Green claims that the rules are quite specific: "They can't be partially nude. If they don't have pictures in the nude, they are not going to wiggle their bottoms in Canada." This sounds very weird. Could the Toronto Sun be the victim of a joke? Are they pulling our leg? Or have Canadian immigration officials just figured out a great way to get their hands on lots of free pictures of naked women? I'm not sure, but given how many other bizarre rules and regulations government bureaucrats manage to come up with, I'm guessing the story is probably true.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Tue Jul 27, 2004
Comments (5)
Why would anyone counterfeit money if the cost of making the counterfeits was more than the money itself? That's the question Japanese police are puzzling over. Since profit can't be a motive "police suspect a techno-maniac is involved." Well, either that or a really stupid criminal.
Categories: Business/Finance
Posted by Alex on Tue Jul 27, 2004
Comments (0)
Once upon a time it required years of study to become a minister. Then it got a bit easier when all you had to do was respond to an ad in the back of a magazine. But now, thanks to the internet, becoming a minister is dead easy. Just go to the website of the Universal Life Church and in five minutes you'll have the right to be referred to as Reverend. I think I actually became a ULC minister years ago (back when you had to send away for the form) because a friend signed me up as a joke. According to the Contra Costa Times, the ULC has ordained 18 million ministers since 1959. But the article warns that becoming a minister doesn't make your income nontaxable, though it does give you the right to marry people or exorcise demons. Interestingly, 90-95% of the people who sign up as ULC ministers identify themselves as Christians.
Categories: Religion
Posted by Alex on Tue Jul 27, 2004
Comments (1)
The Washington Post reports on a growing epidemic of eggings. As they say, "Nationwide, there is evidence of eggings escalating into much more than a practical joke." The reporter, Mitra Kalita, actually called me up to get a quote about this issue, and so if you go to the very end of the article (on the second page) you'll be able to read my profound thoughts about the phenomenon of egging. To tell the truth, I've never egged anyone in my life, so I didn't feel like much of an expert on the topic. But I do run a website about hoaxes and pranks, so I guess that makes me as much of an 'egging expert' (or egg-spert) as anyone.
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Mon Jul 26, 2004
Comments (12)
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