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November 2004
image Bill Dan balances rocks. His balanced rocks look very cool, but I have a hard time believing that they're all just balancing naturally without a little extra help. Actually, he seems quite legitimate... and they're supposed to look like they're defying gravity. That's the whole point. But still. Some of the rocks on his site I look at and say to myself 'there's no way that would possibly stand.' (via j-walk)
Categories: Art
Posted by Alex on Wed Nov 24, 2004
Comments (20)
image Last week British journalists were all abuzz about the 'surf rage' phenomenon: vigilante Cornish surfers waging a kind of guerrilla war against out-of-town surfers. One group calling itself Locals Only! had a website in which it proclaimed it would use harassment and force to defend its surfing spots. But now a bunch of marketing and journalism students have declared that they invented the whole 'surf rage' concept to hoax the media (which, of course, willingly took the bait). The media is now backpedaling, admitting that the Locals Only! group may have been a hoax, but insisting that the surf rage phenomenon itself is real.
Categories: Places, Sports
Posted by Alex on Wed Nov 24, 2004
Comments (2)
Here's a cute little quiz to waste five minutes of your life on: Which urban legend are you? I'm the classic tale of the gator in the sewer (because everyone knows I'm full of crap, but they keep talking about me anyway).
Categories: Miscellaneous, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 23, 2004
Comments (19)
image A photo of a young, trendy-looking guy has been doing the email rounds (click here for a larger version), with the caption: "This is Jaleel White." Jaleel White, of course, is better known for playing the character of super-nerd Steve Urkel on Family Matters (I've also heard many rumors that he plays the Mr. Six character in those Six Flags commercials, but I don't think that's true). I guess people are just amazed that White wouldn't be more like Urkel in real life. As for whether the picture really shows Jaleel White, I'm not sure. There's a recent picture of him on his blog on NBA.com. I guess it could be him if he shaved his hair off. (via thighs wide shut / You Can't Make It Up)
Categories: Celebrities, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 23, 2004
Comments (112)
image Just in time for Thanksgiving, I give you the Turkey Testicle Festival. Actually, it was held on October 9, so it's already over this year. But there's always next year to look forward to. I love the motto of the festival: Come and have a ball. Now I never knew that anyone ate turkey testicles, but I'm assuming this is real (that people really do eat them), since I know that sheep testicles are considered delicacies in various places. This festival should think about partnering up with that Cow Manure Tossing contest held in Oklahoma.
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 23, 2004
Comments (21)
America Looks Beyond is the name of a visionary new project jointly funded by the PEW Charitable Trusts and the Gates Foundation. Armed with a budget of over $1 billion a year, this is what they plan to do: "Starting in 2005, every high school student in America is going to be offered a six-week trip to a third world country. To broaden their horizons. To gain a more intimate understanding of the world. And to fight the global War on Terror in a positive way, through education and first-hand knowledge of how so much of the world struggles to survive." That would be great, if it were real. But, of course, it isn't real. As Glassdog points out, the site isn't registered to either the Gates Foundation or the PEW Charitable Trusts. It's registered to the media activist group AdBusters. So in other words, the site is a spoof... showing what people could be doing, but aren't.
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Websites
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 23, 2004
Comments (8)
I've finally made a decision in the urban legend haiku contest. It was tough, because there were so many good entries, but I've decided to give the book to Big Gary C, based on the consistently high quality of his entries. He clearly has a knack for urban legend haiku. Here are a few of his entries:
(Ten English Names for Snow)
Flakes, drifts, flurries, slush,
Blizzard, powder, crust, white stuff,
whiteout, ice crystals.
We brought our cute pet
Back from our Mexican tour.
He loves cheese; fears cats.

Ev'ry stick of gum
I've ever chewed and swallowed
Is still inside me.

In elevator,
big black man with dog says, "Sit!"
So everyone does.

I had the biggest
beehive hairdo in town, 'til
spiders ate my brain.

Oh, waiter, waiter!
Won't you please feed my dog now?
No, no! Not to me!

Cheney's pocket's full
of something; so they don't call
him "Dick" for nothing.

Once you start writing
verses in Haiku format,
it's hard to stop it.

To be honest, I liked reading everyone's haiku so much that I didn't want the contest to stop. So I'm going to try to give the haiku a more permanent (better organized) place on my site and allow people to keep adding more of it. Maybe I'll also make this an ongoing contest, awarding a prize every month. Or something like that. Stay tuned.
Categories: Miscellaneous, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Mon Nov 22, 2004
Comments (7)
Reuters reports that scantily clad garden gnomes have disappeared from a "gnome peepshow" located in an East German amusement park. So what exactly is a gnome peepshow? It's an attraction where "visitors peep through keyholes to see the saucy German miniatures in compromising poses." Perhaps the risque gnomes will one day return, accompanied by snapshots of their globe-trotting adventures. (Thanks to Big Gary C for forwarding this story to me)
Categories: Gnomes, Pranks, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Mon Nov 22, 2004
Comments (14)
The Leicester Mercury has a short article on the strange case of seven-year-old Stephen O'Hara, the 'Boston Superboy' who was able to bend forged steel and break wood with his mind. His case attracted a lot of attention back in 1920, and was widely suspected to be a hoax, though he was examined by a professor from New York University who seemed convinced of the reality of Stephen's powers, stating that "the boy is surrounded by an extraordinarily strong magnetic field" (kind of like a real-life version of Magneto). Unfortunately Stephen lost his powers when he turned twelve. He died while serving in World War II, at the age of 30.
Categories: Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Mon Nov 22, 2004
Comments (3)
image Three and a half years ago Larry and Sean disappeared from their home in Norfolk. Larry and Sean were ornamental sheep. Plywood cutouts covered with a woolly coat. About a week ago they reappeared, much to the delight of their owner, and they brought back with them a letter marked 'Larry and Sean's Holiday Photos,' showing the adventures they had in India. Turns out that Larry and Sean had been sheep-napped by a local man, Joe Claydon, who saw them one night while stumbling home from a late-night party and decided to make off with them. Years later Claydon felt guilty and took the sheep on an Indian holiday before returning them to their rightful owner. A small gallery of their vacation photos can be seen here. I think this prank (sending ornamental garden figures, usually gnomes, on foreign vacations) has become quite popular after it was featured in the movie Amelie. It was also the theme of a Travelocity ad campaign.
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Mon Nov 22, 2004
Comments (3)
When Velvet Scott twisted off the cap of a bottle of Mountain Dew and found a message beneath it that said "Winner! $10,000 Cash," she was pretty excited. But when she contacted Pepsi, the manufacturer of Mountain Dew, to find out how to collect her prize, she was in for a disappointment. They said she hadn't won anything, because they weren't holding a contest. The bottle cap was a hoax. According to this article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (requires registration), this hoax goes on a lot. You can buy phony winning bottle caps to fool your friends, and there's even a website devoted to debunking this prank. But Velvet Scott, even after learning all this, still isn't convinced. She's suing Pepsi to get her money since she insists that someone at the Pepsi distributor must have put the phony cap on the bottle. If she wins anything at all, expect many more people to start demanding money after winning non-existent contests.
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Mon Nov 22, 2004
Comments (3)
Professor Patrick Schembri, writing in the Sunday Times, reports of a new photo that's been making the email rounds showing a very strange looking animal captured in a bucket. Versions of the email variously claim that the animal was found either at Il-Maghluq in Marsascala, or in Bahrija. Schembri identifies the animal as none other than a Diplocaulus, extinct for 270 million years, which means that the photo almost definitely must be a hoax (either that or it's a major scientific discovery). He writes of the Diplocaulus: "The very distinctive head may have been an adaptation against predators, since the wide head would make Diplocaulus difficult to swallow, or it may have aided the animal to swim by acting as a hydrofoil. Like most other early amphibians, Diplocaulus lived in or near water. It probably fed on insects or fish. It was also considerably larger than the image doing the rounds suggests, since fossils as large as 80 cm in length have been discovered." (via The Anomalist) image
Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Mon Nov 22, 2004
Comments (19)
Earlier this month 'spiritual teacher' Sri Chinmoy lifted a 5,322lb airplane off the ground. And the guy is 73 years old. I know there's got to be some trick here. How exactly did he lift that much weight? Was he using a lever of some kind? This weight-lifting success follows on the heels of a little 3,100 mile jog he and some of his followers did. Not a cross-country jog, mind you. No, they jogged around a city block in Jamaica, Queens. It took them seven weeks, running for 18 hours a day. The jogging I'm perfectly ready to believe. The weight-lifting, I'm not so sure about.
Categories: Religion, Sports
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 19, 2004
Comments (9)
I thought I had some strange teachers in my time, but none as strange as this Manchester teacher who told her students that a meteor was going to hit the earth in a week and they were all going to die. Her point: to motivate them to 'seize the day'. The logic seems to be 'make them think they're going to die so they appreciate what they have.' Kind of like that guy who tried to save his marriage by electrifying his wife in the bathtub.

On a completely unrelated note, the widespread use of the phrase seize the day (from the latin carpe diem) is a pet peeve of mine, since I think it's mistranslated. The latin word carpe is principally an agricultural term meaning to harvest, pluck, or gather. It only secondarily has a military usage. So the phrase should really be translated as harvest the day, which is a lot more laid back than seize the day. Though maybe my real problem with the term are those people who are always lecturing other people to seize the day.
Categories: Death, Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 19, 2004
Comments (11)
The story of Faye Nicole San Juan has received quite a bit of coverage in the Philippine press, but almost none here in America. Word of Faye Nicole began spreading through the Filipino community around the end of October, via an email titled "Misplaced priorities can mislead a nation." It was all about how the Philippines had supposedly let down 12-year-old Faye Nicole.

Faye was a young girl hoping to represent her country in the International Science Quiz in Brisbane, Australia. Her essay on "The Effect of Ionized Radiation on the Philippine Fruit Fly" had won her a place at the competition, but she couldn't afford the airfare, and the Philippine government wouldn't provide it for her. But luckily her church, Bread of Life Ministries, offered to help her go. She made it to Australia, but no sooner had she got off the plane, accompanied by her mother, than they were robbed by a fellow Filipino. Undaunted, they pawned some of their clothes and walked 2 kilometres to the competition. Faye proceeded to win first place (though there were no Filipinos there to cheer for her), but now had no money to get back home. A kindly Japanese stranger who was at the competition luckily helped arrange for them to get a flight back home.


The Philippine press, when it learned of this story, gnashed its teeth about how little their society supports bright kids like Faye. But they needn't have bothered. The entire story has turned out to be a hoax, invented by Faye's mother. The immigration departments in both the Philippines and Australia have no record of their travel. This science quiz doesn't seem to exist. And Faye's church has denied involvement. It's not known why the mother invented the story.
Categories: Email Hoaxes
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 19, 2004
Comments (9)
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