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January 2005
image Stan Murmur has a good thing going. He smears paint on his buttocks, smacks his fanny on a piece of paper, and sells the resulting product for hundreds of dollars. Is it really art? Well, no. It's Butt Art. I think this probably qualifies as something that started out as a bit of a joke, but then somehow turned into a real thing for him.
Categories: Art
Posted by Alex on Thu Jan 13, 2005
Comments (13)
This link (warning: Not Safe for Work because of language) ranks high on the stupid meter, but I'm posting it anyway because it reminds me of the days that I worked as a TA in a freshman writing program at UC San Diego. It's supposedly a student essay that some guy wrote while high and then handed in... and despite this sorry excuse for an essay he passed the class, because attendance counted. Is the paper real? That's hardly worth speculating about since there's no evidence either way. It would be easy enough for someone to fake this (get out a red pen and mark up a paper), but I also remember seeing many papers that were worse than this when I was a TA, so I'm inclined to believe it's real. One of my students handed in half a page of incoherent sentence fragments as his attempt at an assigned three-to-five page essay. From a TA's point of view, the awful papers are actually the easiest ones to grade. It's the students who seem to be making a real attempt but still end up with bad essays that really make you work for your money.
Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Thu Jan 13, 2005
Comments (17)
image I don't know if these pictures are real, in the sense of whether they really show tourists sunning themselves while people try to clean up tsunami damage around them. Maybe the pictures were taken at some other time, in a totally different context. But they certainly look like tourists trying to act as if nothing happened while all around them is a wasteland. Unbelievable.
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Jan 12, 2005
Comments (47)
I came across the On-line Gamers Anonymous (OLGA) site recently and can't make up my mind whether or not it's a hoax. It's a site "of, by, and for on-line gaming addicts." Some of the stories shared on its message board seem a bit farfetched. Take, for example, the tale of Tommy, a former EverQuest addict. Tommy complains that:

Before EverQuest I used to have nearly a perfect life, I was living the american dream if you will. I hade a wonderfull job, a great house, a beautiful and lovely wife and most importanly my 2 beautiful little girls wich I love I've lost everything because of this game.

As he relates his tale of woe, Tommy shares one unforgettable detail with us. He says that in the depths of his addiction it became so hard for him to tear himself away from the computer that:

I decided to set up a little pot in my computer room so I wouldn't have to get up when I needed to go pee, as much as this may sound ubelivable I can assure you it's the truth.

One thing that made me suspect this was a hoax was that there have been other gaming addiction hoaxes, such as Mothers Against Videogame Addiction and Violence. However, after reading this article in Wired about gaming addiction (by Daniel Terdiman), I'm inclined to think that OLGA may be real. Terdiman relates how hard-core gamers can begin to have problems separating the game from reality. One lady describes swerving her car around the road because she thinks she's still playing a game. Another lady, a Sims player, sits at her computer thinking 'What percent of my bladder is full?' instead of going to the bathroom.

So what is it about gamers and their reluctance to urinate? I'm now imagining thousands of solitary gamers sitting there with pots in their rooms.

Update (09/19/2005): The owner of OLGA has stated that it is "a REAL service provided for people who are addicted to computer/video games and have no where else to go."

Update (13/2/2007): OLGA has now moved to a different website.
Categories: Psychology, Technology
Posted by Alex on Wed Jan 12, 2005
Comments (38)
The LA Times has just discovered something that I've been saying for ages: haunted stuff sells well on eBay. As they put it: "Having exhausted bad taste and banality, it appears EBay sellers have moved on to a new marketing strategy — the paranormal. Everything "haunted" is so hot, EBay could launch a new category." But still, the LA Times is only seeing half the story here. What's interesting is not just that people are selling lots of haunted things on eBay. After all, there's always been a market for the paranormal. What's interesting is the new market for haunted junk that eBay has created. Take any old crap that's been collecting dust around your house: an old jar, a Coke can, a broken toaster. Slap a haunted label on it, make up a story about it, and hey presto, sell it on eBay for hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars.
Categories: eBay, Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Wed Jan 12, 2005
Comments (16)
The Guardian reports that a story has been spreading around Islamic websites about a CIA muezzin school in which the CIA trains agents to pose as muezzins (the men who call Muslims to prayer five days a week times a day from the minaret towers of mosques). Supposedly the CIA feels that muezzins are in a uniquely advantageous position to view everything that's going on in Muslim communities. But in reality, this is another of those satire-mistaken-as-news stories. The story of the CIA Muezzin school originated on the satire-laced website of the The Rockall Times (Rockall is a tiny uninhabited island in the middle of the Atlantic). So this will join the growing list of spoofs taken seriously by Muslim news sources, a list that already includes the Giant Skeleton Unearthed in Saudi Arabia, and the Secret History of the Flying Carpet.
Categories: Conspiracy Theories, Religion
Posted by Alex on Tue Jan 11, 2005
Comments (9)
According to an article in the Economist, quoted here by the Washington Monthly blog, a British grocery store chain has been successfully deterring rowdy youths from hanging around their stores by playing classical music. Mozart and Pavarotti appear to be especially potent at warding off juvenile delinquents. The same technique has been working in underground stations. Something about this strikes me as a bit odd. Why would it work? Just because the kids don't like having to listen to classical music? Could it really be that easy? Perhaps it is.
Categories: Entertainment, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Tue Jan 11, 2005
Comments (26)
The novelist Margaret Atwood, having grown tired of attending book signings in cities throughout the world, has invented a strange new device that may eliminate author appearances altogether in the future. It's a remote autographing device. The author sits in the comfort of their home and talks to a tv screen. In a bookstore thousands of miles away a fan talks back. If the fan wants an autographed book, the author simply scribbles something on a tablet. The tablet then transmits this scribbling to an in-store machine that produces an identical copy of the message in a book that the fan can take home. It reminds me of a high-tech version of Jefferson's polygraph machine. I predict this idea will take off just like that idea someone had back in the '50s about how we could all eat nutrition pills instead of real food (via Neil Gaiman).
Categories: Literature/Language, Technology
Posted by Alex on Tue Jan 11, 2005
Comments (2)
I realize some people feel that Abstract Expressionism needs some kind of an excuse for its existence, but the following purported connection between Abstract Expressionism and the CIA seems just bizarre. It comes from a review of Who Paid the Piper: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War by Frances Stonor Saunders

One of the most important and fascinating discussions in Saunders' book is about the fact that CIA and its allies in the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) poured vast sums of money into promoting Abstract Expressionist (AE) painting and painters as an antidote to art with a social content. In promoting AE, the CIA fought off the right-wing in Congress. What the CIA saw in AE was an "anti-Communist ideology, the ideology of freedom, of free enterprise. Non-figurative and politically silent it was the very antithesis of socialist realism" (254). They viewed AE as the true expression of the national will. To bypass right-wing criticism, the CIA turned to the private sector (namely MOMA and its co-founder, Nelson Rockefeller, who referred to AE as "free enterprise painting.") Many directors at MOMA had longstanding links to the CIA and were more than willing to lend a hand in promoting AE as a weapon in the cultural Cold War. Heavily funded exhibits of AE were organized all over Europe; art critics were mobilized, and art magazines churned out articles full of lavish praise. The combined economic resources of MOMA and the CIA-run Fairfield Foundation ensured the collaboration of Europe's most prestigious galleries which, in turn, were able to influence aesthetics across Europe.

Art museum directors on the front lines of the Cold War? That sounds like the plot of a Thomas Pynchon novel to me. It also sounds just crazy enough to be true. (via Early Days of a Better Nation)
Categories: Art, Conspiracy Theories
Posted by Alex on Mon Jan 10, 2005
Comments (15)
The latest craze sweeping through LiveJournal, Xanga, and other blogging communities involves people posting this message on their blogs:

A girl died in 1933 by a homicidal murderer. He buried her in the ground when she was still alive. The murdered chanted, "Toma sota balcu" as he buried her. Now that you have read the chant, you will meet this little girl. In the middle of the night she will be on your ceiling. She will suffocate you like she was suffocated. If you post this, she will not bother you. Your kindness will be rewarded.

It obviously seems to be inspired by the movie The Ring. Other than that I don't know much about this (such as who started it, etc.), though I do know that I'm now safe.
Categories: Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Mon Jan 10, 2005
Comments (409)
image I, like everyone else, should stop posting about these miracle foods that keep appearing on eBay. It's only encouraging their proliferation. But I just can't stop myself. So here's the latest one: A Miracle M&M. The seller says:

Purchasing a handful of M&M from vending machine, I came across this very special M&M that I believe to be a likeness of Jesus with a crown on his head. This has been a life changing event for me. I am hoping that all of you see what I see.
Categories: eBay, Food, Religion
Posted by Alex on Sun Jan 09, 2005
Comments (17)
image When 9-year-old Diamond Robinson found a Cabbage Patch Doll under the Christmas tree, she was in for a rude surprise. Encoded in the serial number on the doll's 'adoption papers' was the message: _UCKME. (I think the missing first letter is an F, but I'm not sure. It could be an S.) The company that made the doll says it's an innocent mistake... a computer randomly generated the serial number. But I'm not so sure. Sounds like something a mischievous employee might have done. Kind of like a Cross-Dressing Ken type prank. Instead of complaining about the doll, the family should sell it on eBay. They're sitting on a potential goldmine.
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 07, 2005
Comments (12)
image An interview with Hiroshi Yamauchi, former president of Nintendo, has been doing the rounds. It's supposedly published in the February issue of Wired. The interview is quite colorful, to say the least. For instance, at one point Yamauchi claims that during a meeting with Microsoft's Steve Ballmer he said to him, 'hey, Ballmer, why don't you suck my tiny yellow balls.' This was his response to Microsoft's offer to buy Nintendo. The quotation is offered up in bold letters in the sidebar, so there's no chance you'll miss it. There's also some other equally outrageous stuff. Is any of it real? No. It's a fake interview and a fake Wired magazine mock-up. Digit magazine has an article debunking it.
Update: apparently thought the article was real.
Update 2: According to this article, Nintendo has officially confirmed that the interview is a hoax.
Categories: Business/Finance, Technology
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 07, 2005
Comments (4)
Interesting letter in today's Dear Abby:

DEAR ABBY: I am a 10-year-old girl who has been playing after school on a Web site for pet lovers. I like to talk to kids older than me — 14- or- 15-year-olds. A lot of the boys I've talked to have asked for my picture, so I went to Google and found a picture of a pretty blond girl around 15 years old. I have been sending this picture to all the people who have asked me for one.

So this is what the future holds for us. A whole generation of Kaycee Nicole Swensons in training.
Categories: Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 07, 2005
Comments (33)
image I realize that Ikea gives some of their products strange names. At least, the names sound strange in English. In Swedish I'm sure that they sound perfectly normal. But you would think that somebody in the company would have realized that calling a children's work bench the 'FartFull' wasn't the most astute marketing move. Though kids will probably like the name. I'm pretty sure this isn't a joke because the product is right there on Ikea's website.
Categories: Advertising
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 07, 2005
Comments (24)
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