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March 2005
image Rubber Chicken has posted an interesting account of their experiment in spreading rumors and misinformation via their internet. What they wanted to do was plant one seed of misinformation, and see how far it would spread. As it turned out, it spread quite far.

Their seed of misinformation was this: they made up a rumor that actor John Rhys-Davies, of Sliders fame, was going to provide the voice for General Grievous, the new CGI villain in Star Wars Episode III. They emailed this rumor to Ain't It Cool News, where it was promptly posted as a hot new piece of movie gossip. They then sat back and watched the rumor spread, which it quickly did. Other movie sites quickly picked up the news, and newspapers such as The Guardian even reported it: "Later reports listed IGN and The Guardian - yes, the god damned Guardian - as sources, which effectively meant the news progressively got more reliable. Barely 48 hours after the original announcement, many were already discussing Rhys-Davies' role as if it were confirmed."
Categories: Entertainment, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Sun Mar 27, 2005
Comments (9)
It's long been thought that the word Easter and the traditions we associate with it (the Easter Bunny and hiding eggs) stem from an old Germanic Saxon belief about the goddess Ostara. The Saxons believed that Ostara was sent by the Sun King during the spring to bring an end to winter. She bore a basket of colored eggs, and with the help of a magical rabbit would hide these eggs under plants and flowers to bring them new life. The name Ostara evolved into Oestre, or Easter. Turns out this legend is a hoax, at least according to University of Tasmania researcher Elizabeth Freeman. Her research indicates that the Saxons never worshipped a goddess named Ostara. Ostara was simply invented by an 8th century scholar named the Venerable Bede, apparently because he thought it was a nice story: "He has definitely made up that goddess," Dr Freeman said. "Bede is the first one to mention it. German academics have found no evidence of the spring goddess Oestre anywhere else before Bede." She theorizes that the Easter Bunny legend actually came from ancient Celtic culture, because the Celts "revered sacred hares".
Categories: History, Religion
Posted by Alex on Sun Mar 27, 2005
Comments (19)
On March 22 Google altered their graphic (as they often do) to show water dripping out of the word 'Google' into a bowl. The rumor immediately started racing around that this was some kind of reference to the Terri Schiavo case. I don't quite follow the logic of the rumor. Did people think that Google was showing how water is dripping out of Schiavo as she dehydrates? I'm not sure. Anyway, it wasn't any kind of reference to Terri Schiavo. Google used the graphic to note that it was World Water Day.
image
Categories: Death
Posted by Alex on Sat Mar 26, 2005
Comments (22)
image Snopes has a listing about a photo that shows a soldier shaking hands with Hillary Clinton while his fingers are crossed. A caption accompanying the photo explains that the soldier was crossing his fingers to signal that he was coerced to shake hands with her. Today Snopes updated this listing to include a link to a Yahoo Personals Page apparently created by the guy in the picture in which he states that he's no fan of Hillary Clinton. Snopes notes that this confirms what the caption says about why he was crossing his fingers. But my question is about the Yahoo Profile. How are we supposed to know that it's real? It could have been created by anyone. There's no name on it, nor any very specific information. And the picture displayed on the page is the very same picture that's spread all over the internet. Didn't the guy have an original, better-quality version of it? If he had included other photos of himself I would totally believe it's him. But the fact that this is the only photo made available seems a little suspicious. Maybe this really is him, but based on what's there, it's impossible to be sure. After all, it's not like people never fake personals. Or am I missing something?
Categories: Military, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Sat Mar 26, 2005
Comments (26)
image This is a cute idea: earth dog tags. "In case of alien abduction these dog tags may save your life. The crucial data an alien will need to get you back to Earth is die stamped into these dog tags." Plus, they come with a money back guarantee: "should you ever be abducted by aliens while wearing Location Earth Dog Tags and not returned safely to Earth you will be entitled to a full refund of the purchase price." But I think they should also sell non-Earth dog tags. You could give them to friends as a prank. Imagine the look on their faces when they get returned to Mars or Jupiter! (thanks to Stewart for the link)
Categories: Extraterrestrial Life
Posted by Alex on Fri Mar 25, 2005
Comments (31)
I've heard that there's a new internet fad called 'Bombing' which involves internet users getting together to phone in fake emergencies to the police. I have no idea whether or not this is really happening (though it did immediately make me think of the Not-So-Great Internet UFO Hoax, which involved an internet community trying to coordinate calling up authorities with a phony UFO sighting). Has anyone ever heard of this new fad? Is it real?
Update: This question arises because a Texas woman who phoned in a fake emergency call is using 'bombing' as her excuse. She claims it's an internet game, in which the winner is the person who can get the most police to respond to a phony emergency. The winner also gets to go to jail!
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 24, 2005
Comments (24)
image Conspiracy theorists say that man never landed on the moon, but the truth is even more shocking. As this short documentary film about the Old Negro Space Program reveals, the Blackstronauts of Black 'NASSA' landed on the moon a full three years before White NASA managed to get there. However, this achievement has been covered up by an elaborate 'Black Blackout' in the media. The film manages to capture exactly the right 'Ken Burnsesque' tone. Watch for how they keep repeating 'It was a different time back then, 1957 or 58', and how a fiddle starts playing whenever the narration shifts to a more reflective mood. The guy who plays the part of the obligatory university academic is great also. (thanks to 'Ca n'Internet' for the link)
Categories: Exploration/Travel, History
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 24, 2005
Comments (9)
Joey Skaggs has announced details of NEW YORK CITY'S 20th ANNUAL APRIL FOOLS' DAY PARADE (he's got that page very oddly formatted in a single long column, but you can also read the news release in pdf format). A few details:

This year's parade, "Divided We Stand", will memorialize the efforts made by people around the world to maintain their power, whether political, religious or personal, at the cost of the greater common good. The Parade Grand Marshall will be Ex CBS Anchor, Dan Rather. The theme song "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" will be sung by President George W. Bush. The public is encouraged to participate, in or out of costume, with or without floats, and may join the procession at any point along the parade route. Large float entries must be at 59th Street and 5th Avenue no later than 11:30 a.m..
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 24, 2005
Comments (3)
'Billionaires for Bush' placed the American Social Security System up for sale on eBay. Apparently it was quickly pulled, but Billionaires for Bush has archived the auction on their own site:

Due to the surprising failure of carefully staged "conversations" across America to convince the American Public that Privatizing Social Security is a good thing, we have decided to take matters into our own hands. As a favor to President Bush and offered exclusively here to the winning bidder who meets our reserve, (must be a private Brokerage Firm, see details below) Billionaires For Bush can't wait to pull the switch on retirement security by circumventing Congress, the Will of the People, and good sense. Why not cut right to the chase? Concurrent with White House Goals and the Cato Institute, we're AUCTIONING OFF SOCIAL SECURITY!
Categories: Business/Finance, eBay, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 24, 2005
Comments (3)
image I received the following email from Joe Mason. Instead of summarizing it, I'll just cut-and-paste the whole thing:

Amazon has a listing for "Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie". The book also has a homepage at http://www.hamsterhueypress.com/, and it's listed as being written by "renowned story teller" Mabel S. Barr.

Hamster Huey is, of course, the fictional book written by "Mabel Syrup" in Calvin and Hobbes. It looks like somebody with a vanity press has ripped off the title (I don't think titles are copyrightable, so this may even be legal). This version of "Hamster Huey" certainly isn't a "classic and much-beloved tale" as the publisher claims, so it's a hoax in that sense. I suspect it may go even deeper, and there is no actual book: "At Ms. Barr.s request, only a limited number of copies of this first edition are being printed, and Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie is sure to sell out soon." That's an easy excuse for not shipping a single copy.

So - is this a vanity press trying to pass off its book as a famous title? Or is someone having a chuckle by tricking Amazon into printing a fake book listing?


I guess the easiest thing to do would be to order the book and see what arrives, but since I don't want to spend the money my hunch would be that it's a real book that's a homage to (or inspired by) the fictional book from Calvin and Hobbes. Though I think there would be some intellectual property issues involved if the author of the book being sold on Amazon hadn't got the permission of the Calvin and Hobbes author. As for the issue about the 'limited number of copies', I think they're referring to copies of the first edition. Presumably they could print further editions if the first one sold out. But the real ripoff is that they're charging $7 for an 8-page paperback.
Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 23, 2005
Comments (37)
According to legend, the Pony Express mail service (which operated from 1860 to 1861) advertised for riders as follows:

"Wanted. Young, skinny, wiry fellows. Not over 18. Must be expert riders. Willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred."

But historian Joseph Nardone has determined that the ad is a hoax. It never ran. Or rather, it never ran during the operation of the Pony Express. He scoured hundreds of papers, but couldn't find it listed anywhere. The first time he found it mentioned was in 1902. A real ad for the Pony Express, from 1860, read as follows:

"Men Wanted! The undersigned wishes to hire ten or a dozen men, familiar with the management of horses, as hostlers or riders on the Overland Express Route via Salt Lake City. Wages, $50 per month and found (room and board)."
Categories: History
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 23, 2005
Comments (6)
image A guy on eBay is selling what he speculates to be an authentic alien mummy corpse. He claims that he found it lying on the ground near his home in Tampa a few days after hearing loud booms (which he assumed to be a UFO crashing). He writes: "I hestitated about taking it home with me ...could it be radio active? could it have deadly alien pathogens?  After putting on rubber gloves I felt safer, so I took it home with me. There seems to be no animal or insect damage."

The thing that potential buyers on eBay seem more worried about is not if it contains deadly alien pathogens, but whether it's a human corpse. I don't think so. It looks like a feejee mermaid to me, and these are usually made out of monkey corpses. For instance, it seems quite similar to this handsome fellow whose picture was doing the rounds a while ago. There's no way he found this just lying on the ground somewhere. (thanks to Beasjt for the link)
Categories: eBay, Extraterrestrial Life
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 23, 2005
Comments (35)
More news from Ananova, though there's nothing inherently unbelievable in this story:

A burnt rubber doll was mistaken for a badly injured alien and taken to a hospital in Brazil. It happened after people in Aracruz found a burnt 'body' on the ground after seeing a fireball fall from the sky.
A police spokesman told Terra Noticias Populares: "Many people were terrified thinking that an alien invasion was taking place. "They thought the doll was a burnt ET and more than 50 people called the station."
The 'alien' was taken to the local hospital where doctors soon confirmed it was a burnt rubber doll. A hospital spokesman said: "It was obviously a practical joke but we wonder who would do that in such a small and quiet town."


This reminds me of the story of the Great Monkey Hoax.
Categories: Extraterrestrial Life, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 23, 2005
Comments (6)
If you've seen those commercials with Steve Wynn standing on top of his hotel in Las Vegas you might find this interesting. I had assumed the shot was fake, but apparently it's not. Stuart Elliott has provided some info about this in his NY Times advertising column (I get the column sent to me by email, and I don't think it appears on the Times website, so I've pasted it below):

A Reader Asks: In the new commercial for his eponymous hotel, Steve Wynn is shown atop it. Was he really up there, or is it just computer-generated?

Stuart Elliott: That is indeed Mr. Wynn atop the tower of the Wynn Las Vegas mega-resort, which is scheduled to open on April 28. The commercial was created by Korey Kay & Partners in New York. Newspapers in Las Vegas have covered the commercial extensively; one article, from The Las Vegas Sun, even began this way: "Yes, Steve Wynn really was on top of his Wynn Las Vegas hotel when the resort's new television commercial was filmed." Mr. Wynn was attached by a web belt and a rope to a pipe hidden behind his leg while a camera crew circled the site in a helicopter.
Categories: Advertising
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 22, 2005
Comments (2)
image I just received an email from Dave Simpson with the attached image. Dave says:

Here is a photo of my son, Connor, on our backyard trampoline in Alabama. He was four months old at the time. Feel free to post it on your site.

So I'm stumped. Obviously a 4-month-old infant couldn't bounce themselves up and down on a trampoline. So how was the picture taken? I have no idea.
Categories: Birth/Babies, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 22, 2005
Comments (87)
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