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February 2006
The Comics Should Be Good blog is creating a database of comic book urban legends. I don't recognize all the names and characters referred to, but it makes for interesting reading anyway. Here's a few samples (full explanations for all of these at Comics Should Be Good):

Wolverine's costume was patterned in part on the uniforms of the Michigan Wolverines football team. (False)

Joker was originally killed off in his SECOND appearance! (True)

Wolverine was initially intended to be a genetically mutated wolverine. (True)

Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston invented the polygraph test! (False)

Marvel Comics licenses the use of the name "Hulk" to Hulk Hogan. (False, now... but it used to be true)

Marvel HAS to publish a Captain Marvel comic book. (For all intents and purposes, True)

DC had a Superman storyline set during the Holocaust that did not mention the word "Jew" or "Jewish." (True)

Nicolas Cage took his last name from Luke Cage, Hero For Hire. (True, depending on when you talk to Nicolas Cage)
Categories: Literature/Language, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 13, 2006
Comments (7)
Status: Counterfeiting scam
The Washington Post reports on a growing problem in the vintage wine business: bogus vintage wines. Apparently many collectors who shell out thousands of dollars for a rare bottle of wine are discovering that what they bought is a fake:

"The cloud of shame over the last 10 years has been the market for counterfeit trophy wine." Sutcliffe [head of the international wine department at Sotheby's] said there was a psychological block to dealing with the problem because real vintage wine makers in Europe prefer to ignore what is going on as they are afraid of being tarnished with the same brush. "Asian (buyers) tend to ignore the problem because they don't want to lose face, but in America they are waking up to it."

Unfortunately the article doesn't discuss how people discover they've got a bogus vintage wine. Do they taste it and realize that it's plonk? Personally, I doubt I would be able to tell the difference (which is why I'm not a wine collector... though I enjoy wine).
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 13, 2006
Comments (8)
I received this email from Alanna Fraser:

I am a development producer working at KEO Films in London. I'm looking into the possibility of doing a documentary/series on people who have faked world records/cheated/hood-winked people (either Guinness World Records or others). I came across your website when I was looking for info on this subject on the internet, and wondered whether you might be able to help me out with any advice or suggestions? I'd really appreciate any help that you could give me.

I can think of a lot of sports hoaxes (such as Rosie Ruiz), but no world-record hoaxes are coming to mind except for the Cook-Peary controversy over who reached the North Pole first (and the likelihood that neither of them ever reached it). Can anyone else think of some world-record hoaxes?
Categories: Sports
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 09, 2006
Comments (22)
Status: Undetermined
A few months ago Timothy Rohn, of Richard Township, Michigan, went outside to discover his car covered in bird poop. Or maybe it was human poop. Or maybe something else entirely. Whatever it was, there was a lot of it. But he didn't worry too much about it. He just let the rain wash it off. But two months later, the same thing has happened again. Something up there really likes pooping on his car. The Saginaw News reports that:

Rohn said the substance definitely is excrement and, from what he could see Tuesday night, it may have contained toilet paper that had broken down in chemicals. He said he did not notice a blue or other chemical tint to the substance.

Rohn's only theory is that airplanes are discharging waste over his house, despite the lack of a chemical tint to the waste. It also seems weird that this only seems to be happening to him, not his neighbors. The police have no explanation. Here's the comment of the officer who investigated the mystery:

"It's manure, and it came from the sky. If it came from some kind of fowl, it had to be one heck of a large flock. To me, it looks like bird droppings but, man, it had to be an awful large flock of birds. It's all over."
Categories: Gross
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 09, 2006
Comments (12)
Status: Undetermined
image Christine sent in a video of four goldfish who have apparently been trained to swim in synchronized patterns. They're definitely the best-trained goldfish I've ever seen. In fact, I didn't even know it was possible to train fish, but a quick google search reveals that I'm wrong. The Clicker Training site shows a film clip of a trained fish (it's the second movie down), and also has a discussion about training fish. Which isn't to say that the movie of the four trained goldfish is real, but I can't see how it's been faked. The clip looks like it was a segment on a Japanese news show, which actually makes it more believable. (If it looked like an advertisement, I'd dismiss it right away as a fake.) I'm listing its status as undetermined, but I'm leaning towards believing that it's real.

Related Posts:
Jan 31, 2006: Goldfish Have No Memory
Oct. 25, 2005: Do Round Bowls Make Goldfish Go Blind?
Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 09, 2006
Comments (30)
Status: Hoax
image Jesus Pets points out a serious problem that born-again Christians must face if they own a pet: Many Christians believe that animals do not go to heaven. So when Jesus comes back and you return with him to heaven, will there be somebody to take care of your dog or cat?

Happily, they offer a solution: We are assembling a community of heathen pet-lovers to care for pets that are “left-behind.” We are coordinating with feed mills and kennels in preparation for your post-apocalyptic pet care needs.

Clearly this is tongue-in-cheek, though it's a clever idea. (I'd happily agree to look after someone's animal for a fee in case of rapture, since I anticipate being left behind.)

If you poke around the JesusPets site a bit more (follow the Jesus Links link), you'll find hundreds of pages full of links to religious sites. Each of these link pages runs google ads. So what I think is going on is that someone created the JesusPets page as a ploy to get lots of people (like me) to link to it, thereby increasing its pagerank. This, in turn, will increase the pagerank of all those link pages running the ads and, in theory, generate plenty of ad revenue. Whoever dreamed up this scheme is definitely going to be around post-rapture. (via J-Walk)
Categories: Animals, Religion, Websites
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 08, 2006
Comments (21)
Status: Undetermined
Ananova, All Headline News, the Mumbai Mirror, and a couple of other highly reputable news sources are reporting a story about a Hungarian woman who fell through the ice while ice skating, and stopped herself from drowning by gripping the edge of the ice with her teeth:

The 29-year-old woman was practicing on Lake Velence when the ice cracked and she fell in. With frostbite setting in and her hands unable to move, the only thing left was to grip the edge with her teeth. After being rescued doctors say her quick thinking saved her life.

This boggles my mind. If it was so cold that she couldn't use her arms, how could she still bite down on the edge of the ice? That would have to be very painful. Just thinking about it sends shivers down my spine. But I suppose it could be true, or the story could have been exaggerated and distorted as it made its way its way through the media. I don't know what to believe. The story apparently originally came from the Bilkk newspaper, which I can't find any record of online.
Categories: Journalism
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 08, 2006
Comments (19)
Status: Joke
image No, it's not possible to cook an egg with two cell phones. At least, not by using the method outlined on wymsey.co.uk. The instructions basically boil down to this: place an egg between two phones, use one phone to call the other, and then wait for radio signals to cook the egg. Wymsey notes that cooking time:

very much depends on the power output of your mobile phone. For instance, a pair of mobiles each with 2 Watts of transmitter output will take three minutes to boil a large free range egg. Check your user manual and remember that cooking time will be proportional to the inverse square of the output power for a given distance from egg to phone.

As I said, this method definitely won't work (though I wouldn't rule out there being some kind of MacGyver way to cook an egg involving highly polished cellphones and reflected sunlight). What should be noted, however, is that Wymsey never intended anyone to believe it would work. The instructions are a joke. A lot of sites (including, surprisingly, Boing Boing) don't seem to have realized this. (Isn't the name Wymsey a giveaway?) The Wymsey site (which chronicles the goings-on in the fictional village of Wymsey) was created by Charlie Ivermee back in 1998, and he wrote the egg article in 2000. In an interview with Gelf Magazine he explains why he wrote the article:

“It was 6 years ago but I seem to recall that there was a lot of concern about people's brains getting fried and being from a radio/electronics background I found it all rather silly. So I thought I'd add to the silliness.”
Categories: Food, Technology
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 08, 2006
Comments (11)
Status: Undetermined
A news service called AKI (Adnkronos International) is reporting that Iran has decided to rename Danish pastries "Mohammedan" pastries. It notes that "The name change recalls when some Americans started calling French fries, 'Freedom fries' to protest France's opposition to the United States-led invasion of Iraq."

I wouldn't put it past the Iranian government to do this, but what I'm not sure about is whether Danish pastries are actually referred to as Danish pastries in Farsi. Perhaps they use the English term. Also, it seems odd that AFI is the only news source reporting this. A search on lexis-nexis and Google news pulls up nothing else. However, the London Evening Standard is reporting that "Danish pastries and butter were being cleared off supermarket shelves in Saudi Arabia." So if people are willing to clear Danish pastries from supermarkets, why not rename them also? I'm leaning towards believing it's true.
Categories: Food, Politics, Religion
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 08, 2006
Comments (30)
Status: Highly possible
image The debate over the identity of Mr. Six, that crazy old guy who used to dance around in the commercials for Six Flags (Six Flags no longer uses him), has raged on for quite a while. Many were convinced it was Jaleel White, the actor who played Urkel on Family Matters. Others thought Mr. Six was played by a woman. But no one really had any clue, and Six Flags certainly wasn't telling. Now, at last, the mystery seems like it might have been solved. Paul Davidson has posted on his blog that Mr. Six was Danny Teeson, an actor who now appears on Queer Eye for the Straight Girl:

the confirmation came to WFME [Davidson's blog] just recently when a source who had worked with individuals that had helped film the Six Flags commercials let the identity of Mr. Six (assuming it was OK since the campaign was now over) slip. Six Flags, of course, still has no comment — and continues to deny the true identity even now that the floodgates are poised to open.

Davidson's strongest evidence, besides the anonymous source, is that a special-effects company listed Teeson on its website as an actor in the Six Flags commercial, before pulling the reference. But the reference lived on in the Google cache. Personally, I think it's a decent theory. And Teeson does kind of look like Mr. Six. But to be absolutely certain, we'll have to wait and see if either Teeson himself or Six Flags ever confirms this theory.

Previous posts about Mr. Six:
June 26, 2004: Mr. Six (in the old Hoax Forum)
July 14, 2004: Who is Mr. Six?
Categories: Advertising, Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Tue Feb 07, 2006
Comments (5)
Status: Final nail in coffin of JT Leroy
Just in case there was anyone who still doubted that JT Leroy was a hoax, the deception has finally been admitted to by an insider, Geoffrey Knoop. Knoop was the partner of Laura Albert, the woman who (it can now definitely be said) wrote all of JT Leroy's books. The face of JT Leroy, whenever Leroy made any public appearances, was Savannah Knoop, Geoffrey's half-sister. Geoffrey Knoop has said: "The jig is up... I do want to apologize to people who were hurt. It got to a level I didn't expect." Knoop also says that he doubts Laura Albert will ever admit to being JT Leroy: "For her, it's very personal. It's not a hoax. It's a part of her."

Previous posts about JT Leroy:
October 10, 2005: Is JT Leroy A Hoax?
January 9, 2006: JT Leroy: An Update
Categories: Identity/Imposters, Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Tue Feb 07, 2006
Comments (2)
Status: Real
image I'm assuming this photo of a guy with a shot glass through his ear is real because it was taken by a Reuters photographer (Jorge Silva) outside the World Social Forum in Caracas on January 25, 2006. The guy with the crazy ear piercing is "Venezuelan tattoo maker Constantino." So when he doesn't have a shot glass in his ear, his earlobes must hang down like big fleshy loops. That's got to be attractive. (And is that a spike through his nose?)
Categories: Body Manipulation
Posted by Alex on Tue Feb 07, 2006
Comments (22)
Status: Undetermined
Norwich Union, a UK car insurance company, has published a list of the ten weirdest claims it received in 2005. Topping the list is this:

"A frozen squirrel fell out of a tree and crashed through the windscreen on to the passenger seat."

Unfortunately Norwich Union doesn't say if it found the claims to be legitimate. It only says that it received them. In the case of the frozen squirrel, you really have to wonder if it could be true. I suppose a squirrel could freeze to death up in a tree, and it could then fall onto a car parked below. But it would have to fall pretty far to pick up enough momentum to crash through the windshield. Though maybe the car wasn't parked. Maybe it was moving. This is clearly a case where more details are needed. (via The Guardian)
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 06, 2006
Comments (8)
Status: Satire
A photo of a bug-eyed Senator Clinton greeting someone before the State of the Union address on January 31, 2006 is currently one of the most emailed photos on Yahoo! News. The photo was taken by Jason Reed of Reuters. Now a site called Unconfirmed Sources claims to have "discovered the original electronic versions of the photograph in question, and the conclusion among renowned experts is that indeed the photograph being circulated throughout the press has been doctored, or 'photoshopped'." Compare what they say is the original version to the version circulating by email:
image

I've noticed that a few sites are already reporting Unconfirmed Source's story as fact. But although I've never read Unconfirmed Sources before, it seems kind of obvious to me that it's a humor site, and that the story about Hillary Clinton's photo is satire. (Clues that it's satire include the claim that the article is from the 'Rotters' news agency, and that it was written by 'Dood Abides'.) In other words, the bug-eyed version of Senator Clinton is the real thing. The version in which she looks normal is the fake.
Categories: Photos/Videos, Politics
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 06, 2006
Comments (8)
Status: Undetermined
image The Guardian reports that screenwriter Barney Broom has discovered a baby alien in his attic, "stored in an old toffee jar wrapped in a copy of the Daily Mirror dating from October 1947." The alien (or rather, model of an alien) resembles the aliens depicted in the alien autopsy movies and appears to be sculpted out of clay. It has a serial number on its foot. Speculation has commenced about what this alien baby might be. Was it something created by the US airforce back in 1947? Broom does live close to some US bases, so maybe a US servicemen renting the cottage left the model up in the attic by accident. Or is it a film prop from the 1960s? Or is it a recently created hoax?

Whatever it turns out to be, the case bears a striking similarity to the discovery of a pickled dragon in an Oxfordshire garage that occurred back in early 2004. The dragon turned out to be of recent manufacture, and its discovery was a stunt to help promote an author's book. Given that we're once again dealing with a writer discovering a mysterious pickled creature, the question to ask is, Does Barney Broom have a book coming out soon, and does it have anything to do with extraterrestrials?

Update: The BBC also has an article about the alien baby, with more pictures of it, including a close-up of the serial number on its foot. They note that the Pentagon is dismissing the model as a hoax. I also find it interesting that the first thing Barney Broom did with the model was take it to the Sci-Fi Channel. In my mind, this increases the likelihood that it's a hoax.

Update 2: image Captain DaFt has sent in a picture of his alien lamp, which, I suppose, bears a vague resemblance to the alien in the attic, in the sense that it's also a small alien preserved in liquid. He writes: "Here's the picture of my alien lamp I promised in response to the "Alien found in attic" story. Unfortunately; Spencer's doesn't seem to sell them anymore. (Nor the dinosaur fetus lamps either.)"
Personally, I would definitely pay good money to own a dinosaur fetus lamp.
Categories: Extraterrestrial Life
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 06, 2006
Comments (19)
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