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April 2006
Status: Prank
image Columnist Tom Greenwood of the Detroit News reports that a sign has been spotted "attached to an authentic Michigan Department of Transportation post on southbound Interstate 75 at the Oakland/Wayne county line." It reads: Welcome to Detroit. We hope you survive.

There's no word on how long this has been up, or for how long. Of course, fake road signs have been a popular prank for quite some time. There's the fake road sign project in Lyons, France, in which "105 street signs, realised by 47 worldwide artists, and just similar enough to real traffic signs to give one pause, have been attached to streetside poles around the french city of Lyon."

There's also the photoshopped picture of a Connecticut road sign that reads "Birthplace of George W. Bush. We apologize." Plus, the "Leaving Brooklyn. Oy Vey!" sign that was actually posted by the City of Brooklyn itself.
Categories: Places, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Sat Apr 08, 2006
Comments (5)
Status: Stuff to buy
image I've asked my wife to buy me these footprint impressions from a crippled Sasquatch for my birthday. (I'll be 38 in June.) I think they would look great hanging on the wall in my office, across from my jackalope, and above my magicshelf. I also like the fact that one gets "Research documentation by Dr. Krantz included at no additional charge."

I found the link to the Sasquatch footprint casts via The Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society, a fascinating site that I've become a regular visitor to.

And on the subject of cryptozoological curiosities, also check out these cryptozoological action figures. I already own the Bigfoot Action Figure that comes with a footprint stamp, but I'd like to have a Jersey Devil and Chupacabra as well.

And finally, there are a whole range of cryptozoologically-themed beers one can collect (and drink), including Bigfoot Barleywine-style Ale, Loch Ness Monster Ale, Yeti Imperial Stout, El Chupacabra's Bock, Jackalope Canyon Ale, and Crop Circle Beer (which doesn't really have anything to do with cryptozoology, but I thought I'd include it in the list anyway).
Categories: Cryptozoology
Posted by Alex on Fri Apr 07, 2006
Comments (5)
Status: Prank
image Power company workers in Ballymena (Northern Ireland) were amazed to discover five pairs of shoes hanging from a power line along the road between Larne and Ballymena. Ballymena Today reports:

Electricity engineers could only look skyward in bemusement at the bizarre sight of the shoes and boots hanging from the line, baffled as to who, why and how this was done. The inspiration for the prank may have come from the fantasy film Big Fish. In the film, the most memorable scene occurs when the young Edward Bloom, played by Ewan McGregor, visits the town of Spector, where it is claimed that all is perfect.

Surprisingly, this sighting has not yet been posted on Shoefiti, the weblog devoted to shoes hanging from power lines. I'd also note that it seems like wishful thinking to believe that the shoes are an allusion to the movie Big Fish, given the more popular (and sinister) theory that shoes on power lines are secret codes meaning that drugs and sex are available nearby.
Categories: Places, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 06, 2006
Comments (14)
Status: False
image I'm posting this despite my belief that discussing, or even thinking about, the entity known as Paris Hilton can be dangerous to one's mental health. Apparently an Indian filmmaker known as T. Rajeevnath wants to cast Paris Hilton as Mother Teresa in his biography of the nun that he will begin filming next year. He claims that Paris's facial features closely resemble those of Mother Teresa, and that Paris has "expressed delight" at being considered to play the nun.

Although Paris Hilton would seem to be a natural choice for the role, she has denied seeing any similarity between her face and Mother Teresa's. She also doesn't seem very keen to play the role. So Rajeevnath must be spreading the rumor just to create controversy and publicity.
Categories: Celebrities
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 06, 2006
Comments (16)
Status: Bogus fears
The BBC invited its readers to tell them what their greatest fears were, and has posted a selection of 20 of the responses. Some of them are hard to take seriously. Especially this one:

The letter Y: "M phobia is all about the letter . Ever time I tr to press it on the ke board, it makes me want to cr . I know it seems sill to ever one else, but it all started when I was a bab , and I swallowed a magnetic letter. At least that's what My mumm and dadd told me an wa ."
Paul Davies, Swindon, UK


This one also seems a bit tongue-in-cheek:

Computers: I'd like to comment, but I'm scared of computers.
Tony Gallagher, Oamaru, New Zealand


(via The Presurfer)

Related Post:
Nov 21, 2003: Bizarre Phobias
Categories: Psychology
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 06, 2006
Comments (21)
Status: advertising disguised as news
image In Hippo Eats Dwarf I discuss Video News Releases (VNRs) and how their use means that a lot of the news we see on TV is either advertising or propaganda in disguise. (VNRs are video segments created by corporations or the government, that are then aired on TV news, often without their true source ever being revealed). RAW STORY reports that "over a ten month span, 77 television stations from all across the nation aired video news releases without informing their viewers even once that the reports were actually sponsored content."

The article cites a VNR created by GM as a particularly egregious example of fake news. GM created a VNR that discussed how the internet has changed how people shop for cars, in which the claim was made that GM "introduced the first manufacturer web site in 1996." That's totally wrong, states the Center for Media and Democracy. GM did no such thing. Nevertheless, the complete unchanged VNR was aired on TV stations, without any indication being given to viewers that what they were seeing was a piece of corporate pr. On the prwatch website you can compare the original GM VNR with the almost identical version of it that aired on KSLA TV (in Shreveport, Louisiana).
Categories: Advertising, Journalism
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 06, 2006
Comments (2)
Status: News about a hoax
image Sculptor John Humphreys has confessed to being the guy who created the alien that appeared in the infamous "alien autopsy" video. Remember that journalistic gem... how the camera would inexplicably go out of focus every time it neared the obviously rubber body? The Manchester Evening News reports:

Until now, he says, he has kept secret his most well-known work - footage of an alleged post mortem of an alien which, some say, crashed to Earth in Roswell in the United States in 1947. For years sceptics have claimed it was a hoax, but John has stayed quiet - saying he was sworn to secrecy. But with the release of sci-fi comedy Alien Autopsy, which features Ant and Dec and which is based loosely on the Roswell film, John says he has decided to reveal his role in the making of the 1996 film.

I thought the alien autopsy video dated back to 1995, not 1996. Specifically, it aired on the Fox network on August 28, 1995. But whatever the case may be, John Humphreys certainly seems to have possessed the skills necessary to make the fake alien, which would make his confession a credible one.

However, although I've never researched the Alien Autopsy hoax in great detail, from what I recall there were two autopsy films, the first one shot in a tent, and the second (more famous one) shot in an operating room. I assume Humphreys is confessing to creating the model used in the operating room footage. A guy named Ray Santilli is also frequently mentioned as the producer of the footage. So was Humphreys hired by Santilli? The article sheds no light on this.

Update: I see that the Wikipedia entry for Ray Santilli mentions Humphreys as the sculptor he hired. So evidently Humphreys involvement in the hoax was already widely known, or at least rumored, before his current confession.
Categories: Extraterrestrial Life
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 06, 2006
Comments (15)
Status: follow-up info about a hoax
image A month ago I posted about Plastic Assets, a faux credit card company offering free breast implants as a sign-up bonus. I noted that the site was an entrant in the Contagious Festival, a contest to create a high-traffic parody site. Now Plastic Assets has officially won the contest, receiving five times more visitors than its closest competitor. And the media, typically late to the party, are announcing that the site has just been revealed to be a hoax. (Even though I know I wasn't the only site to point out that this was a hoax last month.)

According to the CanWest News Service article, Plastic Assets was designed by Shari Graydon, author of In Your Face: The Culture of Beauty and You, and the site "attracted hundreds of female applicants and more than 130,000 visitors." Graydon concludes from this that "The degree to which our site was believed to be credible despite how over the top it was underlines the fact that people aren't bringing critical thinking skills to what they read on the Internet."

I agree that many people are too gullible about claims they encounter on the internet, but in this instance I'm skeptical about how many people really were fooled. I don't think there's any correlation between the number of visitors the site had, or even the number of applicants it received, and the amount of people who believed it to be real. I figure that most of its visitors recognized it as a joke, and probably filled out the application as a joke also.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Business/Finance, Websites
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 06, 2006
Comments (4)
Status: Hoax
image I have pretty bad eyesight and have worn contacts most of my life, but up until now I've never been tempted to try Lasik surgery. However, I am tempted to give this new LASIK@Home device a try. It's the "Affordable In-Home LASIK Surgery You Can Do Yourself!™":

LASIK@Home is the same patented surgical procedure performed at eye clinics around the world, but without the unnecessary equipment and staff.

I like the instructions for use: "1) Find a quiet place with no distractions; 2) Unpack your LASIK@Home™ Kit; 3) Perform the painless procedure. Don't blink!"

It's pretty obvious that this is a hoax. First of all, the idea of home laser surgery is clearly insane. Second, the ordering form is broken, meaning you can't buy the device, but the site does sell Cafepress t-shirts! (T-shirt sales are always a reliable hoax indicator.) Third, google ads on a supposedly commercial site are another hoax giveaway. The domain was registered anonymously via domains by proxy, so I wasn't able to find out who the author of this is. (Thanks to Captain DaFt for the link.)
Categories: Websites
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 05, 2006
Comments (9)
Status: True
Imagine getting delayed because of this:

STUNNED holiday-makers flying back to Britain from Tenerife said they were told by the captain they could not land because an air traffic controller was on a tea break.

Because this occurred on April 1st, the passengers initially thought the captain was joking when he announced the reason for the delay over the intercom, but it turned out he wasn't. So the plane had to circle for almost half an hour until the guy came back to work. The British do love their tea breaks.
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 05, 2006
Comments (13)
Status: Prank that backfired
The Brainerd Dispatch (requires registration) reports on an April Fool's Day prank that went slightly wrong, ending up with the prankster, a 57-year-old woman, getting charged with disorderly conduct:

About 10:15 a.m. Saturday, the woman stopped at Wells Fargo Bank at 424 W. Washington St. in Brainerd to make a legitimate withdrawal from an account. When she was finished, she handed the teller a note that read, "I'm here to take money," said Brainerd Police Chief John Bolduc... a bank employee called 911 indicating the bank was being robbed. Officers from Brainerd and Crow Wing County responded to the bank but the woman had left, Bolduc said. She was stopped by a Crow Wing County sheriff's deputy a short time later at Highways 18 and 25 in east Brainerd, where she was arrested for disorderly conduct and taken to the Crow Wing County jail.

I guess banks, like airports, are one place where you don't want to joke around about security issues.
Categories: April Fools Day, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 05, 2006
Comments (7)
Status: Misinterpreted April Fool's Day Prank
image This story offers a sad commentary on the state of affairs in America. Five teenage girls living in Ravenna, Ohio got into the spirit of April 1st by decorating a few public places in their town with brightly colored boxes designed to look like the power-up cubes in the Super Mario Bros. game (the ones you jump up to hit and get extra energy). They got the idea from qwantz.com. Local residents who didn't recognize what the boxes were supposed to be weren't amused and called out the bomb squad. And it seems like the police are coming down pretty hard on the girls:

[Ravenna Police Chief] McCoy said even though no harm was intended by the girls, they could face criminal charges for their actions. “The potential is always present when dealing with a suspicious package that it could be deadly,” McCoy said. “In today’s day and age, you just cannot do this kind of stuff.”... McCoy said the incident will be referred to the Portage County Prosecutor’s Office for possible charges against the girls.

Lots of blogs are posting this story, and it seems like everyone agrees that the police seem to be overreacting. The incident reminds me of April 1, 2003 when seven young guys were charged with making terrorist threats because they posted signs reading "All your base are belong to us" around Sturgis, Michigan.

Update: It seems that the prosecutor has decided not to charge the girls with any crime: "The girls were imitating an art project which they found on the Internet,” the prosecutor said. “None of the girls had any prior contacts with the police or juvenile court and are all good students.”
Categories: April Fools Day, Hate Crimes/Terror
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 05, 2006
Comments (15)
Status: True. Make an offer!
Back in December 2003 media outlets including ESPN and the San Diego Union Tribune ran a story about Purdue signing the wrong Jason Smith to a basketball scholarship. Due to a paperwork mix-up, Purdue had apparently given the scholarship to 5'6" Jason Smith computer geek, instead of 6'6" Jason Smith point guard. (Both Smiths attended the same school.) The story, it turned out, wasn't true. It was the fictional work of Josh Whicker who had posted it on his website, hoosiergazette.com, along with a warning that his site was an inaccurate news source. The media, in typical fashion, didn't heed this warning and reported the story as fact anyway.

Josh (who went on to pen some other brilliant hoaxes) got a lot of publicity out of the Purdue basketball hoax, but not any money. (And since he works as a school teacher, I'm sure he could use some money... Teachers are never paid enough.) Now, with some luck, that may change. He writes on his site today:

Over the past couple of years I have been contacted now and then by writers in Hollywood interested in possibly buying the rights to the story but received no serious interest until today when I received both good and bad news. The good news is a production company made me an offer for the story rights; the bad news is the sum they are offering is quite a bit lower than I expected--after paying an agent and taxes the initial sum for the option rights wouldn't even cover my costs to play semi-pro football this summer. Now, I am not a greedy person, but know this story would make one helluva movie (well, at least better than Snakes on a Plane) in the right hands and is worth more than I have been offered. If anyone out there is interested in the rights, make me an offer and maybe we can work something out.

So if there are any Hollywood types out there reading this, this is your chance to make an offer. (Though I have to add, what's up with the comment about Snakes on a Plane, Josh? I'm looking forward to seeing that!) wink
Categories: Entertainment, Sports
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 05, 2006
Comments (5)
Last month I promised that I would send a free book to whomever posted the most creative review of Hippo Eats Dwarf on Amazon.com (the time limit being the end of March). I didn't forget! There were some great ones, which made it really hard to pick a winner. So I narrowed it down to my favorite five and then randomly picked one. And the winner is Arthur Hippo for his "Totally Useless Cookbook!!!" review:

While I admit that the recipes in this volume can be daring, absolutely no guidance is provided as to the initial preparation of the dwarf, or any hints as to where to procure one in the first place. Also, would it kill the author (or authors - really, how obvious a suedo... psuden... soodoen... fake name is "Alex Boese"?) to provide some suggestions for side dishes? "Herbed Roast Dwarf With Spiced Applesauce" is all well and good, but what sort of vegetable should I serve with the dish? What bread? Not even a wine suggestion! Not recommended.

I particularly like the 'totally useless cookbook' one-liner. I'm thinking of adding it to my ad for Hippo Eats Dwarf in the left-hand column of this page. Unfortunately, however, whoever wrote this review managed to conceal their identity very successfully, so I have no idea where to send the prize.

If I can't figure out the real identity of Arthur Hippo, I'll send the free book to David Rattigan for his "Hip Poe At SD Warf" review. (I was amazed to realize that the title spelled out this phrase.)

Oh, and now that the contest is over, feel free to post real reviews of the book on Amazon (or continue posting fake ones... whatever tickles your fancy).
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 04, 2006
Comments (7)
Status: Tax Scams
With April 15th fast approaching, taxpayers are once again scheming to dream up all kinds of deductions they can take. Bankrate.com has a list of some unusual ones (Thanks to Kathy for the link), such as:

• The guy who claimed his dog as a dependent
• The man who tried to claim a sperm donation as a 'depletion allowance'
• The furniture-store owner who hired an arsonist to burn his business down so that he could claim the insurance, and then deducted the $10,000 he paid the arsonist as a consulting fee.
• And the guy who tried to deduct dog food as a security expense (since, as he argued, his dog guarded his house)

In an article from last year, Buck Wolf of ABC News also listed some strange deductions such as body builders who can legally deduct baby oil, exotic dancers who can deduct the cost of their breast implants, and clarinet lessons which can be deducted as a health expense (if it helps you correct an overbite).

The strangest deduction I've ever claimed was for a stuffed jackalope. (Should I be admitting this where the IRS might read it?) My logic was that I was making money by researching hoaxes, so it was part of my research. Plus, I wanted the jackalope as a prop for when the New York Times came out to photograph me.
Categories: Business/Finance
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 04, 2006
Comments (17)
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