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June 2006
Status: Undetermined
image I've never seen anyone break a bone in real life. I've never even broken one of my own bones. So I don't have much to go on to decide if this clip of a kickboxer breaking his leg is real or fake. But it sure looks fake, especially the way his foot immediately resembles a limp sock once his shin breaks. But perhaps that's what a broken shin looks like.
Categories: Photos/Videos, Sports
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 21, 2006
Comments (27)
Status: Scholarly debate
Last weekend Philadelphia celebrated the anniversary of Benjamin Franklin's electric kite experiment (in which he flew a kite during a thunderstorm and proved that lightning was a form of electricity). They did so despite the fact that many believe the experiment was a hoax... that it never happened. The Philadelphia Inquirer provides a summary of this debate.

The main proponent of the electric-kite-hoax theory is Tom Tucker, author of Bolt of Fate: Benjamin Franklin and his Electric Kite Hoax. (I noted the publication of his book back in 2003 when it first appeared in print.) Tucker points out that a) "Franklin did not publicize the kite flight until four months later, and then only with a passing mention in the Pennsylvania Gazette"; b) Franklin would have been very stupid to perform such an experiment because it could very easily have killed him; and c) Franklin was a known trickster and a great self-publicist who would not have been above taking credit for something he never did. Defenders of Franklin argue that all of Tucker's evidence is circumstantial. Personally, I'm inclined to believe the hoax theory. I think that Franklin would have been too smart to try such a deadly experiment. But, of course, it's the kind of thing historians can argue about until they're blue in the face. Ultimately there's no definitive evidence to prove that Franklin did or did not perform the experiment.

Update: Since Captain Al pointed out that the kite experiment wouldn't be deadly with some simple safety modifications, let me clarify exactly what Tucker's argument is. Tucker notes that Franklin had been sending the British Royal Society reports about his electricity experiments, but that these reports were being marginalized, mainly because the members of the RS regarded him as an uncouth American. So Tucker suggests that Franklin, frustrated at how he was being treated, sent the RS a report of the deadly electric kite experiment as a joke. It was basically the scientific equivalent of giving them the finger... suggesting that they go fly a kite in a thunderstorm. Franklin knew, and the RS members knew, that doing so could be fatal. But when the report reached France, people there took it seriously. So Franklin, knowing a good PR opportunity when he saw it, played along and began claiming that he really had done the experiment. That's the jist of Tucker's argument.
Categories: History, Science
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 21, 2006
Comments (26)
Status: Strange phenomenon
image The residents of Aqueduct Street have an unusual problem. Their lines are going wobbly. Specifically, the double yellow lines on their road. When the city laid down the lines earlier this month, they were straight. But now they've begun to take off in random directions. At first some suspected the work of a prankster, but apparently the truth is much more sinister: The lines are doing this of their own accord!

This idea really appeals to me. Double yellow lines get fed up with being straight and decide to rebel. What we are seeing in Aqueduct Street might merely be the beginning. What if it became a worldwide epidemic of wandering lines? But the government, as usual, has decided to cover up the truth and is blaming the wobbly lines on the use of yellow marker tape. Says a Preston Council spokesman:
"We have had to use yellow marker tape for the double yellow lines, which will not damage the road surface when it's removed. This type of marker tape has been used in the past and we've never had any problems, but some of the tape on Aqueduct Street came loose towards the end of last week, which meant the yellow lines were no longer straight."
A likely story.
Categories: Places
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 21, 2006
Comments (13)
Status: Prank Gone Wrong
One of the rules of pranking is that you should do no harm. This means no harm to others, nor to yourself. The two Russian soldiers who thought lying down across the highway would be a funny prank, should have given more thought to this rule. As reported by MosNews.com:
Two young men, private Vladislav Lunev and first class private Nikolay Chistyakov escaped from the army troops not far from Moscow, Russia, late at night, the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily reported Saturday. Being in a very good mood, the two decided to play a practical joke on the drivers and lay down across the highway. The soldiers lay on the ground, feet touching, blocking the road. They crossed their arms on their chests and held cigarettes. At 3.20 a.m. a truck that carried milk to Moscow ran straight over both the young men. Lunev died on the spot, and Chistyakov, whose legs were smashed, died later in hospital. The truck driver did not even stop. As he later told the police that detained him, he had no idea the two figures he ran over had been real people. He said countryside boys often threw dummies — clothes stuffed by straw — into the road to scare the drivers. On seeing two camouflaged figures, the driver calmly sped on, never realizing he killed two people.
I think these guys are good candidates for Darwin Awards.
Categories: Death, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 21, 2006
Comments (13)
Status: Psychic mumbo-jumbo
This week Channel Five in the UK will begin airing a documentary about Derek Ogilvie, a guy who claims to be a "Baby Mind Reader." That's right, he can read the minds of infants and tell desperate parents why their little darlings won't sleep, or why they're fussy about eating, or why they cry all the time, etc., etc. The Scotsman has a pretty sympathetic article about him, describing him as a "respected Scottish medium." The Sunday Times, however, rakes him over the coals much more, pointing out that:
He used to drive a Rolls Royce and own three of Glasgow’s most fashionable bars until a nightclub venture failed six years ago and he was declared bankrupt. Now he has reinvented himself as a psychic who claims to be able to communicate telepathically with babies.
Ogilvie says that he understands people are skeptical of his claims, but that he's willing to submit himself to rigorous scientific scrutiny to prove his abilities. Yeah, I've heard that before. Psychics and other charlatans say this all the time, but if they ever actually submit themselves to any tests and then fail them (as they inevitably do) they're full of all kinds of excuses: "The negative energy of the researcher blocked my powers," etc.

BadPsychics.co.uk has examined some tapes of Ogilvie in action and concludes that he's simply cold reading (i.e. throwing out random guesses in the hope that some of them will strike gold). They write that: "It is bad enough to take advantage of grieving people for your own gain, but to take advantage of children and a Mothers love for her children, both dead and alive, is a whole new level of evil." (Thanks to Kathy for the heads up about Ogilvie.)
Categories: Birth/Babies, Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 20, 2006
Comments (20)
Status: Status: Taxidermical creation
image I received this email from Alex Wright (of Glasgow):
I found this interesting/ disturbing mummified monstrosity on a blog site I frequent. They're not sure what it is. It has a Fiji Mermaid kind of a vibe about it and it sort of reminds me of that picture of the Mexican gent holding a 'chupacabra' head that did the rounds a few years back (which was a dog head if i remember correctly)... It's an eBay thing as well.
The guy selling this on eBay (or trying to sell it... eBay seems to have cancelled the auction) claims that he found the "cryptid creature" washed up on a beach in Tampa, Florida. He writes: "I guarantee that this creatures flesh, teeth, jaw and skull are REAL 100% once living, organic flesh and bones." In other words, the flesh, teeth, jaw and skull are all real, but from separate creatures put together by taxidermical arts. Still, it looks like a well-made monster. I wouldn't mind having it on display in my office. (Oh, and that chupacabra head Alex referred to... I assume he's talking about this picture of an alien head taken by artist Charlie White.)

image image image image
Categories: Cryptozoology, eBay
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 19, 2006
Comments (26)
Status: Mischief
Most high schools are now out for the summer, so I thought it would be an appropriate time to pause and remember some of the senior pranks that made headlines this year. As usual, they're a mix of the clever, stupid, rude, and cruel.

Car on roof - image Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK High School: School officials found a Honda Accord "painted neon pink and covered with green question marks" on the roof of the high school. "Nassau police and school officials said yesterday that dozens of students used crudely made ramps to drag the Honda Accord... onto the roof."

Power out - Neuqua Valley High School: Two students were arrested for attempting what they called the "senior prank of all senior pranks." Their plan was to disable a generator and take "other steps to ensure the power would go out and classes would be canceled for younger students still in school." They were caught in the act by a custodian and arrested at their homes.

School for sale - Cape Fear Academy: "During the night before their last day of school Friday, about 20 members of the senior class strung a $215, 3-foot-by-9-foot vinyl sign with large, red letters spelling out "Entire School For Sale" and the school's telephone number between two posts in front of the school yard on South College Road. Another 20 or so smaller "For Sale" signs were peppered around the grounds."

Squealing pig - Severna Park High School: Students "released a squealing 31-pound piglet named Hamilton into the halls on the sinister date of 6/6/06 ... Purloined from a county park for an end-of-year stunt, the 3-month-old pig -- nickname: Hammy -- appeared Tuesday morning in the math wing of the Annapolis area school between the first and second class periods. Administrators cornered the frightened animal near an exit, where he submitted to capture as students recorded the moment on their cellphone cameras. 'There was this crowd of people who were, like, 'Omigod, there's a pig,' ' said Sarah Wade, a junior."

Marijuana muffins - Lake Highlands High School: A friend of a student delivered marijuana-spiked muffins to the teachers lounge. "He brought bran muffins to suburban Lake Highlands High School on May 16, saying they were part of an Eagle Scout project. When school employees ate the muffins, they began complaining of nausea, lightheadedness and headaches, and were briefly hospitalized. "They were just thinking it would be fun to get these teachers all silly and giggly," said Rita Greenfield, an 86-year-old receptionist at the school who spent two days in the hospital after eating the muffins.

Cruelty to animals - Ponderosa High School: "The local news broadcasters used words like 'horrified,' 'abusive behavior' and 'unbelievable act of cruelty' to describe the so-called senior prank at an area high school that involved someone dropping 45 baby chicks from a second-floor balcony, resulting in the deaths of seven of the chicks.... Four years ago in the county, a student at Highlands Ranch High School threw a rabbit across the gymnasium at a pep rally, breaking its legs and paralyzing it. The rabbit was later destroyed." (Good grief! PETA needs to open a chapter in that county.)

Doors glued shut - Independence High School (San Jose): "Right in the middle of finals week, an entire high school campus was virtually shut down Tuesday morning, after somebody glued classroom doors shut... The pranksters used super glue, as well as toothpicks in the locks. The numbers "06" were also painted on school buildings... As exams were delayed and students and teachers milled about this morning, maintenance crews used blow-torches to melt the glue that was squirted onto classroom locks."

Personalized underwear - East Aurora High (suburban Chicago): Several seniors were banned from attending graduation "as punishment for participating in an end-of-the-year prank last week that involved spray painting school property, stealing a statue of the Tomcat mascot and hanging underwear adorned with printout photos of administrators' faces in front of the building.... The damages have cost the district $1,700,"

Baby oil on floor - Omaha Burke High School: Students spread baby oil on the school's floors, resulting in injury for one teacher. "The principal of Omaha Burke High School underwent knee surgery Tuesday for an injury she suffered when she slipped on baby oil spread by vandals on the school's floors... Officers had caught five 18-year-olds inside the school, where 20 locker doors had a glue-type substance put in their locks and where the floors and stairs were coated with baby oil.

Flat tires - Jefferson High School (New Jersey): "a high school prankster deflated the front tires of 24 school buses parked at a Weldon Road compound Tuesday, but district officials weren't laughing as they were forced to cancel classes for more than 3,600 students... In addition to the tire damage, the vandals left behind another clue: The numbers "06" spray-painted on one of the buses."

Alcohol allowed - Daniel Hand High School: "Parents of high school seniors received a letter from Daniel Hand High School, with official letter head, concerning the upcoming prom. Included,a policy about drinking that it was allowed!... Principal Barbara Britton acted immediately to get the word out that this letter was not authentic posting a message on the school's website saying: "Let me assure you that underage drinking and the serving of alcoholic beverages is not permissible at the senior prom or any sponsored school event."
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 19, 2006
Comments (249)
Status: Strange News
Ambreed, a New Zealand cattle breeding company, has developed a fake cow to collect semen from bulls. The fake cow is "a small go-kart with natural cowhide on its roof" (kind of like a Real Doll, but for cows). It's been exhibiting this fake cow at the Fieldays agricultural exhibition in New Zealand, promoting the device with live "sex shows" of bulls mounting the device. Here's how it works:
The go-kart, driven by a human operator, draws close to a bull and adjusts to the proper height. The experience can be a little alarming. "It's quite a daunting feeling when you consider you've got a bull there that weighs a thousand kilograms sitting on top of you and is in quite an aggressive mood," Andrew Medley, production manager at Ambreed, told Reuters.
I tried to find a picture of the fake cow, but haven't been able to find one. (Thanks to Gary for the story.)
Categories: Animals, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 16, 2006
Comments (9)
Status: Hoax
LaMa gave me a heads up about a hoax circulating through the open source community. I'll let him describe it in his own words:

"How do you hoax the geeks behind the open Source movement and the ICT web press? Yep: with a hot blonde and some photoshop...

All over the geek Blogging world, posts started to appear last week that the Mozilla Foundation, the guys behind amongst others the increasingly popular Open Source webbrowser Firefox and e-mail client Thunderbird, had struck a deal with hot blonde Scandinavian photo model Alexandra Ansgar to promote their product Firefox (just Google her name and you'll get plenty of hits). The news items were accompanied by a picture where this Alexandra posed in a seductive top printed with the Firefox logo (attached).

image

But it was a hoax. The photo [left] is a photoshopped version of the second attached picture [right].

In fact "Scandinavian top model Alexandra Ansgar" does not exist at all. The name is made up, it is the name of a Hotel in Copenhagen. The picture of the blonde is lifted from a softporn site, www.emy18.com.

Apparently the photoshopped picture emerged on April 29th as a geeky joke, not a hoax attempt, on a Portuguese language weblog:
http://kaylee.weblog.com.pt/

From there, the picture was taken over by a few other bloggers.

It then seems that on June 11th, www.gadgetizer.com elaborated the picture into a hoax, inventing "Scandinavian model Alexandra Ansgar" and the story about the deal with the Mozilla Foundation:
http://www.gadgetizer.com/2006/06/11/new-firefox-mascot-alexandra-ansgar/

From there, it spread over the internet, the story being taken for real and cvered by a number of Geek/ICT sites (you'll find enough of them when you Google "Alexandra Ansgar").

- Marco ("LaMa")


Alexandra Ansgar kind of reminds me of the Dusty girl.
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 16, 2006
Comments (11)
Status: Strange News
I note in Hippo Eats Dwarf that if you fake your death, you need to remain dead, which means staying under the radar. Ronald Wayne Blankenship hasn't followed that advice. Instead, after allegedly faking his death backin 1990, he's now decided to run for sheriff in Jefferson County... which is a good way to bring himself to the attention of the police who now want him to come in and have his fingerprints checked. Blankenship, meanwhile, is maintaining his innocence, insisting that he's not the same Blankenship who once faked his death:
Ronald Wayne Blankenship, a candidate in the runoff for the Democratic nomination for Jefferson County sheriff, says it's coincidence that a man with a criminal past shares his name and birthdate. It's strange but true, he says, that both he and a man who faked his own death in 1990 are married to women named Judy Ruth Green Stonecipher Blankenship...
Blankenship says he is not the man described in police reports and court documents. "Do you know how many Ronald Blankenships there are?" he asked. "That's why I started going by Ron."
Well, this guy's explanation seems totally believable. grrr But what's really strange is that he received 25.9% of the votes. (Thanks to Joe for the story)
Categories: Death, Politics
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 15, 2006
Comments (11)
Status: Hoax (art project)
image Meet Genpets, the cute, cuddly (kind of ugly) pets of the future, that come shrinkwrapped in plastic:
Genpets are living, breathing mammals. Bio-Genica is a Bioengineering Company that has combined, and modified existing DNA to create the Genpets lineup. Genpets are flesh and blood just like any other animal... Genpets are designed to be sold on retail store shelves, not traditional pet stores. This is why they are packaged in plastic.
It should be pretty obvious that Genpets aren't real, though the Genpets site is well designed. The Genpets site is the creation of artist Adam Brandejs. Apparently he's actually been hanging these things in store windows. And the real-life versions of them look like they're alive, thanks to some robotics and circuitry. He writes:
Genpets seems to create a reaction wherever they go. While in the store window of Iodine Toronto, the shop owner began sleeping in the store as many nights, people would bang at the windows furiously. Some in protest of the small Bio-genetically engineered creatures trapped in plastic, some wanting to wake them up or buy them. Hordes of teens wanting a bioengineered pet met confused, baffled, or even shocked looks from parents. For an upcoming generation, through our own marketing techniques, life and the idea of life are quickly becoming viewed as disposable commodities. It’s easier to dismiss Genpets as a hoax or exaggeration when you’re not faced with a wall of them. The experience of a grainy photo is different than standing face to face with a breathing, sleeping Genpet.
(Thanks to Torbjørn Solstad for the link)
Categories: Animals, Technology, Websites
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 14, 2006
Comments (59)
Status: Strange News
image Earlier this month the Secret Service raided the offices of the Great News Network (a Texas ministry) and seized 8300 inspirational tracts. The problem with the tracts? They were printed on million-dollar bills. I would say fake million-dollar bills, but since there's no such thing as real million-dollar bills, there can't exactly be fake ones either. However, the Secret Service felt they looked a little bit too much like real currency for comfort. Reportedly someone had tried to deposit one at a bank. Meanwhile, the Great News Network isn't happy and is threatening to sue the government. But they should realize the government has an extremely low tolerance for any kind of fake currency. Witness the case of J.S.G. Boggs (whom I write about in Hippo Eats Dwarf). He's an artist who creates counterfeit currency as art, though his bills are single-sided, so they're not likely to be mistaken for actual money. Nevertheless, the Secret Service raided his studio back in 1992 and seized thousands of his works, and haven't returned them to this day.

Incidentally, here's the tract that was written on the million-dollar bills. (You can try to purchase the bills here):
The million dollar question: Will you go to Heaven? Here's a quick test. Have you ever told a lie, stolen anything, or used God's name in vain? Jesus said, "Whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery already with her in his heart." Have you looked with lust? Will you be guilty on Judgment Day? If you have done those things God sees you as a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterer at heart. The Bible warns that if you are guilty you will end up in Hell. That's not God's will. He sent His Son to suffer and die on the cross for you. Jesus took your punishment upon Himself -"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." Then He rose from the dead and defeated death. Please, repent (turn from sin) today and trust in Jesus, and God will grant you everlasting life. Then read your Bible daily and obey it.
(Thanks to Joe for the link)
Categories: Business/Finance, Religion
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 13, 2006
Comments (114)
Status: Real
image Bonsai Kittens grown in jars are a hoax. But this video (warning: text ads on the site may not be safe for work) shows a kitten that manages to get in and out of a glass jar quite well. (And the video seems to be real.) It's amazing what some cats can do. My fat cat could never have managed this.
Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 13, 2006
Comments (8)
Status: Real
I don't have any information about this series of photos, other than that it shows a boa eating a kangaroo. And the photos appear to be real. I found them on a Russian-language website.

image image image
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Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 13, 2006
Comments (8)
Status: Strange (but real) product
image This product came out in Japan in 2003, and in America in 2004. The idea behind it is simple. It's a "unique blend of hydrolyzed silk proteins and specially formulated foundation" that you spray on your legs to "recreate the even look of silk hose, without all the hassle. Never worry about runs or tears again!" In other words, it's pseudo-pantyhose. In a July 2004 article in the Houston Chronicle, Liz Embry wrote:
With a pioneering spirit, a colleague and I went under the can. Application was easy. But when I stared down at my freshly sprayed legs, the Barbie-like plastic shine of my legs looked unnatural. Gone were razor nicks and discolorations, and my co-worker's freckles had vanished under a veil of hose. Minutes after application, the product dried, and the sheen was gone. The end result was a matte finish that looked remarkably like pantyhose. We hit a nearby coffee shop to take our freshly shellacked legs for a spin. The man behind the counter asked if we were lawyers - I guess we had that polished, professional look. It must have been the faux hose. We sat outside and sipped our coffee in the Houston humidity. Though the product didn't streak or sweat off, we both noticed that the Air Stockings felt somewhat sticky in the warm, thick air.
My first thought was what it would look like on other parts of the body. Could bank robbers conceal their identity by spraying it on their face? Would it hide a five o'clock shadow? Or could you use it as temporary wall paint? It sounds like the kind of stuff that hobbyists must have found other uses for. It's available for purchase here or here or here. (Thanks to Kathy for the link.)
Categories: Body Manipulation
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 12, 2006
Comments (10)
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