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July 2006
Status: Real (weird news)
If standing on a wooden platform as people hurl giant dead eels at you is your idea of a good time, then sorry, it's too late. The giant dead eel tossing contest held in the English village of Lyme Regis for the past 30 years has been cancelled. A lone animal-rights activist spoiled everyone's fun by complaining that the contest was disrespectful to the dead eel. It sounds to me like the guy may have been joking. (He sent his complaint via an anonymous email.) But still, the town decided not to use dead eels this year. Instead they used boat dock fenders as surrogate eels. But everyone agreed that it wasn't quite the same. Yahoo News reports:
The practice, known as conger cuddling, is the annual highlight in the small coastal town about 155 miles southwest of London. The object of the game is to knock the opposing team off the platform by swinging a 25-pound eel at them. Crowds have flocked to Lyme Regis since 1974 to watch rival teams of nine men swing the giant conger eel — suspended in the harbor by a rope — and local residents said they are dismayed at the demise of their historic event.
Big Gary, who submitted this story, notes that a) nobody respects traditions anymore, and b) "a conger is a type of eel. The main distinguishing feature of congers is that they have pectoral fins, which are lacking or underdeveloped in most other eels (e.g. morays)."
Categories: Animals, Sports
Posted by Alex on Mon Jul 31, 2006
Comments (12)
Status: Hoax
image The Butter Trough, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a great concept for a restaurant. First of all, the menu is simple. They only serve bread, butter, and sweet tea. But best of all, it's all free! It's the world's first advertiser-supported restaurant:
The Butter Trough is the world's FIRST 100% advertisement supported restaraunt. Come down to our Atlanta Facility to enjoy food and fun with friends and family all for free. We are able to bring this great value to YOU, the consumer, through the use of directed advertisements from corporate sponsors. This means that while you are enjoying your bread, butter, and tea you will softly hear advertisements playing in the background via the tabletop speakers, multipatron television sets, and the butter trough multimedia displays scattered throughout the establishment.
Is this place real? I don't think so. Clues that it's fake include the google ads on the website (though this would make sense given that the restaurant is advertiser supported), and the obligatory CafePress t-shirts they're selling. But the biggest clue is the address: 6346 Lynch Avenue, Atlanta GA. There doesn't appear to be such a place. At least, nothing comes up on Google Maps when I type in that address.

I'm guessing that the Butter Trough site was created by Joseph Donaldson, because a) Joseph Donaldson's homepage is hosted on the same server as The Butter Trough site and b) he links to the Butter Trough. A few other sites (all of which link to the Butter Trough as well) hosted on that server include: Circus of the Damned, and the Just Ducky Guild. (Thanks to Doug Nelson for the link)
Categories: Advertising, Food, Websites
Posted by Alex on Mon Jul 31, 2006
Comments (10)
Status: Weird news
Five years ago the City of Paris trucked in sand to create a two-mile long fake beach along the banks of the Seine. Now, despite the fact that women go topless on all the real beaches in France, Paris has made it illegal for women to be topless on this fake beach. Nor can they fake being topless:
If women are topless, or if they fake it and look topless, they are now banned from the fake beaches and they are told that they have to go to the real beaches to be fake. In true French fashion , wearing nothing is defined as wearing indecent clothing. An official from the Paris City Hall, and a sports official at that, Pascal Cherki told the French newspaper Le Parisien that indecent clothing could have led to temptations and dangerous behavior on the banks of the river.
I understand that merkins are used to simulate the fake bottomless look. But I was less aware of a fake topless look. They must be talking about flesh-colored pasties. Or flesh-colored bikinis? Or are they talking about those stupid t-shirts people sometimes wear that have a fake naked upper torso (of a man or woman) printed on them?
Categories: Body Manipulation
Posted by Alex on Mon Jul 31, 2006
Comments (4)
Status: Weird news
The picture on the left shows the former group photo of Cary, North Carolina's town council. Then representative Michael Joyce resigned. Instead of taking a new group photo, the city simply deleted Joyce from the photo. The new photo is on the right (and you can also check out the photo on the town's website). There's nothing wrong with this. I suppose it was easier to do than getting everyone together for another photo. Still, it seems a bit like something out of The Commissar Vanishes. At least he was "disappeared" from the photo only after he resigned. It would be kind of creepy to notice yourself vanishing from official group photos while you're still working there. Incidentally, anyone interested in filling Joyce's position can get a $10,859.34 annual salary, plus a travel allowance of $8,100.

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Categories: Photos/Videos, Politics
Posted by Alex on Mon Jul 31, 2006
Comments (9)
Status: The miracle of plumbing
image Due to the honesty of Wadowice's mayor, the town has lost out on a great opportunity to profit from a phony miracle. When water began to gush out of the base of a statue of Pope John Paul II, located in this Polish town, the devout (and gullible) thought it was a miracle. They declared it a "miracle fountain" and eagerly started filling up bottles with the water. Unfortunately for them, the water had a far more mundane source:
their belief in what they thought was a "Godly experience" was shattered by town mayor Eva Filipiak. She admitted the local council had installed a pipe beneath the statue, reported the Daily Dziennik. "We didn't mean anything by it, it was just supposed to make the statue look prettier," said Filipiak.
What the article doesn't mention is that the statue was apparently just installed last month, which explains how the plumbing work was done without anyone noticing.
Categories: Religion
Posted by Alex on Mon Jul 31, 2006
Comments (6)
Status: Publicity stunt
When I first read this article I thought it was an example of satire masquerading as news. Now, however, I think it's just a publicity stunt:
Kingsburg-based KFYE, FM 106.3, offered Christian programming until a week ago. In a neck-snapping, did-I-really-hear-that? turn of events, it now provocatively calls itself "Porn Radio" — presenting a mix of music, moans and suggestive announcements... The station's titillating playlist runs from "Why Don't We Do It in the Road" by The Beatles, to "Sexual Healing" by Marvin Gaye, to "Strokin'" by Clarence Carter, to "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred and "Nasty" by Janet Jackson — a bewildering, genre-bending array of tunes sewn together by one bare thread: sex. Even when the sexual suggestions in a tune may be a little vague, such as in Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight," the songs are often accented with recorded moans and groans of a woman who appears to be in throes of ecstasy.
Categories: Radio, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Mon Jul 31, 2006
Comments (9)
Status: Real place (fake beach)
A couple of people have sent me these pictures of an artificial dome-covered beach.... located a few yards away from a real beach! Yes, it's a real place. This is Ocean Dome, located outside of Myazaki in Japan. Its motto is "Paradise within a paradise." David Boyle, author of Authenticity: Brands, Fakes, Spin and the Lust for Real Life (which is a pretty good book, by the way), has an article about it on his website. He speculates that it's possibly the most artificial place on earth. Here's a short clipping:
Ocean Dome is bigger than many ocean liners - over 1,000 feet long - and has space for 13,500 tons of salt water and 10,000 people, without the mild inconvenience of real salt water, real crabs, real seaweed or fish... It was pleasantly warm, but it felt faintly like a gymnasium - and they always remind me of exams. Also, the palm trees were too perfect to be real. The fruit behind the counter turned out to be plastic, and the backdrop was painted with small clouds and a deep blue sky as the Pacific view outside probably should have been... I wondered if it ever occurred to James Michener or Oscar Hammerstein, writing Tales of the South Pacific just after VJ Day, that their imaginary island would one day make it into a Japanese theme park.

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Categories: Photos/Videos, Places
Posted by Alex on Mon Jul 31, 2006
Comments (10)
Status: Highly questionable
A company called Aquiess, led by David Miles, claims to have developed technology that can bring rain to drought-ridden areas. Sounds a bit dubious to me, but Miles has managed to convince some farmers in Geelong, Australia that this is the real deal. The farmers have hired him on the agreement that they'll pay him if it rains. So if it doesn't rain, they remain out of luck. And if it does rain, they're going to pay some guy for something that is probably due to natural causes. According to the Aquiess homepage the technology somehow works via blasting weather systems with electromagnetic pulses:
oceanic rainfall is sought from outside the sovereign territory of the Commonwealth of Australia, and drawn into the desired regional target utilizing licensed resonance technology.
Oh, and it can prevent hurricanes too:
weather downgrade capability (W-V) is the aquiess program, involving remote weather observation, algorithms, software and hardware systems utilized to target severe weather patterns via pulses which act to de-intensify those patterns.
Chris Sounness, a climate specialist for the Department of Primary Industries, issued a press release recently blasting the Aquiess weather modification claims, calling them a cruel hoax and saying that:
"Leading climate researchers across Australia confidently state that resonance technology is not based on any peer-reviewed science. The current duping of farmers builds hopes and if it doesn't rain, causes anguish."
But Aquiess seems to have its supporters in the government, such as federal Member for Mallee John Forrest who has stated that:
"Whoever in the department signed that press release should be tarred and feathered... If David Miles is right he'll be a hero. I'm behind him 100 per cent and I've had a gut full."
Personally, I think the farmers would be better off praying for rain like the residents of Lubbock are doing. At least that's free.
Categories: Science
Posted by Alex on Sun Jul 30, 2006
Comments (6)
Status: Weird News
Chicago's transportation department has announced that they're going to try an interesting experiment to try to get people to slow down on a notoriously hazardous curve. They're going to use an optical illusion:
The yellow warning signs mounted along the road in recent years telling drivers to take the curve at 25 m.p.h. have had little or no effect. So the city has decided to try something new. In a few weeks, dozens of new pavement stripes will be laid down. At first they’ll be 16-feet apart, but as drivers get closer to the curve, the stripes will only be eight feet apart. "They provide an optical illusion that vehicles are actually speeding up and that causes motorists to slow down, which is of course, the intended effect that we’re trying to have at that location," said Steele.
Unfortunately there's no video of what this optical illusion effect looks like (the new stripes haven't been painted yet), but when I read this I immediately thought that if you combined the speeding optical illusion with randomly moving yellow lines, you could really mess with people's minds.
Categories: Exploration/Travel
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 28, 2006
Comments (15)
Status: Weird News
As a long-time Doctor Who fan, I couldn't resist posting about this. It seems there's some phony British currency circulating around on which the Queen has been replaced by Doctor Who. The faux £10 notes bear the inscription "I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of 10 satsumas." Apparently the notes were created by the BBC for use during a scene in which the Doctor causes an ATM machine to start spewing money out into the street. Instead of using real money, which would have been a bit expensive, they printed up some phony notes. But, of course, fans quickly grabbed the loose notes that were floating around. An article in the Western Mail quotes an onlooker who says: "From a distance they almost look like real notes but you'd never be able to use them in the pub." Well, you might be able to if the bartender was a Doctor Who fan. I'd give someone a beer for some Doctor Who currency (but maybe no change). I found scans of the notes on Doctor Who Online.
Categories: Business/Finance, Future/Time
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 28, 2006
Comments (10)
Status: Real (I think)
image Check out this video that shows a bunch of kids casually tossing empty soda cans into trash bins. They make perfect shot after perfect shot, from behind their back, thirty feet away, beneath their legs, etc. And always as if they're not even trying to make the shot. You can watch the video either on their website, (scroll down to the link that says The Caca Cola Company), or on youtube. The question is, how did they manage all these perfect shots? Was it through some kind of cgi or digital special effects, or did they simply do repeated takes until they made the shot and then edited the successful shots together?

Most of the commenters on youtube seem to think it's all fake (i.e. digitally manipulated). Many of them point to a scene at 1:32min where the can appears to bounce off of air. But I don't agree. To me it looks like the can is simply bouncing off the rim of the trash can. (Scratch that... I was looking at min 1:32 on a downloaded version of the movie, not on the youtube version... On the youtube movie, at min 1:32, the can does indeed appear to change direction suddenly in mid-air. The scene is the one in the thumbnail. However, this could simply be an illusion caused by the angle of the camera. Or maybe there was some liquid or a weight in the can.) Also, although I don't know a lot about video editing, this looks like a very low-budget movie, and I suspect it would be a lot cheaper to do repeated takes rather than to do fancy cgi or otherwise manipulate the video. So I'm voting that it's real, in the sense that they actually managed to get the cans into the trash bins in real life without the use of special effects. (Thanks to Bart Goovaerts for emailing me about this video.)
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 28, 2006
Comments (19)
Status: Gross news
image Back in January 2004 I posted a short entry about a factory in China that had been caught making soy sauce out of human hair. I also mentioned the incident in Hippo Eats Dwarf (p.76). Now more gruesome details have emerged, published in the Internet Journal of Toxicology (link via Boing Boing):
In late 2003, there was an alternatively produced soy sauce named "Hongshuai Soy Sauce" in China. The soy sauce was marketed as “blended using latest bioengineering technology” by a food seasoning manufacturer, suggesting that the soy sauce was not generated in a traditional way using soy and wheat. The Hongshuai Soy Sauce was sold at a relatively low price in Mainland China and became very popular among the public. The people found its taste to be similar to other brands. Because of its low price, many catering services in schools and colleges decided to use this new product.
An investigation led by TV journalists then revealed why the soy sauce was so cheap. It was being manufactured from an amino acid powder (or syrup) bought from a manufacturer in Hubei province:
When asking how the amino acid syrup (or powder) was generated, the manufacturer replied that the powder was generated from human hair. Because the human hair was gathered from salon, barbershop and hospitals around the country, it was unhygienic and mixed with condom, used hospital cottons, used menstrual cycle pad, used syringe, etc. After filtered by the workers, the hair would then cut small for being processed into amino acid syrup. The technicians admitted that they would not consume the human-hair soy sauce because the dirty and unhygienic hair was used to make amino acid syrup. A quality monitoring staff also revealed that though the hair may not be toxic itself, it definitely consisted of bacteria and other micro-organisms.
Lovely. But what the article doesn't mention, but which I believe to be true, is that soy sauce isn't the only food product made out of this cheap hair-made amino acid powder. The stuff is also sold in large quantities to the bakery industry which uses it as a source of L-cysteine to make dough softer and more elastic. Think about that next time you're chewing on a bagel.
Categories: Food, Gross
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 28, 2006
Comments (28)
Status: Real (but species unknown)
image This video of an alien-looking bug has already been posted in the forum, but I wanted to repost it here to give it a bit more attention (i.e. for those who read the site via RSS and never check out the forum). Hopefully someone will be able to identify this thing.

I should note that I do think it's a real bug and not something mechanical (as one emailer speculated), but what kind of bug is it? I'm leaning towards it being a variety puss moth. For more bug types to choose from check out: hag moths, and stinging caterpillars. (Thanks to hulitoons for the links)
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 28, 2006
Comments (27)
Status: Seems to be real
image A guy was out digging in an irish bog recently when, purely by chance, he found a book buried in the mud. Turns out that it could be a book of psalms over 1000 years old. Pat Wallace, director of the National Museum of Ireland, points out that this discovery was highly fortuitous:
"There's two sets of odds that make this discovery really way out. First of all, it's unlikely that something this fragile could survive buried in a bog at all, and then for it to be unearthed and spotted before it was destroyed is incalculably more amazing."
The book is probably real. It would be difficult to fake something that old. (There was recently a discussion about faking old manuscripts in the forum.) But it did strike me as odd that "The book was found open to a page describing, in Latin script, Psalm 83, in which God hears complaints of other nations' attempts to wipe out the name of Israel." This seems to tie-in neatly with recent political events. Though I'm going to chalk it up as a coincidence. After all, the odds of any random psalm mentioning Israel are pretty good.

Update: Well, it looks like it was all a mistake. The National Museum of Ireland has issued a statement saying that while Psalm 83 was the psalm they said was visible, this doesn't mean what people immediately thought it meant:
"The above mention of Psalm 83 has led to misconceptions about the revealed wording and may be a source of concern for people who believe Psalm 83 deals with 'the wiping out of Israel'," the museum said in its clarification. The confusion arose because the manuscript uses an old Latin translation of the Bible known at the Vulgate, which numbers the psalms differently from the later King James version, the 1611 English translation from which many modern texts derive.
"The Director of the National Museum of Ireland ... would like to highlight that the text visible on the manuscript does not refer to wiping out Israel but to the 'vale of tears'," the museum said. The vale of tears is in Psalm 84 in the King James version. "It is hoped that this clarification will serve comfort to anyone worried by earlier reports of the content of the text," the museum said.
Categories: History
Posted by Alex on Wed Jul 26, 2006
Comments (13)
Status: Undetermined (but unlikely)
image A Canadian rancher claims that one of his mares has given birth to a horse-moose hybrid. His main evidence for this is that the mare has a funny looking head. Also, he says that his stallions were both sterilized shortly before the mare got pregnant, and there are no other male horses in the region. So who could the father be but a rogue moose that happened to be wandering by?

Biologists, naturally, are skeptical. Gilles Landry, a biologist with Quebec's parks and wildlife department, says:
"I have serious doubts because there has never been a birth from a moose and a horse reported, even though some have mated. It's more likely that it's a deformed animal."
Lou emailed me a bunch of links to articles about this strange hybrid (Thanks, Lou!) and writes:
Definitely a hoax or mistake. It has a facial deformity that makes it look moose-like. Claims supporting it is a moose hybrid include long legs. Foals have long legs so they can keep up with their mothers. Also it sleeps lying down. Foals do sleep lying down. It's adult horses that sleep standing up. The mare either got impregnated just before the stallions were gelded and the owner got the dates mixed or the father was a colt that hasn't yet been gelded because it wasn't thought old enough to do the do.
I agree with Lou and the biologists. A horse-moose hybrid seems unlikely. Although I suppose it would be biologically possible. But we'll know for sure once the genetic tests are done.

I should start a new gallery devoted to strange hybrids, since it seems like there's been a lot of them reported recently (i.e. the cumato and the cuculoupe.) The strangest hybrid of all would, of course, be a human-ape hybrid, but there remains no evidence that such a creature has existed in modern times (as opposed to prehistoric times), despite the efforts of Russian scientist Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov.
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Wed Jul 26, 2006
Comments (12)
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