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|•||Is this a coincidence? Tesla sales ban in New Jersy from April 1st 03/12/2014|
|•||Pretend chef on five morning TV shows 03/04/2014|
|•||Image of "Aurora from Space" going viral is a hoax 02/28/2014|
|•||Supposed Ghost Caught on Securtiy Cam at Britain Pub 02/22/2014|
|•||Anyone up for a challenge? 02/20/2014|
|•||Bruno Gröning Documentary Film 02/15/2014|
|•||Science, Pseudoscience, and Crap 02/04/2014|
|•||Fake Snow 02/03/2014|
|•||Tapeworms ≠ Weight Loss 02/01/2014|
|•||NASA sued for failing to investigate Martian Fungus 01/30/2014|
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Status: Ponzi SchemeChilean police have arrested a pair of con artists who had constructed an elaborate pyramid scheme based on the sale of "magic cheese". OhMyNews reports: Ponzi would have been proud. I think someone should collect samples of all the worthless junk that's been sold through Ponzi schemes (magic cheese, bioperformance pills, etc.), and then display it all in a Ponzi Museum. Or this would be a cool gallery to have in an actual Museum of Hoaxes, should such a thing ever come into existence. (Anyone want to donate a million dollars or so to help me build it?)
Status: PrankHere's a slight variation on the old dihydrogen monoxide prank. The director of the Waterfront Park in Louisville, Ky placed signs around the fountains warning people of dangerously high levels of hydrogen in the water: I figure it's only a matter of time before someone sues him for emotional distress caused by the signs.
Status: Weird (but probably true) newsA Lubbock, Texas news station has reported that a local fisherman recently caught a fish that seems to have human teeth: The leading theory is that the fish is a Pacu, about which Wikipedia has this entry: I'm hoping that Big Gary (as the MoH's fish expert) may be able to shed some light on this.
Status: UndeterminedI don't have any information about this picture. It's just an image of a cloud shaped like Godzilla that I came across on the web. Is it real or fake? Well, it looks real to me, and I can't see any obvious signs of photoshopping. But I couldn't say for sure. Also, I have no idea what type of cloud this is.
Status: Old jokeThe Register has posted a transcript of a BBC radio call-in show during which a man phoned up claiming to have a highly unusual medical problem. Following an operation in Turkey to treat his impotence, the man now finds that every time his neighbor opens the garage door, he gets an uncontrollable erection: I'm sure I'm giving this more thought than it deserves, because there's no way it's not a joke. I'm not aware of any bionic penile implants that could be activated by the radio frequency that a garage-door opener uses. (And I actually did some research into strange penis implants in the course of writing chapter two in Hippo Eats Dwarf... the one about fake body parts... but I never came across anything like that.)
Update: David Emery immediately identified this as an old joke whose history has already been traced in FoafTale News. Apparently Bob Hope used a similar joke in his routine, saying that his neighbor got a new pacemaker, but now every time he made love his garage door opened. As the joke circulated through popular culture, the pacemaker turned into a penile implant that was activated whenever the garage door opened. This version has been seen in the Weekly World News (August 5, 1997, p. 58) and Fortean Times (68:13).
Status: Useful stuff to know if you're buying a carFlorida businessman Earl Stewart has started a blog, Earl Stewart On Cars, that's full of useful insights about the auto industry. Some of his observations about auto dealer scams and deceptive sales tactics are particularly interesting. Here's a few of them: In Hippo Eats Dwarf I noted an outrageous example of misleading advertising used by one car dealership. They had a "half-price sale" during which "The price you see is half the price you pay." Think about it.
Carl Sifakis has also cataloged a number of auto dealer scams in his book Hoaxes and Scams: A Compendium of Deceptions, Ruses and Swindles.
For instance, there's the practice (now illegal in many states) of "bird dogging" in which car dealers pay people who refer customers to them. Obviously someone getting paid for a referral might not be objective. Plus, as Sifakis notes, "car salesmen aren't about to give a customer referred by a bird dog an extra good deal." He then relates this story: Then there's the practices of lowballing and highballing. In lowballing the salesman offers to sell a car for a ridiculously low price, only to reveal later that the manager hadn't approved the price, and that the real price is much higher. Many people will then buy the car anyway, because they've already got their mind around to the idea of buying it. Highballing is the same thing, but switched around so that the dealer will offer to buy a trade-in for a ridiculously high price, only to reveal later that the manager hadn't approved that price.
Status: Public Service VideoA highly informative Beginner's Guide To Faking Your Death On The Internet can be viewed on YouTube. It was created by satirist and internet scholar Luke Lewis. Some of the points it covers:
→ Interest in your death (or the death of your alter-ego) can be measured by Heinstein's 2nd Law of the Internet, which states: I = H x W x C. Or rather, INTEREST in your character equals their HOTNESS times their camWHORE factor times the CRAZINESS of the community in which you're posting (measured in LJs or LiveJournals). "The higher the I value, the more ego strokage you'll get from faking your death."
→ Also, terminal illness is generally a better way to depart this world than a car crash. Car crashes are too abrupt and not unusual enough.
→ Finally, "a post without an OMG is a post incomplete."
Lewis notes that "He is currently working on the sequel: 'A Beginner's Guide To The British', due for release in late July." Personally, I think the sequel should be a beginner's guide to faking someone else's death on the internet.
Status: Weird (but true) newsFirst I should note that I didn't title this post 'Mice On A Plane', since it seems that everyone else in the world who's written about this has already used that joke. The same with noting that the cure for mice on a plane is snakes on a plane.
Anyway, the story here is that an American Airlines plane was recently grounded because of a mouse infestation. I know that my parents (who live out in the countryside in Virginia) often have problems with mice getting into their car and chewing through cables, but I wouldn't have thought mice would like conditions on a plane. Too loud and cold. Apparently I was wrong. American Airlines has admitted that 17 mice were found on the plane, while a whistleblower claims that the real number of mice on the plane was much higher. Possibly as many as 1000. There were even dead mice found in the oxygen masks. (That would be a pleasant surprise in the case of an emergency.) The scary thing is that this plane was flying repeatedly back and forth between LA and New York before American finally did something about the problem. (Thanks to Jen for the link)
Status: Literary HoaxThe Weekend Australian recently announced the results of a literary experiment. They took chapter three of celebrated Australian writer Patrick White's novel The Eye of the Storm, changed its title to The Eye of the Cyclone, changed the names of the characters in it, and changed the name of the author to Wraith Picket (an anagram of Patrick White). Then they submitted this to twelve Australian publishers. Ten of them rejected it, and two never responded. One reviewer wrote that "the sample chapter, while reply (sic) with energy and feeling, does not give evidence that the work is yet of a publishable quality."
This particular brand of literary hoax has been done countless times before, and always, it seems, with the same result. Most recently the Sunday Times submitted chapters of a VS Naipaul novel to British publishers, who summarily rejected it. The perpetrators of the hoax always claim it reveals the weak literary standards of the publishing industry. Meanwhile the publishing industry just shrugs off the hoaxes and continues on trying to figure out how to make money. My theory is that journalists love to repeat this experiment because most of them are wannabe novelists and like to imagine that their lack of literary success is due to the short-sightedness of the publishing industry, not their own lack of talent. (Though I should note that I like to complain about the publishing industry as much as anyone.)
I think that the Weekend Australian should have submitted the chapter to horror publishers, because Wraith Picket would make a great name for a horror writer.
Status: PhotoshoppedThis picture of a cat having a whitewater adventure is doing the rounds. Amusing, but pretty obviously photoshopped. (I don't think many cats would willingly get into a raft.) Here's the original from which the cat was taken:
Status: Probably a hoaxThe latest mystery to capture the short attention span of the internet is ThatGirlEmily. It's a blog, supposedly written by "Emily" who during the past two weeks has discovered that her husband "Steven" is cheating on her. Coincidentally she started her blog just before all these interesting things in her life began occuring. Yesterday she decided to get even with Steven by placing a large billboard near where he works with this message on it: Emily's blog and billboard, as almost everyone who has posted about it agrees, just screams viral marketing. AtleastIhavechicken.com has summarized some of the reasons why it's probably a viral marketing campaign:
1) Emily has gone to some effort to conceal her identity;
2) Her blog is too well written (grammatically speaking) and the story unfolds a little too neatly to be real;
3) Since she started her blog, someone using the username ThatGirlEmily has been comment spamming numerous message boards. See here, and here, and here.
4) In addition to the billboard in New York (which seems to be real), an identical billboard has also been spotted in LA. The dual billboards, in my opinion, is the real clincher, because why would Emily, if she were real, pay for billboards in different cities?
I don't know who's the mastermind behind ThatGirlEmily, but here are the leading theories:
1) It's a viral created by an outdoor billboard company, to demonstrate the effectiveness of billboard advertising. (kind of like the Outhouse Springs campaign.)
2) Or it's a viral for a Court TV show. Possibly Parco P.I. (this is Gawker's favorite theory.)
Emily vows 14 days of vengeance. So I'm sure we'll eventually know the real story behind this.
Status: UndeterminedPosted on YouTube: a Japanese video of trained flies (actually they don't look like flies to me... maybe wasps or bees). They roll on their back and then juggle a ball on their legs. While it may be possible to train goldfish, I don't think it's possible to train flies. (Though, as one person on Digg pointed out, in laboratory experiments flies have been shown to be capable of learning.) My guess is that they've been drugged. This would account for them rolling over. Juggling the ball between their legs is probably a reflex action. (via Neatorama)
Status: UndeterminedDivester.com has been posting more Scary Shark: Real or Not challenges. Their latest picture shows a "horny shark." Is it real or not? The answer will be revealed next week. I'm not sure about this one. The shark kind of looks like it's made out of paper mache, so I'm going to vote that it's fake.
They also had a good challenge last week which I forgot to post about. To me the picture looked like a rag-doll shark, so I voted that it was fake. But I was wrong. Turns out that it's a photo of a real creature known as a cookie cutter shark. It lives in the depths of the ocean and only ventures to the surface at night to feed.
July 1, 2006: Shark Head
June 24, 2006: Shark Photos
Status: Strange, but realBig Gary forwarded me this story about a rare two-toned lobster found last week by a lobsterman, Alan Robinson, off the coast of Maine. Robinson donated it to the Mount Desert Oceanarium whose staff members say that "the odds or finding a half-and-half lobster are 1 in 50 million to 100 million. By comparison, the odds of finding a blue lobster are about 1 in a million."
Something about this story struck me as very familiar. And then I remembered what it was. Another story about the discovery of a two-toned lobster was posted last month in the forum. This earlier lobster was found off the coast of Newfoundland and is currently on display at the marine interpretation centre in Terra Nova National Park.
So what are the odds of two half-toned lobsters being found within a month and a half of each other? It's like these things are popping up all over.
Status: FictionalUnflinching Triumph, a recently released movie, explores the little-known subculture of Professional Staredown contests (aka Staring Contests). You can view the movie in its entirety online (free and legal!), or view the trailer at YouTube.
If you believe the movie, there really is such a thing as professional staredown contests. This illusion is strengthened by the website of the National Association of Staredown Professionals (NASP) and the website of Staredown Champion Tony Patterson. However, I'm pretty sure that the movie is a mockumentary, and that the NASP and Tony Patterson sites are part of the joke.
But I started wondering if perhaps the movie was based on a germ of truth. Is there some kind of subculture of staring enthusiasts? After all if cup stacking or chess boxing can be sports, why not staring? So I checked on Lexis Nexis to see if there was any mention of Staring as a professional sport in any paper for the past five years. But there doesn't seem to be. Wikipedia doesn't make note of any such thing either, though it does mention that some people like to challenge their pets to staring contests.