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June 2007
Ok, I'm out of here on holiday, so most likely there shan't be forum roundup posts for the next couple of weeks. They'll be picked up when I get back.

Alien Abduction Caught On Film In Dickinson, North Dakota (Emidawg)
A video has come to light of an alleged alien abduction. Well, when I say ‘come to light’, I mean more that the gentleman involved has sent said film to the director of HBCC UFO Research.
Highlights of the video are said to include a ‘spiraling thing’ and ‘entities’ which remove his blankets. I’m looking forward to the forthcoming release of the film…

Wrestler’s Murder-Suicide of Family (Tah)
Over the course of last weekend, WWE wrestler Chris Benoit tragically murdered his wife and son, then hung himself. The bodies of the family were not found until around 2pm on Monday. However, a little after midnight on Monday morning, someone updated Benoit’s Wikipedia page stating he’d missed a match on Saturday “stemming from the death of his wife Nancy”.
Authorities were looking into this curious incident throughout this week. On Friday, the anonymous user who had made the edits admitted to the changes. He said that the edit was not made with knowledge of the crime, and was based on rumours and speculation. [Entry corrected to say "son" instead of "daughter."]

Evolution of Beauty (Bok)
A short video showing the transformation of a woman from as she naturally is to made-up, photoshopped, altered billboard model.

Japanese toymaker to sell “Air-Guitar”! (David B.)
Takara Tomy Corp are now marketing gadgets to make playing air-guitar just that bit more realistic. The toy can be hooked up to speakers, attached to an MP3 player, or strapped to the wrist to allow music to go along with the motions of playing in a rock band. The item is programmed with ten songs, and will play just as long as the air-guitaring continues.
Categories: Advertising, Celebrities, Extraterrestrial Life, Law/Police/Crime, Photos/Videos, Technology
Posted by Flora on Fri Jun 29, 2007
Comments (5)
Yes, I realize that for most of you, explaining that "reality" shows are, shall we say, directed, if not outright scripted is as much of a revelation aas saying the Earth revolves around the Sun, but one doesn't often get a look at the actual casting process behind finding some of the people who appear on a "reality show".

Categories: Entertainment
Posted by Cranky Media Guy on Fri Jun 29, 2007
Comments (14)
Like with the iPhone (story below), I sincerely doubt I have to tell you who Paris Hilton is. I'm not sure, however, any of us could say what exactly it is she does for a living. Well, I've read that she charges Big Bucks to appear at people's parties, but what do you write on your tax forms in the box that says "Occupation" if that's what you do?

The "hoax" I'm referring to here, though, is her alleged conversion to--what? Christianity? Zoroastrianism? Scientology? Whatever sect she's aligning herself with now, she's turned over a new leaf after her stint in Oz. Sure, in the Olden Days, a person might have to rot on Devil's Island for years before deciding that there is a Controlling Entity in the Universe that one should respect, but in our accelerated age, apparently 23 days of wearing an unflattering orange jumpsuit can have the same effect on a person.

I note with interest that the New Improved Paris is wearing either no makeup or less obvious makeup since her brush with Fashion Hell. Sorry for being cynical, P.H., but I think the New You is more attributable to New P.R. than an epiphany.

UPDATE:

According to this story, bodog.com took bets on whether or not Paris would talk about God during her Larry King interview Wednesday night.
Categories: Celebrities, Religion
Posted by Cranky Media Guy on Thu Jun 28, 2007
Comments (16)
I'd be shocked if you didn't know what the iPhone is or that it's going to be in stores this Friday, the 29th, at 6 PM local time. Apple's publicity machine has been working overtime to promote what some are calling the "Jesus Phone."

The iPhone may be over-hyped, but I wouldn't call it a hoax. The guy who is first in line for one at Apple's flagship NYC store, however, might be classified as a hoaxer.

Greg Packer is what you might call a media whore. He's been quoted in the press as a "man on the street" over a hundred times since 1995, according to his Wikipedia entry (by the way, why does HE get his own Wikipedia entry when *I* don't have one? Grrr.) He's so ubiquitous, in fact, that an AP memo asks reporters to try to find other people to comment on things.

According to Wikipedia, he shows up at an average of two media events per week. At the moment I'm typing this, he's sitting outside the Apple store and it's guaranteed that he'll be all over TV on the 29th when Apple finally lets the unwashed touch this (according to some) paradigm-changing gadget.

I doubt that Apple is paying him to camp out, but who knows? Anyway...

UPDATE: Gelt magazine contacted me with a link to a short piece about the origin of the nickname "Jesus Phone":

Link
Categories: Advertising, Pranks, Technology
Posted by Cranky Media Guy on Thu Jun 28, 2007
Comments (16)
Yes, it's another questionable literary enterprise. You've probably heard of "The Secret," a self-help book/cultural phenomenon. As with any such thing, it's Oprah-approved.

"The Secret" claims to reveal a Secret of the Universe, which is (SPOILER ALERT!) that you can have whatever you want, if you just think about it REALLY HARD. OK, that's a wee bit flip, but that really is the gist of the "secret."

Well, you also have to be a good person and you can't wish for bad stuff, but other than that, if you want it, you can and WILL get it.

It's all based on the "Law of Attraction," which author Laura Byrne says governs the universe. She goes on to explain, "The law of attraction says that like attracts like, and when you think and feel what you want to attract on the inside, the law will use people, circumstances and events to magnetize what you want to you, and magnetize you to it."

Not to be a big Cosmic Party Pooper or anything, but if you're going to propose a Physical Law of the Universe and compare it to magnetism, just for starters you really ought to know that with magnets, OPPOSITES attract. Just sayin'

I could go on and on about why this kind of thing really pisses me off, but I'm more interested in what you all have to say. So, here's a link.

Ok, have at it!
Categories: Literature/Language, Science
Posted by Cranky Media Guy on Tue Jun 26, 2007
Comments (32)
The Press Club of Dallas has been a much-respected institution for years, offering the annual Katie awards to journalists for high quality work. Recently, though, the organisation’s reputation has been dealt a crippling blow, with the news that their recent president, Elizabeth Albanese, has been falsifying the award results for at least the past two years.

Albanese became involved with the Katies in 2003, the year she first won prizes, and has been reportedly tampering with the results every year since.

For the 2003 awards, unlike following years, a list of judges for the awards was provided. However, it appears that Albanese and her husband had access to each judge’s nominations for weeks before the ceremony, which certainly gave them the opportunity to alter them. Albanese won two awards.

In 2004, Albanese was acting as co-chair for the awards. Tom Stewart, the new president of the Press Club, has told reporters that the list of judges for that year cannot be found.

The judges for the 2005 and 2006 awards have been equally elusive. For the 2006 results, even the entries are missing. Volunteers packed them, and loaded them into Albanese’s car. After that, what happened to them is a mystery. Albanese claims that her husband’s company shipped the forms, but there are no records of this happening, and no-one but Albanese, and possibly her husband, know where they went. Tom Stewart is quoted as saying ”I wish to hell I knew. Greatest mystery to me. For all I know they’re in the damn Trinity River.”
Albanese won four awards that year - the most given to anyone.

Albanese was a social woman, slipping stories of her fascinating life into stories she told her friends.
These included:
*that she had a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas
*being born in Ireland, then moving to New York as a child
*being diagnosed with bone cancer, forcing the family to move to Houston so she could get treatment
*that her mother was a fashion model in New York
*that her father had been assistant manager at Plaza Hotel, and the family lived there
*that she had been a University of Texas cheerleader
*that she had married to Greek basketball player who had died in a car accident
*that she had worked for CNN during the first gulf war
*that she had a Harvard Law degree

What is known of her, much of which contradicts these tales, is this. Lisa Jeanne Albanese was born in White Plains, New York. When her working class family moved to a refinery town near Houston, her father worked in a car dealership. The only high school where she grew up has no record of her graduating, she never graduated college, and she did not even attend Harvard Law School. The family never lived in the Plaza. Albanese has a record of mental illness and delusional behaviour, and also a criminal record. In 1994, she was arrested for writing a bad check for a second-hand car. When the charge was entered into the system, it was discovered she was wanted in Texas for theft of two aeroplane tickets.

In February of 2007, Durhl Caussey - Albanese’s own choice for head of the club’s finance committee - was sent to pick up the financial records from Mac Duvall, their former bookkeeper. This proved to be a big mistake for Albanese. Duvall had proof of over $10,000 racked up on the club’s credit card. Between February and December of 2006, Albanese had been treating the card as if it were her own, blowing hundreds of dollars at a time on clothes, flights and hotel rooms. Duvall also showed Caussey records of the hundreds of emails he had sent Albanese regarding the club’s finances - emails that had never been shown to the rest of the board. Little wonder, with that sort of evidence, that Albanese had spoken to the board about firing Duvall. Caussey phoned Albanese for an explanation, whereupon she claimed it had been an honest mistake, and that she had paid back all the money. The records, however, showed that she still owed the club $3,000.

March 13th, 2007, became a showdown between Albanese and her doubters. At the meeting on this date, Durhl Caussey handed out copies of her credit card transactions to all the board members. Reactions were divided, with her supporters becoming angry at the ambush.
This was the point where Rand LaVonn, president of the Press Club Foundation stepped in. He made one request - “Please identify the judges for the 2006 Katie Awards and provide proof.”
Albanese claimed to not remember who the judges were, but promised to hand over a list of shipping labels to which the entries had been sent. Following the meeting, she told Meredith Dickenson - who considered her a friend - that she had destroyed the list, and was not going to provide any information. She made good on that statement. When Dickenson phoned her to ask about the judges, Albanese came up with strings of excuses - her husband had the labels and was out of town; she couldn’t call him as they didn’t talk when he was on business; she’d replaced her laptop without transferring the files…

Eventually, Albanese did provide a list of judges for the 2006 awards. However, the press club do not believe that the list is real. Some of the phone numbers didn’t work, one was answered by a hospital in Tennessee, and no-one has ever come forward to say they had been involved in the judging.

The club have no proof that any judging took place from 2004 until 2006 and, if that is the case, nearly 600 awards were handed out at Albanese’s whims. Several of her staunch defenders were winners in that timeframe.

Sadly, it looks like the Press Club of Dallas may have to bring to a close the annual award ceremony. Doing so will lose the monetary support the club used to rent its office space and to pay for journalistic scholarships. Some are still hoping that the awards may be revived but, for 2007, their future seems in doubt.

(Thanks to Kathleen for the story, and Madmouse for help with the post.)
Categories: Con Artists, Identity/Imposters, Journalism, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Flora on Mon Jun 25, 2007
Comments (19)
This is a weird one. A book allegedly written by a young man, JT LeRoy, made a sensation recently. JT was a truck stop hooker, got involved with drugs, was possibly transgendered and generally had a pretty screwed-up life. The book was billed as non-fiction, supposedly the true story of JT's life. Naturally, it sold very well.

Oprah loved it, the movie director Gus VanSant and other Hollywood types were interested in it. Then the JT LeRoy saga started coming apart. Funny story, turns out there is no such person as JT LeRoy.

Even funnier, also turns out that more than one person, some of them female, portrayed JT at book signings and other appearances. As you'd expect, the people who put up good money to produce a book based on "JT"'s life story didn't see the humor in the situation. They sued Laura Albert, the woman who really wrote the book and who recruited friends and relatives to play JT.

The case came to trial this week. I don't want to spoil the ending for you, so click on the link and see how the case turned out. Oh, and you're gonna LOVE Albert's lawyer's defense of her actions. It's, uh, creative, I'll give him that.

AOL News, JT LeRoy.

OK, this is annoying. The article that link takes you to had a summary of Albert's defense of her actions, but it's been changed since I originally copied the link. The gist of it is that the lawyer said that Albert suffered from "multiple personalities." Now you *might* be able to buy that, but she claims that her multiples were contagious (my term) to explain how other people portrayed "JT" when the "author" needed to make an appearance. I've found the reference elsewhere, though.

From the Augusta Chronicle:

Albert and her lawyers say the matter is more complicated.

The middle-aged Albert testified during the trial that she had been assuming male identities for decades as a coping mechanism for psychological problems brought on by her sexual abuse as a child. To her, she said, Leroy was real — something akin to a different personality living inside her, but one that was capable of transferring to the people she hired to impersonate him.


UPDATE:

If the meme of the 90's was, "I know I did something wrong, but I apologize from the bottom of my heart and, by the way, I've found Jesus," the Ought's version seems to be, "I have no idea why you think what I did was wrong. I'm a misunderstood genius unappreciated by philistines like you."

I direct your attention to:

Gawker story on J T LeRoy.
Categories: Con Artists, Folklore/Tall Tales, Identity/Imposters, Literature/Language
Posted by Cranky Media Guy on Mon Jun 25, 2007
Comments (11)
OK, with Alex on his way to Africa, the substitute teacher is officially in charge. That doesn't mean you can throw spitballs or run in the hallway, though.

I'll have some stuff up in a little bit. I'm still figuring out how all this works.

Behave.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Cranky Media Guy on Sun Jun 24, 2007
Comments (12)
imageimage
Flowers growing from a steel pipe (NEO)
A Chinese man has found what he believes to be a patch of white flowers growing from a steel pipe in his vegetable garden.
Ding has consulted his neighbours, who believe the flowers are the legendary Youtan Poluo flower, which blossoms only once every 3,000 years.
“No soil, no water. These flowers can bring me good luck,” he added.

Forum members suspect, however, that the 'flowers' are lacewing eggs (see pictures to compare.)

Make your bad grades disappear! (Accipiter)
A student worried about re-taking a year at school because of his bad exam results talked two friends into entering a classroom wearing masks, threatening the teacher with an iron bar, and attempting to steal the report cards. Sadly for the sixteen-year old and his accomplices, the other students in the class defended the teacher, and they fled without the reports. The associates, aged 14 and 15 respectively, were arrested near to the school.

Herman Munster's Identity Stolen (Tah)
Internet thieves on an underground chatroom were offering the personal identification data of Herman Munster. Apparently unfamiliar with the television series The Munsters, the thieves were offering information such as his address - 1313 Mocking Bird Lane - and his Mastercard number. The theory is that a fan of the programme deliberately provided the bogus data.

A horror movie come to life (Iridium)
Three families in Fircrest claim to have been victims of harassment for four months now. The families say that the mysterious stalkers are tracking their moves, controlling their cell phones, and sending death threats.
Somehow, the callers have gained control of the family cell phones, Price and Kuykendall say. Messages received by the sisters include snatches of conversation overheard on cell-phone mikes, replayed and transmitted via voice mail. Phone records show many of the messages coming from Courtney’s phone, even when she’s not using it – even when it’s turned off.
Whilst the phone company claims this is impossible, the Department of Commerce says that there is such thing as a 'roving bug', which will work whether the phone is on or not, and can pinpoint its location to within a few feet.
Categories: Con Artists, Identity/Imposters, Law/Police/Crime, Miscellaneous, Technology
Posted by Flora on Fri Jun 22, 2007
Comments (7)
On Sunday I leave for Africa. I'll be there for three weeks. I'm spending a week in Malawi, where my sister lives, and two weeks in South Africa, where members of my wife's family live. I probably won't have many chances to connect to the internet while I'm there.

As it turns out, Flora is also leaving for a vacation in Wales at the same time. Which could mean a sudden absence of Curators at the MoH, and not much blog content being produced.

To prevent that I've arranged for a guest blogger while Flora and I are gone. It's someone quite familiar to many people here -- none other than Cranky Media Guy (aka Bob Pagani). He has perfect credentials for the position. He's a media hoaxer, radio personality, warden of the Abu Ghraib Fantasy Prison Camp, and winner of the $365M Powerball Lottery. He'll be blogging from up north in Oregon.

So please give him a warm welcome. And if you want to help him out by giving him tips about links or news stories, just use the site's contact form. I've configured it so that he'll receive messages sent through it.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 21, 2007
Comments (20)
Last week a security camera at a New Mexico courthouse caught an image of a mysterious blob of light seeming to float around the parking lot. This has already been posted and discussed in the forum. And for those who haven't yet seen the video, here it is:



The new news about the blob is that Ben Radford of Skeptical Inquirer magazine visited the courthouse today (Wednesday) in an attempt to shed some light on the mystery. NewMexican.com reports:
Radford spent more than an hour Wednesday near the back door to the Steve Herrera Judicial Complex on Catron Street taking measurements and performing experiments. He occasionally dipped into his “ghost-busting kit” — a plastic organizer with various compartments containing extra batteries, rope, Velcro and a fingerprint dusting kit. At one point, he used a 3- to 4-foot long section of black, plastic pipe to blow a piece of cotton from a cottonwood tree into the air in front of the camera that caught the ghostly image. Radford also tried to coax a moth to fly in front of the camera, which is mounted about 12 feet off the ground, though the moth was not very cooperative, he said.
The last time I saw Ben was when I visited him at the offices of Skeptical Inquirer in Buffalo, New York. I'm quite jealous that he actually has a ghost-busting kit and is getting to do an on-site investigation of something hoaxy. Why can't these things ever happen in San Diego?

Anyway, Ben concluded that the strange floating light was probably "a piece of tree fluff or a spider or insect crawling across the camera lens." The insect explanation seems like the likeliest one to me.
Categories: Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 21, 2007
Comments (10)
I posted an entry back in 2004 about Iraqi urban legends regarding the American troops. Three years later the same urban legends still seem to be going strong over there. And a new article in Stars and Stripes lists some more:
  • U.S. troops eat children
  • U.S. servicemembers use poison-tainted bullets
  • Americans peek through women’s clothing with X-ray sunglasses
  • Americans’ berets are dyed with blood
  • Americans have a “cold pill” that they take so they do not get too hot in their gear
The article notes that the belief in the legends seems to be getting worse because, now that we've driven most of the educated middle class out of the country "the remaining population is likely to be unschooled and susceptible to the distortions.
Categories: Military, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 21, 2007
Comments (7)
image Memphis church-goers claim that the face of God has appeared in the ceiling of their church. The story of the image's first appearance is quite dramatic:
Pastor Reginald Lowery of Miracle Crusade Bible Church Holiness said it all started one Friday night at his church, located near 6th and Looney. "I was preaching on 'God Knows Where We Are,' and all of a sudden a big bang hit the church," he said. With that, Lowery said, alarms all over the neighborhood started going off, including those at the church. Then, according to the pastor, something else happened. "The lights on the inside went to solid gold," he said. It was then that Lowery's daughter first saw it: The face of God on the church's ceiling.
The catch is that you can only see the image while looking through a camera -- apparently a cellphone camera works best. (God works in mysterious ways.) The bottom thumbnail shows the face through a cellphone camera, and it is actually easier to see what they're talking about that way. The higher contrast accentuates the pattern.

The wmctv article notes that "skeptics may claim the face is simply a reflection from a light hanging from the church's ceiling." I actually think it looks like the face of a giant cat. (via Fortean News)

Update: The same news channel also has a story about the face of Jesus in a tree outside a Memphis church (a two-for-one pareidolia feature). I added this to my list of faces in trees in the hoaxipedia.
Categories: Pareidolia, Religion
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 21, 2007
Comments (13)
I receive a lot of email from people I've never heard of telling me that I've won a lottery, have inherited a small fortune, or have otherwise been selected to receive a large amount of cash. Just this morning, for instance, I found out that I had won the "Irish National Lottery" and that the "Ecobank/United Nations Scam Victims Compensation Fund" had decided to pay me $100,000. The money just keeps pouring in.

Typically I delete these emails without a second thought, recognizing them to be the scams that they are. But it's exactly this kind of skepticism that makes life hard for those who have the job of informing people that they've inherited money from a long-lost relative.

Justin Harper, of the Daily Mail, has written an article about firms in this line of business. Apparently every year the British Treasury receives £10 billion from unclaimed estates. They try to locate relatives of the deceased who might be entitled to the money. This has created a lucrative business for so-called "heir hunters" who, for a commission, try to locate the heirs and give them their money. But, of course, nowadays everyone is so skeptical about scams, that the heir hunters have a hard time convincing people that they really have inherited money. The Daily Mail writes:
THE Treasury Solicitor advertises in national and local newspapers when someone dies intestate and without known beneficiaries. It will give details of the person's name, where and when they died and the value of their estate.
About 20 are advertised each week and they cover estates valued at £5,000 or more. Adverts are issued on a Thursday which is a very busy time for the genealogists who operate in this field. These socalled heir hunters are in a race against time to piece together a family tree, find the relatives who are line for the inheritance and be the first to contact them.
There's money in it for both parties. The inheritor receives money they weren't expecting and the genealogist firm charges a fee of up to 25 pc of the money. A contract is signed before details of the deceased is given.
Fraser & Fraser is the biggest firm of genealogists in the UK and features in the BBC programme Heir Hunters showing how hard it can be to track down relatives who have inherited money from longlost family members. Researchers sift through millions of records of births, deaths and marriages along with censuses, electoral registers and other documents.
Fraser & Fraser also has staff throughout the UK on the road who speak to neighbours, social services and anyone who can shed some light on the deceased's family.
Ironically, one of the hardest jobs is convincing beneficiaries they are not part of an elaborate hoax when an agent from turns up on their doorstep with the good news.
I'm now wondering if any of those emails I've been deleting were for real.
Categories: Business/Finance
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 20, 2007
Comments (23)
Sunday morning viewers of a Czech public television channel saw an unexpected sight during the broadcast of the weather. The screen was showing a panning scenic shot of the Krkonose Mountains in Bohemia, as the announcer delivered the weather report. Suddenly a large mushroom cloud appeared in the distance.

Luckily the Krkonose Mountains hadn't been nuked. The scene was the work of a Czech art group calling itself ZTOHOVEN. They had managed to hack into one of the station's camera feeds, and replace the incoming video with their own content.

Czech TV isn't very happy about the prank. They're filing criminal charges against the group.

Some other pranks that ZTOHOVEN is known for:
One of their number, artist Roman Tyc made headlines in April by unscrewing pedestrian traffic lights and replacing the standing and walking men with figures lying down, peeing or drinking.
And:
Its members also changed into a question mark the red neon heart by Jiri David that was installed at Prague Castle during the last days of Vaclav Havel's tenure as Czech president.
In 2003 they covered 800 advertising showcases in Prague's underground with white posters featuring a large black question mark and a reference to their internet pages.
You can see their latest handiwork on YouTube:

Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 19, 2007
Comments (4)
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