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July 2007
image FlexPetz is a San Diego-based company that allows people to rent out dogs by the day. So if you want to be able to take a dog to the beach on the weekend, but you don't have time to care for it during the week, this is the service for you. Marlena Cervantes, the founder of the company, doesn't like the term "rent-a-pet," according to this AP article. Instead, she likes to think of what she's offering as "shared pet ownership." The service is quite pricey, but it's doubtless cheaper than caring for a dog yourself for its entire life.

As soon as I read about this company, I thought about the many "rent-a-something" type hoaxes that have been reported here over the years, such as: Rent my Son, Rent a Wife, Rent a Negro, Rent a Midget, Rent a German, and Rent a Dildo.

However, I'm pretty sure FlexPetz is not a hoax. Though many might think that it's such a bad idea they would prefer it was a hoax.

My first reaction was to be appalled. Pets, to my way of thinking, are part of the family. They're not something to be rented on the weekend. But the more I've thought about it, the more I've started to grudgingly accept the idea of this company, because if you want a pet but you're not sure if you can take care of it for its entire life, renting one would be better than buying one and later trying to get rid of it. (via Art of the Prank)
Categories: Animals, Business/Finance
Posted by Alex on Mon Jul 30, 2007
Comments (17)
image The Coleman Frog, explains a recent article on, is an enormous stuffed frog -- it weighs 19 kilograms, or about 42 lbs -- on display in the York-Sunbury Museum in Fredericton, Canada. According to legend, the frog originally belonged to Fred Coleman, who owned a lodge near Fredericton back in the 1880s. He used to feed it whiskey and whey, causing it to grow to its enormous size. After it died, he had it stuffed. It sat in the saloon of a hotel for a while before coming into the possession of the York-Sunbury Museum.

There are skeptics who say that the Coleman Frog is a fake. They suggest that the frog was actually originally a display item used to advertise a cough medicine guaranteed to relieve "the frog in your throat" (See Canada's Mysterious Maritimes), but the York-Sunbury Museum dismisses such skepticism. Tim Andrew, a local expert on the frog who defends its reality, says, "I don't suppose we'll ever put the controversy to rest. It was suggested doing DNA testing on it, but I think we're reluctant to disturb the peace of a stuffed beast that's been around quite happily for 123 years now." (Thanks, Joe)
Categories: Animals, Folklore/Tall Tales
Posted by Alex on Mon Jul 30, 2007
Comments (10)
I'm no expert on football, but I don't think this is a legal move. (via Funl)

Categories: Pranks, Sports
Posted by Alex on Mon Jul 30, 2007
Comments (16)
image Big Gary forwarded me a link to this Yahoo News Photo of Eclyse, a zebra-horse hybrid housed at the Stukenbrock Safaripark in Germany. Big Gary had some doubts about whether this was a true hybrid, or a fake one (such as Tijuana Zebras -- donkeys that Tijuana street vendors paint to look like zebras so that tourists can pose with them). Eclyse's color coating does look so strange that it would be natural to assume it was fake, but it turns out to be real. Spiegel has more pictures of Eclyse.

Eclyse's coloring is highly unusual, even for a zebra-horse hybrid. The Wikipedia entry on Zebroids speculates that she got her patchy coat because her mother was "piebald or skewbald (known in the USA as a Pinto horse)."
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Mon Jul 30, 2007
Comments (16)
image No form of deception is more ubiquitous in modern life than the cheery platitudes we constantly exchange: "How are you?" "Fine!" or "Have a nice day."

Washington DC based artist Tom Greaves has created a work of art designed to hold a mirror up to this culture of shallow, saccharine pleasantries. It's the compliment machine -- a red-and-white striped box that sits on a street corner and delivers compliments all day. As pedestrians pass by, it continuously shouts out words of encouragement:

"People are drawn to your positive energy."
"You are always there when needed."
"Your eyes are beautiful."

The Washington Post reports:
Initially, Greaves thought of making some of the compliments subversive, but had a change of heart. "Why not make it completely positive? Everyone deserves to have a compliment paid to them." And so the Compliment Machine has kind words for even the blackest of hearts.
I think there's only one proper response to Greaves' invention: Great idea! Very creative! It's going to spread a lot of positive energy!
Categories: Art, Psychology
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 27, 2007
Comments (13)
While operating on one of his employees, Dentist Robert Woo temporarily implanted fake boar tusks in her mouth and took photos of her. The boar tusks, he claimed, were merely a practical joke -- an allusion to the pot-bellied pigs her family raises. He hoped the joke would help foster a "friendly working environment."

Unfortunately, the employee wasn't amused when she later saw the photos. She sued him for outrage, battery, and invasion of privacy. Woo asked his insurance company to represent him, but they refused, saying that the joke was intentional and not a normal business activity. Therefore, Woo had to hire a lawyer on his own and eventually reached a settlement with his employee in which he paid her $250,000. Here's what happened next:
Woo sued the insurers. King County Superior Court agreed with him that Fireman's had a duty to defend him. A jury awarded him $750,000, plus the $250,000 he was out, as well as lawyers' fees - well over $1 million all told. The state appeals court threw that out and Woo appealed to the high court, and now has won the full amount, plus his appellate legal bills.
I'm not normally sympathetic to insurance companies, but it sounds like they have a point. His strange practical joke doesn't seem work related.
Categories: Health/Medicine, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 27, 2007
Comments (10)
image The latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (Volume 357, Number 4) contains a short article about Oscar, a cat that seems to possess the ability to predict when people are about to die. Oscar's home is the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island, so he has many chances to be around dying people. When patients are about to die, he curls up next to them and happily sleeps there, until they're dead. Then he quietly exits the room. Most of the time the dying patients are so sick they don't even know he's there. The article in the NEJM states:
Since he was adopted by staff members as a kitten, Oscar the Cat has had an uncanny ability to predict when residents are about to die. Thus far, he has presided over the deaths of more than 25 residents on the third floor of Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island. His mere presence at the bedside is viewed by physicians and nursing home staff as an almost absolute indicator of impending death, allowing staff members to adequately notify families. Oscar has also provided companionship to those who would otherwise have died alone. For his work, he is highly regarded by the physicians and staff at Steere House and by the families of the residents whom he serves.
Oscar is a cute cat, but my first thought was whether Oscar could somehow be causing or hastening the deaths of the patients, though I can't imagine how this could be. An Associated Press article raises some other possibilities:
No one's certain if Oscar's behavior is scientifically significant or points to a cause. Teno wonders if the cat notices telltale scents or reads something into the behavior of the nurses who raised him.
Nicholas Dodman, who directs an animal behavioral clinic at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and has read Dosa's article, said the only way to know is to carefully document how Oscar divides his time between the living and dying.
If Oscar really is a furry grim reaper, it's also possible his behavior could be driven by self-centered pleasures like a heated blanket placed on a dying person, Dodman said.
Normally I'm happy if a cat curls up with me, but in Oscar's case, I would be a little concerned. (Thanks, Big Gary)
Categories: Animals, Death
Posted by Alex on Wed Jul 25, 2007
Comments (81)
image Cosmetics giant Elizabeth Arden has gone on record to let everyone know that an image apparently circulating around the internet, showing a supposed ad for Mariah Carey's new perfume, M, is a fake. An Arden spokesman says:
"An image of MC with her fragrance bottle photoshopped in the corner is being featured on several blogs today, and is categorically not the advertisement for her new fragrance, nor is it even remotely close. The real ad for M by Mariah Carey will debut exclusively on TMZ during the second week of August."
To me the fake ad looks pretty professional, which makes me suspect it might be a subviral ad... something planted by an ad agency connected with Arden, which they won't take credit for, but which will allow them to stir up some pre-announcement publicity. After all, if it weren't for Arden denying this fake ad, I would never have known that Mariah Carey was even planning on coming out with a new fragrance.

Interestingly, her perfume is said to smell of "marshmallow and sea breeze." I'm no perfume expert, but that seems like a rather strange combination of fragrances.
Categories: Advertising
Posted by Alex on Wed Jul 25, 2007
Comments (10)
image A 180ft image of a donut-waving Homer Simpson recently appeared on a hillside in Dorchester, beside the famous Cerne Abbas Giant. The image is part of the publicity for the new Simpsons movie. However, the stunt has not pleased local pagans, who believe it to be disrespectful. Catherine Hosen, Wiltshire representative for The Pagan Federation, says, "I find it quite shocking and very disrespectful. It's just a publicity stunt for a film and we are talking about a monument which is definitely of great historical significance and a lot of people feel has important spiritual significance as well."

However, the pagans should keep in mind that the Cerne Abbas Giant may not be as old as they think. As I note in the article about the Giant in the Hoaxipedia:
the first written reference to the giant only occurred in 1694. This was not because early descriptions of the Cerne Abbas landscape were scarce. Quite the opposite. Many pre-seventeenth-century surveys of that region have survived, but none of them mention a giant. By contrast, the presence of the Uffington Horse was noted as early as the eleventh century... [Joseph Betty has] argued that a local landowner called Denzil Holles created the giant in the seventeenth century during the English Civil War. Holles harbored a passionate hatred of the puritan commander Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell’s followers often represented their leader as a modern-day, club-wielding Hercules. Therefore, what better way for Holles to satirize the commander, Betty suggested, than to plaster a 180-foot rude caricature of Hercules on a hilltop in the middle of England? But Betty noted that given the dangerous political situation during the Civil War, Holles would have been careful not to make his authorship of the figure too obvious or too widely known.
Categories: Advertising, Places
Posted by Alex on Wed Jul 25, 2007
Comments (8)
I have no idea what the meaning of this video is, but whoever created it appears to be trying to simulate the appearance of a Feejee Mermaid-type creature. I found it linked to on the CeticismoAberto blog, where it's noted that the illusion of the creature is created in much the same way as magicians create the illusion of sawing a woman in half. In other words, this Feejee Mermaid actually consists of someone's head poking out the top of a box, with the body of the mermaid being manipulated separately from the head.

Categories: Cryptozoology, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Jul 24, 2007
Comments (5)
What in the world has happened to Madonna? The Daily Mail published these photos of her, taken "as she left her private members club in London's Soho to attend a business meeting," clutching a large designer bag. The sinewy appearance of her arms is attributed to "use of 'miracle' machine - The Power Plate," which apparently is some kind of vibrating platform offering "the same benefits of an hour-long sweaty gym workout in just 15 minutes with the machine burning the calories for you." Sure, it lets you get a full workout in just 15 minutes, but unfortunately it also turns you into a walking skeleton.

At first I thought the photo of Madonna's arms may have been photoshopped, like the Too Skinny images, but we'll have to take the word of the Daily Mail's photographer that the pictures are real. (via J-Walk)

Related post: Ann Coulter's hands

Categories: Body Manipulation, Celebrities
Posted by Alex on Tue Jul 24, 2007
Comments (24)
Robert Brewington was kind enough to forward me the following job listing. My email program initially flagged the message as potential junk mail, but after I looked at it more closely I realized it wasn't spam. Instead, it's a very tempting job lead.

The listing, posted by the Circus of Horrors on the British government's Job Centre site, reads:
Pickled Person
Applicants should be flexible, and happy to work in confined spaces, as one of the acts will involve climbing into a Perspex box with very little room.
According to an article in Gazette Live, it's a real job offer. The Circus of Horrors "took the wacky step of advertising the position in local Job Centres in the hope that a brave, or foolhardy person, would step forward and take up the challenge."

To see the ad, go to the Jobcentre site, and do a search for reference # STL/58537.

Here's a screenshot of the ad:

Categories: Body Manipulation
Posted by Alex on Mon Jul 23, 2007
Comments (3)
Next time you visit Chicago, consider skipping the normal city tours and instead take the "Ghetto Bus Tour." It takes tourists on a guided tour in a yellow school bus "through vacant lots and past demolished buildings on a tour of what was once one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country." You get to see the former housing projects. The tour guide is Beauty Turner. The Chi-Town Daily News reports:
Turner leads her captivated audience from site to site in a beat-up yellow school [bus]. Sitting in the back, listening to her point out the sites, the We The People Media Bus Tour feels like an eccentric elementary school field trip. Turner's mostly white charges are reporters and employees of non-profit organizations. Elinor Krepler is there as part of her rabbinic training program in Philadelphia. There is a group from the Field Mueum’s Cultural Understanding and Change program. There are reporters from National Public radio and a history professor from Roosevelt University, Brad Hunt, who is writing a book about the history of public housing. Many on the tour snap pictures of public housing projects as if they were tourist attractions. They turn their microphones toward CHA residents who are not used to being listened to.
This reminded me of something, but I couldn't immediately put my finger on it. And then I remembered -- Joey Skaggs's Hippie Bus Tour. Back in 1968 Skaggs rented a greyhound bus, filled it with long-haired hippies, and then took them all on a guided tour of a middle-class Queens community, allowing them to snap photos of guys mowing their lawn, washing their cars, etc.

So the Skaggs version of the ghetto bus tour would, presumably, be to take residents of the housing projects on a tour of Chicago's wealthy suburbs. That might be pretty interesting.
Categories: Places
Posted by Alex on Mon Jul 23, 2007
Comments (11)
I know it should come as no surprise to learn that a reality TV show has been faked, but it still kind of sucks to hear this about Born Survivor (aired in America on the Discovery Channel as Man vs. Wild), since I've watched quite a few episodes of this show and enjoyed it.

The premise of the show is that Bear Grylls, a former soldier with the UK Special Forces, is dropped into various extreme situations (on top of a mountain, on a desert island, etc.) and has to survive on his own until he gets rescued. Obviously there's a camera crew with him constantly, so he's never in that much danger. Still, learning that he sometimes would surreptitiously check into hotel rooms overnight kind of ruins the effect.

From the BBC:
A crew member told the Sunday Times some nights were spent in hotels... American survival consultant Mark Weinert, who was recruited by Diverse Productions, told the paper Grylls claimed to be stranded on a desert island on one occasion. However, he was actually in Hawaii and spent some of his time there in a motel, Mr Weinert alleged. Another time, he added, Grylls was filmed building a raft by himself, whereas the crew had actually put it together and dismantled it beforehand, to ensure that it worked. And in a further episode, supposedly "wild" horses rounded up by Grylls had come from a local trekking facility, he claimed.
Categories: Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Mon Jul 23, 2007
Comments (25)
In a Buddhist temple in Singapore, stored inside a solid gold stupa, lies a tooth. The monks who run the temple claim that it's the Buddha's tooth. But others are not so sure. Apparently, "some experts have reportedly questioned whether the tooth is from the Buddha himself." Wow! It's hard to imagine something like this would be fake.

The problem seems to be that the tooth looks suspiciously like the tooth of a herbivore, such as a horse or a buffalo. Apparently vendors in places such as Myanmar often try to sell similar-looking teeth to tourists. Vets have confirmed that the teeth the vendors sell come from herbivores.

However, the monks in the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple are not about to let scientists do any tests on their Buddha's tooth. They argue that DNA testing is an invasive procedure and is a practical challenge to conduct. Plus, once it's confirmed as a fake, they'd be out of a job.

My favorite line from the Channel NewsAsia article: Renowned artist Tan Swie Hian says, "I don't mind praying to a buffalo's tooth provided I'm told it is one. Let me get it right before my prayer."
Categories: Religion
Posted by Alex on Mon Jul 23, 2007
Comments (5)
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