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September 2007
image Marie Digby has been one of YouTube's greatest stars. She started posting videos of herself performing covers of popular songs. Just her sitting in front of the camera, singing away and playing the guitar. Soon her videos were getting millions of page views, and her popularity allowed her to get a track on iTunes.

This success endeared her to the internet, who saw her as one of their own. She was a real talent who had succeeded on the strength of her ability alone. She wasn't one of those creations of the recording industry's hype machine.

But an article in the Wall Street Journal reveals that she actually was a creation of the recording industry all along.
a press release last week from Walt Disney Co.'s Hollywood Records label declared: "Breakthrough YouTube Phenomenon Marié Digby Signs With Hollywood Records." What the release failed to mention is that Hollywood Records signed Ms. Digby in 2005, 18 months before she became a YouTube phenomenon. Hollywood Records helped devise her Internet strategy, consulted with her on the type of songs she chose to post, and distributed a high-quality studio recording of "Umbrella" to iTunes and radio stations.

The record label devised the strategy of building buzz by posting amateur-style videos of her on YouTube, and her connection with the record label was hidden or downplayed.

Marie Digby, in response to the article, has apparently been claiming that she never hid her connection with Hollywood Records, but from the quotations in the article, it certainly appears as if she constantly presented herself as a "lucky nobody" who just posted some videos online and then got noticed.

Well, at least it was really her singing in the videos. (Thanks, Bob!)
Categories: Music
Posted by Alex on Fri Sep 07, 2007
Comments (5)
image Bullet Proof Baby is an online store that claims to sell "all sorts of light weight heavily tested military standard body armor for babys and toddlers." For instance, it offers bullet-proof strollers, bullet-proof cribs, infants 'my first' gas mask, baby bomb blankets, toddler tasers, baby riot helmets, and ultra light kiddie riot shields. Here's the description for the baby flak jacket.
Smart multi-role protection for your baby in a style that is duplicated throughout the world. Velcro adjustable shoulders and side closures which allow a smooth comfortable fit for babies of any age. Bullet proof baby armor will protect your child from Ballistics, Knife, Spike, Syringe & Slash as well as bomb blasts to 400 m/s.

It's all a thinly disguised promotional site for the new Clive Owen movie, Shoot 'Em Up, as evidenced by the numerous ads for the movie throughout the site. If you actually try to order anything, you discover that it's all out of stock.
Categories: Birth/Babies, Military, Websites
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 06, 2007
Comments (3)
You can find a lot of weird stuff on YouTube, such as this video of a water-skiing elephant. Watching it, I feel kind of sorry for the poor elephant made to do this.

The story behind the video is that it was a publicity stunt from 1959 dreamed up by New York PR man Max Rosey in order to promote an amusement park. Rosey was also the man who came up with the idea for an annual hot dog eating contest in Coney Island to promote Nathan's hot dogs.

I found this video (and the explanation about it) on a blog called Liquid Soap, which is about publicity stunts of yesteryear. The blog is written by Mark Borkowski, who's also the head of the UK's Borkowski PR agency.
Categories: Advertising, Animals
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 06, 2007
Comments (9)
Here's a story about a detective who had to go deep undercover, posing as a corpse in order to catch a man who was vandalizing hearses belonging to a funeral home:
The funeral directors contacted the Portsmouth Business Crime Reduction Partnership which hired a team of private detectives. They spent five days posing as members of the public and using cameras to stake out the firm. But cars continued to be damaged under their noses so security firm Storewatch decided one of their team had to hide inside a body bag. There the detective could watch a computer displaying live images from cameras inside and outside the vehicle. Mark Ferns, Storewatch director said: "Our guy would do three or four hours in the bag and then would have to take what the Americans call a comfort break.

I don't really understand why they couldn't have achieved the same thing with remote control cameras.
Categories: Death, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 06, 2007
Comments (2)
Elliot's newest contribution in the Hoaxipedia is an entry about the career of the art forger Elmer de Hory.

And I also posted an article about something from the world of art: September Morn by Paul Chabas.

September Morn shows a young naked girl bathing at the edge of a lake. In the early twentieth century it provoked a huge controversy in America about whether nudity should be allowed in public art. The controversy helped make September Morn one of the most famous (and popular) paintings in the world.

The interesting part of the story is that publicist Harry Reichenbach later claimed to have started the whole controversy by staging a phony protest... pretending to be outraged in order to attract the notice of the censors, but in reality just trying to drum up publicity so as to sell more copies of the painting.

I have my doubts about Reichenbach's story, especially since he only started taking credit for the September Morn controversy years after it happened.
Categories: Art
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 06, 2007
Comments (6)
Warning:The following video is really gross. Definitely NSWE (not safe while eating). But I made the mistake of watching it, and now I want to know what in the world it could be showing.

What happens is that you see a man's face getting scrubbed with a piece of cotton. And then tiny worms begin to ooze out of the man's pores.

The most sensible theory to be found in the YouTube comments (which I don't recommend reading) is that the video shows some kind of pseudo-medical treatment (for what, I can't imagine), in which worm eggs are smeared on the man's face with the cotton, and then the worms seem to emerge from the guy's skin. Sounds plausible. Any other theories?

Categories: Gross, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 06, 2007
Comments (46)
In his new article in the hoaxipedia, Elliot gives some background info on the Church of the SubGenius -- the church which may represent a genuine religious movement, or may be just an elaborate joke.

The Church of the SubGenius is affiliated with the Universal Life Church, "an organization that has been legally (in some states) offering tax-exempt ministerships to all who apply regardless of religious or non-religious affiliation." Years ago I sent away to become a Universal Life Church minister, but I no longer have any clue where I put the sheet of paper saying I'm a minister.

I've sometimes thought about starting my own church. It would be the Church of the Great Hoax. Its motto would be: "Whatever you believe, it's wrong."
Categories: Religion
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 05, 2007
Comments (16)
The Washington Post has a depressing article about the difficulty of myth-busting. Experiments by Norbert Schwarz at the University of Michigan reveal that a few days after telling people a rumor is false, many of those people will have misremembered what they were told and think the rumor is true. The crux of the problem is that:
Denials inherently require repeating the bad information, which may be one reason they can paradoxically reinforce it.

Other psychologists have found that hearing the same thing again and again from the same source can actually trick the brain into thinking information is more credible, as if the information came from many sources:
People are not good at keeping track of which information came from credible sources and which came from less trustworthy ones, or even remembering that some information came from the same untrustworthy source over and over again. Even if a person recognizes which sources are credible and which are not, repeated assertions and denials can have the effect of making the information more accessible in memory and thereby making it feel true.

So what can myth-busters do? Unfortunately, not much. The only recommended tactic is to debunk rumors by not referring to the original rumor at all, and instead offering a completely different new assertion. For instance:
Rather than say, as Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) recently did during a marathon congressional debate, that "Saddam Hussein did not attack the United States; Osama bin Laden did," Mayo said it would be better to say something like, "Osama bin Laden was the only person responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks" -- and not mention Hussein at all.

It's going to make it pretty hard to operate a myth-busting website if one of the rules is that I can't mention the myth I'm debunking. (Thanks, Joe!)
Categories: Psychology
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 05, 2007
Comments (8)
If I saw mechanics busy sacrificing some goats as I boarded my plane, it wouldn't exactly set me at ease. Still, mechanics in Nepal seem to think it did the trick. From Reuters:
Officials at Nepal's state-run airline have sacrificed two goats to appease Akash Bhairab, the Hindu sky god, following technical problems with one of its Boeing 757 aircraft, the carrier said Tuesday...
The goats were sacrificed in front of the troublesome aircraft Sunday at Nepal's only international airport in Kathmandu in accordance with Hindu traditions, an official said.
"The snag in the plane has now been fixed and the aircraft has resumed its flights," said Raju K.C., a senior airline official, without explaining what the problem had been.
Categories: Animals, Technology
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 05, 2007
Comments (8)
Is it a magic trick, or a trick of the camera? I'm not sure.

Real or fake ? Réel ou faux ?
Uploaded by _006-serie-TS_
Categories: Magic, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 05, 2007
Comments (12)
In an effort to instill a can-do attitutde in his workers, a Russian mayor has "ordered his bureaucrats to stop using expressions such as 'I don't know' and 'I can't.'"

Seems like a double-plus ungood policy. How should they respond if asked, "Can you say 'I can't'?"

Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 05, 2007
Comments (5) claims to be "an introduction service assisting those following the Biblical tradition of arranging marriages for their Daughters."

If you're in the market for a young bride, you can choose from a wide variety of choices. For instance, there's 14-year-old Kyra who:
likes the outdoors, more the open air of the beach or the desert than the woods. She would love to live somewhere away from it all. She is bright and funny and full of life and while she has little direct experience with the opposite sex we have made sure she is aware of everything she needs to know to be a good wife and mother.

Is this legal? Of course. As the site points out, "Within the United States girls can marry as young as 13 years old with parental permission, and the Bride Price is a custom of long standing, mentioned many times in the Bible, and as such is a protected religious practice."

Is the site for real? Of course it isn't. Signs that it's a hoax (in addition to the general ridiculousness of it):

a) the google ads. It's always a sure sign of a hoax when a site claiming to be a legitimate business has to stick google ads on its page. Though in this case, the owner of the site isn't even earning any money from the ads because google is only serving up public service ads.

b) The creator of the site used an anonymous proxy service to register it.

The site is loading very slowly, so you may not be able to access it. (Thanks to Farx for the link)
Categories: Sex/Romance, Websites
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 04, 2007
Comments (38)
Joe Littrell forwarded me a St. Petersburg Times article, Dismembered Again, about the town of Vernon, Florida. It was so weird that I first I thought it was one of those joke articles, the kind that magazines such as the Phoenix New Times sometimes run. But all the references in it check out, so now I'm pretty sure it's real.

Vernon used to be known as Nub City, because the main source of income for town residents was dismembering themselves in order to file insurance claims. People there would come up with all kinds of ingenious ways to lose limbs:
L.W. Burdeshaw, an insurance agent in Chipley, told the St. Petersburg Times in 1982 that his list of policyholders included the following: a man who sawed off his left hand at work, a man who shot off his foot while protecting chickens, a man who lost his hand while trying to shoot a hawk, a man who somehow lost two limbs in an accident involving a rifle and a tractor, and a man who bought a policy and then, less than 12 hours later, shot off his foot while aiming at a squirrel.

Eventually insurance companies refused to insure anyone in the area, but Vernon went on to achieve some fame as the subject of a film (titled Vernon, Florida) by Errol Morris:
What Morris produced instead was 56 minutes of surreal monologues from an idle police officer, an obsessive turkey hunter, a pastor fixated on the word "therefore," a couple convinced that the sand they keep in a jar is growing, and, among others, an old man who claims he can write with both hands at once.

It sounds like a fun place to visit.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Places
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 04, 2007
Comments (6)
imageRecently someone posted on facebook pictures supposedly recovered from a camera they found while on holiday. The photos showed an attractive young woman posing in various stages of undress. The guy who found the camera wrote:
We are trying to track down the lovely lass in these photos so she can be reunited with her lost digital camera. She certainly knows how to use it!
Please get invites sent out to all gents in your friends list as if we all work together we can hunt this lass down.

The only thing surprising would have been if this didn't turn out to be a viral marketing campaign for a porn site. But no surprise here. It all turned out to be a viral marketing campaign for a porn site. (Thanks, Cranky Media Guy)
Categories: Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 03, 2007
Comments (9)
The temperature reached 110 degrees on my patio today. I sat inside the whole day with a fan blowing on me, wishing I had air conditioning, and wondering how anyone could think global warming is a hoax.

I also put together a list of tombstone humor, which I posted in the hoaxipedia.

My favorite humorous epitaph that I came across, which supposedly can be found on a tombstone in a Maine cemetery (though I have my doubts) is this one:

“Tears cannot restore her. Therefore do I weep.”

It took me a few seconds to get it.
Categories: Death
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 03, 2007
Comments (18)
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