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October 2007
Pictures of an unpleasant looking character, apparently called "Fishmouth," have been circulating via email. As you can see, this guy has done his best to improve his appearance by inserting black disks into his cheeks. It creates a lovely effect, rather like a stormtrooper.



It seems that this guy is real. The BodyTwo ModBlog reports that Fishmouth is originally from Poland where everyone called him "ZygZag," but now he's living in a punk squat in Germany. They have some pictures of him without the cheek inserts.



I think the cheek inserts actually make him look younger.
Categories: Body Manipulation
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 08, 2007
Comments (13)
Can you make Mountain Dew glow simply by adding some baking soda and hydrogen peroxide to it? That's what this video claims. I was so excited after watching it that I was all prepared to go out, buy a bottle of Mountain Dew, and try the experiment myself. Thankfully I didn't, because the video is a fake. If you watch it closely, you can see that a break occurs after the person pours the Mountain Dew into the glass. During this break is when the contents of a glow stick were added to the Mountain Dew bottle. According to Wikipedia, hydrogen peroxide serves as an activating agent for the glow-stick dye. "It reacts with the ester to form an unstable CO2 dimer which excites the dye to an excited state; the dye emits a photon (light) when it spontaneously relaxes back to the ground state." I don't know what the purpose of the baking soda is.

Categories: Food, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 08, 2007
Comments (32)
The Happy Endings Foundation believes that all children's books should have happy endings. Those that don't should be banned.

The organization was (supposedly) started seven years ago by Adrienne Small after she noticed that her daughter seemed miserable after reading Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Mrs. Small plans to rewrite the Lemony Snicket books to give them a happy ending.

Some upcoming events planned by the Happy Endings Foundation include a Halloween "fun and greeting" celebration instead of trick or treating. "Children will be encouraged to knock on someone's door and offer a smlie." Sounds fun. A few days later the foundation will also be hosting a Bad Book Bonfire. Bring along a book with an unhappy ending and watch it go up in flames!

Although the media seems to have accepted the Happy Endings Foundation as real, based on the uncritical articles about it in the press, it definitely isn't real. The biggest clue is the disclaimer that appears on its site:
Most characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living, dead, or half dead, is purely coincidental. None of the non-fictitious people, places or things named in this website were harmed during the creation of the site. We're not sure if the Loch Ness monster is fictitious or non-fictitious, you decide.
Internet sleuths have also figured out that the Happy Endings Foundation website is registered to an advertising firm, artscience.net, that lists A Series of Unfortunate Events as one of its clients. In other words, the Happy Endings Foundation is a marketing hoax.
Categories: Advertising, Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 08, 2007
Comments (1)
Last week James Randi heard about some high-end audio cables being sold by the Pear Cable company for $7250 -- $302 a foot. This prompted him to extend his million-dollar challenge (which for years he's been offering to anyone who can prove the existence of the paranormal) to anyone who could detect a difference in sound quality to the human ear between Pear's cables and similar cables sold for only $80 by Monster Cable.

The CEO of Pear Cable has now responded (though not directly to Randi), calling the offer a hoax:
Unfortunately, like most offers of $1 million this one is a hoax. While James Randi is claiming to offer a $1 million dollar prize to differentiate between these speaker cables, by reading the official rules of the challenge, it becomes immediately clear that the offer is not valid. One must be able to "demonstrate any psychic, supernatural or paranormal ability" in order to qualify. Since there is a wealth of scientific information explaining the differences between speaker cables, the offer is not a valid one (and James Randi knows it).
I've posted about ridiculous over-priced products sold to gullible audiophiles in the past. And ILikeJam has an amusing list of Really Stupid Audiophile Products, such as the Audioprism CD Stop Light Pen. (It's a magic marker that you're supposed to use to color in the edges of your CDs, because this will somehow make them sound better.)

Of course, because expectation and suggestion play such a huge role in sensory perception, the Pear Cables probably really do sound better to the people who buy them. But I'm also sure that no difference would be detectable to the human ear in double-blind testing.
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Sat Oct 06, 2007
Comments (12)
Here's something else to add to my page of gross things found in food:
LEHI, Utah (AP) -- An Arkansas company is offering $100 to a Utah woman who found a severed mouse head in a can of green beans if she pledges not to take legal action, but she's not biting. The letter from Allens Inc. of Siloam Springs, Ark., describes it as a "gesture of goodwill." Marianne Watson isn't interested.
Apparently she doesn't want money. Or so she says. Instead she wants the company to recall all cans of its green beans. I don't think that's going to happen.
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Fri Oct 05, 2007
Comments (7)
Cranky Media Guy forwarded me this fascinating article about a new concept in travel. You pay your money, get on a plane, and then go nowhere. You just pretend that you're going somewhere. Meanwhile a stewardess serves you drinks and the "pilot" makes announcements such as "We will soon be passing through a zone of turbulence," and "We are about to begin our descent into Delhi."

This concept is the idea of Indian entrepreneur Bahadur Chand Gupta, and it's proving quite popular. His customers are people who have never flown on a plane before, because they're too poor to afford it, but they're curious to experience what it might be like. I suppose it's no different than the simulators you can find at amusement parks here in America.
Categories: Exploration/Travel
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 04, 2007
Comments (8)
A New Hampshire convenience store clerk claims that he was robbed. However, the thieves didn't use any weapons or threats. Instead, they used hypnosis and mind control to make the clerk not notice that they were taking more than $1000. First coast news reports:
It started with a simple mind game. Think of a wild animal, they say, and we'll write down what's in your mind. but it escalates quickly to very personal information about a former girlfriend, and finally, says Patel, mind control. Even investigators are persuaded.
Patel says that the actual moment of hypnosis occurred when the thieves gave him a piece of paper and asked him to cut it into eleven smaller pieces. The clerk has also said that he'll pay back what was robbed.

Apparently this method of robbery has been used before in India (the thieves were Indian, as was the clerk), but I've never heard of it being used before this in America.
Categories: Con Artists, Law/Police/Crime, Psychology
Posted by Alex on Tue Oct 02, 2007
Comments (11)
A commercial for Kleenex that aired in Japan during the 1980s became the focus of an urban legend. Derek Bassett last year described the legend on his blog Mohora:
So the story is this commercial for Kleenex tissues was shown on Japanese TV back in 1986 or so. It features an actress in a white dress sitting next to a child made up to look like a baby ogre. There is a really creepy song in a foreign language that when researched, is actually an old German folk song with the words “Die, die, everyone is cursed and will be killed.” Soon after the debut of the commercial, alot of people complained that it was creepy, or 気持ち悪い, and it was quickly pulled off the air. Soon after though, accidents started to befall the actors and crew of the commercial, including the child playing the baby ogre dying of sudden organ failure, the actress being committed to a mental institution where she is either still there, or at some point hung herself (depending on the version of the story).

Here's the commercial, which Derek uploaded to YouTube.



The ad is kind of creepy, but as you can hear, the song is not an old German folk song, but rather "It's a fine day" by Jane & Barton. Derek also notes that there were no strange deaths associated with the commercial. The woman in the ad, Keiko Matsuzaka, is still working as an actress.

There was also an "angel version" of the commercial that aired at the same time as the "demon version," and Derek has uploaded this to YouTube as well. (via The Home of Ads)
Categories: Advertising, Birth/Babies, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 01, 2007
Comments (8)
For the second time in six months, the hosts of Blue Peter have had to apologize for deceiving their viewers. For Americans who don't know what Blue Peter is, it's a British children's show featuring always peppy presenters. It's been on the air for decades, and is like a TV institution over in Britain. I remember watching it as a kid when my family lived in London.

The latest incident involves a cat named Cookie. The show had asked their viewers to vote on what to name the next Blue Peter Cat. 40,000 votes were cast, and the name "Cookie" won, but the Blue Peter production team decided to veto that choice and instead pretend that the name "Socks" had won. It's difficult to understand their reasoning. Maybe they believed that a cat named Cookie would prove to be a disaster for the show's ratings.

The Blue Peter presenters recently apologized for the cookie cover-up and announced they would be adopting a new cat named Cookie (shown in the thumbnail), while simultaneously keeping Socks around as well. The Socksgate scandal cost Richard Marson, the Blue Peter editor, his job.

In the previous case of deception, Blue Peter had faked the winner of a charity phone-in competition. (Thanks, Joe!)

Links: The Guardian, Times Online, CNN.
Categories: Animals, Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 01, 2007
Comments (3)
The statue of John Harvard in Harvard Yard is a frequent target of pranks, and recently it became a target once again. Students from MIT transformed John into the character "Master Chief" from the video game Halo 3. The MIT Tech explains:
The back of the helmet, which is worn by the protagonist of the game, Master Chief, was labeled with “Master Chief in Training.” The statue was decorated with an assault rifle (bullet count of 2E), as well as a Beaver emblem on the right shoulder.
I think the new look suits him.

The statue bears the inscription "John Harvard, Founder, 1638," and is thus known as the "statue of three lies" because a) the statue does not actually depict John Harvard because the statue maker had no images of Harvard to work from. The guy in the chair is actually a nineteenth-century Harvard student. 2) John Harvard did not found Harvard. It was merely renamed after him after he gave the school a lot of money. 3) The school was founded in 1636, not 1638.
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 01, 2007
Comments (2)
This image appears to have been circulating on the internet for almost a year, but it was new to me. It's an ultrasound of a fetus displaying a peace sign. Cute. And apparently real.

The ultrasound was taken on December 13, 2006. It shows the baby of flickr user pkoczera. (I don't know his real name.)
Categories: Birth/Babies
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 01, 2007
Comments (5)
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