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September 2008
Media Agency Carat recently decided to lay off some of its employees. PowerPoint and Word documents somehow leaked out detailing how management planned to inform employees and clients of the decision. They offer an example of corporate b.s. at its finest. Details include:

• The agency wasn't going to be down-sizing. Instead, the documents repeatedly described the moves as a "right-sizing" of the agency.

• Clients were to be informed of the "staffing change" with this script: "Mary Smith will be moving off your business. Now that we understand your business better, we are replacing her with someone whom we feel will be a better partner for you."

• The remaining "critical talent," who might understandably be "questioning if this is the right place for them to build their careers" were to be reassured with this script, "The actions we had to take, although unfortunate, were necessary to right-size the company and ... bring in the skill sets we need to effectively service our business and future client needs."

Full details at AdAge.
Categories: Business/Finance, Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 11, 2008
Comments (11)
This is obviously fake. For a start, the smoothness of the arms don't match the age of the face. And then there's the more obvious clue. Still, I thought it was amusing.

I think it first appeared a month ago on the b3ta message boards.

Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 11, 2008
Comments (14)
I couldn't resist linking to this piece from The Onion:

A steady stream of devoted evolutionists continued to gather in this small Tennessee town today to witness what many believe is an image of Charles Darwin—author of The Origin Of Species and founder of the modern evolutionary movement—made manifest on a concrete wall in downtown Dayton...

Despite the enthusiasm the so-called "Darwin Smudge" has generated among the evolutionary faithful, disagreement remains as to its origin. Some believe the image is actually closer to the visage of Stephen Jay Gould, longtime columnist for Natural History magazine and originator of the theory of punctuated equilibrium, and is therefore proof of rapid cladogenesis. A smaller minority contend it is the face of Carl Sagan, and should be viewed as a warning to those nonbelievers who have not yet seen his hit PBS series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.

Still others have attempted to discredit the miracle entirely, claiming that there are several alternate explanations for the appearance of the unexplained discoloration.

"It's a stain on a wall, and nothing more," said the Rev. Clement McCoy, a professor at Oral Roberts University and prominent opponent of evolutionary theory.

(Thanks, Big Gary!)

Previous pareidolia humor:
Toast appears on Jesus Christ
Jesus face in ozone hole
Categories: Pareidolia, Science
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 10, 2008
Comments (6)
On the New York Times opinion page Stanley Fish recently offered some thoughts about the Wine Spectator hoax, comparing it to the Sokal hoax of the 1990s. After musing about the two hoaxes, he draws this lesson about hoaxes in general:

a hoax that is sufficiently and painstakingly elaborated can deceive anyone if the conditions are favorable. This means that the success of a hoax reflects on the skill of the hoaxer and says nothing about the substantive views of those who were fooled by it. One can relish and even admire the cleverness of Mr. Goldstein and Mr. Sokal without drawing any conclusions – which would be unwarranted – about the soundness or unsoundness of the projects engaged in by their victims.

A hoax, after all, is a piece of theater. (Blackburn tells the story of an actor who gave a meaningless and nonsensical lecture on mathematical game theory and physical education to approving audiences made up of medical professionals and psychologists.) It’s like a magic trick: one hand does the misdirection, the other does the work behind the scene. Think of “Witness for the Prosecution,” “The Sting,” Clifford Irving’s “authorized” biography of Howard Hughes and the many successes of forgers, counterfeiters and imposters. If a hoax comes off, and there is praise to be bestowed, it should go to the ingenuity of the master illusionist who has set the whole thing up.

So high marks to Goldstein and Sokal for being able to construct a stage setting that produced a calculated effect; but no marks for any claim that what they were able to do had implications for anything beyond its own performance.

So what he's saying is that while hoaxes may be amusing pieces of drama, they reveal nothing about the gullibility or character of their victims. Hmm. I completely agree about hoaxes being essentially theatrical in nature. They're artistic creations. But does art only refer to itself, telling us nothing about the external world? I don't think so.

Satirists, parodists, and hoaxers all use the tools of fiction. They dramatize, exaggerate, and simplify things. They reduce their subjects to caricatures. But their creations only work if they expose some recognizable part of the character of their subjects. Otherwise, they fall flat. (Of course, it's a matter of subjective opinion whether they've fallen flat or scored a hit.)

So, yes, hoaxes are staged pieces of drama, but I wouldn't dismiss the view they offer us onto the nature of their victims as being meaningless for that reason.
Categories: Psychology
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 10, 2008
Comments (8)
A few months ago I posted a phony video showing a guy on a surfboard being towed by a shark. It now looks like that video was a case of satirical prophecy, because a guy in Australia is reporting that something similar happened to him in real life. From
A SURFER says a large shark towed him out to sea like a "powerful jet ski' after it became entangled in the leg rope of his surfboard.
John Morgan said the thrashing animal dragged him more than 50m after it became ensnared in the rope linking his ankle to the board during his daily lunchtime surf on the New South Wales mid-north coast's Clarks Beach yesterday.
"I had just come off a wave when I saw a large swirl of water,'' he told the Northern Star newspaper.
"I was then suddenly hauled backwards.
"It felt like I was riding behind a powerful jet ski."

Of course, the guy could be making the whole thing up, but I don't any have reason to doubt his story.
Categories: Sports
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 10, 2008
Comments (2)
I've been a bit lazy about posting on the blog for the past few days, but that doesn't mean I haven't been working on the site! I've actually been adding lots of content to the Hoax Photo Database. Here are a few of the photos I've added recently:

The Vanishing Belly Button
Back in 1964 the LA Times ran an ad for Scandinavian Airlines showing a blonde model posing on top of a rock. Strangely, the Times felt the need to remove the model's belly button... because a belly button might have been too provocative for its readers!

Dickens in America
Back in 1867 the Mathew Brady studio in New York produced this doctored image of Charles Dickens. We'd call this photoshopping today, but back then everything had to be done in a darkroom. It's a good example of image doctoring from early in the history of photography.

The Peppered Moth
H.B.D. Kettlewell's photos of (dead) moths on trees are probably the most famous example of scientific photo fakery.

Bloody Sunday, 1905
For decades this image was included in Soviet textbooks, where it was described as an actual photo of the "Bloody Sunday" massacre that occurred in St. Petersburg, 1905, when the police opened fire on workers marching toward the Tsar's Winter Palace. In reality, the photo was a still from a 1925 movie.
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 09, 2008
Comments (6)
The Telegraph recently came out with a list of "20 memorable picture fakes." And the Museum of Hoaxes is listed as one of the sources they used to do their research... along with a few of the other usual suspects.

It strikes me as a bit of a random list. They leave out some classics, such as the Surgeon's Photo (which I would think would be in the top 10 or 20 on any list of famous picture fakes) as well as National Geographic's cover on which they moved the pyramids, but they include photos that I wouldn't think would make the top 200 let alone top 20, such as "Karl Rove's secret file" and "James Purnell doctored at hospital".

One of these days (hopefully soon) I'm going to get around to producing my own list of the top 20 fake photos of all time.
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 09, 2008
Comments (3)
Harold Jackson, a resident of Cookeville, Tennessee, found an indentation on a rock on his property. It looks vaguely like a footprint... a very big footprint. 11 inches across and 15 inches long. The article says he took it home. (I assume he must have made a cast of it and taken that home.)

The surprising thing is that he doesn't think it's a Bigfoot print, though his friends do. He thinks it's a footprint of a Native American.

So how tall would this Native American have been if his feet were 15-inches long? According to WikiAnswers, a person's foot is usually 15% of the height of his body. Therefore, this Native American would have been approximately 100 inches tall, or 8.3 feet.
Categories: Cryptozoology, Pareidolia
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 04, 2008
Comments (28)
Police in Port St. Lucie are on the lookout for a cross-dressing purse snatcher who accidentally dropped a condom filled with water after grabbing a 74-year-old woman's purse. He had been using the condom as a fake breast. That's weird enough. What I can't understand is why he was using a water-filled condom. Wouldn't a regular balloon have worked better?

Though questioning the fashion decisions of a cross-dressing purse snatcher is surely an exercise in pointlessness.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Fashion, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 04, 2008
Comments (6)
Another case of the Collecting Junk for Charity hoax. Aleta Brace of Parkersburg, West Virginia collected 20,000 bottle caps, believing that the caps could be redeemed for money which would aid cancer patients. And she wasn't alone. Churches, schools, businesses, and individuals throughout West Virginia have been collecting the bottle caps all summer.

The caps would all have gone to waste, but now the Aveda skin care company has announced it'll take the caps and recycle them into new caps for its products.
Categories: Health/Medicine, Scams, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 03, 2008
Comments (7)
This one is titled "Caribou Barbie". I wouldn't label it fake based on the content (seems totally believable to me), but if you enlarge it you can see that Palin's head is far more pixellated than the rest of the picture, indicating it was cut-and-pasted in.

This Vogue cover was created by "Ishmael Melville" of the Kodiak Konfidential blog back in Dec 2007. Palin really did appear in Vogue, but wasn't on the cover. However, apparently a couple of news sites believed this photoshop creation was the real thing.
Categories: Photos/Videos, Politics
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 03, 2008
Comments (6)
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