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April 2009
The mystery of why someone has been leaving white stones with cryptic black markings on them around Orleans, Massachusetts has been solved. The creator of the stones sent an explanatory letter to the local paper:
The writer said the backward “R” and an “R” separated by three slashes on one line and an “X” book ended by two vertical lines underneath means “Remember 9-11.” He (most believe the writer is a male) said he came up with the design about two years ago “When I became disheartened from our straying from our Afghanistan objective of going after and getting Osama bin Laden in order to bring closure to 9-11,” he wrote.

If someone can figure out how you get "Remember 9-11" out of those symbols, let me know. [Wicked Local Orleans via Professor Hex]
Categories: Art, Hate Crimes/Terror, Places
Posted by Alex on Fri Apr 17, 2009
Comments (11)
The book Weird Ohio and accompanying website claimed that the oldest grist mill in Ohio was haunted. But so many ghost hunters started visiting the mill that its owners felt compelled to spend thousands of dollars on security measures. Then they decided to sue the website for spreading false rumors. The judge recently delivered his verdict. The website isn't responsible for the owners' emotional distress, nor is it responsible for the people trespassing on the property, but it does owe the owners $125,000 for their security expenses. If the Weird Ohio people had bothered to show up for the court case, the verdict might have been different. [Dayton Daily News]
Categories: Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Fri Apr 17, 2009
Comments (3)
There's a report of a pigeon drop scam in which the scammers approached a woman at an ATM and tried to convince her to buy a diamond (that was supposedly such a bargain that she'd easily make a profit if she resold it). But in this case the scammers got tired of haggling with her and eventually just grabbed her money and ran. Which means that the scammers are now guilty of grand theft. [Mercury News]
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Scams
Posted by Alex on Fri Apr 17, 2009
Comments (6)
A man has been arrested in Spain for posing as a fake doctor. He was performing breast and buttock augmentations in his home, which was reported to be filthy (full of numerous pets). Plus, he was using veterinary tools to inject liquid silicone. The reason real surgeons haven't used liquid silicone since the 1960s is because it can cause discoloration, open sores, and gangrene. [metro.co.uk]
Categories: Health/Medicine, Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Fri Apr 17, 2009
Comments (11)
Blogger Susie Of Arabia reports that after buying a copy of Katy Perry's album One of the Boys in Saudi Arabia, she realized that all the pictures of Katy Perry had been heavily doctored by Saudi censors. Below (left) is the original album cover, and on the right is the Saudi version.

This is standard practice in Saudi Arabia. A few years ago I posted about Mariah Carey album covers that were similarly doctored by the Saudis.



Susie suggests that the Katy Perry albums were individually doctored by hand, by censors armed with magic markers. She writes: "the Saudi government is actually paying religious police members of the Committee for the Protection of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CVPVP) to remove the plastic wrap from these CDs, open up the CD cases, remove the front and back inserts, and carefully and painstakingly color in with a marker any photos baring exposed female flesh that is deemed objectionable."

I really doubt that. It would take far too long. Instead, I'm almost certain that a more modest version of the cover would have been printed specifically for the Saudi market.

Of course, America has its own history of moral censorship of photos. However, in America the censors typically don't try to reclothe people who are wearing too few clothes. Instead, they remove offending details such as exposed nipples or belly buttons, creating anatomical mutants.
Categories: Celebrities, Music, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Fri Apr 17, 2009
Comments (15)
If there's one thing I've learned from running a website it's that you can't please everyone. And apparently my selection of the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest as the #1 April Fool's Day Hoax of All Time hasn't pleased Mike Jones, staff writer for the Gaylord Herald Times. I recently stumbled upon this comment he made in his column:

All-time hoax, not!

One thing we like here at the old “5 Nuggets of Knowledge” is “best of and top 10” lists. We recently came across “The Top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes of All Time.”

Again, you be the judge. The list was supposedly compiled based on “notoriety, creativity and number of people duped,” and this apparently is the best they could come up with.

Drum roll please: No. 1: The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest — This hoax occurred in the more simple, gentle and gullible time of the 1950s in Great Britain. Apparently a BBC news program announced a mild winter had eliminated the dreaded spaghetti weevil and Swiss farmers had harvested a bumper crop of spaghetti. News footage showed Swiss peasants harvesting strands of spaghetti down from trees and large numbers of viewers were taken in by the hoax.

I'll admit that a lot of the April Fool's Day hoaxes on that list are somewhat arbitrarily placed. After all, it's impossible to be objective about something like that. But come on! How can he question the selection of the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest as #1? That's like April Fool's Day sacrilege! It's obviously #1, if for no other reason than it's, hands down, the most famous April 1st hoax ever.

If Mike ever reads this, I'd be curious to know what he thinks should be the top pick.
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Fri Apr 17, 2009
Comments (24)
German politicians are upset by all the fake soldiers hanging around the Brandenburg Gate. The fake soldiers are there trying to make a buck from the tourists, who want their picture taken with someone in a Cold War-era uniform. But the politicians are worried that the Brandenburg gate is deteriorating into a miniature Disneyland and may go the route of Checkpoint Charlie which has become "a tacky tourist trap unworthy of its historical significance." I was in Berlin just a few months ago, and I can definitely confirm that appraisal of Checkpoint Charlie. [Spiegel]
Categories: Military, Places
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 16, 2009
Comments (2)
China's official news agency, Xinhua, is claiming that thousands of dolphins spontaneously decided to protect a fleet of Chinese merchant ships that were being attacked by Somali pirates:
The Chinese merchant ships escorted by a China’s fleet sailed on the Gulf of Aden when they met some suspected pirate ships. Thousands of dolphins suddenly leaped out of water between pirates and merchants when the pirate ships headed for the China’s. The suspected pirates ships stopped and then turned away. The pirates could only lament their littleness befor the vast number of dolphins. The spectacular scene continued for a while.

The NY Times is skeptical, though it concedes that the US military has been training dolphins for years, so maybe the Chinese have perfected the use of dolphins as an anti-piracy force.
Categories: Animals, Military
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 16, 2009
Comments (4)
One of the mysteries of law enforcement in the age of YouTube: Why do people proudly post videos of themselves engaged in illegal acts? They're just begging to have the police come knocking on their door. So anyway, the latest example of video self-incrimination involves two Domino's employees who created a prank video showing one of them farting on the food and sticking it up his nose as the other one laughed and egged him on. They posted the video on YouTube and it promptly went viral. Domino's then fired them (the two had to see that coming). One of the two emailed the company a groveling apology: “It was fake and I wish that everyone knew that!!!! I AM SOO SORRY!” Nevertheless, Domino's is still planning to press felony charges against them. The video has now been removed from YouTube, but Consumerist still has a copy of it posted. [NY Times]
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Pranks, Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 16, 2009
Comments (4)
Dallas, Texas is home to the latest case of Munchausen Syndrome. Hope Ybarra managed to raise $100,000 by convincing an entire community that she was dying of cancer. She even fooled her family. Apparently the ruse went on for years. To their credit, once her family found out she wasn't really sick they put an end to the entire thing and are offering to return everyone's money. [Yahoo! Video]
Categories: Health/Medicine, Scams
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 15, 2009
Comments (15)
Seniors at Westlake High School in Texas are being praised. For their senior prank, they chose to build a garden in a traffic island. Hmm. I think it's a nice gesture, but is it really a prank? At my High School I think the senior class all chipped in to donate a bench, but we never called it a prank. However, if the Westlake seniors surreptitiously planted seeds in their garden that will sprout a year from now, spelling a rude message, then I'll be impressed. [wlfi.com]
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 15, 2009
Comments (9)
Mythbusters did an episode on the urban legend of a bullet being stopped by a Bible (or a Zippo lighter). They found that a hardcover book of at least 400 pages might stop a bullet, but anything less (including a Zippo) didn't have a chance. Nevertheless, police in Sao Paulo, Brazil are saying that the wad of cash a woman had stuffed in her bra slowed down a bullet enough to save her life. I'm sure the woman is very lucky, but I suspect the cash had nothing to do with her good fortune.[Yahoo!]
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 15, 2009
Comments (13)
Red Mercury, according to a decades-old rumor, is a key component in the manufacture of nuclear bombs and worth millions of dollars. But now a new variant of the rumor has surfaced in Saudi Arabia, claiming that Red Mercury
can also be used to find treasure and ward off evil spirits (in addition to its nuclear-bomb-making abilities). Plus, old Singer sewing machines are said to contain the substance in trace amounts. As a result, many Saudis are in a frenzy to acquire these old sewing machines, whether by paying tens of thousands of dollars for one, or by stealing one. [BBC News]
Categories: Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 15, 2009
Comments (4)
Some woman (who doesn't name herself) has realized that for years people have been reading her mind. "TV shows were following my daily thoughts and stores began bringing products I had been wishing for, it finally dawned on me that they were not just teasing me, they were actually getting more viewers and selling more products!" Instead of fighting this condition, she's decided to accept it and profit from it. For which reason, she's now accepting "brain ads." In return for a donation, she will project the telepathic ad of your choice. I'm assuming this is a joke. (Thanks, Bob!)
Categories: Advertising, Paranormal, Websites
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 14, 2009
Comments (7)
Pete Waterman wrote the song Never Gonna Give You Up, which is the focal point of the massively popular Rickrolling prank. But he's now complaining that, despite the millions of times that video has been viewed online, he's earned only £11 from Google for all those views. He earns more from his local radio station playing the song than he does from YouTube. Welcome to the internet economy, Mr. Waterman! [Telegraph]
Categories: Music, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 14, 2009
Comments (6)
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