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September 2009
A group of French politicians has proposed a law that would require a warning to be placed on digitally enhanced fashion images. From The Telegraph:

A group of 50 politicians want a new law stating published images must have bold printed notice stating they have been digitally enhanced.
Campaigning MP Valerie Boyer, of President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party, said the wording should read:"Retouched photograph aimed at changing a person's physical appearance".
Mrs Boyer, who has also written a government report on anorexia and obesity, added: "We want to combat the stereotypical image that all women are young and slim.
"These photos can lead people to believe in a reality that does not actually exist, and have a detrimental effect on adolescents. "Many young people, particularly girls, do not know the difference between the virtual and reality, and can develop complexes from a very young age.


I don't really see the point, unless they were also going to require disclaimers for makeup and flattering lighting. And anyway, the root of the problem is not that images are altered, but that the media focuses obsessively and very superficially on beauty. Replacing airbrushed models with non-airbrushed models won't change that fact, because the models will probably still look better than your average person.
Categories: Fashion, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 24, 2009
Comments (20)
A new play opening at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater, Fake by Eric Simonson, is based on the Piltdown Man hoax. It looks pretty good, but I can't find any indication if there are plans for it to go on tour and come to San Diego.

In 1914, renowned mystery writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle invites four guests to his English country home. Each visitor has a connection to the infamous "Piltdown Man," purported to be the missing link between ape and man—later exposed as a hoax. Swinging back and forth through time, Fake investigates how “Piltdown” rattled assumptions about evolution, faith and science—and how we are transformed by our quest for the truth.
Categories: Science
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 24, 2009
Comments (1)
From nj.com:

If you want to bombard a township with calls from angry people, start a rumor that cats and dogs are going to die.
That's exactly what happened Tuesday and today, when an Internet rumor claiming the local animal shelter in Montgomery was going to close and all cats and dogs remaining there would be euthanized.
And it happened across the country, too, as a viral rumor with countless incarnations made similar claims about shelters in communities named Montgomery. Only one shelter, located in a Texas County by the same name, is closing and its operator was working to find homes for all the pets, according to a local newspaper there.
(Thanks, Joe!)
Categories: Animals, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 23, 2009
Comments (3)
From Wired.com:

On September 5, Saskatchewan fisherman Sean Konrad caught a 48-pound, world-record rainbow trout. The fish came from Lake Diefenbaker, where trout genetically engineered to grow extra-big escaped from a fish farm nine years ago...
Technically known as triploids, they’re designed with three sets of chromosomes, making them sterile and channeling energies normally spent reproducing towards growth.
In 2007, on a message board of the International Game Fish Association, the angling world’s record- and ethics-keeping body, some fishermen argued that triploids were unnatural, as divorced from the sport’s history as Barry Bonds’ home runs were from Hank Aaron’s.
The IGFA refused to make a distinction between natural and GM fish. Neither would they distinguish between species caught in their traditional waters and those introduced into new, growth-friendly environments, such as largemouth bass whose extra-large ancestors were imported from Florida to California in the 1960s.
But to purists, there was a difference between transplantation and outright manufacture.
The Konrad brothers’ response on the message board was curt: “Stop crying and start fishing.”

Big Gary, the Museum's Deputy Curator in Charge of Fish, says: "I'm voting 'cheat' on this one, but it's an interesting debate nonetheless."
Categories: Animals, Sports
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 21, 2009
Comments (14)
Around 1954 Ivar Haglund anchored billboards to the bottom of Puget Sound. He said that he thought it would be a good way to advertise his restaurant, Ivar's Chowder, to anyone who happened to be passing by in a submarine. The modern-day Ivar's restaurant chain is now raising the billboards from the sea. Or are they? Some suspect a hoax. From the Seattle Times:

In the past month, the company has had divers bring up three of the billboards — about 7 by 22 feet and made of stainless steel — using a map found in their founder's immense collection of artifacts stored on the top floor of the chain's headquarters at Pier 54.
Included in that collection are Haglund's LP vinyl collection, his rosé wine collection, illustrations, photos and... apparently the actual naval architectural drawings, permit and location map for the billboards.The operative word is "apparently."
"This still could be a hoax. Someone could be doing something," says Bob Donegan, president of Ivar's. "That's why we're being careful on the authentication."
Of course, if it was a hoax, a prime suspect would be the Ivar's chain itself.
Ivar's is promoting the find of the underwater billboards on its Web site, which includes a 2 ½-minute mini-documentary about finding that first billboard Aug. 21 off Alki Beach.
It's also started running 30-second commercials about the billboards during prime time, budgeting more than $100,000 for television ads through mid-October.

The article goes on to say that Seattle historian Paul Dorpat, who's writing a book about Haglund, thinks the billboards are the real deal. (Thanks, Bob!)
Categories: Advertising
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 21, 2009
Comments (3)
As posted recently by LaMa in the forum, a video recently began to circulate that appeared to have been created by a Danish girl who was trying to find the father of her child. She said the father had been a tourist in Denmark. They had had a one-night stand a year ago.



Turns out the video was actually created by Denmark's National Tourist Agency as part of a viral marketing campaign. The tourist agency has since issued an apology:

Local media reported yesterday the woman is actually an actress named Ditte Arnth Jorgensen and the baby "August" is not hers. The revelation caused outrage in the country, with one newspaper labelling the stunt "grotesque". VisitDenmark CEO Dorte Kiilerich said the aim of the viral advertising campaign was to create a positive view of Denmark.

As a publicity stunt, I'd say the campaign was highly effective. But in terms of encouraging people to visit Denmark, I'm not so sure.
Categories: Birth/Babies, Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 16, 2009
Comments (17)
According to the Daily Mail, recently released documents from the archives of the British Natural History Museum reveal that in 1987 the Museum struck a deal with the bookmaker William Hill. The Museum agreed that, should the body of the Loch Ness Monster ever be found, the Museum would provide "positive identification." Only if it receives a positive id, will the bookmaker pay out on bets about the creature's existence. (It offers odds of 500/1 on the Loch Ness Monster being found within a year.)

It seems like a pretty good deal for the Museum, since the bookmaker pays them £1,000 per year to maintain the contract.
Categories: Cryptozoology, Nessie
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 16, 2009
Comments (6)
Last Wednesday Derren Brown performed a trick in which he appeared to predict the results of the UK national lottery on live TV. This immediately led to much speculation about how he did it. Of course, he didn't disclose his "prediction" until after the lottery results had been announced, which makes it meaningless as a prediction. But it was still a clever publicity stunt.



On Friday Brown revealed the secret of the trick, or rather he pretended to. He didn't actually reveal anything at all. While coyly refusing to commit to an explanation, he implied that he predicted it by averaging out numbers generated by a group of 24 volunteers who used automatic writing to come up with results. Frankly, it would have been better if he had offered no explanation at all, rather than promoting some kind of mumbo-jumbo, pseudoscience explanation.

Thedrilldown.com offers a summary of theories about how the trick was done. The most compelling theory is that he used split-screen technology to allow an assistant to come onstage, unseen, and arrange the balls in the correct order.
Categories: Magic
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 14, 2009
Comments (11)
From The Globe and Mail:

"All my wife said was, well, that's weird," recounts Damon, shaking his head. "Then she reminded me that the same thing had happened to George [Clooney] a few years ago. What amazed me even more was that the calls we were getting were from [news groups] that were very reputable. I asked them did you even read the story on the Internet? It read like the lyrics to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The truth of the matter is all these mother [expletive] are lazy [and didn't do their homework to verify if the story was real]. There I said it."
Categories: Celebrities, Death
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 14, 2009
Comments (11)
Milan Karki, a young inventor from rural Nepal, claims to have figured out a way to replace the silicon in solar panels with human hair. From the Daily Mail:

Milan and four classmates initially made the solar panel as an experiment but the teens are convinced it has wide applicability and commercial viability.
'I'm trying to produce commercially and distribute to the districts. We've already sent a couple out to the districts to test for feasibility,' he said.
The solar panel, which produces 9 V (18 W) of energy, costs around £23 to make from raw materials.

Treehugger.com (among others) is skeptical:

if you head over to the Daily Mail and look at the photos, you'll see that the hair covers only a very small surface area on the prototype. This doesn't look like it would be enough to generate the electricity they claim to generate. In fact, if we extrapolate from that small surface area, this implies that a panel completely covered would produce much more power; possibly more than what is possible based on how much solar energy hits that surface
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 10, 2009
Comments (11)
A fake seagull perched on a billboard outside the town of Grand Marais, Minnesota recently went missing. Residents suspect it was stolen, and they want it back. So the town has organized a "give us the bird" campaign, in which they're offering a free vacation in Grand Marais in return for information leading to the safe return of the seagull. The best story wins. A strict adherence to the truth, in this case, would seem to be irrelevant. [upi.com]
Categories: Folklore/Tall Tales, Places
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 10, 2009
Comments (2)
An internet fad that managed to escape my attention is the "lying down" craze, in which people post photos of themselves lying face down, hands against their sides, in unusual locations. This sounded like fun to a group of British doctors and nurses: "The staff were pictured face down on resuscitation trolleys, ward floors and the air ambulance heli-pad during a night shift at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon, Wilts." Their mistake was to then post the photos on Facebook. Seven of them have now been suspended pending disciplinary hearings. [sun.co.uk]
Categories: Photos/Videos, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 10, 2009
Comments (5)
Nine Turkish women thought they had signed up to participate in a reality show. Instead, they had fallen into the clutches of a pornographer, who kept them imprisoned for two months while selling naked photos of them on the internet. "The women were not abused or harassed sexually. They were told however, to fight each other, to wear bikinis and dance by villa's pool." Turkish police finally realized what was going on and freed them. [msnbc.com]
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 10, 2009
Comments (1)
The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa has determined that Dr. Abdallah Kiwa has been "'duping' people into paying for services that cannot possibly be delivered." Specifically, Kiwa has distributed advertising pamphlets in which he has made the following claims:

• ENSURES SUCCESS AS YOU GET RICH QUICKLY
• BRING BACK LOST LOVER…
• REMOVE BAD SPELLS FROM HOMES, BUSINESS ECT
• ENSURES THAT PROMOTION YOU HAVE DESIRED FOR A LONG TIME AT WORK OR IN YOUR CAREER.
• REMOVE BLACK SPOTS THAT KEEP TAKING YOUR MONEY AWAY
• FIND OUT WHY YOU ARE NOT PROGRESSING IN LIFE & THE SOLUTION
• INTRODUCING(MULONDOX) BLEND FOR ENLARGING THE PENIS IN THE BOTH LENGTH AND GITH (sic) IT STIMULATES THE TISSUE AND MUSCLES…
• READ AND TELL ALL YOUR PROBLEMS BEFORE YOU EVEN MENTION THEM TO HIM
• ELIMINATE IN-FAMILY FIGHT BETWEEN CHILDREN AND PARENTS, IN-LAWS HUSBAND AND WIFE AND ENSURE PEACE AND HARMONY IN HOME
• RECOVERS STOLEN PROPERTY AND TRACE WHEREABOUTS OF PEOPLE THAT HURT YOU
• GAURANTEED THAT YOU ARE LOVED AND TRUSTED BY YOUR COLLEAGUES, HUSBAND,WIFE, IN LAWS, FRIENDS ECT
• GET YOU MARRIED TO THAT LOVER OF YOUR LIFE IN A SHORT TIME AND SEAL UP YOUR MARRIAGE WITH INTERNAL LOVE AND HAPPINESS
• ENSURE THAT A SINGLE PERSON GETS A PARTNER IN A SHORT TIME
• BRING TO SEE YOUR ENEMIES AND MAKE DEMANDS ON THEM USING A MIRROR”.
Categories: Health/Medicine, Pseudoscience
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 08, 2009
Comments (6)
An African villager named Winston shows off his skills as a human water spout:



Apparently this isn't a magic trick, but rather an example of controlled regurgitation. The Human Marvels offers some background on the history of human water spout acts:

In the mid 17th century a Frenchman named Jean Royer was known for his regurgitating and spouting abilities. Another spouter, Blaise Manfre, was noted for his ability to drink water and regurgitate wine. Of course, his feat was accomplished by simply swallowing Brazil wood extract before the water which would then tint the liquid deep red. The regurgitation act was also common enough for Houdini to make mention of it, and his distaste for the act, in his book Miracle Mongers and Their Methods.

I've also previously posted about a similar act: Stevie Starr, the professional regurgitator.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Magic
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 08, 2009
Comments (2)
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