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March 2012
The following photo and caption has recently begun to circulate online. It's all over Facebook.

bullfighter

"And suddenly, I looked at the bull. He had this innocence... that all animals have in their eyes, and he looked at me with this pleading. It was like a cry for justice, deep down inside of me. I describe it as being like a prayer - because if one confesses, it is hoped, that one is forgiven. I felt like the worst shit on earth."


This photo shows the collapse of Torrero Alvaro Munera, as he realized in the middle of his last fight... the injustice to the animal. From that day forward he became an opponent of bullfights.

I haven't been able to figure out where the photo originally came from, but it definitely doesn't show Alvaro Munera's moment of epiphany during a bullfight. Munera is an ex-bullfighter who's become an animal-rights activist. But (as described in an article about him on open.salon.com) his career ended not from a moment of zen communion with a bull, but rather in 1984 when a bull caught him and tossed him in the air, resulting in a spinal-cord injury that left Munera paralyzed.

I've seen another version of the photo and quotation that attributes the words to "Fabian Oconitrillo Gonzalez". But I have no idea who he might be. If he's a bullfighter, I haven't been able to find out anything about him.
Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos, Sports
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 07, 2012
Comments (4)
Three years ago, Rebekah Speight of Dakota City and her kids were at McDonalds, where they ordered some Chicken McNuggets. One of the McNuggets went uneaten, but just as she was about to throw it out, Rebekah noticed that it resembled George Washington. So she took it home and kept it in her freezer.

And just a few days ago, this decision paid off when she managed to sell the GWCM for $8100 on eBay. But she's not keeping the money. It's all going to a charity to send children to summer church camp. Where they'll spend their time looking for the face of Jesus in tree stumps and the Virgin Mary in water stains.

Actually, I can definitely see the resemblance between the McNugget and the former president. Though is it that the McNugget looks like George, or George looks like a McNugget? (link: telegraph.co.uk)

Categories: Pareidolia
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 07, 2012
Comments (2)
Back in November 2011, Time magazine ran an article titled "The Man Who Invented Email." It was about V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai who, in 1978 as a 14-year-old kid, wrote and copyrighted a program called EMAIL. This article led the Smithsonian to recently acquire various documents related to Ayyadurai's 1978 program, in order to immortalize its contribution to American life and culture. In late February, the Washington Post added to Ayyadurai's growing fame as the creator of email by writing a piece about him titled, "Smithsonian acquires documents from inventor of EMAIL program.'


Ayyadurai in 1980

All this has led to outrage in the tech community, with many people pointing out that Ayyadurai in no way created email. Nor did he even play any kind of significant role in its development.

Sam Biddle has posted a detailed debunking of Ayyadurai's claims over at gizmodo. He notes that Ayyadurai has been playing up his claim as the inventor of email by registering numerous domains such as InventorOfEmail.com, DrEmail.com, and EmailInventor.com. But, according to Biddle, this is the reality:

Shiva Ayyadurai didn't invent email—he created "EMAIL," an electronic mail system implemented at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark, New Jersey. It's doubtful he realized it as a little teen, but laying claim to the name of a product that's the generic term for a universal technology gives you acres of weasel room. But creating a type of airplane named AIRPLANE doesn't make you Wilbur Wright. The actual pioneers of email were breaking new ground more than a decade before Ayyadurai concocted his dental memo system. Electronic mail predates Ayyadurai's ability to spell, let alone code.

Ayyadurai's one legitimate claim to fame is that he may have been the first person to use the abbreviation 'email' in place of 'electronic mail'. Or, at least, an earlier use of the term 'email' hasn't yet been found.
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 07, 2012
Comments (3)
A few times when I've done interviews about April Fool's Day, I've been asked whether the tradition of foolery on April 1st is dying out because, despite the day's popularity online, most people don't celebrate it.

My answer is that April Fool's Day has always been ignored by the majority of the population, but the influence of the celebration can be seen in what people don't do on April 1. Even people who have never played a prank in their entire life, will nevertheless acknowledge the tradition by not scheduling important events, such as weddings, on the day. Also many businesses avoid making major announcements on April 1.

A case in point this year is Chrysler, which has announced it's going to push back the production launch of the Dodge Dart until after April 1 in order "to avoid being jinxed" by an April Fool's Day launch

But Coors Light has decided to ignore the April Fool's Day Jinx, and has announced it will debut Coors Light Iced T on April 1. Even though this immediately makes people wonder if the product is a joke -- which apparently it's not.

The most famous example of a company that decided to ignore the April Fool's Day Jinx is Google, which chose April 1, 2004 to launch Gmail. This led to widespread speculation about whether Gmail was a joke, but the speculation worked in the company's favor because Google had a history of April 1 jokes, and the timing of the launch got people talking about how Gmail seemed too good to be true (because it offered 1GB of storage space, which was unheard of at the time).
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 06, 2012
Comments (3)
I posted a brief description of the Australian legend of the Nullarbor Nymph back in 2004. This is what I wrote:

Thirty-two years ago the tiny town of Eucla, Australia, on the edge of the Nullarbor plain, became famous when a few of its residents first sighted the Nullarbor Nymph. The Nymph was a blonde, feral, half-naked woman who lived in the bush and ran wild with kangaroos. News of this wild woman quickly spread around the world.

Now filmmaker Matthew Wilkinson has brought the legend to the screen. ABC News quotes him as saying:

It was sort of a male fantasy sort of story that there was this blonde, beautiful woman out there. I guess I saw the Nullarbor Nymph as our version of Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster. I was always sort of surprised that no-one my age knew about it and so I really wanted to tell that story for a younger generation.

The film just premiered. Based on the trailer, it looks like an instant classic.

Categories: Folklore/Tall Tales, Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 06, 2012
Comments (1)
Italian artist Anna Utopia Giordano (great name... can that be the name she was born with?) has created a series of works that comment on the media obsession with photoshopping models to look thin and flawless. She's taken famous classical nudes and made them thinner. So Botticelli's Venus gets slimmed down for the beach, as does Francesco Hayez's Venus. The New York Daily News quotes her as saying:

Art is always in search of the perfect physical form. It has evolved through history, from the classical proportions of ancient Greece to the prosperous beauty of the Renaissance, to the spindly look of models like Twiggy and the athletic look of our own time.




Categories: Art, Fashion, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 06, 2012
Comments (1)
On April 1st of this year, hundreds of thousands of men with mustaches are going to gather in Washington, DC to demand tax equity for Mustached Americans. They're hoping to persuade Congress to adopt the Stimulus To Allow Critical Hair Expenses Act, or STACHE Act. The act would allow Mustached Americans to claim tax deductions for expenses such as:

Mustache and beard trimming instruments, mustache wax and weightless conditioning agents, Facial hair coloring products (for men and women over 43 years of age), bacon, mustache combs and mirrors, DVD collections of "Magnum P.I." and "Smokey & The Bandit," mustache insurance (now required by state law in Alabama, Oregon, Maine, and New Mexico, and Puerto Rico), billy clubs or bodyguards to keep women away as a mustache increases good looks by an estimated 38 percent, little black books and jumbo packages of kielbasa sausage, Burt Reynolds wallet-sized photos.

The organizations behind this mustached march on Washington are the American Mustache Institute (AMUI) and H&R Block.



At first, I assumed the entire thing was an April Fool's Day joke campaign organized by H&R Block. But I now think that the American Mustache Institute was around before H&R Block got involved -- though it's obviously a rather tongue-in-cheek organization.

John Yeutter, an accountant at Northeastern State University, wrote a paper in 2010 titled, "Mustached Americans And The Triple Bottom Line: An Analysis Of The Impact Of The Mustache On Modern Society And A Proposal For A Mustached American Tax Incentive." The idea for the Mustached March on Washington seems to have been inspired by that paper, and gained momentum, eventually attracting H&R Block as a sponsor.
Categories: Advertising, April Fools Day, Fashion
Posted by Alex on Mon Mar 05, 2012
Comments (0)
The Daily Mail recently posted an article online about the early history of photo fakery. The Daily Mail doesn't exactly have a reputation for quality journalism, so it shouldn't be that surprising that the article starts off with an historical error. It claims that an image (shown below) of Abraham Lincoln posing in a 'heroic' stance "could be the first ever Photoshopped image."



I understand the Daily Mail is using 'photoshopped' as a generic term to mean an image altered by darkroom tricks. But even so, the Lincoln image hardly qualifies as the first photographic fake. For one thing, the Daily Mail dates the image to 1860, but I believe the image really dates to 1864 or later. (I have a brief article about the image in the photo archive. It was a case of an unknown photographer pasting Lincoln's head onto the body of a portrait of John Calhoun.)

So what would actually be the first ever 'photoshopped' image?

A photo taken by Hippolyte Bayard in 1840, "Portrait of the Photographer as a Drowned Man," is generally acknowledged to be the first 'fake' photo. But it wasn't a case of darkroom trickery. Bayard simply staged the scene by posing as a suicide victim, and then he wrote a false caption claiming the photo showed himself after having drowned.



The earliest photos, created by the daguerrotype or direct-positive method, didn't lend themselves to darkroom alteration, because they didn't produce a negative. One positive print was created, and that was it.

It was the calotype method that really ushered in the era of darkroom trickery, because it created a (paper) negative that the photographer could alter and use to produce as many positive prints as he wanted. William Henry Fox Talbot invented the calotype method in 1841, but it took a while to gain popularity, for a variety of legal and technical reasons. During the 1850s, the calotype was improved upon by the collodion process, that produced a glass negative.

Oscar Rejlander is credited as being the first photographer to recognize the extent to which negatives could be manipulated in the darkroom in order to create entirely new images. He pioneered the art of combination printing -- that is, combining multiple photographs into one -- which later came to be known as photomontage. This is the technique people are generally referring to when they talk about images being photoshopped.

In 1857, he produced The Two Ways of Life (below) -- a combination print consisting of 32 images stitched together. This might qualify as the first photoshopped image. Although photoshopped implies fake, and The Two Ways of Life wasn't fake because Rejlander never claimed it was a real scene. He was using photographic techniques to create something that looked like a painting.



I think spirit photographs might qualify as the first ever use of 'photoshop' techniques for deliberate fakery. The idea that photographic tricks could be used to produce 'ghosts' in images was first suggested by Sir David Brewster in 1856. His idea was that the long exposure times required by the collodion process could be exploited by having someone quickly walk into the frame of the picture during the exposure, then out again. Their image would appear to be ghostly in the subsequent photograph.

Two years later, the London Stereoscopic Company used this technique to produce an image it titled, "The Ghost in the Stereoscope." Though it didn't claim this was a real ghost photo.



Three years later, in 1861, William Mumler of New York realized you could also use double exposures to create ghosts. That is, if you used a poorly cleaned glass negative on which a faint image already existed, this would create a ghost image in a subsequent photograph. He used this technique repeatedly, to great profit. Below is one of his first spirit photos from 1861.



So perhaps Mumler is the first true photo faker. Although there were so many photographs being produced by the late 1850s, I wouldn't be surprised if there are other, earlier deliberate fakes that I'm not aware of.
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Fri Mar 02, 2012
Comments (2)
Last week an image showing the "tip" left by a rich banker who had dined at a Newport Beach restaurant spread around the internet. The financial tip was slightly less than 1%, on a bill of over $100, but the patron also left a life-advice tip: "GET A REAL JOB".


Naturally, the image provoked the customary rage reaction from netizens.

The image originally was posted on a blog called "Future Ex-Banker" run by an anonymous blogger who said he worked in the corporate office of a bank for a boss who represented "everything wrong with the financial industry." He further claimed of this boss:

So proudly does he wear his 1% badge of honor that he tips exactly 1% every time he feels the server doesn't sufficiently bow down to his Holiness. Oh, and he always makes sure to include a "tip" of his own.

The image has now proven to be a hoax. The owner of the restaurant, True Food Kitchen, searched through their receipts and found the original copy, which included neither the stingy tip nor the insulting piece of advice. The "Future Ex-Banker" blog (futureexbanker.wordpress.com) has been taken down.


I gotta say, the original image was a pretty good photoshop job. I'm guessing that the hoaxer scanned the original receipt, digitally erased some of the information, then printed out a new copy, wrote the new "tip" on it, and took a picture of it. That would be easier than doing the alteration entirely digitally.

I'm also curious whether the hoaxer was a liberal or a conservative. Given that the hoaxer had to know that the hoax would eventually be exposed, it makes me think this might have been black propaganda by a conservative, trying to make it look like a liberal/progressive hoax.

Links: Daily Mail, Huffington Post, Smoking Gun.
Categories: Photos/Videos, Politics
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 01, 2012
Comments (5)
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