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February 2013
Thanks to LaMa for bringing this recent Jesus sighting to our attention. A bird pooped on the windshield of Jim Lawry's car, while the car was parked in his parents' driveway outside their Brooklyn, Ohio home. When he got into his car, Lawry could clearly see the face of Jesus looking at him from within the poop. Lawry says it's "some sort of sign." [newsnet5.com]

Categories: Pareidolia
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 27, 2013
Comments (6)
Over in Perth (home to a couple of MOHers!) there's a rumor going around about an organized dog fighting ring that's stealing pets and using them in fights. The larger dogs are supposedly starved and turned into fighters, while smaller animals are used as "bait." A flier (below), posted on Facebook, is helping to spread the warning.


People are also being warned that the pet thieves are tagging the homes of potential victims with red dots, as shown in this picture:


However, the police and animal welfare authorities insist there's simply no evidence that any of this is happening. Social media expert Tama Leaver is quoted as saying, "To go from dog missing to dog fight is a long bow."

Perth's vicious dog fighting hoax
watoday.com.au

The internet has been flooded with chilling tales of an organised underground dog fighting ring operating out of Perth's suburbs. Family pets have been systematically stolen from their yards to be trained as fighting dogs, according to reports appearing on social media and online classified websites this week. While many in Perth claim to know somebody who knows somebody whose pet has fallen prey to a kidnapping, authorities and social media experts have dismissed the warnings as a viral hoax.
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 27, 2013
Comments (0)
Back in September 2012, a video was uploaded to youtube showing a pig rescuing a baby goat that was supposedly stuck in a pond at a petting zoo.


The video got millions of views on youtube and was widely aired in the media (including being shown on Good Morning America, the NBC Nightly News, and Fox News). Yesterday, it was revealed to be entirely staged.

It was created for a Comedy Central series, "Nathan For You," which is debuting this week (thus the timing of the reveal). The pig was directed toward the goat by means of an underwater plexiglass ramp.

The New York Times has a fairly long article about the video hoax, including comments from some media critics who take the news organizations to task for not questioning the video. Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute says, "It really is embarrassing for the journalists who stumbled upon this and decided to promote it or share it with their audience. It's almost a form of malpractice."

Comedy Central has posted a follow-up video showing exactly how the original video was made.

Categories: Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 27, 2013
Comments (1)
Legend has it that the 19th-century French Romantic poet Gérard de Nerval (1808-1855) had a pet lobster named Thibault that he took on walks in the Palais Royal gardens of Paris, using a blue silk ribbon as a leash. When asked why he did this, he replied

Why should a lobster be any more ridiculous than a dog? Or a cat, or a gazelle, or a lion, or any other animal that one chooses to take for a walk? I have a liking for lobsters. They are peaceful, serious creatures. They know the secrets of the sea, they don't bark, and they don't gobble up your monadic privacy like dogs do. And Goethe had an aversion to dogs, and he wasn't mad!


It's an amusing story, but is it true? Did Nerval really take his lobster on walks? Over at Boing Boing, Mark Dery delves into this mystery at length.

First, Dery consulted literary scholars. He discovered that they disagree about the story's veracity. It turns out that the original source of the story was Nerval's friend Théophile Gautier, and one critic, Richard Sieburth, thinks Gautier invented the story as a hoax to "impress the bourgeois." But another scholar, Richard Holmes, thinks the story could be true, noting Nerval had a "well-documented fascination with odd or exotic animals."

So next Dery turned to marine biologists to find out if it would even be physically possible to walk a lobster. The answer, summarized, is that it might be possible, but it wouldn't be easy since a) under ideal conditions a lobster will survive for only 30 or 40 minutes out of water, and b) lobsters aren't designed to walk on land. They can scuttle around, if they're stressed enough, but they don't like doing it. Diane Cowan of the Lobster Conservancy says bluntly, "Taking a lobster for a walk in the park is a cruel and sadistic idea. Please do not even think about it."

And could Nerval even have kept a lobster as a pet at home? To do so would have required "a large tank with relatively cool seawater and it would have needed some kind of aeration." It's unlikely Nerval had any of this.

So the answer to the question of whether Nerval really walked his lobster is that, no, he almost certainly didn't. But Dery offers two other possible explanations for the story (besides the suggestion that Gautier invented it).

Nerval's correspondence reveals that once, during a visit to the coastal town of La Rochelle, he intervened to save a lobster from a fisherman's nets and then took the lobster home with him. Perhaps this was the source of the tale.

Or, perhaps (possibility #2) Nerval came up with the lobster-walking story, but he intended it to be read allegorically. In other words, the lobster that Nerval walked was a symbolic lobster, not a real one.


Nerval, Dery notes, was "a fervent scholar of the occult," and lobsters have special significance in some occult sources, such as Tarot cards. For instance, the Moon card shows a lobster crawling out of a pool onto dry land, up a path guarded by two dogs (or a dog and a wolf) toward the full moon. The lobster, in this setting, could be interpreted as a symbol of the animal self struggling toward enlightenment. So Dery asks:

Was the lobster walk—initially dismissed as symptomatic of Nerval's nuttiness, more recently historicized as anti-bourgeois performance art—an occult transmission, broadcast to anyone with a working set of gnostic antennae? Is Nerval's famous quote a compressed meditation, informed by the Tarot, on the importance of balancing the rationalism of industrial modernity and the repression of bourgeois society with the creative energies of the unconscious? ... Were Nerval's barking, ravening dogs the rough beasts of the id, familiar from the Moon card? Was his "peaceful, serious" lobster a Surrealist reconciliation (perhaps even an alchemical or Kabbalistic synthesis) of the Moon's ruminative intellect with "that which comes up out of the deeps," the unconscious?

An interesting idea. It certainly makes me view the B-52's song "Rock Lobster" in an entirely different light.
Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 25, 2013
Comments (1)
On the internet nobody knows if you're a dog. And on Facebook, nobody knows if you're really a 104-year-old woman... because Facebook won't accept 104 as a valid age!

Woman, 104, forced to lie about age on Facebook
dailyherald.com

Marguerite Joseph can be forgiven for lying about her age on Facebook. The 104-year-old Michigan woman's granddaughter says Joseph is unable to list her real age on the social media site. Gail Marlow says when she tries inputting her grandmother's birth year as 1908, Facebook changes it to 1928. So for the past two years, the Grosse Pointe Shores centenarian has remained 99 — online, anyway.
Categories: Identity/Imposters, Social Networking Sites
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 25, 2013
Comments (3)
Pinder Sondhi's wife was upset to find out that all of her husband's guests at their wedding were actors. He had invited fake friends, relatives, and even parents. His parents were played by an elderly couple who had agreed to do the job on the condition that "they would keep whatever gifts they received in the wedding."

Plus, Sondhi had told his wife that he was a banker. That wasn't true. And he was simultaneously married to another woman. He lived with wife #2 during the week, and wife #1 on weekends. [Times of India]
Categories: Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Sat Feb 23, 2013
Comments (0)
A press release posted yesterday on PRLog.com announced that not only had Banksy been arrested (on charges of vandalism, conspiracy, racketeering and counterfeiting), but that his identity had been revealed—his real name supposedly being "Paul William Horner." The press release was a hoax, but a number of media outlets ran with the story before cottoning on to the deception. A humor site, IYWIB.com, appears to be behind the hoax.

How a Fake Press Release Convinced the Internet Banksy Had Been Arrested
betabeat.com

The release stated that Banksy is a 39-year-old Bristol man named Paul William Horner, and he’d been arrested during a police sting. But the document is riddled with inconsistencies, including quotes from fake CNN and BBC stories and an incorrect identification of the London Chief of Police, who the press release claims to quote. (City of London Police Commissioner is named Adrian Leppard, not Wayne Leppard, as the release stated.) Furthermore, the email address for the press release is at the domain name IYWIB, a little-known humor site. As it turns out, a man named Paul Horner is the editor of Super Official News, a site that appears to be part of the same family as IYWIB. Super Official News was the first site to publish a post saying Banksy had been arrested.

And here's the text of the fake press release (since PRLog has removed it):

Banksy Arrested In London, Identity Revealed
London, England — The England-based graffiti artist, political activist, film director, and painter that for years has gone by the pseudonymous name of Banksy, was arrested yesterday by police in London.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PRLog (Press Release) - Feb. 22, 2013 - London, England — The England-based graffiti artist, political activist, film director, and painter that for years has gone by the pseudonymous name of Banksy, was arrested yesterday by police in London. After hours of questioning and a raid of his London art studio, his true name and identity have finally been revealed.
London Police say Banksy's real name is Paul William Horner, a 39-year old male born in Bristol, England. The BBC has also confirmed this information with his PR agent Jo Brooks and the website that acts as a handling service on behalf of the artist, Pest Control.
London Police Chief Wayne Leppard held a press conference to answer questions about how Banksy was finally apprehended. "We had a 24-hour Anti-Graffiti Task Force monitoring different groups known to have associated with Banksy. We received word that around 2am a group of individuals left a flat speculated to be one of Banky's art studios. This group was followed by agents and once vandalism had occurred, we then arrested the group, 5 men total. These individuals all had ID on them except for one, and that is the one we believed to be Banksy," Leppard said. "We then raided the studio where this group was last seen leaving from. Inside we found thousands of dollars of counterfeit money along with future projects of vandalism. We also found a passport and ID of a Paul William Horner who matched the description of the man that we are currently holding." Leppard continued, "Horner is currently being held without bail on charges of vandalism, conspiracy, racketeering and counterfeiting. We are also holding the other four individuals whose names we are not releasing at this time."
After today's arrest it is unclear who else will be sought in connection with Banksy's arrest. CNN spoke with Kyle Brock who is a project manager for Banksy says he is now worried that charges could be brought against him also. "If they spent this many man-hours and brought this many charges against Banksy, I can't imagine that he'll be the only one to go down in all of this," Brock said. "All the beauty Paul Horner brought to this world, and the London Police can only see it as vandalism. It's such a shame."
The graffiti artist that goes by the name Space Invader told reporters he does not agree with the arrest or outing of Banksy's identity. "He's just doing art. That's what he was doing and that's what he'll continue to do," Invader said. "For the London Police to setup some 24-hour task force just to catch Banksy is ridiculous. I hope we hear plenty of noise from the good tax-paying citizens of London about this."
Banksy's identity was long speculated to be Robin Gunningham, a man born in Bristol, England in 1973. Known for his contempt for the government in labeling graffiti as vandalism, Banksy displays his art on public walls and even going as far as to build physical prop pieces. He does not sell his work directly; however, art auctioneers have been known to attempt to sell his street art on location and leave the problem of its removal in the hands of the winning bidder.
London Police are not releasing any pictures of Horner or any further information at this time.
Categories: Art, Journalism
Posted by Alex on Sat Feb 23, 2013
Comments (3)
Remember Anna Ayala? She was the woman who, back in 2005, concocted the story about finding a human finger in a bowl of Wendy's chili. That story got her 4 years in prison. Looks like she's back in the news, and again for lying to the police. This time she came up with a story about how her son was shot in the foot by an assailant. The truth, however, was that her son shot himself in the foot, but he wasn't allowed to possess a gun because of a burglary conviction, so she was trying to cover for him.

If Ayala and her son had told the truth, the son would have been in trouble for illegal gun possession. Now he's still in trouble for having the gun, but the pair are also both facing charges for making false statements to the police.

San Jose's 'Chili Finger Lady' accused of cooking up new yarn involving son's gun charges
marinij.com

Guadalupe "Junior" Reyes has a previous burglary conviction, Wasley said, and is not allowed to possess a gun. He told officers he was approached by a pair and shot "for no rhyme or reason," Wasley said. Mom backed up the story. She gave vivid descriptions from head to toe: one assailant wore a black Oakland A's cap and Air Jordan sneakers. Another looked like someone known on the streets as "Cruz" -- a big man with a goatee and abnormally large ears who rolled up on a black bicycle. She even offered a possible last name.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Fri Feb 22, 2013
Comments (0)
Horses, of course, do produce milk. And horse milk is considered a delicacy in some cultures. However, this site extolling the virtues of horse milk seems pretty clearly to be tongue-in-cheek:

taste test show that consumers clearly prefer horse milk to dog and cat milk, and we know that consumers are tiring of ordinary bovine lactation.  Clearly, horse milk is no flash in the pan. As a gourmet food, horse milk is very expensive but worth the extra cost. Unlike cows, horses have only two teats and a 1,400 lb. mare will produce less than a quart of the precious liquid each day... In the dairy industry it has long been observed that there is a correlation between the number of mammary glands and profitability, the less the teats, the higher the revenue.
 

The strange thing is that almost the same text can be found over at horsemilk.org, which appears to be a serious site representing a Mongolian firm that sells powdered horse milk. So who copied from whom? Did the Mongolian company write the text that was then tweaked by the other site to highlight its humorous elements? Or did the Mongolian company cut-and-paste the article, not realizing it was intended as a joke?
Categories: Animals, Food
Posted by Alex on Fri Feb 22, 2013
Comments (1)
In an obscure corner of the site, I have a brief blurb about a hoax from the 1960s — the Minnesota Iceman. It was "a strange creature frozen in ice... exhibited at carnivals throughout the Midwest. It appeared to be some kind of neanderthal man."

My blurb ends by noting, "Its current whereabouts are not known." But this is no longer true! A few days ago it popped up for sale on eBay. The seller wanted $20,000 for it. And apparently the seller got that much, because it's already sold.

I have no idea who bought it, but if they were willing to pay that much, they must have felt pretty sure that it was the original Minnesota Iceman. (via Doubtful News)

Categories: Cryptozoology
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 21, 2013
Comments (1)
Good grief! This is kinda sad. Melba Ketchum fancies herself a bona fide scientist. But her subject-of-choice is Bigfoot, which immediately exiles her to the crackpot fringe of science. For which reason, she found that she couldn't get her paper on her "Sasquatch genome study" published anywhere. So what did she do? She created her own journal, the DeNovo Journal of Science. But instead of admitting she created it, she's pretending that it's some kind of independent journal. The problem: her Bigfoot-DNA paper is the one and only article this "journal" has ever published.

A Texas Geneticist Apparently Invented a Science Journal to Publish Her DNA Proof of Bigfoot
dallasobserver.com

On Wednesday, Ketchum announced that she had finally found a publication with the courage to go against the ivory tower establishment and that her research was finally being published by the DeNovo Journal of Science. She immediately took to Twitter, directing the attention of popular science gatekeepers like National Geographic, the BBC, Jane Goodall, and, um, Rob Lowe, to a 19-second video clip, supposedly showing the sleeping female Sasquatch whose DNA was sequenced for the study. But Ketchum's victory celebration might be a bit premature. The Huffington Post and others did a modicum of digging and found that, not only is DeNovo's website shoddy and amateurish, the domain was registered all of nine days before it published Ketchum's study, which, by the way, is its only article. To read it, you have to shell out $30.
Categories: Cryptozoology, Pseudoscience
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 20, 2013
Comments (3)
Here's a prank that's also an interesting experiment in social psychology. In the middle of a busy public square, a big sign over a red button says, "DO NOT PUSH THIS BUTTON." Of course, random people walking by inevitably do push the button. At which point, everyone in the square appears to drop dead. So what does the person who pushed the button do? Does he/she try to help the people? No. Every single person who pushed the button runs away, as if trying to escape being found out.

The prank was filmed in a square in Rio de Janeiro. The TV presenter Silvio Santos provides a narration (in portuguese). More info at forbes.com.


Categories: Pranks, Psychology
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 20, 2013
Comments (4)
Over in Gothenburg, Sweden, locals were puzzled by a homeless person begging for money at the train station, who, upon closer inspection, turned out to be a doll. Police thought it might be some kind of fraud (i.e. a homeless people using a mannequin to beg for him). But it turned out to be the work of a 13-year-old kid, Adam, who created it as "something fun" for a school art project. Brings to mind Alan Abel's Omar the Beggar hoax.

The english-language article didn't have a picture of Adam and his "fake beggar," but I found one at a swedish-language site.


Gothenburg teen behind 'homeless beggar' hoax
thelocal.se

Adam told GT that he made the life-size doll out of cardboard and second-hand clothing. He then placed the doll at the city's train station, before carrying it over to a park near the central thoroughfare Avenyn. The mysterious "fake beggar" went on to garner national media attention after national news agency TT wrote about the doll, quoting a police spokesman who theorized it could be a case of fraud. The doll, which even had a beer can in its hand, even attracted the attention of several passersby.
"I was standing a short distance away and filming how people reacted, that's part of the project," he told GT, explaining that the entire installation is part of a school art assignment. In the end, a passer-by had placed seven kronor ($1.10) next to the mock-up, a sum that Adam eventually chose to gave to a real life person asking for money on the street.
Categories: Art, Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 20, 2013
Comments (0)


Although this may appear to be footage from a newscast, it's actually a video purposefully designed to go viral, created by a Danish pr firm calling itself PublicAttack. On its youtube page you can find the same actor appearing in its other videos.

The car going through the ice is apparently a CG effect.
Categories: Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Feb 19, 2013
Comments (0)
I don't care what the skeptics say. The House Hippo is real!

Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 18, 2013
Comments (2)
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