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February 2013
Soma Sengupta has recently been convicted of lying extensively about her past work experience in order to advance her legal career. She claimed that she had previously been an accomplished trial lawyer, although she hadn't been. She also forged reference letters and school transcripts. But what tripped her up was a much simpler lie. She stated on an application that she was 29, but a clerk who was reviewing the form took one look at her and couldn't believe it. Turned out she was actually in her late 40s, and let's just say that she hasn't aged particularly well. (She's now 52.) Once that lie was exposed, all the others were soon found out.

Lies to Win British Post Earn Conviction in New York
New York Times

"One could not help but be struck by the sheer magnitude and the intensity and breadth of the defendant's lies and schemes and deceitful behavior," Justice Farber said.
Ms. Sengupta, 52, who now lives in New Jersey, was convicted of eight felony forgery and false instrument counts and one misdemeanor conspiracy charge. The most serious count carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years. Justice Farber scheduled her sentencing for March 22.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 18, 2013
Comments (4)
The Proposal Rejection Prank is a perennial favorite. Back in 2005 I posted about how a couple had developed a routine they were performing at basketball game halftime shows, in which the guy would propose to the girl in front of the entire crowd. But instead of saying yes, the girl would break into tears and run away. It never failed to get a reaction from the crowds.

The PrankvsPrank duo recently performed the identical stunt at various locations outdoors. Their resulting youtube video currently has over 4 million views.

Categories: Pranks, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 18, 2013
Comments (0)
Found on Facebook (via Not An Exact Science Show). The fact that there wouldn't be an English-language sign in a Russian-speaking area gives it away that it's fake, but it's a clever idea!

Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 18, 2013
Comments (2)
I'm passing along a message from longtime friend of the Museum, Bob Pagani:

A few weeks ago, I was invited by the Maccarone Gallery in NYC to come and talk about my friendship with Andy Kaufman as part of a celebration of Andy's life and work. I invited Alan Abel to stop by. He did and the two of us spent several hours talking to gallery visitors about Andy (I am the one who introduced Alan to Andy) and our experiences in the Wonderful World of Media Hoaxing.

Here's a link to a NY Times story about the exhibit:

The curator of the exhibit liked us so much that he invited us to come back for the second part of the celebration on the 23rd of this month, at the Participant, Inc. Gallery on E. Houston St. in NYC. Again we're going to talk about our experiences with Andy and all the things we've done to fool the media. It's going to be moderated by Cory Arcangel, a very interesting artist I'm looking forward to meeting.

The show will start at 8:30 PM on the 23rd and admission is free. I'm hoping that some of your readers from the NYC area will stop by. I think it's going to be a very fun show.

I live in San Diego, so I can't attend. But if you live in NYC, check it out!
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Sun Feb 17, 2013
Comments (4)
As part of its coverage of the debate in Wyoming over whether to make the jackalope the state's official mythological critter, the Casper Star-Tribune profiles Prof. James Holliday, emeritus professor of biology at Lafayette College, who's perhaps the foremost expert on the biology of jackalopes.

Scientific basis for the myth of the jackalope

"There is a virus that causes growths on the jack rabbit," Holliday said. The virus is called Shope papillomavirus. Growths can come out of rabbits' bottoms and heads. When they grow from the head, they can look like horns. Holliday described a rabbit that had a growth on its mouth. "The poor thing starved to death," he said. Holliday's jackalope website, which he runs with colleague Dan Japuntich, features photos of rabbits with Shope papillomavirus and even people with growths that look like horns. Scientists believe the virus was in North America for centuries, but showed up in Europe shortly after Christopher Columbus returned from his voyage to the New World.
Categories: Folklore/Tall Tales
Posted by Alex on Sat Feb 16, 2013
Comments (1)
Below is a picture of Bill Gates that's been circulating on Facebook. Can anyone really believe they'll get $5000 if they share the photo? Or is it being shared as a joke? Since I'm feeling charitable, I'll believe the latter.

The picture is a doctored version of a picture posted by Gates during a recent AMA on reddit. Note that in addition to changing the sign he's holding, the reddit toy on the desk behind him has been replaced by what looks like a sex toy. (via David Emery)

Categories: Photos/Videos, Social Networking Sites
Posted by Alex on Sat Feb 16, 2013
Comments (4)
Matthew Callan has written a great account of Jean Shepherd's 1956 I, Libertine hoax:

The Man Behind The Brilliant Media Hoax Of "I, Libertine"

Shepherd inspired fierce loyalty in his listeners who would tune in to listen to him in the middle of the night. These listeners embraced his term for them, "night people," and under his direction they would execute one of the biggest and most bizarre media hoaxes of the 20th century. The hoax was meant as a strike against their opposite: "day people," that is, against phoniness and squareness—all those 50s words—as well as a joke on New York pretension. In our time of memes, virality, and reality blurring, the hoax Shepherd dreamt up seems extremely modern and prescient in its contours—as does the fact that, eventually, it got out of his control.
Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Sat Feb 16, 2013
Comments (0)
Bridges Auditorium stands on the campus of Pomona College in Southern California. A frieze on the front of the building displays the names of five great composers: Wagner, Chopin, Beethoven, Bach, and Schubert. But for a few days in April 1975, Chopin's name disappeared and was replaced by that of another iconic, but more modern composer — Frank Zappa.

For years, no one knew who put Zappa's name up there. But in 2012, the pranksters finally revealed themselves, submitting a dossier about their prank to Pomona College Magazine, which published the details in its Nov. 2012 issue.

The pranksters were Pomona math majors John Irvine and Greg Johnson (both class of 1976). Although neither of them were Frank Zappa fans, when they learned that Zappa would be performing at Bridges on April 11, 1975, they decided his name should be on the building. And they elected to have him take the spot of Chopin, since Chopin was their least-favorite composer among the five on the building.

To pull off the stunt the pair created a 15x5-foot frieze out of Styrofoam with an aluminum frame, weighing 70 lbs. The frieze displayed Zappa's name, bookended by a bust of him on one end, and a marijuana leaf on the other.

Fellow conspirators in the math department helped them to learn that between 2 and 3 in the morning was the time when campus security was least likely to walk by the auditorium. So this is when they installed their frieze.

Irvine working on the Zappa bust (left); accessing the roof (right)

They gained access to the roof of the auditorium by extending a ladder from an adjacent building. They managed to position the frieze in place, wedged it into the recessed space of the Chopin frieze, and then secured it with heavy fishing line.

Hauling the frieze into place

The next morning the campus woke to find their handiwork.

Unfortunately, the pair hadn't managed to pull off the prank in time for Zappa's concert. They were a week late. But still, what they did is remembered as Pomona's greatest student prank.

The Zappa frieze remained in place for several days before being taken down by campus officials. The pranksters decided to keep their identity a secret in order to maintain a sense of "mystique" about the prank.
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Fri Feb 15, 2013
Comments (3)
Prosecutors say John Rosenbaum wanted to become famous as the man who was bitten by a black mamba snake and survived. Instead, he'll be famous as the guy who pretended to be bitten by a black mamba. But he really was bitten by a deadly snake (a cobra), so you have to give him credit for that!

Man accused of faking bite by deadly black mamba

John K. Rosenbaum Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., is accused of touching off a desperate search for the snake in south Georgia after telling authorities he was bitten in November 2011... Rosenbaum was hospitalized after a bite from his pet Egyptian banded cobra, prosecutors say, but no black mamba was involved. 

He showed up at a hospital in St. Mary's with two puncture wounds from a snake bite. He had the words "black mamba" and the name of the antivenom to treat the bite written in black marker on his arm... 

Rosenbaum told hospital workers he was bitten in the parking lot of a Wendy's restaurant at Exit 3, when the reptile got away from an animal seller he was meeting.
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Fri Feb 15, 2013
Comments (2)

Woody Hayes
At a recent Ohio Coaches' Convention, Urban Meyer told an interesting story about legendary Ohio State University coach Woody Hayes. The story involved an interaction between Hayes's genitals and a turtle. Here's the story, as Meyer told it:

"So I guess Ohio State had lost the bowl game, so Earl Bruce brings in Woody Hayes. I had been there just a week and I'm thinking, 'Holy, this is Coach Hayes.' I'm sitting in the back. Coach Hayes was not healthy at the time, but stands up and starts laying into the coaching staff about toughness. That we have no toughness in the program. That's why we lost the game. On and on and screaming, this old guy pounding the table. He says, 'We have no toughness, and the reason is because you're not tough. No one on this staff is tough enough, and that's a problem.'
"He reaches down and grabs this box, slides the top and there was something in the box moving around. He reaches in and he pulls out this turtle. He reaches down, this turtle's snapping and he says, 'I'm going to show you toughness.' He unzips his pants and takes out whatever he takes out. The turtle reaches up and snaps at him. You see the veins and the sweat (on Hayes). He screams at the coaches, 'That's toughness! That's f'n toughness!' He reaches down, pokes the turtle right in the eye and it falls off. He wipes the sweat off his forehead and says, 'That's the problem. We don't have anybody in this room tough enough to do that right there.
"(One assistant) raises his hand and says, 'Coach, I'd do this. Just promise not to poke me in the eye.'"

Meyer insisted repeatedly that the story was true, and apparently some people believed him, because the tale began to circulate online this week and OSU began receiving inquiries about it. Finally the OSU pr office felt compelled to send an email to the media advising them that, despite what Meyer may have claimed, the story about Hayes and the turtle was just a joke. [Deadspin, Yahoo! Sports]
Categories: Sex/Romance, Sports
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 14, 2013
Comments (1)
The rumor going around is that if you kiss someone while standing in line at Chipotle this Valentine's Day, you'll be rewarded with a free burrito. But on their facebook page, a Chipotle rep refers to this as a "a bad Internet rumor."

Someone else wanted to know if they kissed the burrito itself would it be free. Chipotle says you're free to kiss the burrito, but you're still going to have to pay.
Categories: Food, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 14, 2013
Comments (1)
A week ago, news broke that a hacker (calling himself 'Guccifer') had broken into George W. Bush's email account. The hacker sent some of the emails and photos he found there to the Smoking Gun, which promptly published them.

Three of the leaked photos showed works of art, apparently by Bush. Two of the works were self-portraits in the bathroom — Bush taking a shower and a bath. The third showed Bush working on a more traditional scene of a seaside chapel.

It's the bathroom self-portraits that attracted all the attention. Understandably, since they were so odd. Art critics from the New York Times and New York magazine (among others) reviewed them, treating them as if they were serious works of art.

But Lee Rosenbaum (aka CultureGrrl) asks an interesting question. How do we know that the bathroom paintings aren't a hoax? After all, information is only as good as its source, and the source of these paintings — the hacker Guccifer — isn't very credible. Rosenbaum notes, "If you get into bed with hackers, you may end up taking a bath."

An email from New York conservator Lenora Paglia first prompted Rosenbaum to wonder about the authenticity of the paintings. Paglia points out that it's odd the bathroom paintings are displayed on cheap wooden easels, whereas the chapel scene (the one we actually see Bush working on) stands on a top-of-the-line metal easel. Paglia's email:

Are we certain these paintings are actually by George W. Bush?
I notice that in the photo of him actually at work, he is shown in his home, painting on a nice new metal easel, which I would expect. However, the two bath pictures are displayed on two different beat-up old wooden easels, which are covered with paint marks, like a poor art student's. Would the former President be using such an easel? Also, notice how tentatively W paints—and yet at least one of the wood easels shows hasty-handed marks.
I wonder if the paintings are a hoax!

Of course, if the paintings have been falsely attributed to Bush, the obvious question is why wouldn't Bush deny they were his? One possibility is that the Secret Service has advised him not to comment in any way on the leaked material, beyond admitting that his account was hacked.

The other possibility is that Bush hasn't said anything because the paintings really are his. They're so strange that I'm kind of inclined to think this must be the case. But I think Rosenbaum and Paglia are justified to be skeptical. After all, the source of the paintings is a pretty dubious one.
Categories: Art, Politics
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 14, 2013
Comments (0)
Hey, did you hear that Christopher Dorner somehow survived yesterday's shootout? Yeah, apparently the charred remains inside the cabin have been identified as female, not male! No credible news sources are reporting this, but there's a blurry TV screenshot of a CNN newscast circulating on twitter & facebook that says it, so it must be true!

Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Social Networking Sites
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 13, 2013
Comments (4)
The Iranian news website Khouz News recently posted a picture of Iran's new stealth fighter, the Qaher F313.

But The Atlantic Wire points out that the photo is actually a composite. The background is a photo of Mount Damavand from a stock-image site. The jet fighter was cut-and-pasted from a photo of what is apparently a plastic jet fighter (because it seems to lack exterior bolts or rivets) on display indoors.

In Iran's defense, the photo could have been intended as a kind of mock-up of what the plane would look like while flying. But given the Iranian military's past history of photoshopping, no one is cutting them much slack.

The Guardian suggests that the purpose of the photo was not to fool skeptical westerners, but rather to pull the wool over the eyes of the Iranian people by leading them to believe that their country is more technologically advanced than it really is.
Categories: Military, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 13, 2013
Comments (1)
In July 2012, science writer Jonah Lehrer resigned from The New Yorker under a cloud of shame, after it was revealed that his latest book, Imagine, was full of fabricated quotations. Yesterday, he took what he may have been hoping was a first step toward rehabilitating his public image by giving a confessional talk at a Knight Foundation seminar in Miami.

If image-rehabilitation was his goal, it probably didn't work, because most of the coverage of his talk was snarky and cynical about his intents, especially after reported that he was paid $20,000 for speaking.

As Lehrer spoke, a giant screen behind him showed real-time tweets about the talk, many of which were openly derisive of him, adding a surreal element of public shaming to the event.

source: palewire

During the talk, Lehrer delved into the scientific literature about error, trying to apply what he found to his own errors and figure out how not to do it again. Craig Silverman offers a good response to what he said:

Lehrer went looking for answers in the same places he used to mine for his articles and books — research papers, cognitive science, and in seemingly surprising places, such as the FBI. He drew oversimplified and in some cases incorrect conclusions about what he found. Then he packaged it all into a polished story, and cashed a nice cheque in the process.
It's all too familiar, and worst of all I think Lehrer is completely ignorant of the fact that he fell into his old methods, his old practices, as he worked to try and understand why he did what he did.
Take Lehrer's example of how a car is built to make a noise when you forget to put on your seat belt. This is meant to "force" you to take the proper action. He compared that to his new commitment to always have his work fact-checked, to adhere to his own set of SOPs meant to combat his seemingly inherent desire to cut corners and lie.
It's a false comparison. 
Forcing mechanisms are meant to guide us to make the right decision. They help remind us and usher us away from an unintentional error. They do nothing for someone who consciously chooses to subvert the system.
Lehrer isn't the guy who forgot to put on a seat belt and got into an accident. He's the guy who heard the seat belt reminder dinging and said, "F**k it, that belt is just going to put wrinkles in my shirt."
Lehrer didn't make accidental mistakes. He repeatedly and consciously committed serious ethical transgressions, then lied about them.

Update: The Knight Foundation now says it was a mistake to pay Lehrer so much. That doing so was "tantamount to rewarding people who have violated the basic tenets of journalism." Also, a Forbes reporter managed to contact Lehrer and asked him if he would consider donating the money to charity. Lehrer replied, "I have nothing to say to you."
Categories: Journalism, Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 13, 2013
Comments (0)
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