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January 2014
I think this prisoner may have been telling a bit of a tall tale.


"An Exact representation of a raft, and its apparatus, as invented by the French for their proposed invasion of England — from a drawing of a prisoner who has made his escape from France"

Source: Bibliotheque Nationale de France via Retronaut
Categories: Military
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 31, 2014
Comments (1)
Promoters of the Manoppello Image are hoping that it's soon going to be as popular as the Shroud of Turin. Like the Shroud, it's supposedly the actual face of Jesus miraculously imprinted onto a piece of cloth.

But I see a problem with their plan. The Shroud of Turin, say what you will about it, genuinely looks mysterious and creepy. But the Manoppello Image just looks like a bad painting.
U.S. Pilgrims Flock to Manoppello’s Shrine After Benedict XVI Visit
National Catholic Register

Pilgrims have flocked to see an image debated to be the veil of Veronica, the resurrection cloth of Christ or a centuries-old hoax...

Some believe the image is the storied "veil of Veronica," the cloth Veronica in the Gospel used to dry Christ's face as he carried the cross to his crucifixion. Others say it is the "Resurrection cloth," a sudarium that covered Christ's face in the tomb. Still others take it as a centuries-old hoax.
What is certain is that none of them can prove how the image — which is present on a fine mussel-silk cloth without the use of any pigments — was created.
Paul Badde, the German author of The Face of God, is convinced that the image is the one and only "Holy Sudarium," the "napkin" from Christ's sepulcher that St. John refers to in his Gospel. In revealing Christ's face at the moment of the Resurrection, he calls it "the first and authentic page of all the Gospels."
Categories: Religion
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 31, 2014
Comments (2)
Tah gave me a heads up about this 'Here There Be Monsters' shirt that was the deal-of-the-day at Shirt Woot!


It reminded me that I recently came across a foldout Storyteller's Map of American Myths in the Aug 22, 1960 issue of Life magazine. It's full of strange creatures such as the Arizona Ghost Camel ("once imported by the army, wandered the desert with dead riders), Michigan Tigerfish ("lurking around Saginaw Bay ate cabin boys"), and the New Jersey Mosquito ("as large as a swallow and fierce as an eagle, was trained by the Indians to hunt. One sting could stop a deer in its tracks.")


And the same issue also had a foldout guide to "Yarns and Whoppers and Practical Jokes" that depicts creatures such as the Goofus Bird, Upland Trout, and Shoo Fly.

Categories: Folklore/Tall Tales
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 31, 2014
Comments (0)
Stephen Glass can't catch a break. He burned his bridges in journalism, and now the lawyers don't want him either.
Stephen Glass, journalist fired for fake stories, denied law license
abclocal.go.com

SAN FRANCISCO (KABC) -- Disgraced former journalist Stephen Glass was denied a license to practice law in California in a state supreme court ruling on Monday. The court ruled unanimously against Glass, a magazine writer who was fired after 31 of 42 high-profile stories were determined to contain fabrications and falsehoods.

Glass, 41, was fired from the The New Republic magazine in 1998 after working there for three years. After being exposed, he continued to cover up his work by creating fake business cards, websites and notes supposedly culled from interviews with non-existent sources. Glass' reluctance to cooperate with the magazine in identifying false stories was a substantial reason for the court's decision, according to a court statement.
Categories: Journalism
Posted by Alex on Wed Jan 29, 2014
Comments (2)
Matt Novak, writing for Gizmodo Australia, notes that 100 years ago a news story circulated reporting that Frank Rockwell, the mayor of Akron, Ohio, had written a letter to Akron's future mayor in 2014:


Fort Wayne Sentinel - Jan 24, 1914

Mayor Rockwell wrote a letter yesterday to the person who will be mayor of Akron 100 years hence. The epistle tells the future mayor of the present debt, the names of all the city officials, the problems confronting the municipality and the political situation in Akron in 1914. The letter will be sealed, addressed to "His Honor, Mayor of Akron, 2014," marked with instructions not to be molested or opened until that year and placed in a bank vault to be held for a century. The salutation in the letter will fit whether a man or woman mayor.

However, Akron's mayor never did write such a letter. The report was a hoax. But the correction denying the hoax was only ever printed in Akron.


What was the point of this hoax? Who knows! But it does show that fake news stories are not a recent invention.
Categories: Future/Time, History
Posted by Alex on Mon Jan 27, 2014
Comments (0)

The latest fake news story to go viral claims that, due to the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, Philip Morris has decided to start selling Marlboro Marijuana Cigarettes, marketed under the brand name "Marlboro M".

The fake news story was posted on the satire site "Abril Uno" on January 21st. From the article:
Phillip Morris, the world’s biggest cigarette producer, announced today that they will join the marijuana legalization bandwagon and start producing marijuana cigarettes. Marketed under the brand “Marlboro M”, the cigarettes will be made available for sale through marijuana-licensed outlets in the state of Colorado, and the state of Washington when it becomes commercially legal there later this year...

Since only tobacco products are currently banned in advertisements and promotions in the United States, Phillip Morris also has set aside a huge $15 billion advertising budget just to promote the new “Marlboro M” and are now negotiating with major networks and publishers, to start marketing the product to consumers in the beginning of 2015...

Phillip Morris shares hit an all-time high on the marijuana news and shot up to $998.00 from $83.03 just a few hours after the announcement went public.

It seems like more and more fake news sites are popping up every day. For instance, Abril Uno (which is Spanish for April 1st, i.e. April Fool's Day) only came into existence on January 14, according to the whois data. And less than two weeks later, they've already got a viral story.

On the subject of marijuana cigarettes, the Legends & Rumors site notes that back in the 1960s and early 70s a rumor circulated alleging that the big tobacco companies were eagerly anticipating the day when pot would be legal, and that many of them had already registered names for their planned marijuana cigarettes. In March 1971 tobacco-company executives sent letters to Rolling Stone magazine denying these rumors.
Categories: Business/Finance, Products
Posted by Alex on Mon Jan 27, 2014
Comments (0)
Mysterious ways of Dave Fanning hoax;
2fm DJ passes off song by obscure English band as the latest single from U2.

The Sunday Times (London)
January 26, 2014

DUE TO a long friendship with U2, his radio show is always the first to play any new songs from the Dublin group. Earlier this month, however, U2 fans didn't find what they were looking for when Dave Fanning, the 2fm DJ, promised to play their new single - but instead spun a track from an unknown British band...

What listeners actually heard was a song entitled Bad Machine by Dark Stares, a virtually unknown band from St Albans in London...

Last week, Fanning dismissed the transmission as a hoax and insisted the joke was on listeners and not him...

For some listeners "Fanning-gate", as it was labelled on one U2 forum, was not quite so funny. Taking the broadcast seriously, posts initially hailed the fake U2 song as "an ancestor to The Fly", and how "it makes sense" that U2 would permit Fanning the first play from their new album because of their tradition of doing so.

When it transpired the transmission was a hoax, emotions ranged from relief that it wasn't U2 because the song was "awful", to sympathy for Fanning who some presumed had been "duped".

Categories: Music
Posted by Alex on Sun Jan 26, 2014
Comments (2)

Scare stories about how governments are going to force us all to be "microchipped like dogs" have been circulating for well over a decade. Mixed in with these stories have been Christian fundamentalist claims that implanted microchips are the "Mark of the Beast".

The latest scare story to surface is an article (written in broken English) recently posted on topinfopost.com, claiming that "On May 2014, through Europe newborn children will be compelled to take in a subcutaneous RFID chip."

Nope. Ain't happening.

The photo accompanying the article actually shows a flexible "Biostamp" recently developed by the Massachusetts-based firm MC10. But don't worry. The fundamentalists are convinced that these "E-Tattoos" are also the Mark of the Beast, and that those who wear them will receive the Wrath of God.
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 24, 2014
Comments (2)

An Italian newspaper has reported that firefighters near Naples recently discovered a giant larva of a Red Palm Weevil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus). The larva, which was as big as an adult pig, was still alive, and as the firefighters approached it, the thing emitted a shrill cry similar to the whinny of a horse.

The larva appears to be a result of "radioactive gigantism" caused by toxic waste in the so-called "Land of Fires" region of southern Italy. It has been taken to the Naples Museum to be studied by entomologists.

At least, this is what I could understand of the story with help from Google Translate. (Any corrections/additions from Italian speakers would be appreciated!) The entire story, of course, is baloney. But I like the photo.

Wikipedia offers this information about the Red Palm Weevil:
The red palm weevil, Rhynchophorus ferrugineus, is a species of snout beetle also known as the Asian palm weevil or sago palm weevil. The adult beetles are relatively large, ranging between two and five centimeters long, and are usually a rusty red colour - but many colour variants exist and have often been misidentified as different species (e.g., Rhynchophorus vulneratus;). Weevil larvae can excavate holes in the trunk of a palm trees up to a metre long, thereby weakening and eventually killing the host plant. As a result, the weevil is considered a major pest in palm plantations, including the coconut palm, date palm and oil palm.
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 24, 2014
Comments (0)

Theodore Roosevelt served as President of the United States for 8 years, from 1901-1909. He was, as Wikipedia notes, acclaimed for his "cowboy persona and robust masculinity." However, his masculinity was not so robust that he once rode a moose, despite what this photo appears to show.

In 1912, Roosevelt split from the Republican Party, after having become unhappy with its increasingly conservative policies. He then ran for President as head of the newly formed Progressive Party. After forming this party, Roosevelt exuberantly proclaimed, "I'm feeling like a bull moose!" For which reason, the Progressive Party was often referred to as the "Bull Moose Party."

Two months before the election, on Sep 8, 1912, the New York Tribune ran a set of humorous pictures under the headline "The Race For The White House," showing the three main presidential candidates astride the animals associated with their parties.


William Howard Taft was shown riding an elephant (for the Republican party). Woodrow Wilson sat on a donkey (for the Democratic party). And Roosevelt rode a moose (for the Bull Moose party).

All three images were fake. They had been created by the photographic firm Underwood and Underwood.

Close inspection of the Roosevelt image reveals the signs of fakery. The firm had extracted Roosevelt's image from a photo of him riding a horse and pasted it into a shot of a swimming moose. Scratch lines are visible around Roosevelt's leg, where the photo editor tried to simulate water ripples. Also, Roosevelt's image is more sharply focused than that of the moose.

But, of course, the image was not supposed to be mistaken for a real scene. It was clearly presented as political humor.

Roosevelt lost the 1912 election to Woodrow Wilson, and the image of him riding a moose disappeared into photo archives. But in the 21st Century the image resurfaced and began circulating online where many people assumed it depicted an actual event.

For instance, in March 2011, Cracked.com included the image in an article titled "18 Old-Timey Photos You Won't Believe Aren't Photoshopped." The author of the article wrote:
This picture is real, this scene existed, and yes, at one point in our history, you could have actually voted for this man.

We do not know if this was a publicity stunt, a routine hunting incident or seriously how our beloved President Theodore Roosevelt used to ride to work every day. All we know is that it was taken during the 1900 presidential election campaign and as far as we are concerned, virtually guaranteed William McKinley's re-election for as many terms as God gave him.

On that note, President McKinley was dead a year later.

Their information was incorrect in almost every detail except that McKinley did regain the White House in 1900, and he did die a year later.

However, Theodore Roosevelt definitely never rode a moose.

References:
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu Jan 23, 2014
Comments (3)
Categories: Social Networking Sites
Posted by Alex on Wed Jan 22, 2014
Comments (0)



[via reddit]
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Wed Jan 22, 2014
Comments (0)
Well, I fell for this.

A recent article posted on the Daily Mail was headlined, "China starts televising the sunrise on giant TV screens because Beijing is so clouded in smog."

An accompanying photo showed a giant TV screen in a smoggy Tiananmen Square showing a sunrise.



The article elaborated:
The smog has become so thick in Beijing that the city’s natural light-starved masses have begun flocking to huge digital commercial television screens across the city to observe virtual sunrises. The futuristic screens installed in the Chinese capital usually advertize tourist destinations, but as the season’s first wave of extremely dangerous smog hit – residents donned air masks and left their homes to watch the only place where the sun would hail over the horizon that morning.

Beijing does, of course, have a horrendous smog problem. This made the Daily Mail article believable. And major media outlets rushed to repeat the claim about Beijing's light-starved masses flocking to see virtual sunrises. And I too repeated the story on the MOH Facebook page. But it turns out the claim was totally fake.

The Daily Mail article has been debunked by the Tech in Asia blog, which writes:
In truth, that sunrise was probably on the screen for less than 10 seconds at a time, as it was part of an ad for tourism in China’s Shandong province. The ad plays every day throughout the day all year round no matter how bad the pollution is. The photographer simply snapped the photo at the moment when the sunrise appeared. Look closely, and you can even see the Shandong tourism logo in the bottom right corner.

This can only serve to strengthen the Daily Mail's reputation for gutter journalism. As my pal Chuck Shepherd says, it's the Greatest Newspaper in the World!
Categories: Journalism
Posted by Alex on Tue Jan 21, 2014
Comments (0)

Henry Clay Hooker (source: wikipedia)

Henry Clay Hooker was a wealthy rancher in the Old West. He was known as the "cattle king of Arizona." Modern audiences may know him because he was played by Charlton Heston in the 1993 movie Tombstone.

Perhaps the most famous part of Hooker's life story is the claim that he made his fortune by herding 500 turkeys over the Sierra Nevada mountain range into Nevada.

The story goes that Hooker moved out to California from the East Coast as a young man. He opened a hardware store in Placerville, and was growing quite successful until tragedy struck in 1866 when his store and entire stock of goods burned to the ground, leaving him with only $1000.

But Hooker wasn't defeated. Drawing upon his Yankee ingenuity, he came up with a novel way of regaining his fortune. He used what was left of his money to buy 500 turkeys, at $1.50 a bird, with the plan of herding them over the mountains to sell to hungry, turkey-deprived miners in Carson City, Nevada.

Aiding him in this strange venture were one helper and several trained dogs. Despite the skepticism of the other Placerville residents, off Hooker went with his turkeys, up into the mountains.


All went well until Hooker and his turkey herd reached the outskirts of Carson City. There they arrived at a precipice too steep to descend but almost impossible to go around. But the dogs kept pressing the birds to go forward until finally they became desperate and took to the air (as depicted in the illustration above). Said Hooker:
"As I saw them take wing and race away through the air I had the most indescribable feeling of my life. I thought, here is goodbye turkeys! My finances were at the last ebb; these turkeys were my whole earthly possession, and they seemed lost. I thought of my wife and children who were expecting me back with the profits of my venture, all of which appeared to have gone glimmering in a few minutes."

But when he made it to the valley below, Hooker realized, to his relief, that all was not lost. There were his turkeys, all still alive. After rounding them up, he finished steering them to Carson City where he sold them for $5 a piece, thereby not only recouping his lost money, but almost tripling it. He used the windfall to establish a ranch and become a supplier for the army posts and Indian agencies in Arizona.

The story of the great turkey drive was never written down by Hooker himself, but it was recounted by Frank Lockwood in his book Arizona Characters (published in 1928). Lockwood, in turn, said he heard it from C.O. Anderson, a newspaper editor who had known Hooker well.

It's a colorful tale, but is there any truth to it? In a word, no. It's just one of the tall tales of the Old West.

Lynn Bailey offers a detailed debunking of the tale in her 1998 book Henry Clay Hooker and the Sierra Bonita Ranch (1998):
"A wonderful story, but an impossible one for a number of reasons. First and most importantly, turkeys of any kind cannot be herded. Somewhat intelligent, wild turkeys possess a flock instinct. They are wily birds, however, and will scatter in every direction when threatened. Domestic turkeys, on the other hand, are stupid, all intelligence having been bred out of them. Frightened of everything, the slightest sound will stampede them. Turkeys can be caged, loaded into wagons and driven anywhere, but trail-herded, no, impossible.

"Secondly, using dogs to handle turkeys would have had disastrous consequences. As in the case of sheep, dogs would have to be trained to handle any kind of poultry. Turned loose around a flock of turkeys, dogs would attack and kill the birds. There is no such thing as a 'turkey dog.' And thirdly, by 1866 Virginia City was a mature mining community with lavish residences, restaurants hotels, and saloons. .. . In short [Comstock miners] were eating as well as San Franciscans. Their days of beans and bacon were long gone. If there was a demand for turkey, it was minimal.

"Not by any stretch of the imagination did Henry Hooker drive 500 turkeys through the passes of the Sierra Nevada. Hooker's turkey story is a 'big windy,' a tale perfected to entertain guests and family around a dining room table. Every rancher and farmer has such a story."

References
Categories: Folklore/Tall Tales
Posted by Alex on Tue Jan 21, 2014
Comments (2)

This photo of "Hercules, the World's Biggest Dog" is one of the best known "hoax" viral images on the Web. It started circulating in early 2007, initially on its own, but soon the Internet had supplied an explanatory caption:
Hercules: The World's Biggest Dog Ever According to Guinness World Records
Hercules was recently awarded the honorable distinction of Worlds Biggest Dog by Guinness World Records. Hercules is an English Mastiff and has a 38 inch neck and weighs 282 pounds.
With "paws the size of softballs" (reports the Boston Herald), the three-year-old monster is far larger and heavier than his breed's standard 200lb. limit. Hercules owner Mr. Flynn says that Hercules weight is natural and not induced by a bizarre diet: "I fed him normal food and he just grew".... and grew. and grew.

The information in this caption is correct, but not when applied to the dog shown above. The text is actually taken from a description of an English mastiff named Hercules that was owned by power lifter John Flynn (shown below). So wrong dog!


But what are we to make of the top photo, the one of the giant dog being walked by the man and woman alongside the white horse? We know he's not Hercules, but who or what is he? Is he really that big?

The top debunking sites feel that the dog can't really be that large. For instance, David Emery calls the photo "an obvious hoax." Hoax-Slayer says, "It seems clear that the image has been cleverly manipulated, perhaps by replacing a picture of the man's horse with a disproportionally sized picture of a dog." TruthorFiction.com says, "the picture appears to be fabricated." Snopes alone is a little ambivalent. It says the photo appears to be "a digital manipulation," but it leaves open the possibility that the dog is a "freakishly large example of its breed."

The reason for the skepticism is that the dog appears to be a Neapolitan Mastiff (not an English Mastiff), and that breed is not known to get that big. Breeders say Neapolitan Mastiffs top out at 31 inches at the shoulder. But the dog in the photo seems to be around 36 inches at the shoulder, easily.

Also, just look at that beast. He's horse-sized! The photo has to be fake!

But it's worth noting here that the photo is actually one of a set of three photos of the dog, the couple, and the horse. Although the top photo is often detached from the set and circulates alone. Here are the other two photos:




The existence of three photos of the same dog gives me pause. Because it's easy to dismiss one image as a fake, but three photos is unusual, especially since the dog looks similarly massive in all three shots. Yes, all three photos could be fake. But then again, perhaps that dog really is freakishly big.

I'll say this: if the images are fakes, then they're good ones. Particularly the one of the couple sitting down with the dog. The shadows and the lighting look right. There are no obvious signs of manipulation — except for the bizarre size of the dog.

Often it's possible to debunk a fake image by finding the original, unaltered version of the photo. But other versions of these giant dog images have never surfaced. This suggests to me that if the images are fake, then the faker possesses the original copies of the images and has never made them public.

Nor have the man and women ever been identified, which is a shame because they could obviously shed light on what the deal is with the giant dog. Perhaps they have no desire to be Internet celebrities.

But wait! There could be a fourth image. While searching for pictures of Neapolitan Mastiffs, I came across this photo.


Perhaps I've been staring too long at my screen, but that looks to me like it could be the same dog and the same guy. Sure, the guy is a little older, wearing different clothes, has a goatee, and is squinting into the sun. But his features look the same. And the dog has a white patch on his chest like the dog in the "Hercules" photo, and he's wearing a studded collar (if you look closely you can see that the dog in the "Hercules" photo appears to be wearing a similar studded collar).

The dog in this fourth photo doesn't look quite as massive as the dog in the viral "World's Biggest Dog" photo. Nevertheless, it's a very big dog! Far bigger than most other Neapolitan Mastiffs.

Which suggests to me that there really is a giant Neapolitan Mastiff out there. Now perhaps his size was digitally exaggerated in the top photo that went viral. Or perhaps the angle of the shot exaggerated its size. Or perhaps the man and woman aren't that tall, which made the dog look larger than it really is relative to them.

I just don't know. But I don't think the "World's Biggest Dog" photo is the slam-dunk, has-to-be-photoshopped case that most other debunking sites have listed it as. I'd go with Snopes and leave open the possibility that the dog in the photo might actually be a "freakishly large example of its breed."
Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos, Large Animals, viral images
Posted by Alex on Tue Jan 21, 2014
Comments (0)
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