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Body Manipulation
Here's a news story that's been making the rounds recently. This case is said to have occurred in Chengdu city, China:
Jiang Ming promised his wife, He Ling, that he would not go on the internet any more and would spend more time at home. But he started to sneak into internet cafes again to have video chats with girls.
"I was on the internet, and suddenly the arrow on the screen stopped moving, " says Jiang Ming.
"Then I found that my right hand was on the mouse pad, and blood was shooting out."
In court, the husband pleaded with the judge to release his wife, since he was to blame for breaking his promise.

It was posted on Ananova.com, so right away that lessens the probability that it's true. It's also been reported in the London Sunday Times, the News of the World, the Sunday Herald, and the New York Post.

I can believe that a wife would chop her husband's hand off, but I find it hard to believe that this guy would a) not see his wife standing next to him with a huge knife, and b) not hear or feel a thing.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Journalism, Technology
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 10, 2007
Comments (3)
Joe Littrell forwarded me a St. Petersburg Times article, Dismembered Again, about the town of Vernon, Florida. It was so weird that I first I thought it was one of those joke articles, the kind that magazines such as the Phoenix New Times sometimes run. But all the references in it check out, so now I'm pretty sure it's real.

Vernon used to be known as Nub City, because the main source of income for town residents was dismembering themselves in order to file insurance claims. People there would come up with all kinds of ingenious ways to lose limbs:
L.W. Burdeshaw, an insurance agent in Chipley, told the St. Petersburg Times in 1982 that his list of policyholders included the following: a man who sawed off his left hand at work, a man who shot off his foot while protecting chickens, a man who lost his hand while trying to shoot a hawk, a man who somehow lost two limbs in an accident involving a rifle and a tractor, and a man who bought a policy and then, less than 12 hours later, shot off his foot while aiming at a squirrel.

Eventually insurance companies refused to insure anyone in the area, but Vernon went on to achieve some fame as the subject of a film (titled Vernon, Florida) by Errol Morris:
What Morris produced instead was 56 minutes of surreal monologues from an idle police officer, an obsessive turkey hunter, a pastor fixated on the word "therefore," a couple convinced that the sand they keep in a jar is growing, and, among others, an old man who claims he can write with both hands at once.

It sounds like a fun place to visit.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Places
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 04, 2007
Comments (6)
Could it be? So claims this email:
The pictures below are Japanese dolls which are created by using real human corpse skin and hair! Seeing these pictures are enough to freak anybody out! I am not sure how authentic these Japanese dolls are but if you were to look closely at the pictures, you will notice some red blood lines around the nose, eyes and mouth area. This means if they really used human corpse skin, they actually sliced the face out to be put on these dolls!
imageimageimageimageimage
image image image image image

Two reasons why these dolls are obviously not made out of human skin:

a) Human skin would not be a good material to use for dolls. Like leather, it would turn brownish and grow hard. Not that I have any experience working with human skin, mind you.

b) These dolls are the creations of Japanese sculptor Yoshiko Hori. (Credit goes to Spluch for tracking this down.) And even though she calls them "dolls in the flesh," I can't find any report of her fashioning the dolls out of human tissue.
Categories: Birth/Babies, Body Manipulation
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 22, 2007
Comments (22)
The North Denver News reports that big-thumbed Thomas Martel, of Bonnie Brae, Colorado, has had his thumbs surgically altered, thanks to a "revolutionary new surgical technique known as 'whittling,'" in order to make it easier for him to use his iPhone:
"This is really, on the edge sort of stuff," explains Dr. Robert Fox Spars, who worked on developing the procedure. "We're turning plastic surgery from something that people use in service of vanity, to a real tool for improving workplace efficiency." The procedure involved making a small incision into both thumbs and shaving down the bones, followed by careful muscular alteration and modification of the fingernails. While Martel's new thumbs now appear small and effeminate in comparison to his otherwise very large hands, he says he can still lift "pretty much anything I could lift before the surgery - though opening spaghetti sauce jars has been a problem. That was a big surprise."
The North Denver News does not appear to be a spoof newspaper, like The Onion, which would be the easiest explanation for this story, but I'm calling hoax on it anyway.

Who are these people: Thomas Martel and Dr. Robert Fox Spars? Except for references to them related to this story, I can't find any record of them in a search engine, or a directory listing. You would think that such a cutting-edge plastic surgeon would be listed somewhere. Nor can I find any other stories written by the author of the piece, "James Benfly."

Plus, the surgical procedure itself sounds absurd. I've heard of women having surgery to narrow their feet, to allow them to look better in high heels. But surgery to allow someone to use an iPhone more easily? I'm not buying it. My guess is that the North Denver News threw in a joke story to keep their readers entertained.

Update: The North Denver News has admitted the story was a hoax, and they list some of the points they were trying to make:
that U.S. society accepts plastic surgery and decorative deformation of the human body for vanity, but not other reasons (consider the Bonds steroid stories); that technology has become a new cult phenomena, in which items are praised or ridiculed based upon tribal allegiances instead of functionality and performance (and we are members of the Cult of the Mac- iPhone division); and we like to pretend that some of our writers have a sense of humor.
I've got to say (as I give myself a pat on the back) that I called this one pretty much exactly right. But it's amazing how many newspapers took this story totally at face value without questioning it at all.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Technology
Posted by Alex on Fri Aug 10, 2007
Comments (12)
image Over the years I've posted about quite a few dubious bust-enhancing products. There's Bolibao, a pill that supposedly transfers fat from a woman's thighs to her breasts; breast-enlarging ringtones; and in Hippo Eats Dwarf I wrote about Bust-Up chewing gum -- chew enough of it and gain an extra bra size (so it's manufacturer claimed).

We can add F-Cup Cookies to this list. The maker of these Japanese cookies claims that eating just two a day will make breasts bigger. Q-Taro.com reports that:
They come in packs of 4 for ¥290, each cookie containing 50mg of that miracle breast enlarging herb Pueraria Mirifica. How many cookies you'll have to eat to get size F Cup is unknown.
I doubt Pueraria Mirifica will have much effect on breast size, but I'm pretty sure that eating enough cookies, of any brand, will eventually cause your breasts to grow larger, whether you're a man or a woman. You may have to eat a LOT of cookies, however, and your stomach and thighs will get larger as well.
Categories: Body Manipulation
Posted by Alex on Thu Aug 09, 2007
Comments (16)
What in the world has happened to Madonna? The Daily Mail published these photos of her, taken "as she left her private members club in London's Soho to attend a business meeting," clutching a large designer bag. The sinewy appearance of her arms is attributed to "use of 'miracle' machine - The Power Plate," which apparently is some kind of vibrating platform offering "the same benefits of an hour-long sweaty gym workout in just 15 minutes with the machine burning the calories for you." Sure, it lets you get a full workout in just 15 minutes, but unfortunately it also turns you into a walking skeleton.

At first I thought the photo of Madonna's arms may have been photoshopped, like the Too Skinny images, but we'll have to take the word of the Daily Mail's photographer that the pictures are real. (via J-Walk)

Related post: Ann Coulter's hands

image
Categories: Body Manipulation, Celebrities
Posted by Alex on Tue Jul 24, 2007
Comments (24)
Robert Brewington was kind enough to forward me the following job listing. My email program initially flagged the message as potential junk mail, but after I looked at it more closely I realized it wasn't spam. Instead, it's a very tempting job lead.

The listing, posted by the Circus of Horrors on the British government's Job Centre site, reads:
Pickled Person
Applicants should be flexible, and happy to work in confined spaces, as one of the acts will involve climbing into a Perspex box with very little room.
According to an article in Gazette Live, it's a real job offer. The Circus of Horrors "took the wacky step of advertising the position in local Job Centres in the hope that a brave, or foolhardy person, would step forward and take up the challenge."

To see the ad, go to the Jobcentre site, and do a search for reference # STL/58537.

Here's a screenshot of the ad:

image
Categories: Body Manipulation
Posted by Alex on Mon Jul 23, 2007
Comments (3)
The London Times reports that Tony Wright of Cornwall recently stayed awake for 266 hours. He was attempting to break the world record of 264 hours awake set by Randy Gardner of San Diego in 1964. Wright was also attempting to demonstrate that, thanks to his "caveman diet" of raw food, he was able to "train his mind in such a way as to stay awake for 11 days and remain coherent and aware of what was going on around him."

The Times then goes on to report the bad news. Gardner didn't actually hold the world record for staying awake. Gardner's record had long since been surpassed by others. So Wright didn't set a new record.

The Times reports that: "The Guinness previous record was for 11½ days, or 276 hours, and was set by Toimi Soini in Hamina, Finland, between February 5 to 15, 1964." However, Soini's record was removed from the Guinness Book of Records in 1989. "It was deleted on the grounds that it could encourage records harmful to health and was unverifiable because of the claims of insomnia sufferers."

Actually, the question of who holds the world record for staying awake is a little more complicated than that, which I know because Gardner's sleep deprivation experiment is one of the experiments I discuss in Elephants On Acid: and Other Bizarre Experiments. I even interviewed Randy Gardner, who still lives in San Diego.

Gardner set his record on January 8, 1964. Two weeks later newspapers reported that Jim Thomas, a student at Fresno State College, beat Gardner's record by staying awake for 266.5 hours. And a month later Soini set the new record. 1964 was a banner year for sleep-deprivation trials.

However, subsequent issues of the Guinness Book of Records report far longer periods of sleep deprivation. The 1978 edition, for instance, states that:
The longest recorded period for which a person has voluntarily gone without sleep is 449 hr (14 days 13 hours) by Mrs. Maureen Weston of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire in a rocking chair marathon on 14 Apr.-2 May 1977. Though she tended to hallucinate toward the end of this surely ill-advised test, she surprisingly suffered no lasting ill effects.
Ironically, I don't believe Randy Gardner's record ever did make it into Guinness. Gardner reports that "I did not get listed in Guiness as I missed the publication date." However, Gardner's record is the most frequently cited because it was (and probably still is) the most scientifically rigorous long-term human sleep-deprivation study, since Gardner was monitored by Dr. William Dement of Stanford University.

The overall problem with determining the record for the longest a person has stayed awake is that people take "microsleeps" without being aware of it. To really determine if a person has been constantly awake you'd need to record their brainwaves throughout the experiment. As far as I know, such a study has never been done.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Science
Posted by Alex on Sat May 26, 2007
Comments (208)
Why do people fall for stuff like this?
A woman is suing a Tokyo-based chiropractor over pricey but ineffective treatments that involved spinning her in a centrifugal device to make her taller... The chiropractic center told her the treatments using centrifugal force would make her taller at a cost of 1.05 million yen per 1 centimeter gained... According to the suit, the center said her leg bones had grown by a little over 3 cm, showing X-rays taken before and after the treatments. The woman argues the center allegedly manipulated the X-rays and that its explanations lack medical credibility.
I think 1.05 million yen is around $9000. It would have been a lot cheaper for her to have found a centrifuge ride at an amusement park. Of course, the chiropractor can defend himself by claiming that he was just pulling her leg.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Health/Medicine
Posted by Alex on Mon Apr 16, 2007
Comments (6)
Over at the Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society, a clip was posted from the 1960s "shock-umentary" Mondo Cane (meaning "World of Dogs"). The film was a collection of all kinds of examples of bizarre human behavior from around the world. In this scene the Melanesian custom of wife fattening is shown. The narration (in spanish in the clip) says:
We are at Tabar, the largest island of the Bismarck Archipelago, where, by tradition, the most beautiful women of the tribe are locked up in strong cages similar to those we've seen in Strasbourg to fatten geese and they get filled with tapioca until they reach at least 120 kilos. Then, they will be offered as wives to the village's dictator, Utame Alunda, famous all over the islands for his physical power and his odd personality. The fattening process goes from 3 to 6 months, meanwhile, Utame Alunda didn't remain idle. These are some of his most recent children, that he loves to show to the foreigners in this dance, as a proof of his virility. This is his last spouse: eight children and one hundred thirty kilos. This is his favorite wife. Ten children and 150 kilos. And this is the great chief Alunda: 27 children and 34 kilos.
There's been some discussion over at the Athanasius Kircher Society about whether this is real. As far as I can tell, it is. The maker of Mondo Cane was accused of staging footage, and taking customs wildly out of context, but most of the material was true. After all, there's no shortage of bizarre human behaviors in the world. And, as far as I know, Melanesian culture did, in the past, include the custom of wife fattening. The BBC has an article about wife-fattening in current day Mauritania. Different part of the world, but same idea. Warning: the clip shows some bare-breasted island women, in case that's a problem for anyone at work or elsewhere. Nothing you wouldn't see on the National Geographic channel, however.

Categories: Body Manipulation, Food
Posted by Alex on Thu Dec 07, 2006
Comments (17)

Fake Bill
Man arrested for trying to pass a fake "Bill" bill: "The bill was unmistakably fake due to the fact that the ink was running on the bill, the president's face was missing and for the president's name, it had the name Clinton on it," said Deputy Nathan Stephens. About time a Clinton bill has surfaced. We've already seen too many of those phony Bush Bills.

Case of the Inhaled Vampire Tooth
Because of Halloween this news story has been going around. Back in 1995 Josh Anderson accidentally inhaled a fake vampire tooth. But doctors couldn't find anything. Sixteen years later "A bronchoscopy produced a mass of granulated tissue surrounding a perfectly intact vampire tooth, about as long as a thumbnail."

Pop Culture is Home of Hoaxes
The Sacramento Bee ran an article about hoaxes, in honor of Halloween, and called me up for a quick phone interview. The article requires registration, but here's the part where I'm featured: "Our attention span is small because there's such a mass of information available." Alex Boese, author of "Hippo Eats Dwarf: A Field Guide to Hoaxes," agrees. "(Mass media) makes this a ripe time for getting fooled," Boese says, on the phone recently from San Diego. The good news? Mass media "also makes it easier for us to debunk (hoaxes)," he says.

image Spooky Lens Aberration
From a Worth1000 thread: A friend of mine took this photo whilst walking through a wooded area in Scotland recently. No, there was no mist or smoke around. Anyone out there got any logical explanation for the misty visage in the bottom left? (Thanks, Kathy)

Freshman 15 is real
According to the legend of the Freshman 15, college students typically gain 15 pounds during their first year. Brown University researchers have now determined that this is almost true: "According to research presented last week, the "freshman 15" might be more real than previously thought -- although the actual weight gained by freshman is more likely to be between five and 10 pounds." By the time I graduated from college I had gained almost 30 pounds. I went from 170 to 200. But I lost the weight pretty quickly.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Business/Finance, Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Wed Nov 01, 2006
Comments (17)

Murdered goat turns into man
Here's an original alibi: What I killed was a goat, Officer. Then that goat magically transformed into my brother. I'd like to see this excuse appear in an episode of CSI.

Man, 29, passes for toddler
Mark Coshever flew from Britain to Amsterdam using his two-year-old daughter's passport. Airline staff never noticed. He must have a babyface.

Fifth grader generates glass pieces from her head
"The phenomenon started when Sarita fainted one day after which she began to bleed from the forehead and a sliver of glass came out. However, the wound healed soon after that, leaving no scars." She's a sure bet at the school talent show.

Blind man claims Hitler paintings are fake
It's not the controversy I'm interested in as much as the idea of a blind art critic. He decided the pictures were fake by getting "somebody to write the signatures from the Jeffery’s paintings on a bit of paper, with my hand gently leaning over theirs."

Germany's Declaration of Surrender for sale
Chuck Loesch claims to have the first official declaration of Germany's surrender. And he's trying to sell it on eBay for $100,000. It's a teletype message that reads "Germany has just uncoditoinally surrendered." (Spelling mustn't have been their strong suit.) Just one problem. The message is dated April 28. Germany surrendered on May 7.
Categories: Art, Body Manipulation, History
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 20, 2006
Comments (15)
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