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Status: Magic trickOn YouTube there's a video of magician Criss Angel taking the old "sawing a woman in half" trick a step further. He actually pulls a woman in half, whereupon her upper half crawls away in horror while her legs remain behind wriggling. I, like many other people, have been trying to figure out how he does this trick. All I can conclude is that it's achieved by clever editing of the camera footage. (Which, if true, would make it less a magic trick than a special effect, but entertaining nonetheless.) My reasoning is that the (half of a) woman who crawls away at the end is probably not fake. She's likely a woman who, in real life, has no legs. But this cannot be the same woman who initially walks to the table and lies down on it. (No, I don't think she was using robotic legs, or anything like that.) They are two different women. Which means that at some point the camera must have been turned off, and the one woman replaced the other on the table. This also suggests that everyone in the crowd were actors. That's my theory. But I'm actually hoping it's wrong, because it would be cool if he could have done this without turning the camera off at some point. (Thanks to Captain DaFt for the link.) (And I could have sworn I once posted about another Criss Angel trick in which he crawled through a glass window pane, but for the life of me I can't find the post about this.)
Update: Archibold pointed out that Snopes has a page about this video in which they point out that Ricky Jay has written about a similar early version of this trick in Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women. Sure enough, he has. Participating in this early version of the trick was Johnny Eck, a legless & thighless man who starred in the movie Freaks. So I was right about the woman at the end of the video actually being a legless woman. But this leaves the question: was the woman standing in the crowd also the same legless woman? If so, that's amazing. If not, then I still have no idea how a switch could have been made without the camera being shut off. But I've now got to assume that it's a real trick and no camera tricks were employed.
Status: Strange (but real) productThis product came out in Japan in 2003, and in America in 2004. The idea behind it is simple. It's a "unique blend of hydrolyzed silk proteins and specially formulated foundation" that you spray on your legs to "recreate the even look of silk hose, without all the hassle. Never worry about runs or tears again!" In other words, it's pseudo-pantyhose. In a July 2004 article in the Houston Chronicle, Liz Embry wrote: My first thought was what it would look like on other parts of the body. Could bank robbers conceal their identity by spraying it on their face? Would it hide a five o'clock shadow? Or could you use it as temporary wall paint? It sounds like the kind of stuff that hobbyists must have found other uses for. It's available for purchase here or here or here. (Thanks to Kathy for the link.)
Status: Real tattoo, fake mustacheWhen I first heard about this, I thought it meant that people were tattooing mustaches on their upper lip. Not quite. The mustache is tattooed on your finger, allowing you instantly to don your mustache disguise whenever and wherever necessary. Watch the video and you'll understand. Both men and women are getting these things. Fox News has dubbed it the newest trend in tattoos.
Status: Fake body partsThis could be useful at baseball games. It's the Beerbelly, "a removable spare tire that serves a stealth beverage." Basically it's a bladder that you fill with your drink of choice and strap around your belly, thereby (when worn beneath a shirt) camouflaging it as a beer gut. (Thanks to Emily de Saint Jores for the link)
The beer bladder would definitely be more fun to wear than the empathy belly, which is a "a multi-component, weighted 'garment' that will -- through medically accurate simulation -- enable men, women, teenage girls and boys to experience over 20 symptoms and effects of pregnancy." (I thought I had linked to the empathy belly before, but it didn't come up on a search of the site.)
And while you're at it, you might as well strap on a whizzinator prosthetic penis as well. To complete the theme, I would post a link to an artificial lactating breast, like the one featured in Meet The Fockers, but I don't think any company actually makes such a thing.
Status: follow-up info about a hoaxA month ago I posted about Plastic Assets, a faux credit card company offering free breast implants as a sign-up bonus. I noted that the site was an entrant in the Contagious Festival, a contest to create a high-traffic parody site. Now Plastic Assets has officially won the contest, receiving five times more visitors than its closest competitor. And the media, typically late to the party, are announcing that the site has just been revealed to be a hoax. (Even though I know I wasn't the only site to point out that this was a hoax last month.)
According to the CanWest News Service article, Plastic Assets was designed by Shari Graydon, author of In Your Face: The Culture of Beauty and You, and the site "attracted hundreds of female applicants and more than 130,000 visitors." Graydon concludes from this that "The degree to which our site was believed to be credible despite how over the top it was underlines the fact that people aren't bringing critical thinking skills to what they read on the Internet."
I agree that many people are too gullible about claims they encounter on the internet, but in this instance I'm skeptical about how many people really were fooled. I don't think there's any correlation between the number of visitors the site had, or even the number of applicants it received, and the amount of people who believed it to be real. I figure that most of its visitors recognized it as a joke, and probably filled out the application as a joke also.
Status: HoaxAn article in the current issue of Esquire describes the tax-reform campaign of a sixty-six-year-old recluse named Irwin Leba. His idea is to enact a fat tax. The idea is pretty simple. Charge overweight people higher taxes. That way you raise more tax revenue and encourage people to be healthier, at the same time. Here's exactly how it would work:
sometime between January 1 and April 15, every American will have to visit a government-sponsored weigh station and step on a scale. You'll leave with a notarized certificate attesting to your body-mass index (BMI). If that number is 25.5 or higher24.9 is officially the upper limit of normalyou'll have to pay Uncle Sam a little something extra, corresponding to how overweight you are and scaled to your income.
You can also check out Leba's website, FatTaxFacts.org, which operates under the umbrella of an organization calling itself the Institute for a Healthy America. No, none of this is real. It's an early April Fool's day joke. Irwin Leba is none other than Alan Abel, who you can see posing in the thumbnail as Leba. Leba is Abel spelled backwards. The hoax was revealed yesterday in the Washington Post.
Status: RealA lot of people still stumble upon the "Too Skinny" pictures that I have posted on the site. (Warning: one of the pictures may not be safe for work.) Andrea was one such person, and decided to send in a picture of a real-life skinny model that she once worked with to serve as a comparison. She writes:
I worked for 3 seasons at dolce&gabbanna in milan, italy and all the girl models were very skinny but we had 2 anorexic/bulimic ones, one (the one in the pic) more than the other. The thing that really got to me while working there is that the girl with the best body (thin but curvy, great breasts, ass and legs) was the one that fit into less clothes, no jeans would close or even go all the way up! but even worse than that, there was this new collection of leather/plastic skirts and trousers that we could only fit on the model whose pic i'm sending, two of the trousers we'd even have to close them between 2 people because they were so small... and whenever she had to model those ones she would stop eating for a day or two. To each their own ideas, but i saw her wasting away, partly fault of the fashion industry and i don't think that is right.
I agree that the girl in the picture is very skinny, but thankfully she's nowhere near as skinny as the models in the Too-Skinny pictures (which are all fake, by the way).
Status: Unusual false body partI seem to have been posting a lot about goldfish, with recent posts having included items about blind goldfish, trained goldfish, forgetful goldfish, and swallowed goldfish. So when I came across this story about goldfish used as fake breasts, I knew I had to post it:
FISH have feelings, too, according to the folks at PETA, who are taking aim at writer Josh Kilmer-Purcell. The author, whose best-selling memoir, "I Am Not Myself These Days," chronicles his double life as an ad exec-cum-drag performer, was put on notice last week by the animal-rights group's "Fish Empathy Project" for alleged cruelty to goldfish. As his whip-cracking alter-ego, Aquadisiac, Kilmer-Purcell donned a pair of clear plastic breasts filled with live goldfish. Says PETA: "It would be, for you, like living in a covered bathtub that's constantly moving, tossing you around as you defecate in it. It's filthy, painful and terrifying for these animals."
When PETA puts it that way, it kind of reminds me of how I felt once back in college when I had a particularly bad hangover (minus the defecating part). But seriously, it does seem unnecessary for Kilmer-Purcell to use real goldfish in his fake breasts. He could substitute plastic fish for the real ones, and most people would probably never know the difference. (Here's an article about Kilmer-Purcell in the Fairfield County Weekly, where I found the picture of him as Aquadisiac.)
Status: Highly suspectAccording to an article in NewKerala.com, the Veena Vadini school in Singrauli, India teaches its students to write with both hands, at the same time. And that's not all:
All these students are able to write simultaneously with both their hands. Trained from the early days at their school, these 72 young students are today at comfort with this rare art. They are also fluent in a number of languages.
Virangat Sharma, the principal of the school said that all his students are proficient in this art, which was started as an experiment. “The children are taught six languages Hindi, Urdu, English, Roman, Sanskrit and Arabic,” says Sharma. “I read somewhere that India's first President Dr. Rajendra Prasad used to write in two languages I also preferred to experiment developing such a skill among my students. All the children here can do this and also know the world's capital cities and their tables up to hundred. They can write on two different subjects and in two different languages at the same time,” says Sharma. Not just that these children can write with both their hands but they can also write in two different languages on two different subjects at the same time, tells Sharma.
Wow. And I thought my ability to write backwards in ancient Greek while doing a one-arm handstand and juggling two balls with my feet was impressive. Needless to say, I'm highly suspicious of the principal's claims. (Assuming that he exists and wasn't misquoted by a reporter.) The same story is also reported by ananova, adding to its credibility (note: sarcasm). I did a search for "Veena Vadini School" to see if they have a website, but only found links to this article about their instruction in ambidexterity. (Thanks to Kathy for sending me the clipping.)
SicTim (posting in the comments) remembered that Ripleys had once featured some cases of amazing ambidexterity. Checking the Best of Ripleys volume on my bookshelf, I found these examples. On the left, Lena Deeter of Conway, Arkansas, who "could write with both hands simultaneously backwards, forwards, upside-down, even upside-down backwards! She could write in a different direction with each hand simultanously." (She appeared in a Ripleys cartoon on April 1, 1942... I assume she wasn't an April Fool's joke.) On the right is "a 1936 Dallas Odditorium performer [who] could draw three different cartoons simultaneously with both hands and a foot!"
These cases indicate that it might be possible for someone to write in two different languages at the same time, but I'm still doubtful that an entire school could be trained to do it.
Status: HoaxThe Plastic Assets credit card company is making an attractive offer: free breast implants if you sign up for their card. They promise that "With a low APR and bigger breasts, you will be ready for anything!" And you also get free lip injections for every friend you refer.
The site is well designed — well enough designed to plausibly pass for an actual credit card company site. But it's a hoax. The site is part of the Huffington Post Contagious Festival (as you can find out if you scroll all the way down to the bottom of it), which is a contest to create a high-traffic site. There have been contests like this before. Remember the Contagious Media Festival, which produced Forget-Me-Not Panties (panties with a built-in GPS device so that jealous lovers could track the whereabouts of their wearer)? (Thanks to David for the link.)
May 5, 2004: Invest In My Breast
Status: hoaxThe following incident caught my attention because it occurred in McKeesport, which is right outside of Pittsburgh. This is where my mother grew up. My grandfather used to be mayor of a small suburb of McKeesport called Liberty Borough. I visited it often growing up. McKeesport is also where Andy Warhol grew up. Sadly, the city has gone way, way downhill ever since the steel mills closed, as evidenced by this incident:
Police in McKeesport said a woman who needed to pass a work-related drug test was the reason behind a fake penis being microwaved at a convenience store. A clerk at the Giant Eagle Get-Go store along Lyle Boulevard told police that a man brought what appeared to be a severed penis into the store and asked her to microwave it Thursday night. But police said the item was actually a fake, hollow penis that a woman planned to use to pass a drug test. McKeesport Police Chief Joseph Pero said the woman's male companion had filled the device with his urine, which the woman somehow planned to pass off as hers for a drug test. The couple stopped at the convenience store to have the device microwaved because the woman wanted the device to be warmed up to something approaching body temperature -- as part of the drug-testing ruse. Police said they plan to charge the man and woman criminally, although the exact charges haven't been determined.
My main question is this: Why did the woman need a fake penis in order to pass a drug test? Does that make any sense at all?
Update: It's been pointed out to me that the news report misspelled the name of the road. It's Lysle Boulevard, not 'Lyle' Boulevard.
Status: Real bags (but not really made from skin)The front page of the skinbags site advertises that skinbags are "Organic objects, in synthetic human skin." That description isn't as clear as it could be, and could easily be misread to suggest that skinbags are actually made from human skin. Much of the rest of the site plays up this ambiguity. You come across passages such as this:
What is it? Could it be human skin? One asks oneself, reaching out a hand in an attempt to touch it : a reflexive gesture. This is what is fascinating – like a game made to scare oneself.
But don't worry. It's not really human skin. Skinbags (as you learn if you search around the site a bit) are latex designed to look and feel like skin. They're made by Olivier Goulet. The skinbag line includes purses, handbags, jackets, overalls, and laptop carriers. It looks like they all have to be special ordered. You won't find skinbags down at The Gap. (Thanks to Timothy Hunter for the link)