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Body Manipulation
Status: Real bags (but not really made from skin)
image 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)
Categories: Body Manipulation, Gross
Posted by Alex on Tue Feb 21, 2006
Comments (17)
Status: Magic trick
image Stevie Starr calls himself a professional regurgitator. He's been doing his act for a long time, and is quite famous. (He's appeared on shows such as Jay Leno and Ripley's Believe it or Not.) But I just became aware of him through a video of one of his performances on Google Video, and I'm at a complete loss to explain how he does what he does.

His performance includes some of the following tricks: He swallows sugar, followed by a glass of water, and then regurgitates the sugar, completely dry. He swallows a live goldfish and regurgitates that a minute later, still living. (As he does this, he mentions the urban legend about goldfish having 5-second memories.) Reportedly he's also able to swallow a (miniature) rubik's cube and bring it back up — solved. (Though the Rubik's cube trick isn't shown in the google video.)

I can't find anyone on the web who has a decent explanation for how Starr is able to do all this. Obviously he has a genuine talent with his stomach. An article about him in the Amherst Student reports that:

he was born in a children’s home in Scotland, where he lived for the first 19 years of his life. When little Stevie was four years old, he discovered this unique talent by swallowing his lunch money and realizing he could bring it right back up. Thus, a freak of nature was born.

But this doesn't explain how he can swallow sugar, followed by water, and bring the sugar up dry. Or the trick with the rubik's cube. Does he have a second stomach, or something like that? To do the rubik's cube trick I assume he must have swallowed a solved rubik's cube before the show. But like I said, I'm pretty much baffled.

Incidentally, history is full of famous vomiters, so Stevie Starr evidently isn't the only one who has ever had this talent. In 1621 there was the case of the nail-vomiting Boy of Bilston (who had been trained by a priest to simulate the symptoms of being bewitched). This was followed in 1642 by Catharina Geisslerin, "the toad-vomiting woman of Germany," who, as you might guess, had a talent for vomiting up toads. In 1694 there was Theodorus Döderlein, who vomited up twenty-one newts and four frogs. (I'm getting this info from Clifford Pickover's The Girl Who Gave Birth to Rabbits.) Pickover also reports that there have been cases of compulsive swallowers who don't later regurgitate what they swallow, including one guy in 1985 who had "53 toothbrushes, 2 razors, 2 telescopic aerials, and 150 handles of disposable razors" removed from his stomach.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Food, Magic
Posted by Alex on Tue Feb 14, 2006
Comments (193)
Status: Real
image I'm assuming this photo of a guy with a shot glass through his ear is real because it was taken by a Reuters photographer (Jorge Silva) outside the World Social Forum in Caracas on January 25, 2006. The guy with the crazy ear piercing is "Venezuelan tattoo maker Constantino." So when he doesn't have a shot glass in his ear, his earlobes must hang down like big fleshy loops. That's got to be attractive. (And is that a spike through his nose?)
Categories: Body Manipulation
Posted by Alex on Tue Feb 07, 2006
Comments (22)
Status: Fake tans in the news
Deprived of natural sunlight by geography, students in Glasgow high schools have taken to popping down to the tanning salon between classes. This has become such a problem (with school officials worrying about students damaging their skin) that some high schools have begun offering lessons on how to get a fake tan:

In the first of a series of such sessions, Lisa Fulton, a training expert with Fake Bake, will give pupils tips on how to apply fake tan next week. Ms Fulton also plans to tell the pupils about her celebrity clientele, in the hope that stars will have influence where health experts do not.

The reaction of the students to this seems mixed. The Daily Record reports:

MORE controversy at the Glasgow school that's called in a fake tan firm to stop pupils going for sunbeds. A fourth-year girl has been suspended for disrupting the home economics class by stripping down to her underwear and lying under the grill.

What kind of grill are they talking about? A sunbed grill? (Which means they have a sunbed in the school itself?) Or was this some kind of protest on her part? We never had anything as exciting as a girl stripping down to her underwear during class at my high school, if only because it was an all-male school.
Categories: Body Manipulation
Posted by Alex on Wed Jan 18, 2006
Comments (4)
Status: Online tutorial
image For those who still don't realize that all those beautiful models you see in magazines have benefitted from the aid of photoshop, the Swedish Ministry of Health and Social Affairs has created an online tutorial to demonstrate exactly how photo editors manipulate appearances. They write:

The media world is becoming increasingly fixated on appearances. And the number of tricks used to achieve the increasingly exaggerated ideals is growing. Many models have plastic surgery and even more are retouched so they appear to have bigger breasts, smaller stomachs or fuller lips. We wanted to show how easy it is to change someone’s appearance in this campaign.

Now they should do a companion tutorial to show what real plastic surgery can do.
Categories: Body Manipulation
Posted by Alex on Thu Dec 15, 2005
Comments (10)
Status: Real
I feel compelled to post something about this simply because I've posted about the sport of penile weight lifting before, expressing a few doubts about its reality. (I also had a few questions about the actual mechanics of the process). Inside Bay Area has this report of a recent demonstration of penile weight lifting in action:

Grandmaster Tu Jin-Sheng, best known for his Iron Crotch, attached himself not once, but twice, to a rental moving truck and pulled it several yards across a parking lot in Fremont. In lace-up leather boots and a black tank top, the 50-year-old tied a strip of blue fabric around the base of his penis and testicles and tugged to make sure it was on tight. An assistant kicked him hard between the legs before he lashed himself to the vehicle.

Here's the best part of the article:

Jin-Shengs performance drew a hearty applause (and only a few gasps) from the sparse crowd. He wrapped a piece of fabric around his waist to conceal his genitals from the crowd, but in the heat of the second truck pull, when he tied the cloth around his testicles only, it was pushed aside to reveal a ball of flesh that looked ready to burst.

Lovely. So apparently this sport doesn't involve muscle training, per se. It's more like hoping your skin and connective tissue don't rip apart as you lift (or pull) the weight. The description of the event sounds credible enough for me to categorize it as real.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Sports
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 29, 2005
Comments (59)
Status: Real pictures, but of what?
An Alex from Colombia sent me these pictures and the following note:

I came across these images and sincerely speaking I have no idea what they are. Is there any logical explanation for such thing? I suppose that they are either stage props or someone with a very disturbed mind and undoubtedly very good skills in clay or meat modeling made them, staged them and took the pictures.

Unfortunately I can't identify what's going on in these pictures any better than Alex from Colombia can. It looks to me like body parts being produced in a Hollywood special effects shop. But that's just a guess. At least they're obviously not real body parts.

image image
image image
Categories: Body Manipulation, Gross
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 17, 2005
Comments (21)
Status: Real
image The picture to the right has not been photoshopped (would that it had). That woman's waist really is that thin. She's Cathie Jung, who holds the title in the Guinness Book of World Records for the Smallest Waist on a Living Person:

Cathie Jung's waist is about the same size as a regular jar of mayonnaise. She's been wearing a corset every day for the past 12 years, and she now wears one 24 hours a day. "I probably have around 100 of them," says the corset queen.

The pictures of Cathie remind me of the Stomach-Sucked-In picture I posted earlier this year. (via The Presurfer)
Categories: Body Manipulation
Posted by Alex on Wed Nov 16, 2005
Comments (71)
Status: Hoax (probably an art project)
image I've received a couple of emails calling my attention to the Human Upgrades website. This group claims to be some kind of futuristic outfit offering bizarre DNA modification procedures such as Simplenose (giving people one large nostril instead of two), Simpletooth (fusing all the teeth into one long, continuous row), and other more sexually explicit modifications (some of the images are not safe for work). The site states that:

Human Upgrades was founded in 2001 by Doc. MUDr. FaVU. Petr Skala CSc. and his team from Institute of DNA Modification in Brno in Czech Republic. Since the contacts around the world and first class expiriences of the team Human Upgrades was able to offer unprecedented portfolio of surgeries based on the newest discoveries in the field of DNA manipulation.

All the text on the site is written in broken English, complete with misspellings. It seems that someone paid a lot of money to design the site, but never bothered to run the text past someone who can speak English. Anyway, the whole thing is obviously a hoax. The Institute of DNA Modification doesn't exist. The question is, who created the site? The main clue I can find is that all the contact information provides the addresses of European offices of the Bosch Group (makers of automotive and industrial technology). So either the contact information is a deliberate red herring. Or Human Upgrades is part of a strange marketing campaign created by Bosch's PR company.
Update: Another theory (because I find it hard to believe Bosch is responsible for Human Upgrades): There's a Czech film director named Petr Skala (same name as Human Upgrades supposed founder, and the registrant for humanupgrades.com). Perhaps he or one of his students created the site. Or perhaps this is yet another red herring.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 11, 2005
Comments (35)
Status: Art Project
The website of the SMA (Silent Movie Actress) Archive claims that:

We are a small and dedicated organisation based in Baltimore, USA. Our aim is the ‘resurrection’ of actresses from the Golden era of silent cinema. To do this we are securing a large body of quality genetic material from a variety of sources which is subjected to rigorous testing to ensure its validity. Samples range from small tissue and blood samples to full bones and several preserved organs.

Is this real? Well, the site it's located on, bonetrade.gregorywhitehead.com, is so elaborate that it would be easy to believe it was real. It delves into all kinds of bizarre aspects of "corporeal memorabilia," which is the trade in the body parts of dead celebrities. Now, I realize there definitely is a market for body parts of famous people (see Rasputin's penis). However, the elaborate corporeal memorabilia of the SMA Archive and everything else on bonetrade.gregorywhitehead.com is fictitious. It's the creation of artist Gregory Whitehead. He wrote a short movie called The Bone Trade about Walter Sculley, a (fictional) dealer in corporeal memorabilia. In the movie, Whitehead plays Sculley. (Also check out this mp3 file of Whitehead interviewing Sculley.) The website about corporeal memorabilia appears to be an outgrowth of the movie. For more weirdness by Whitehead, you can read his article in Nth Position Magazine about bibliovoria (people who love to eat books). (via The Presurfer)
Categories: Body Manipulation, Celebrities, Death
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 08, 2005
Comments (4)
Status: Real Wall, Fake Breasts
Retailers are always coming up with new gimmicks to help their customers. I'm surprised none of them have thought of this before (reported in the Hindustan Times):

Men who want to woo their ladies by buying them sexy-scanty upper garments, but don't know their sizes, need not look confused anymore, as a designer in Netherlands has made their job much easier by creating a wall of fake breasts to help male shoppers buy bras that fit their wives or girlfriends. Wendy Rameckers, who works at the Piet Zwart Institute for Retail and Design in Rotterdam, has made a wall consisting of rows of silicon breasts in all sizes. She believes that by look and touch, male shoppers can work out the right size.

Unfortunately I haven't been able to locate a picture of this breast wall. But why stop at a wall? Why not display differently proportioned mannequins to help men find the right size?
Categories: Body Manipulation
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 03, 2005
Comments (13)
Status: True
The photos of his hands and feet look like they were photoshopped to add an extra digit (kind of like this ad), but they weren't. Devender Harne was born with twelve fingers and thirteen toes. That seems like it would be pretty useful. It certainly helps him type faster. It may also earn him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. (via J-Walk)

image image
Categories: Body Manipulation
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 06, 2005
Comments (63)
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