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More Michael Jackson pareidolia, or "Jackodolia".

The Edison family of Brazil prepared a roast last Saturday, but neglected to do the dishes for a day. Then they noticed that the face of Michael Jackson had mysteriously appeared in the roasting pan. Link: terra.com.br via ceticismoaberto
Categories: Celebrities, Pareidolia
Posted by Alex on Wed Jul 08, 2009
Comments (11)
The guy may be dead, but he's showing up all over the place. Michaeljacksonsightings.com has a few blurry pictures of the back of someone who vaguely resembles Jackson. They offer this as proof that Jackson faked his death.

A family in Stockton, California have noticed an image of Michael Jackson in a tree stump in their front yard. They swear the image only appeared on the day he died. (I'm not seeing anything at all.)


Then there's the ghost of Michael Jackson, which you can see in the video below. To me, it looks like someone's shadow.

Categories: Celebrities, Death, Pareidolia
Posted by Alex on Mon Jul 06, 2009
Comments (10)
The glut of celebrity death hoaxes during the past week has been a textbook case of how rumors spread. It's a great example of collective behavior in action. As such, the death rumors provide an opportunity for journalists to discuss some of the things scholars have learned about the spread of rumors during the past fifty years of research. Unfortunately, the insights of social psychologists don't seem to be getting much coverage. Instead, journalists are focusing on the rumors as an internet phenomenon. See this CNN article as an example. It warns us that:

The situation is calling attention to the changing state of the news media: As information online moves faster and comes from more sources, it's more difficult to verify what's true and what may be shockingly false...
Others say the fake deaths, or "death pranks," show an inherent problem with the decentralization of news on the Internet.

This seems like a non-issue to me. Rumors are an ancient phenomenon. The internet is simply the technology people are using to communicate them nowadays. And while the internet does allow information to spread faster, from more sources, it also allows misinformation to be debunked faster. Before the internet people found many other 'decentralized' ways of spreading rumors: fax, telephone, college radio stations, letters, corner drugstores, or word of mouth. The technology has changed, but human behavior remains the same.

If I were a journalist, these are some of the points about rumors I would try to highlight:
  • Rumors spread most during situations that are confusing or ambiguous and in which there's a mood of collective excitement. People want more information, and that information isn't available. So they look to alternative sources.
  • There are always alternative sources of information. The supply of information is never centralized. Social groups (such as teenagers) tend to establish their own communication networks, and they'll turn to those if they're not getting what they want from mainstream sources. In 1969, when the Paul is Dead rumor was spreading, young people relied on college radio and college newspapers to spread the rumor. Today they rely on twitter.
  • Rumors don't spread randomly. Instead, they tend to follow along social lines. The recent rumors have spread among young people using twitter.
  • Status seeking is an important motive in why people spread these rumors. Being able to pass along new information makes people feel important in the eyes of their friends, even if the information later turns out to be bogus. Similarly, pranksters like to make up these hoaxes to gain approval from their social groups.
  • Rumors often serve as a form of entertainment and emotional release. It gives people a way to project their anxieties onto the world. In fact, rumors often spread without being believed, which seems to be the case with the recent death hoaxes. An Australian news station fell for the Jeff Goldblum rumor, but the majority of twitter users seem to have expressed doubt about the rumors as they simultaneously repeated them. Ironically, those debunking the rumors have spread them far further than have those who actually believed them.
All of these are standard observations about rumors that you can find in most social psychology textbooks. But like I said, it's not what journalists are focusing on.
Categories: Celebrities, Death
Posted by Alex on Wed Jul 01, 2009
Comments (3)
Holymoly.com suggests that one of the rehearsal photographs of Michael Jackson, said to have been taken the night before he died, is fake. They point out that "the backdrop mysteriously disappears in between Michael's legs." They describe this as a "classic photoshop blunder" and suggest "this could be a fake composite, with Jackson's image being super imposed on top of another pic."

It does look unusual, but I wouldn't be so quick to label it as photoshopped. That may just be how the backdrop looks in that area. (You would need to see an unobstructed view of the entire backdrop to be sure.) And what would be the point of photoshopping the picture? Is holymoly.com suggesting that Jackson didn't actually attend the rehearsal? That seems unlikely as there are other pictures of Jackson at the rehearsal, and (presumably) witnesses.

Categories: Celebrities, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Jul 01, 2009
Comments (10)
It's been the week of the celebrity death hoax, triggered by the real-life deaths of a string of celebrities (Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, and Billy Mays).

The recent celebrity death hoaxes have included: Jeff Goldblum, Harrison Ford, Louie Anderson, Ellen DeGeneres, Britney Spears, and Miley Cyrus.

In the case of Jeff Goldblum and Louie Anderson, the fake deaths were simply old rumors that were recycled. But in the case of Britney Spears, Ellen DeGeneres, and Miley Cyrus, pranksters hacked into their twitter accounts to post false death announcements.
Categories: Celebrities, Death
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 29, 2009
Comments (2)
In the wake of the news of the death of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, a rumor that Jeff Goldblum had also died began to circulate. Reportedly he died when he fell off a cliff while filming a movie in New Zealand.

Then a rumor surfaced that Harrison Ford had died on board a yacht cruising off the coast of St. Tropez.

Both Ford and Goldblum are still alive. In fact, the Goldblum rumor was simply a rehash of a three-year-old rumor that originally involved Tom Hanks falling off a cliff, and later Tom Cruise.

Maegan has posted more details in the forum.

Some links:
Harrison Ford not dead either
Goldblum NZ death hoax latest in a trail 
Categories: Celebrities, Death
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 26, 2009
Comments (0)
It appears that Michael Jackson has died, which is only worth mentioning here because in addition to being the "King of Pop," he was also the King of the fake death rumor. Even The Onion satirically predicted his death back in 2005. But this time, it seems to be for real.

Now the "he faked his death" rumors can start.
Categories: Celebrities, Death
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 25, 2009
Comments (10)
Here's a question the world needs answered: Did Robert Pattinson (star of Twilight) have makeup artists use liquid body paint to make it appear as if he had six-pack abs for a scene in the forthcoming New Moon? Well, that's the rumor.

Given that it was for a scene in a movie, I think it would be more surprising if makeup wasn't used. But for chiselled abs it's actually more important to be really skinny than to workout a lot. And the guy looks like he's genuinely skinny.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Celebrities, Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 24, 2009
Comments (5)
18-year-old Michael Kinsell has a dream of being the next Mr. Rogers. Last year he started telling people at his school that he was filming a show called Michael's Enchanted Neighborhood, and that it was going to be aired on PBS. The show was modeled closely on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. From pointweekly.com:

Each show will begin much as Mr. Rogers' did, with Kinsell singing a song, "It's a Lovely Day Today to Play," as he puts on a sweater and sneakers. Then a "neighbor," such as an artist or plumber, will drop by to discuss his or her profession. Later, Michael tours a factory to discover how "familiar childhood things" are made. He also makes sure to visit the Enchanted Neighborhood to join the puppets and humans there for "whimsical fun and celebrations."

This year he ramped up his story, claiming that he was organizing a star-studded charity event to honor Mr. Rogers, an event that would simultaneously serve as his anointment as the new Mr. Rogers. Celebrities in attendance were supposedly going to include Danny DeVito, Maria Shriver, Bette Midler, Tom Hanks, Sally Field, Barbara Eden and Eddie Murphy. Kinsell and his mother set up a website to promote the event, on which they claimed it "may set a record of the biggest celebrity turnout in the history for San Diego." Tickets were being sold for $500 each.

But it turns out no celebrities were actually planning on attending. As word of this leaked out, the whole scheme collapsed, leading Kinsell to cancel the event. PBS has also demanded that he stop using their name to promote himself. Likewise, Mr. Rogers' production company has demanded that he stop using Mr. Rogers' name. More details at current.org.
Categories: Celebrities, Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 05, 2009
Comments (3)
Blogger Susie Of Arabia reports that after buying a copy of Katy Perry's album One of the Boys in Saudi Arabia, she realized that all the pictures of Katy Perry had been heavily doctored by Saudi censors. Below (left) is the original album cover, and on the right is the Saudi version.

This is standard practice in Saudi Arabia. A few years ago I posted about Mariah Carey album covers that were similarly doctored by the Saudis.



Susie suggests that the Katy Perry albums were individually doctored by hand, by censors armed with magic markers. She writes: "the Saudi government is actually paying religious police members of the Committee for the Protection of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CVPVP) to remove the plastic wrap from these CDs, open up the CD cases, remove the front and back inserts, and carefully and painstakingly color in with a marker any photos baring exposed female flesh that is deemed objectionable."

I really doubt that. It would take far too long. Instead, I'm almost certain that a more modest version of the cover would have been printed specifically for the Saudi market.

Of course, America has its own history of moral censorship of photos. However, in America the censors typically don't try to reclothe people who are wearing too few clothes. Instead, they remove offending details such as exposed nipples or belly buttons, creating anatomical mutants.
Categories: Celebrities, Music, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Fri Apr 17, 2009
Comments (15)
Someone circulated a bogus press release claiming that rap star Lil' Kim was running for mayor of Hoboken. Local media in New York duly reported it as fact. But in a world where Ronald Reagan became president and Arnold Schwarzenegger is Governor of California, I can understand why they took it seriously. [NY Daily News]
Categories: Celebrities, Music, Politics
Posted by Alex on Mon Apr 13, 2009
Comments (0)

This brings back memories of Hufu (Human-Flavored Tofu). After coming into possession of some of George Clooney's sweat, which had soaked a gym towel he used, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk wrote to the movie actor to ask him if they could use his sweat to produce Clooney-Flavored Tofu (CloFu). She suggested it would be a way of encouraging people to eat more tofu. Clooney replied, "As a mammal, I'm offended."

I'm a bit confused whether the tofu would taste like Clooney's sweat, or would it taste like Clooney's actual flesh? Either way, it sounds unappetizing. (Thanks, Big Gary!)
Categories: Celebrities, Food
Posted by Alex on Fri Mar 13, 2009
Comments (7)
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