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Status: Fictional
image Unflinching Triumph, a recently released movie, explores the little-known subculture of Professional Staredown contests (aka Staring Contests). You can view the movie in its entirety online (free and legal!), or view the trailer at YouTube.

If you believe the movie, there really is such a thing as professional staredown contests. This illusion is strengthened by the website of the National Association of Staredown Professionals (NASP) and the website of Staredown Champion Tony Patterson. However, I'm pretty sure that the movie is a mockumentary, and that the NASP and Tony Patterson sites are part of the joke.

But I started wondering if perhaps the movie was based on a germ of truth. Is there some kind of subculture of staring enthusiasts? After all if cup stacking or chess boxing can be sports, why not staring? So I checked on Lexis Nexis to see if there was any mention of Staring as a professional sport in any paper for the past five years. But there doesn't seem to be. Wikipedia doesn't make note of any such thing either, though it does mention that some people like to challenge their pets to staring contests.
Categories: Entertainment, Sports, Websites
Posted by Alex on Sun Jul 16, 2006
Comments (11)
Status: Strange, but true
image Vienna boasts the world's only vegetable orchestra. Members of this orchestra play only instruments made out of vegetables. Among their instruments: the cuke-o-phon, the radish-marimba, and the carrot-flute. (A few kitchen utensils such as knives and mixers are also used, on occasion.) And I love this part of the concept: "the instruments are subsequently made into a soup so that the audience can then enjoy them a second time"

In their FAQ, the vegetable orchestra reports that yes, they are serious about their music. It's not just a gag. And they seem to have quite an active tour schedule. They also report that the freshness of the vegetables makes a big difference in the quality of the sound.

I wonder if throwing tomatoes at them at the end of the concert would be considered a compliment? (via the Salvador Dali Museum)
Categories: Entertainment, Food
Posted by Alex on Thu Jul 13, 2006
Comments (12)
Status: Fake Band
image A new band called Hope Against Hope managed to cultivate an enthusiastic online fanbase, and leveraged this popularity into an invitation from Alan McGee (a music industry exec famous for discovering Oasis) to play at the trendy Death Disco club.
What neither Hope Against Hope's fans nor Alan McGee knew was that the band was fake. It didn't exist. So how did they all get fooled? Simple. Because although the band wasn't real, it did have a myspace profile. The Independent reports on the hoax:
The set-up was simple. Q magazine persuaded the office work experience student and two of his mates to pose as the ironically named Hope Against Hope. With their Fred Perry shirts and skinny jeans, the band certainly looked the part. A "rough" demo was supplied, courtesy of a musician friend, and the results downloaded on to the website. Within four weeks, Hope Against Hope had not only built a devoted fan base but convinced the music guru Alan McGee, one-time member of Tony Blair's Creative Industry Taskforce, discoverer of Oasis and manager of the Libertines, to sign them up for his ultra-trendy Death Disco club.
The Guardian also reports on the hoax, focusing on how the old practice of artificially creating "buzz" has now extended into cyberspace. (Well, people have been using the web to generate publicity for as long as it's been around, so it's really nothing new.) What I've concluded from this Hope Against Hope hoax is that Hippo Eats Dwarf obviously needs a myspace profile. Or better yet, I should create a profile for Hilda, the hippo who swallowed the dwarf.
Categories: Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 23, 2006
Comments (14)
Status: Strange, but true
California realtors have devised a new way to sell homes. They're hiring actors to play "happy families" during open houses:
Attractive film and stage actors are cast in the roles of cheerful-looking parents and their angelic children, recreating scenes of domestic bliss that they hope will impress prospective buyers...
With Hollywood just down the road, there is no shortage of photogenic and unemployed actors, for whom the alternatives are normally bit parts in television advertisements and waiting on tables. Centex recruited Jaason Simmons, 35, best known for his three-year stint as a lifeguard on Baywatch, to play the father of the fictitious family. Camille Chen, a television and film actress, is "mother" while two children from a local theatre company are the couple's offspring. While the "family" cooks, eats, chats, plays games and watches television, a stream of house-hunters passes through. The viewers are encouraged to treat the occupants as "real" people and quiz them on the items such as the oven or refrigerator, for which the actors are given fact sheets to mug up on beforehand. Normally, the "guests" will find themselves gatecrashing an uplifting family occasion, such as the baking of a birthday cake. "We do it as a free-flowing improvisation - set the parameters and make it like a play, with specific acts," said Mr Garfield.
My wife and I often go to open houses in our neighborhood, partially because we like seeing what other people have done with their homes and partially because we're thinking of moving. Just last week we went to one in which the homeowners were there with their kid. They seemed like nice people, but now I'm wondering if it was all fake. Maybe they were just actors.

My favorite part of the article is this line: "A second show day at the development, which features three to five-bedroom homes from $500,000 (£280,000) to $610,000, is planned for Saturday. The cast will be the same except for Miss Chen, who has a previous engagement and will be "changed out" for a new mum." This immediately brought to mind Lucy Clifford's short story "The New Mother", in which misbehaving kids learn that their poor suffering mother is going to be changed out for a new mother (a mechanical one with a rat's tail). So I'm thinking that parents who visit the Centex open houses can now warn their kids that if they misbehave they'll be sent to live with one of these fake happy families. That would scare me if I were a kid. (via J-Walk)
Categories: Entertainment, Places
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 06, 2006
Comments (9)
Status: True
Most people think rock music got its start as an identifiable genre in the 1950s with artists such as Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, and Elvis Presley. Not so. As Paul Collins points out in the current issue of The Believer, there was a thriving tradition of rock music during the nineteenth century. In fact, rock music was invented in 1785 by a retired sailor named Peter Crosthwaite in the Lake District village of Keswick. Of course, the nineteenth-century version of rock music was a bit more low-key than its twentieth-century successor, since it involved music played with rocks, as opposed to guitars and drums.

When I first saw Collins's article, I thought he had to be joking. But no, a little research confirmed that Victorian rock music was quite real. I found an article in the Galphin Society Journal (Aug, 1989) about the "Till Family Rock Band," a group that toured quite widely during the 1880s, written by a modern-day member of the family, A.M. Till. He writes:
Their rock harmonicon was constructed from stones from near their home. The first lithophone of this kind, made from stones found in the Lake District was built in 1785, and from that time until the late nineteenth century several so-called 'rock bands' became well known. The late Professor James Blades has written about them in his textbook on percussion, and also, under 'Lithophone', in The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments (London, 1984). He also recorded briefly the 5-octave Richardson rock harmonica (constructed in 1840). These instruments have a wonderful, lively tone.
Below is a picture of the Till Family Rock Band, posing with their rocks. They look like rockers to me.
image
Categories: Entertainment, History
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 05, 2006
Comments (8)
Status: True. Make an offer!
Back in December 2003 media outlets including ESPN and the San Diego Union Tribune ran a story about Purdue signing the wrong Jason Smith to a basketball scholarship. Due to a paperwork mix-up, Purdue had apparently given the scholarship to 5'6" Jason Smith computer geek, instead of 6'6" Jason Smith point guard. (Both Smiths attended the same school.) The story, it turned out, wasn't true. It was the fictional work of Josh Whicker who had posted it on his website, hoosiergazette.com, along with a warning that his site was an inaccurate news source. The media, in typical fashion, didn't heed this warning and reported the story as fact anyway.

Josh (who went on to pen some other brilliant hoaxes) got a lot of publicity out of the Purdue basketball hoax, but not any money. (And since he works as a school teacher, I'm sure he could use some money... Teachers are never paid enough.) Now, with some luck, that may change. He writes on his site today:

Over the past couple of years I have been contacted now and then by writers in Hollywood interested in possibly buying the rights to the story but received no serious interest until today when I received both good and bad news. The good news is a production company made me an offer for the story rights; the bad news is the sum they are offering is quite a bit lower than I expected--after paying an agent and taxes the initial sum for the option rights wouldn't even cover my costs to play semi-pro football this summer. Now, I am not a greedy person, but know this story would make one helluva movie (well, at least better than Snakes on a Plane) in the right hands and is worth more than I have been offered. If anyone out there is interested in the rights, make me an offer and maybe we can work something out.

So if there are any Hollywood types out there reading this, this is your chance to make an offer. (Though I have to add, what's up with the comment about Snakes on a Plane, Josh? I'm looking forward to seeing that!) wink
Categories: Entertainment, Sports
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 05, 2006
Comments (5)
Status: Movie planned about a recent hoax
image Variety reports that the JT Leroy hoax is already heading to the big screen. The Weinstein Company has committed to making a film about Laura Albert's elaborate deception. (Laura Albert was the woman who invented the JT Leroy character.) The time between the hoax being exposed and a movie deal about it being inked seems to have occurred incredibly fast. What is it... a month or two since the hoax was confirmed? The dust has barely settled.

I hope the movie is good. In its favor is that hoaxes seem to translate pretty well to the big screen. Shattered Glass (about the journalistic deceptions of Stephen Glass) was a great movie. And Princess Caraboo, starring Phoebe Cates, (about the Princess Caraboo hoax, obviously) was decent, as a kid's movie. I've read that a movie called The Hoax, starring Richard Gere, about Clifford Irving's fake autobiography of Howard Hughes, is coming out soon. That also sounds good.

In other JT Leroy news, a movie version of one of his (her?) books, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, is about to debut. The movie was made under the assumption that the story it told was true. Now that story has been exposed as a lie, prompting a rapid switch in how the movie is marketed. My guess is that most people still have never heard of JT Leroy, so the hoax shouldn't have much impact on the movie.

Related Posts:
October 10, 2005: Is JT Leroy A Hoax?
January 9, 2006: JT Leroy: An Update
February 6, 2006: Knoop Confesses JT Leroy Was a Hoax
Categories: Entertainment, Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 09, 2006
Comments (6)
Status: Highly possible
image The debate over the identity of Mr. Six, that crazy old guy who used to dance around in the commercials for Six Flags (Six Flags no longer uses him), has raged on for quite a while. Many were convinced it was Jaleel White, the actor who played Urkel on Family Matters. Others thought Mr. Six was played by a woman. But no one really had any clue, and Six Flags certainly wasn't telling. Now, at last, the mystery seems like it might have been solved. Paul Davidson has posted on his blog that Mr. Six was Danny Teeson, an actor who now appears on Queer Eye for the Straight Girl:

the confirmation came to WFME [Davidson's blog] just recently when a source who had worked with individuals that had helped film the Six Flags commercials let the identity of Mr. Six (assuming it was OK since the campaign was now over) slip. Six Flags, of course, still has no comment — and continues to deny the true identity even now that the floodgates are poised to open.

Davidson's strongest evidence, besides the anonymous source, is that a special-effects company listed Teeson on its website as an actor in the Six Flags commercial, before pulling the reference. But the reference lived on in the Google cache. Personally, I think it's a decent theory. And Teeson does kind of look like Mr. Six. But to be absolutely certain, we'll have to wait and see if either Teeson himself or Six Flags ever confirms this theory.

Previous posts about Mr. Six:
June 26, 2004: Mr. Six (in the old Hoax Forum)
July 14, 2004: Who is Mr. Six?
Categories: Advertising, Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Tue Feb 07, 2006
Comments (5)
Status: A few hoax sites
After getting the first season of Lost on dvd for christmas, I've become hooked on the show. Although I'm beginning to suspect that the writers of the show are simply going to introduce one mystery after another without ever offering an explanation for anything. But anyway, here are some hoax websites related to Lost: Oceanic World Air (the airline that the Lost passengers were flying on), Dharma Industries (the mysterious project that was being conducted on the island), and The Hanso Foundation (The philanthropic foundation funding the Dharma Initiative. This page is part of an alternate reality game, as is the Dharma Industries site). If you know of any other Lost-related hoax sites, let me know.

And here's something that isn't a hoax, but is rather curious. If you type the mysterious numbers from Lost (4 8 15 16 23 42) into google maps, they correspond to the approximate latitude and longitude of an island in the middle of the Pacific. My guess is that this probably isn't an accident.

Update: A few more hoax websites of Lost:

http://www.driveshaftband.com (the website of Charlie's band. Thanks to Nordan for this link.)

http://www.mrcluck.com or http://www.mrclucks.com (websites of the fast-food restaurant that Hurley used to work in, before he won the lottery. As far as hoax websites go, these aren't very fully developed. The front page simply links to a podcast about the show.)

The island in the Pacific mentioned above is Kosrae Island (Thanks to Eric Schucard and Tim for this info).
Categories: Entertainment, Websites
Posted by Alex on Sat Jan 28, 2006
Comments (63)
Status: Hoax
In a dramatic move, the representatives of the state of Narnia have walked out of the WTO meeting in Hong Kong. AFX News issued this news release:

AFX News Limited
WTO MEETING - Narnia walks out of talks; says tired of EU, US 'bullying'
12.18.2005, 07:16 AM
HONG KONG (AFX) - The independent state of Narnia has walked out of trade negotiations here, citing pressure from the European Union and the US to enforce liberalization of its garment-related sector. Narnian spokeswoman Susan Aslan said in a statement that delegates 'were tired of bullying by EU and US delegations and would be returning immediately to their state capital at Cair Parvel.' 'If this brings the Hong Kong talks to the knees we will be delighted. Many other delegates told us they are sick of the eternal Lamy winter and are longing for a new trade spring,' Aslan said. The walkout was a first in this round of talks, and follows a similar move by some developing country delegates at the Cancun summit two years ago, the statement said.


This news release was then posted on Forbes.com, from which it has since disappeared (once Forbes realized it was a joke). I have no idea how it got uploaded to AFX News in the first place. (via The Disney Blog)
Categories: Business/Finance, Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 20, 2005
Comments (6)
This is a request for help. The proofreader has been going through the manuscript of Hippo Eats Dwarf looking for errors. This is the final check that the book receives before it goes to print. After this, nothing can be changed. Anyway, in the final chapter of the book (about death), I include the following definition:

Xenacate, v.: To kill a TV or movie character off so completely that no chance remains of bringing her back from the dead. Inspired by the TV show Xena: Warrior Princess. Its occurrence usually indicates that the actor playing the character has lost her job under unpleasant circumstances and has no hope of being rehired.

The proofreader has pointed out that it would be good to name a character to whom this occurred. (And I suppose it would be best to name a character on Xena itself to whom it occurred... It must have occurred to someone on that show in order to inspire the term. Though, in a pinch, an example from any show will do.) So can anyone think of a character who has been xenacated? If I use your answer I'll send you a free, signed copy of the book once it comes out (which will be in about three months). I need the answer by Friday, or Monday at the latest.

Update: I ended up using the red-shirted characters on Star Trek as an example. So thephrog wins the contest. I should note that I pulled a bit of a bait-and-switch, because I decided to revise my definition of Xenacate by deleting the part about the actor getting fired. After reviewing the few uses of the term on the internet, I decided that wasn't part of the word's meaning. Instead, it means to get killed off and not return. In which case the red-shirted characters are probably the most famous example of characters who only exist to get killed off. (Though I was tempted for a while to use the guy from MASH, but decided he didn't fit as well with the new definition.)
Categories: Death, Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Wed Dec 07, 2005
Comments (88)
Status: Fiction mistaken for reality
I've included many definitions of hoax-related terms in Hippo Eats Dwarf. One of these terms is the CSI Effect. I define it as "The belief that all criminal cases are solved using the high-tech, forensic science seen on TV crime shows such as CSI. Lawyers have noticed that the lack of such high-tech evidence can seriously prejudice a jury against a prosecutor's case. A manifestation of the if-it's-not-like-what-we-see-on-TV-then-it-can't-be-real mentality." And now the Star Tribune reports on a recent occurrence of the CSI Effect:

Dakota County authorities thought their felony case against a driver charged with criminal vehicular operation was solid. But jurors knocked it down to a misdemeanor, convicting the defendant of reckless driving instead. Then they told the prosecutor they were disappointed with the case. "They wanted to see a computerized reenactment," said Phil Prokopowicz, chief deputy county attorney. "It was something they expected."

The article goes on to say:

Because of the "CSI" shows, some prosecutors contend, more jurors believe every crime scene yields forensic evidence that offers conclusive scientific proof of innocence or guilt, almost instantly. When selecting jurors, Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar said, prosecutors are now trying to explain "that real life is not like a TV show ... and that just because there is no DNA evidence does not mean that there is not substantial other evidence sufficient to prove our case."
Categories: Entertainment, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 29, 2005
Comments (16)
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