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I'm having a contest. The challenge is to help me think of contest ideas. I posted the full details in the Hoax Forum (but then it occurred to me that only registered members can post responses there, so I'm posting a brief announcement here too so that comments/ideas can be left in either place.)

The basic challenge is to think of contest ideas. The one condition is that the contest has to generate responses, the best of which can be used as sidebar material somewhere in my archive of famous hoaxes throughout history. Like I said, full details are in the Hoax Forum.

The winner of the contest-idea contest will get a copy of A Treasury of Deception by Michael Farquhar. I then have two more prizes to give away (once we have ideas for more contests). Another copy of A Treasury of Deception, and a copy of Bar Mitzvah Disco.

Update: I should also note that I don't want contest ideas to demand people to do elaborate things like creating a hoax website, or creating a hoax on eBay. That presents too much of a technical challenge. People should be able to submit contest responses as text in the comments section (though if someone is inspired to photoshop something or create a website, that's fine, but it shouldn't be a requirement for entering the contest).
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Wed Dec 14, 2005
Comments (32)
I've never watched The Situation with Tucker Carlson before. It's on too late for me. All I know is that Tucker is that guy who wears a bowtie. But tomorrow (Monday) I'll be a guest on the show. Tucker will chat with me for about five minutes about the history of hoaxes. Or, at least, that's what I've been told. The interview will be done via video feed, so I'll be sitting in San Diego and he'll be in New York. Look for me to be on at around 11:40 pm (eastern time).
Update: I've been bumped from Monday night. They tell me that I'll now be on Tuesday night.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Sun Nov 27, 2005
Comments (10)
I've learned that the Museum of Hoaxes got mentioned in the Wall Street Journal last week. The title of the article was "Photo Firms Hunt Copyright Violators" (October 19, 2005) by Vauhini Vara. I got included because of my brief fight with the Science & Society Picture Library over my use of the Cottingley Fairy images. Unfortunately the reporter didn't fully represent my side of the argument. Here are the relevant sections from the article:

Bloggers, beware: That photo of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes on your Web site could be fodder for a lawsuit. Stock-photography companies like Getty Images Inc. and Corbis Corp. are using high-tech tools to crack down on Web site owners who try to use their photographs without paying for them...

Earlier this year, the Science & Society Picture Library in London, which manages copyrights on more than one million images, sent letters to several Web sites asking them to take down copies of the "Cottingley Fairies" -- photos that appeared to show two young girls playing with ghosts, and later turned out to be a hoax. One site, the Museum of Hoaxes, left the photos up, arguing in a message on the site that fair use should apply since it displayed the photos alongside an article critiquing them. Chris Rowlin, acquisitions executive at the Picture Library, said it didn't pursue the issue further, partly because the Museum of Hoaxes isn't trying to sell the photos for profit.

Yes, I do feel that my use of the images would qualify as "fair use" since I directly comment on them. However, I argued to the SSPL that I didn't need to make a claim of fair use, because the Cottingley Fairy images are in the public domain. The law in America is that anything published before 1923 is automatically in the public domain. As far as I'm aware, there are no exceptions to this. The Cottingley Fairy images were published in America in 1922. Therefore, they're now public domain. Anyone can use them without having to seek permission from anyone else. In fact, I noted to the SSPL that they were probably making an illegal claim of copyright by sending me a cease and desist letter in regards to the images. Apparently they never mentioned any of this to the Wall Street Journal reporter. And somehow the reporter mistook my argument about the images being in the public domain for an argument of fair use, even though I thought my statement was pretty clear.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 26, 2005
Comments (7)
image I wasn't able to post for the past few days since I was out in the Anza Borrego desert (just outside of San Diego), where I spent a long weekend with my wife and parents at the Borrego Valley Inn. I got to see some incredible desert fauna while I was there, including coyotes, jack rabbits, tarantulas, red-tailed hawks, and roadrunners. Thankfully I didn't encounter any rattlesnakes. In the picture to the right I believe that I was looking at a Jumpin' Yuccy.
Update: Here's a picture of the tarantula that I saw. It was just wandering down the road. I'm assuming it was a tarantula, though given my limited knowledge of spiders, I could be wrong.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Tue Oct 18, 2005
Comments (8)
image So I'm back from Pittsburgh where I was attending a memorial service for my great aunt who died recently at the age of 90. Though it was a sad occasion, it did give me a chance to catch up with a lot of family members, some of whom I haven't seen in over twenty years. (Like many families, funerals seem to be the only time when we all get together as a group.) I also took the opportunity to see some of the sights around Pittsburgh, such as the Pittsburgh Incline, the Andy Warhol Museum, and Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater. Besides the Warhol Museum, the most offbeat thing I encountered was a giant pumpkin at a farmer's market I stopped at while driving out to Fallingwater. It weighed 400 lbs. That's big, but a far cry from the world's biggest which, according to this National Geographic article, clocked in at 1,385 pounds.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 05, 2005
Comments (7)
I'm off to Pittsburgh to visit with family. I doubt I'll have computer access there. Be back Tuesday!
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 29, 2005
Comments (9)
I received an email today from the person who runs the Online Gamers Anonymous site (about which I once posted an entry):

Please remove On-Line Gamers Anonymous from you hoax website.
Please inform me when this has been done.
This is a REAL service provided for people who are addicted to computer/video games and have no where else to go.

Their concern is that when people do a google search, they see the name of the site in question followed by "Museum of Hoaxes," which could imply that the site is a hoax. This issue has come up before, and it's a legitimate concern for people with real sites, so I think I need to do something to clarify the status of things I post about. For items that aren't a hoax, I'll add "Not a Hoax" right in the title (so that people will see the status when they do a google search). And for everything else I'm thinking of adding some kind of status line, stating exactly what I think it is (i.e. "Real picture, fake caption," "crackpot conspiracy theory," etc.).
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 19, 2005
Comments (29)
About a week ago I posted that my friend Dave had created a weblog to test some software that he'd developed. He's now running a contest with a $100 prize. This isn't a hoax. Basically all you have to do is register with his site and post an entry. If you post something, you get a chance to win the $100. Since no one has yet posted anything (and the contest has been running for a couple of days), your chances of winning are pretty good. The contest will end three days after the tenth post is created. (So, theoretically, your chances could be one in ten of winning.) I think Dave will accept almost anything as a valid post (a link, a random thought, a joke, etc.), but he's suggested a theme: "epiphany" (as in a sudden realization, not a religious awakening). I've known Dave for over ten years, so I can vouch for him that he will give someone the $100, and he won't do anything evil with your email address if you register on his site. (Though now that I think about it, I haven't actually seen Dave in person in almost two years, ever since he moved up to Riverside... so maybe in the meantime he's been replaced by an evil Dave-bot replicant who's hatched a diabolical plan to harvest email addresses, though I doubt it.)
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 14, 2005
Comments (10)
image Hippo Eats Dwarf now has a cover, thanks to the art department at Harcourt. This will almost definitely be the final cover unless (as my editor cautions) changes are made after the sales conference in October. Ideally one wants a cover that will make people curious enough to pick up the book and flip through it, and I think this does the trick. Oh, and I shouldn't forget to point out that the book can be pre-ordered on Amazon.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 07, 2005
Comments (6)
On Friday I sent in the final, fully edited manuscript of Hippo Eats Dwarf to my publisher. A few small things remain for me to do. For instance, I need to write the acknowledgments page. But basically it's completed. Now the publisher needs to finish the cover art and start formatting it to look like a real book. But the book has already been listed on Amazon, which means it can now be pre-ordered. So over the next seven months I'll be bugging people to pre-order it, since the more people pre-order it, the easier it is to convince bookstores to stock it and display it prominently. And at $10, it's a bargain. Here's the catalog copy for the book (which may end up being the blurb on the inside cover):

Reality Check: Can you grow a bonsai kitten? Should you stock up on dehydrated water? Is it easy to order human-flavored tofu? Or is this all just b.s.?
In a world of lip synching, boob jobs, payola punditry, and staged reality shows, it's hard to know the real from the fake. HIPPO EATS DWARF is the essential field guide to today's Misinformation Age. Whether you're deciphering political doublespeak or trying to decide whether to forward that virus warning, hoaxpert Alex Boese provides the guidelines you need. For instance, Reality Rule 6.1: Just because you read it on the internet doesn't make it true. With case files, reality checks, definitions, and plenty of doctored photos, HIPPO EATS DWARF is an entertaining guide to life, death, and everything in between—including eBay.

For the past week, I've also been glued to my TV set (like everyone else) watching the catastrophe unfold in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. After the Asian tsunami I donated a month's worth of free ad space to a charity, but I suspect that wasn't the most efficient way to help out the disaster victims, because I assume everyone knows where to give money. So instead I'm donating a portion of the ad revenue directly to the Red Cross, and I'll continue to do that for the next few months because the people down there are going to need help for a long time.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Sun Sep 04, 2005
Comments (21)
I haven't been able to post for the past few days. I received the edited manuscript of my book back from my publisher and have been going through it and approving/making the changes they suggested. They've given me a tight deadline, so I've been working away at that. But once this is done, I'm totally finished with the book.

Anyway, on a different topic, my friend Dave (who writes software) asked me to link to his new site, and I promised I would. His site is called we rank. It uses the same software I use to run this site (Expression Engine), but he's trying to adapt it to allow people to rank comments and posts. He's looking for feedback on this experiment. (My feedback: it's a little confusing, Dave.) I'm not sure I'd want people to rank posts and comments on this site, but he has a few other ideas for changing the software that I might try out, if he gets them worked out.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 31, 2005
Comments (15)
Here's a curious email I just received:

Hallo! My name is Wojciech Krajewski. I come from Poland. I'm collecting museum entry tickets. I would be very happy if I have got in my collection ticket from Yours. I hope that my favour won't be a problem for You and that you won't leave it without answer. I give my regards to you and thank you very much.

I'd really like to help this guy out. But what should I send him?
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Fri Aug 12, 2005
Comments (45)
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