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Someone has gone to a bunch of trouble to make it seem as if Dell produced an ad featuring "Visual Innovator" Clayton Sotos. The ad has high production values, and there's an accompanying website showcasing some of Sotos's work. The joke is that Sotos photographs people farting.

Dell insists they're not responsible for the ad. They posted this statement on their twitter page: "This video is in no way affiliated with Dell, but it's great to see creative professionals get inspiration from using our products. Our program is all about celebrating people who take their own professional path. Regarding this parody, we consider imitation to be the sincerest form of flattery."

Gizmodo claims that music and media producer Christian Heuer is behind the mock ad. (links:,

Categories: Gross, Photos/Videos, Websites
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 23, 2012
Comments (0)
Rep. Katie Hobbs has introduced a bill into the Arizona state legislature that would require advertisers to put the following disclaimer on advertisements if the image in the ad was "photoshopped" (link:

"Postproduction techniques were made to alter the appearance in this advertisement. When using this product, similar results may not be achieved."

Similar legislation has been introduced in the UK and France, its purpose being to try to counteract the social pressure on people, particularly young girls, to feel the need to look perfect -- to remind them that the way models look in ads isn't reality.

The problem, of course, is that every ad nowadays uses digital enhancements of some kind to improve pictures. So every ad would have to carry the disclaimer, muting its effect.

Also, why focus on post-production techniques, when pre-production techniques (lighting, focus, makeup) can be just as deceptive?

But having said that, I do sympathize with the spirit of the legislation. If a company says that their product can remove wrinkles or blemishes, and they show a picture of a model with perfect skin, it does seem deceptive if that model's face was made perfectly smooth by photoshop, not by use of the product.

It's the old problem that was raised in the Sandpaper Test case back in the early 1960s. When does the use of photographic tricks by advertisers cross the line from enhancement of a product to outright deception?
Categories: Fashion, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 16, 2012
Comments (3)
On Jan. 11, TMZ posted a photo of the sign outside the Beulah Hill Baptist Church, which apparently bore a nice message inspired by the recent birth of Beyonce's baby: "BEYONCE HAD HER BABY. SATAN IS ON EARTH."

<# some text #>

According to TMZ, the pastor at that church told them that vandals had placed the message there, and that it had been taken down promptly.

However, the pastor, Rev. Curtis Barbery, is denying he ever told TMZ this. He gave an interview to the Fayetteville Observer in which he insisted the sign hadn't been vandalized and that the photo was a fake. He said, “It’s never been on our sign because our sign stays locked and the same phrase has been on it since Thanksgiving. Only one man has the key to it.”

But TMZ continues to insist the photo is real (though they won't say how they got it), and that the pastor DID tell them the sign was vandalized.

Most people seem to be inclined to believe the pastor, not TMZ. Mainly because it's so easy to photoshop fake messages onto signs. To illustrate the point, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution posted this photo on their blog:

Categories: Birth/Babies, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Mon Jan 23, 2012
Comments (5)
MadCarlotta sent me an interesting video:

The premise of the video (which has over 1 million views) is that people around the world are hearing eerie groaning sounds that seem to rise up from the ground and echo through the sky. My first thought was that it sounds like the noise my tankless water heater makes on cold days. So if anyone in La Mesa is hearing eerie noises echoing through the neighborhood, I'm the culprit.

Is the 'strange sounds' video a hoax? Seems to be. Some of the youtube comments point out that you can hear the exact same bird noises at three separate moments (in segments supposedly shot in different parts of the world): at 0:47, 10:35 and 13:38. Which suggests the audio has been dubbed over the video.

A whole slew of similar videos can be found on youtube. So whoever is behind this has put some work into making it seem as if there's all kinds of people hearing these sounds. But the entire 'strange sounds' movement seems to trace back to a single site:, which launched in Sept. 2011. The guy posting on identifies himself only as "Jay Man," and the site itself was registered anonymously through Domains By Proxy. Hoaxers always love anonymity.

I don't know why someone is trying to make people believe that the "sounds of the apocalypse" are being heard around the world. The obvious suspect would be that it's a marketing campaign of some kind. I'm sure we'll find out in time.
Categories: Paranormal, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Sat Jan 21, 2012
Comments (28)
In recent days, a photo of Mitt Romney that appears to show him getting a shoe shine as his private jet waits has been spreading around the internet. It's been popular with anyone who doesn't much like Romney because it seems to capture the swanky lifestyle he enjoys as a 0.001 percenter.

romney shoeshine

But, in reality, this photo is a case of 'real picture, false caption'. The picture dates to 2008 and actually shows Romney sitting for a security check before boarding a plane in Denver, Colorado. The guy in the red jacket is waving a security wand over Romney's shoe. Not giving him a shoe shine.

Of course, the scene still depicts the lifestyle of the one-percent, because most of us don't get personalized security checks on the tarmac in front of our plane. Instead, we have to remove our shoes and wait like cattle in long security lines. Link:
Categories: Photos/Videos, Politics
Posted by Alex on Wed Jan 18, 2012
Comments (1)
Supporters of Vladimir Putin have been caught in a flat-footed attempt at character assassination. Wanting to smear blogger Alexei Navalny, who's been a fierce critic of Putin's government, they created a picture showing Navalny meeting with the exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky. The implication was that Berezovsky was funding Navalny. Then Putin's supporters published the picture in one of the party newspapers.

But the picture was a clumsy fake. The original, undoctored version of the photo soon emerged, as well as numerous parody versions. Links: BBC, Daily Mail.

The doctored version

The original version

Some newspapers are commenting that the stunt recalls how Soviet authorities routinely used to doctor photos for political purposes. Which is true -- see "The Commissar Vanishes." But the stunt reminds me most of an American hoax from 1950 -- The Tydings Affair -- in which a fake photo showing Senator Millard Tydings chatting with the head of the American Communist Party was circulated by Joseph McCarthy, causing Tydings to lose an election. The Tydings and Navalny photos are similar both in their general composition and in their strategies of guilt-by-association.

Categories: Photos/Videos, Politics
Posted by Alex on Wed Jan 18, 2012
Comments (2)
The Alien Disclosure Group (ADG) UK has posted a video on youtube in which they suggest that the funeral of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il may have been attended by extraterrestrials. Or very tall earthlings. One or the other.

The ADG seems eager to see aliens in any mystery. But their video does highlight two legitimate items of strangeness from Kim Jong-Il's funeral.

The first is that there apparently really was an extremely tall person standing in the crowd watching Kim Jong-Il's funeral procession. His identity is unknown. So perhaps it was an extraterrestrial. Or maybe it was Ri Myung Hung, the 7' 9" North Korean basketball player.

The second item of strangeness is that North Korea released a photo of the funeral procession from which, it was later noticed, a group of people had been erased. Why did the North Korean authorities erase these people? The ADG suggests it was because they were aliens. The NY Times suggests it was the work of some unknown North Korean photo editor who simply thought the photo looked better without those people. The Times attributes this to "totalitarian aesthetics":

With the men straggling around the sidelines, a certain martial perfection is lost. Without the men, the tight black bands of the crowd on either side look railroad straight.

Now you see 'em

Now you don't
Categories: Extraterrestrial Life, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Jan 04, 2012
Comments (5)
Usually when politicians become the victims of photo retouchers it's because they've become undesirable to someone in power, and so they're summarily removed from the photo. It's far less common for their images to be retouched in order to desexualize them. This is usually the fate of actresses and models. But this is what happened recently to Rathika Sitsabaiesan, a young Canadian MP. Her cleavage was erased from the image of her that appears on the House of Commons website. The National Post reports:

Mark Austin of Old Barns, N.S., discovered the discrepancy this week and passed it to the blog He was searching for Ms. Sitsabaiesan’s picture because he and his wife were inspired by her performance in Question Period, and wanted to know more about her. He clicked on the picture with cleavage — still available on Google — and saw it vanish before his eyes as he was linked to the parliamentary webpage.

Sitsabaiesan has not commented on the disappearance of her cleavage. It's quite possible she was the one who ordered its removal.

Before and After
Categories: Photos/Videos, Politics
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 29, 2011
Comments (2)
Status: Real Photos, False Captions

Obama Perry

The political dirty tricks season is upon us again, and so we get the image above, which has recently been circulating around conservative blogs. (Thanks to Gayl for forwarding it to me.) Its intent is obvious: to show that Rick Perry was serious and heroic as a young man, whereas Barack Obama was a bit of a punk.

The pictures themselves are real. The picture of Obama was taken in 1980 by Lisa Jack when both were freshmen at Occidental College in L.A. The picture of Rick Perry is undated, but must have been taken sometime between 1972 and 1977, when Perry served in the Air Force.

Therefore, the captions of the images are incorrect. Obama would have been 19 at the time the photo was taken, whereas Perry would have been between the ages of 22 and 27. So the comparison isn't quite fair. By the time he was in his early 20s, Obama was working as a community organizer in Chicago.

Furthermore, Perry himself was reportedly a bit of a punk while in college. According to a recent article in The Texas Tribune:

On one occasion, Perry put live chickens in the closet of an upperclassman and left them there during Christmas break. “You can just imagine the smell,” Sharp said. “Needless to say, he didn’t mess with Perry again.”

Another more elaborate prank took Perry months to execute. It involved M-80 firecrackers and an acquired knowledge of the plumbing in A&M buildings.

Perry learned that he could drop something down the second floor toilet and get it to come out the first floor toilet. Then he learned M-80s had waterproof detonators — a perfect combination. His accomplice, Sharp, would give the high sign out the window when a potential target wandered into a stall. Perry, from the floor above, would flush the lit firework down.

A fairer comparison might have been to contrast Obama looking laidback in his straw hat and cigarette dangling out of his mouth with Perry exploding a toilet.
Categories: Photos/Videos, Politics
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 30, 2011
Comments (3)
Reality Rule 4.2: Should a suitably dramatic picture of a major event not exist, one will be created.

This rule was in full effect during Hurricane Irene, as twitterers by the thousands shared fake hurricane photos with each other. The NY Times Technology Blog has collected some of the more popular ones:

Widely claimed to show Irene approaching North Carolina, this is really a photo of a storm approaching Pensacola, Florida around three weeks ago.

An image of the East River flooding was an old image taken during a previous storm (though I don't know which previous storm). Someone scanned and posted it.

A shot of the Times Square subway station flooding was, again, an old image recycled to become Hurricane Irene. It was actually taken in 1996 when a water main burst and flooded the station.
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 29, 2011
Comments (4)
Geoffrey Crawley, who played a role in debunking the Cottingley Fairy hoax, died recently on October 29. The New York Times ran an interesting article about his life. From the article:
From the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, Mr. Crawley was editor in chief of the magazine British Journal of Photography. His 10-part series exposing the Cottingley fairy photographs as fakes appeared there in 1982 and 1983. Mr. Crawley had been asked to determine the authenticity of the photos in the late 1970s. “My instant reaction was amusement that it could be thought that the photographs depicted actual beings,” he wrote in 2000. But he came to believe, as he wrote, that “the photographic world had a duty, for its own self-respect,” to clarify the record.

I've always thought it was strange that it took sixty years for the fairy photos to be fully debunked, even though the hoax itself wasn't particularly sophisticated.
Categories: Death, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 16, 2010
Comments (7)
The UK Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that an advertisement featuring Twiggy is misleading. The ad has Twiggy claiming that "Olay is my secret to brighter-looking eyes." In fact, the brightness of her eyes in the photo is due to digital manipulation. Link:

Real Twiggy Fake Twiggy
Categories: Advertising, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Dec 16, 2009
Comments (6)
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