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|•||Authorities are leaning more toward zero tolerance of teenagers 05/06/2013|
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Status: Strange phenomenonThe residents of Aqueduct Street have an unusual problem. Their lines are going wobbly. Specifically, the double yellow lines on their road. When the city laid down the lines earlier this month, they were straight. But now they've begun to take off in random directions. At first some suspected the work of a prankster, but apparently the truth is much more sinister: The lines are doing this of their own accord!
This idea really appeals to me. Double yellow lines get fed up with being straight and decide to rebel. What we are seeing in Aqueduct Street might merely be the beginning. What if it became a worldwide epidemic of wandering lines? But the government, as usual, has decided to cover up the truth and is blaming the wobbly lines on the use of yellow marker tape. Says a Preston Council spokesman: A likely story.
Status: Strange, but trueCalifornia realtors have devised a new way to sell homes. They're hiring actors to play "happy families" during open houses: 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)
Status: Strange, but realSpeaking of fake Irish bars, now it's possible to have an instant fake British pub, anywhere you like. It's advertised as "the Worlds first fully functioning Mobile Inflatable Pub." This comes from the same people who brought us the world's first inflatable church. Ideally it should come with a bartender who fakes a British accent.
Status: Believed to be a hoaxHere's an interesting news report from Ireland:
The Irish Sunday Tribune (no link) has a few more details:
Unfortunately I haven't been able to find any pictures of this plaque.
[Update:] Here's a picture of the plaque, though it doesn't let you see it very well.
Status: UndeterminedFollowing a post about how California got its name, Boing Boing added an interesting reader comment alleging that Idaho got its name because of a hoax:
"When a name was being selected for new territory, eccentric lobbyist George M. Willing suggested 'Idaho,' which he claimed was a Native American term meaning 'gem of the mountains'. It was later revealed Willing had made up the name himself, and the original Idaho territory was re-named Colorado because of it. Eventually the controversy was forgotten, and modern-day Idaho was given the made-up name when the Idaho Territory was formally created in 1863."
I had never heard this before, so I did a little research. It turns out that Willing did indeed claim to have invented the name Idaho. But whether he did or not is uncertain, since his claim was first published fifteen years after the first appearance of the word. Plus, he was a bit of a self-promoter and not entirely trustworthy. I found the following discussion of the Idaho question in an article by Erl H. Ellis published in Western Folklore, Oct. 1951:
Even if Idaho did get its name from a hoax, Des Moines can lay claim to a funnier name origin. The Peoria indians told the first white settlers that the tribe living in that area (their rivals) was named the Moingoana, which became the root of Des Moines. But it turns out that Moingoana was really the Peoria word for "shitfaces".
Status: RealFound on Flickr: a cool picture of a giant laser beaming out of the MMT Telescope, on top of Mt. Hopkins in Arizona. The guy who took it, Filip Pizlo, says it's not photoshopped, and I'm willing to believe him, if only because when I was a grad student at UC San Diego there was a green laser beam similar to this visible in the sky over La Jolla almost every night. I never figured out where it was coming from or what the purpose of it was. It couldn't have been coming from the MMT Telescope in Arizona because that would have been too far away.
Status: NewsThanks to Big Gary for sending me this story about Tijuana's fake zebras, which are facing extinction. The Tijuana zebras are donkeys painted to look like zebras. Tourists like to get their picture taken with them. It's a decades-old tradition. The Reuters article explains:
"It all started in the 1930s when someone decided to paint the donkeys up with stripes so that they'd look better in black-and-white photographs," recalled Jorge Bonillas, a sprightly 75-year-old who has worked with the animals since 1941.
But now tourism to Tijuana has been drying up because of fears about the violence of its drug wars. (I'm guilty of avoiding the place... the last time I went was over ten years ago, even though it would take me less than half an hour to get to the border from my house.) And as the tourist trade shrinks, the zebra workers are finding it harder to make a living. Sad.
Big Gary also forwarded me an article about the financial problems facing Erich von Daeniken's (of Chariots of the Gods fame) Mystery Park in Switzerland. It too, like Tijuana, is failing to attract visitors. My guess is that it's in the wrong location. It should really be somewhere like Las Vegas, not Switzerland. Big Gary notes that "If the park has to close, maybe they can send the unemployed Tijuana zebras there to retire."
Status: PrankColumnist Tom Greenwood of the Detroit News reports that a sign has been spotted "attached to an authentic Michigan Department of Transportation post on southbound Interstate 75 at the Oakland/Wayne county line." It reads: Welcome to Detroit. We hope you survive.
There's no word on how long this has been up, or for how long. Of course, fake road signs have been a popular prank for quite some time. There's the fake road sign project in Lyons, France, in which "105 street signs, realised by 47 worldwide artists, and just similar enough to real traffic signs to give one pause, have been attached to streetside poles around the french city of Lyon."
There's also the photoshopped picture of a Connecticut road sign that reads "Birthplace of George W. Bush. We apologize." Plus, the "Leaving Brooklyn. Oy Vey!" sign that was actually posted by the City of Brooklyn itself.
Status: PrankPower company workers in Ballymena (Northern Ireland) were amazed to discover five pairs of shoes hanging from a power line along the road between Larne and Ballymena. Ballymena Today reports:
Electricity engineers could only look skyward in bemusement at the bizarre sight of the shoes and boots hanging from the line, baffled as to who, why and how this was done. The inspiration for the prank may have come from the fantasy film Big Fish. In the film, the most memorable scene occurs when the young Edward Bloom, played by Ewan McGregor, visits the town of Spector, where it is claimed that all is perfect.
Surprisingly, this sighting has not yet been posted on Shoefiti, the weblog devoted to shoes hanging from power lines. I'd also note that it seems like wishful thinking to believe that the shoes are an allusion to the movie Big Fish, given the more popular (and sinister) theory that shoes on power lines are secret codes meaning that drugs and sex are available nearby.
Status: UndeterminedSome residents of Mobile, Alabama are claiming that a leprechaun is loose in their neighborhood. It shows up in the branches of a tree at night. Apparently it can't be photographed, but the thumbnail shows an "amateur sketch" of what people say it looks like. The NBC 15 news broadcast that covered this interesting phenomenon reports that: "eyewitnesses say the leprechaun only comes out at night. If you shine a light in its direction, it suddenly disappears." Make sure that you catch the guy who appears towards the end of the report who has "a special leprechaun flute which has been passed down from thousands of years ago from my great, great grandfather who is Irish."
Status: Ersatz IrishnessPerfectly timed for St. Patrick's Day, Austin Kelley has an interesting article in Slate.com about the faux Irish pub revolution... i.e. how Irish pubs slapped together with off-the-shelf charm and quaintness have been popping up in cities all over the world. The term I've heard to describe this phenomenon (which Kelley doesn't mention) is To Irishise, meaning to transform a bar, with the help of interior design specialists, into a fake Irish pub. Kelley traces the roots of this phenomenon back to 1991, when Dublin-based IPCo started to aggressively export the "Irish Pub Concept" around the world. Nowadays would-be Irish pub owners can choose from a variety of pre-packaged styles: the "Country Cottage," the "Gaelic," the "Traditional Pub Shop," or the "Brewery":
IPCo will assemble your chosen pub in Ireland. Then they'll bring the whole thing to your space and set it up. All you have to do is some basic prep, and voilà! Ireland arrives in Dubai. (IPCo has built several pubs and a mock village there.)
The irony here, as Kelley points out, is that Ireland is exporting a kind of quaintness that never quite existed in Ireland itself... but these very same pre-packaged Irish pubs are now being built in Ireland itself, alongside (and often crowding out) the real, authentic Irish pubs. The fake replaces the real.
But I have to admit that I'm guilty of frequenting some fake Irish pubs here in San Diego. After all, the decor may be fake, but the Guinness and boxty and corned beef still taste pretty good.
Dec. 7, 2003: Plastic Turkeys and Ploughman Lunches
Status: urban legendsAn article from the Philippine Daily Inquirer records some Philippine urban legends: the "White Lady" of Balete Drive, Robina Gokongwei's "snake twin" lurking in department store dressing rooms, the elusive "kapre" that lives in an ancient mango tree near the Emilio Aguinaldo house in Kawit town, and Andres Bonifacio's love child from a place aptly named Libog (now Santo Domingo) in Albay province. None of those mean much to me. But most of the article is devoted to discussing two other Philippine legends that are of more general interest. The first one is that Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, "was the father of Adolf Hitler, the result of an indiscretion with a prostitute in Vienna." The second one is that Jose Rizal was also Jack the Ripper:
Rizal was in London from May 1888 to January 1889, in the British Library copying "Sucesos de las islas Filipinas" by hand because there were no photocopying machines at the time. Jack the Ripper was active around this time, and since we do not know what Rizal did at night or on the days he was not
in the library, some people would like to believe Rizal is suspect. They argue that when Rizal left London, the Ripper murders stopped. They say that Jack the Ripper must have had some medical training, based on the way his victims were mutilated. Rizal, of course, was a doctor. Jack the Ripper liked women, and so did our own Rizal. And -- this is so obvious that many overlooked it -- Jose Rizal's initials match those of Jack the Ripper!
If Jack the Ripper did turn out to be Filipino, that would throw a wrench in his status as the Most Evil Brit of all time.
Nov 9, 2005: Japanese Urban Legends
Oct 14, 2004: Iraqi Urban Legends