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Status: Fake
Maybe some city really did sponsor the urban art project depicted below. But I doubt it. It definitely looks photoshopped to me. There must be an original David-free version of this picture floating around somewhere.
Update: The fountain is real. It's the Crown Fountain designed by artist Jaume Plensa in Chicago's Millennium Park. But the image of David is fake. The Millennium Park website explains:

The fountain consists of two 50-foot glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers project video images from a broad social spectrum of Chicago citizens, a reference to the traditional use of gargoyles in fountains, where faces of mythological beings were sculpted with open mouths to allow water, a symbol of life, to flow out. Plensa adapted this practice by having faces of Chicago citizens projected on LED screens and having water flow through a water outlet in the screen to give the illusion of water spouting from their mouths. The collection of faces, Plensa's tribute to Chicagoans, was taken from a cross-section of 1,000 residents.

In other words, it would be possible to project an image of Michelangelo's David onto the tower, but it doesn't sound as if this has ever been done.

Update: This image comes from a Fark photoshop contest. It was created by a Farker named gigglechick.

image
Categories: Art, Photos/Videos, Places
Posted by Alex on Fri Dec 02, 2005
Comments (8)
Status: Real
I know of many high schools named after Washington, Lincoln, or other famous characters from U.S. history, but as far as I'm aware, there's only one Big Foot High School. It's located in Walworth, Wisconsin. However, it's not named after the Bigfoot monster. Instead, it's named after an Indian Chief:

Big Foot Union High School is named after the Potawatomi Indian Chief Big Foot who lived along the banks of Geneva Lake until his tribe was relocated by the United States government in 1836. In fact, Geneva Lake was originally known as Big Foot Lake until a New York surveyor, John Brink, renamed it.

I can't find any reference to the Bigfoot monster on the school's website. I'm betting they try to downplay that connection. Still, it would be pretty cool to tell people you go to Bigfoot High.
Categories: Cryptozoology, Places
Posted by Alex on Mon Nov 28, 2005
Comments (27)
Status: Email hoax (real pictures, fake caption)
Bad: Falling for an email hoax. Worse: Using the hoax as the basis for your presentation to the local city planning commission, thereby displaying your gullibility to the entire public.

As reported by the Muncie Star Press (no link), Don Love gets the award for doing the latter. He received an email containing a series of pictures of an opulent estate (shown below), with the caption:

In case you're wondering where this hotel is, it isn't a hotel at all. IT IS A HOUSE! It's owned by the family of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the former president of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Abu-Dhabi.

Enraged, he made a slide presentation out of the pictures and showed them to the planning commission, as part of his effort to get them to approve construction of an ethanol plant. His point was that they should promote local energy projects, to prevent all the city's money going to greedy, oil-rich sheiks. He told them: "This is the type of thing being done with your petro dollars that I want to re-patriate. Keep in mind the gentleman has more than 20 wives. This is one of 70 baths. Some are bigger than my house. This is his little swimming pool. These are his cars."

Of course, the pictures don't show a sheik's palace. In reality they show a fancy hotel in Abu Dhabi called the Emirates Palace. All the stuff about 20 wives is bogus too. If Love had bothered to do any research, he would have found this out. He probably could also have found some real pictures of a sheik's palace, which would have been a more effective way of making his point. Incidentally, my other house (the one in my daydreams) looks just like the one in the pictures.

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Categories: Email Hoaxes, Photos/Videos, Places
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 15, 2005
Comments (69)
Status: Urban legends
The blog of Mari Kanazawa has an interesting post about Japanese urban legends. Here are some of the highlights:

Turbo Gramma: When you drive on the highway at a blistering speed gramma knocks on the car window. If you see her, you will have a car accident. Someone made a turbo gramma game.

Touch the Red G-String: The delivery company trade mark of Sagawa is "Hikyaku", a traditional Japanese postman. Hikyaku wore a traditional red Japanese g-string Fundoshi! The legend was 'if you touch a red g-string on a sagawa truck, you will have good fortune, if you could touch it on a moving truck, the fortune would be bigger, and faster was better.' As far as I checked this story on the internet, many people wrote that they had tried touching it. I heard sagawa had to change their trade mark red g-string to red pants. ha ha ha

The Skylark Bellybutton: Skylark is a chain restaurant that we can find anywhere in Japan. The trade mark of the restaurant is a bird that has a bellybutton. The legend is if you can find one without a bellybutton, you can eat food free in the restaurant.

Hanako san in Toilet: There were many variation of the story but the basic one is very simple. It happens in a toilet at school: You knock three times on the toilet door, and say "Hanako san?" and you can hear someone reply "ha----i" quietly somewhere from empty toilet room. Because of this Hanako san boom, many kids could not go to toilet alone in those days. This Hanako san story was arranged and made into 4 movies.
Categories: Places, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 10, 2005
Comments (7)
Status: Real
image My wife emailed me this image, wondering if it was real. Yes, it's real. I think it's been circulating around for a while. It's one of those once-in-a-blue-moon kind of emails in which all the information is actually correct:

New Grand Canyon Sky walk
* Scheduled to open Jan. 1, 2006 Hualapai Indian Reservation
* Juts about 70 feet into the canyon, 4000 ft above the Colorado River
* Will accommodate 120 people comfortably
* Built with more than a million pounds of steel beams, and includes dampeners that minimize the structure's vibration.
* Designed to hold 72 million pounds, withstand an 8.0 magnitude earthquake 50 miles away, and withstand winds in excess of 100 mph
* The walkway has a glass bottom and sides...four inches thick


A hi-res version of the image (which is a drawing, not a photograph) can be found at destinationgrandcanyon.com. I'm not sure I could go on this skywalk. I don't consider myself afraid of heights, but the last time I was at the Grand Canyon I had a lot of trouble getting too close to the edge without feeling sick to my stomach.
Categories: Places
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 04, 2005
Comments (47)
Status: Unlikely
A group of anti-development activists calling themselves the Knights of Saint Edmund have hit upon an unusual way of stopping a shopping center from being built in their hometown, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. They're threatening to unleash the ancient Curse of St. Edmund upon the developers. Their website states that:

On St Edmund's day, the 20th November 2005, a formal and public cursing ceremony will take place at Bury St Edmunds to once again summon the avenging saint and dread King to punish his 21st century enemies. The ancient curse of St Edmund has not been used for over 500 years, but with the determination of developers to destroy the whole character of a town laid-out almost 1,000 years ago, leaves the good people of Bury St Edmunds with no other option. They will have to summon divine vengeance down upon those hell-bent on wrecking their town, unless Centros Miller Ltd., Miller Group and Debenhams unconditionally withdraw all their plans for redeveloping the cattle-market site by close of business on Friday 18th November 2005.

Victims of the Curse of St. Edmund have supposedly suffered some gruesome misfortunes, such as blindness, madness, syphilis, and being "eaten up inside by worms." However, the town historian of Bury St. Edmunds denies that there is any legend of a curse: "They have no historical authenticity – there is no such thing as the curse of St Edmund." Still, you've got to give them credit for trying. Maybe there's some ancient American curse that can be used to stop Wal-Mart from opening more stores.
Categories: Paranormal, Places
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 31, 2005
Comments (18)
Status: Real
image A photo is doing the email circuit, showing a bathroom that men who don't enjoy being watched as they 'go about their business' might not want to use. Yes, it is a real bathroom. It's located on the second floor of the Sofitel Hotel in Queenstown, New Zealand. Here's from a press release about the bathroom:

Queenstown photographer Sheena Haywood shot the images of models from local agency Ican -- after Auckland model agencies turned down the job when they heard where the images were going to be placed. “We had a lot of fun with the shoot, made all the better for the fact that there weren't any men there when we did it,” said Sheena.

The general manager of the hotel commented that "he was now under pressure from those of the female persuasion to decorate the neighbouring women's toilets with something equally eye-catching."
Categories: Photos/Videos, Places
Posted by Alex on Fri Oct 28, 2005
Comments (14)
Status: Real
image Here's a new picture doing the email circuit. It's accompanied by this caption:

A Volkswagen Polo is loaded in the car towers of the VW Autostadt in Wolfsburg, northern Germany on Wednesday. The Autostadt, situated next to Volkswagen's headquarter, is the company's theme park, and distribution centre where daily 5,500 visitors view Volkswagen brands like Bentley, Audi, Lamborghini.

It looks like something out of a science-fiction movie, but it's real, as is the caption. The picture was taken by AP photographer Fabian Bimmer. It appeared in SFGate.com's photo gallery on October 19, 2005. (Thanks to Dipankar Mitra for sending it to me.)
Categories: Photos/Videos, Places
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 27, 2005
Comments (23)
Status: Weird, but true
If you've ever wondered what it would be like to subsist on a starvation diet, such as the kind millions of people endured during the reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, now you have your chance. A restaurant has recently opened in Phnom Penh called the "Khmer Rouge Experience Cafe." It serves up the kind of watery gruel people actually ate in the killing fields, with a "'theme menu' of salted rice-water, followed by corn mixed with water and leaves, and dove eggs and tea." To round out the ambiance, "the waitresses are barefoot and clad in the black pajamas and red-white scarves of the guerrillas. Speakers blare out tunes celebrating the 1975 toppling of U.S.-backed president General Lon Nol and the walls are adorned with the baskets, hoes and spades Pol Pot hoped would power his jungle-clad south-east Asian homeland to communist prosperity." This place could give Rainforest Cafe a run for its money.

Actually, the Khmer Rouge Cafe seems like yet another example of Reality Tourism, in which the idea is to offer tourists grim reality, instead of fun and comfort. Other examples include an amusement park planned for outside Berlin where people will experience life under communism, and a camp in Croatia where tourists get to find out what life in a communist-era hard-labor camp would have been like.
Categories: Food, Places
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 10, 2005
Comments (3)
Status: True
image As you drive out of Brooklyn on the Williamsburg Bridge you'll see a traffic sign above you reading "Leaving Brooklyn. Oy Vey!" No, the sign isn't the work of a prankster, nor is the photo of the sign (to the right) a photoshop job. It's a real sign, placed there last week by the Department of Transportation at the request of Marty Markowitz, Borough President of Brooklyn. Says Markowitz: "Oy vey is an original Jewish 'expression of dismay or hurt.' The beauty is, every ethnic group knows it, and motorists seeing it know it means 'Dear me, I'm so sad you're leaving.'"
Categories: Places
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 29, 2005
Comments (6)
Status: Unlikely (though the people who think it does won't care what I say)
image Along I-75 in Ohio there stands a 62-foot-tall fiberglass and styrofoam statue of Jesus, his hands raised into the air. It's very visible from the highway. Nicknames for it include Super Savior, Touchdown Jesus, Drowning Jesus (because it's located in front of a reflecting pool), and Jeeebus. It was completed last summer, and according to rumor there have been no accidents along the stretch of highway in front of it, although previously many accidents occurred there. Apparently Giant Jesus made the highway safe. Can this be true? According to an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, it is true that section of I-75 used to be quite deadly:

Officials at the Ohio Department of Transportation say about 87,000 vehicles pass the statue each day, and they agree that it was a deadly section of highway. In 2000 and 2001, the agency’s records show, 14 people were killed.

And since the arrival of Jesus, the deaths have stopped. So interpret that however you want. But the Department of Transportation isn't attributing the declining accident rate to divine intervention:

To halt the deaths, the state spent $1.1 million to install a cable that runs down the median. The cable barrier is designed to stop vehicles before they can cross into oncoming traffic. "Ten fatalities were crossover accidents," said Jay Hamilton, the highway agency traffic engineer who designed the barrier. "It was a highly deadly stretch of Ohio highway. Not anymore."... "I honestly think that Jesus can perform miracles, but I don’t think the statue was the miracle out here," he said. "It was the barrier."
Categories: Places, Religion
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 20, 2005
Comments (21)
David Emery throws some cold water on rumors that sharks are swimming through the streets of New Orleans. He points out that the shark sightings seem to be the "seen by a friend of a friend" variety:

I found repeated references to unnamed "authorities" and "officials" reporting one "3-foot shark cruising the city." Which authorities? Which officials? Digging further, I could only find mention of one by name: Mayor Aaron Broussard of Jefferson Parish (a New Orleans suburb), who, according to the August 30 issue of the Palm Beach Post, "told residents Tuesday that at least one 3-foot shark had been spotted." Again, that's one small shark reportedly sighted — exactly where and by whom, we don't know — and as far as we know he hadn't eaten anybody.

But alligators are a different matter altogether. Officials assume there will be alligators in the water.
Categories: Animals, Places
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 06, 2005
Comments (9)
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