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|•||15 seconds of fame 06/17/2013|
|•||Happy Birthday, NEO! 06/17/2013|
|•||Maybe soon we can sing Happy Birthday to You in public without having to pay for it. 06/15/2013|
|•||HAPPY ANNIVERSARY Neo and Carmen! 06/13/2013|
|•||I've funded THIS! 06/12/2013|
|•||German bank employee naps on keyboard, transfers millions 06/12/2013|
|•||BBC article on Pareidolia 05/31/2013|
|•||Happy Birthday, Oppiejoe! 05/30/2013|
|•||Attacking beavers a concern in Belarus after man killed 05/29/2013|
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Status: Not an official adAn amusing monster-truck-style radio commercial for St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Birmingham is doing the rounds. "This Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! It's a sacramental showdown at St. Andrew's Episcopal..." It's not a real ad, in the sense that it's never been aired. Nor was it created by the church. As Church Marketing Sucks reports, it was created by Mike McKenzie, who's a St. Andrew's parishioner:
"It wasn't with the intention of making a commercial--I was just goofying around," says McKenzie. "The idea hit me right after 10:30 mass--it's high mass, very formal liturgy. What would happen if you took formal liturgy and combined it with a monster truck rally?"
McKenzie then shared his creation with the church leaders, and from there it started doing the rounds. But it sounds like St. Andrews likes the ad, and may actually use it sometime in the future. At which point it would become a real ad. (via Julie's News from New York)
Status: MalarkeyIf you live in Cincinnati, watch out. Sometime during the next month you may feel a calm sensation wash over you. And that sensation may be caused by the "Maharishi Effect." At least, it might be if you believe tai chi teacher Vince Lasorso. Lasorso is hoping to convince 3000 residents of Cincinnati to pray or meditate for 30 days, starting on April 29th, in order to create a "peaceful field of consciousness" in the city and hopefully reduce its murder rate. As the Cincinnati Enquirer reports:
He says studies have shown that if 1 percent of a community practices meditation and other inner peace techniques, the crime rate can dip more than 20 percent. In transcendental meditation circles, that's known as the Maharishi effect, named for Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a mystic who became famous in the 1960s after teaching the Beatles to meditate.
Check out Lasorso's website, movementsofpeace.org, where he states that "Research conducted at Princeton University demonstrates that human consciousness creates a field around the Earth as real and measurable as gravity. Experiments in over forty U.S. cities reduced crime rates as much as 24 percent when one percent of the population meditated on loving peace." I'd like to know what this research at Princeton is that he's citing. Or he is just making it up? (I can't find any references on his site.)
This kind of thing (praying for peace) seems to be a bit of a trend right now. I posted about Global Spell Casting day a few weeks ago. And Katy Kurione emailed me about a dial-a-prayer outfit called PrayLive.com that has a slightly different spin on the idea. On April 27 they gathered "clergy from around the Washington, DC and MD area... to pray for the lowering of gas prices." Forget about peace... just lower the price of gas!
Status: HoaxJesus Pets points out a serious problem that born-again Christians must face if they own a pet: Many Christians believe that animals do not go to heaven. So when Jesus comes back and you return with him to heaven, will there be somebody to take care of your dog or cat?
Happily, they offer a solution: We are assembling a community of heathen pet-lovers to care for pets that are “left-behind.” We are coordinating with feed mills and kennels in preparation for your post-apocalyptic pet care needs.
Clearly this is tongue-in-cheek, though it's a clever idea. (I'd happily agree to look after someone's animal for a fee in case of rapture, since I anticipate being left behind.)
If you poke around the JesusPets site a bit more (follow the Jesus Links link), you'll find hundreds of pages full of links to religious sites. Each of these link pages runs google ads. So what I think is going on is that someone created the JesusPets page as a ploy to get lots of people (like me) to link to it, thereby increasing its pagerank. This, in turn, will increase the pagerank of all those link pages running the ads and, in theory, generate plenty of ad revenue. Whoever dreamed up this scheme is definitely going to be around post-rapture. (via J-Walk)
Status: UndeterminedA news service called AKI (Adnkronos International) is reporting that Iran has decided to rename Danish pastries "Mohammedan" pastries. It notes that "The name change recalls when some Americans started calling French fries, 'Freedom fries' to protest France's opposition to the United States-led invasion of Iraq."
I wouldn't put it past the Iranian government to do this, but what I'm not sure about is whether Danish pastries are actually referred to as Danish pastries in Farsi. Perhaps they use the English term. Also, it seems odd that AFI is the only news source reporting this. A search on lexis-nexis and Google news pulls up nothing else. However, the London Evening Standard is reporting that "Danish pastries and butter were being cleared off supermarket shelves in Saudi Arabia." So if people are willing to clear Danish pastries from supermarkets, why not rename them also? I'm leaning towards believing it's true.
Status: PareidoliaOscar, who's a fish, lives in a tank in Waterfoot, England. He's attracting quite a bit of attention because markings on one side of his body seem to spell out the name Allah in arabic script, while markings on his other side seem to spell out Muhammad. Since I don't know arabic, I'm not in a position to judge how much the markings look like these words. But at least saying that markings spell a word is a bit more cut-and-dry than saying that markings look like Jesus, the Virgin Mary, or someone else whose appearance is unknown. (And now that I think about it, I suppose the Muslim ban on images of Muhammad means that the world will never get to see pieces of toast or frying pans bearing the image of Muhammad.) People who have examined Oscar are quite confident that the markings haven't been painted on in any way. I'm sure Oscar's new-found status as a miracle fish won't hurt the price the pet shop owner can fetch for him. (Thanks to Paul Farrington for the link.)
Status: PseudoscienceLast night ABC News had a segment about a study being funded by the National Institutes of Health to determine if prayer can help cancer patients heal faster. Or more specifically, whether a stranger's prayers can help a patient heal faster. (The people running the study have invented the bs term 'distant healing' to make what they're studying sound more legitimate.) My jaw was on the floor as I was watching this. I couldn't believe the government had been suckered into paying for it. I suppose the NIH will next be funding studies of voodoo dolls. But unfortunately, ABC didn't spend a lot of time debunking the study. In fact, if you didn't know better, you might have got the impression from their segment that this was a perfectly scientific study, although they did give a critic a few seconds to make a quick point.
The woman running the study, Marilyn Schlitz, sounds like a real piece of work. She's head of something called the Institute of Noetic Sciences. Since she's a firm believer in the power of prayer, it's a good bet that her study will find that prayer does, indeed, have an effect. Never mind that a study conducted by Duke University has already determined that patients show no improvement in their condition when people pray for them. In an interview with SFGate.com, Schlitz desperately tries to duck this inconvenient fact, suggesting that "One study cannot prove or disprove a particular hypothesis." Oh, really? (Unless the study produces results she likes. Then, I'm sure, she would feel it was definitive.) Plus, in an effort to make what she's doing sound more secular, she suggests that she's not studying prayer, per se, but whether one person's "compassionate intention" towards another person, even if those two people are separated by thousands of miles and don't know each other, can have positive medical benefits. But it seems to me like we already have sufficient evidence to answer this. When celebrities (like George Harrison, for instance) are hospitalized, hundreds of thousands of people around the world pray for them. These prayers don't seem to do squat. Shouldn't that be proof enough that prayer has no therapeutic value?
Status: PrankI'm about five days late posting this, but better late than never. An advertisement for an "Extra Virgin Mary Statue" slipped by the editors of the conservative Catholic magazine, America. The advertisement offered "a stunning ... statue of the Virgin Mary standing atop a serpent wearing a delicate veil of latex." The "delicate veil of latex" was a blue condom. America's editors didn't examine the accompanying photo closely enough to realize this. And so the ad ran in the December 5 edition. People who contacted the seller were told the ad was meant "as an assault on Catholic faith and devotion." I don't know who the artist was who created the ad. Maybe it was Banksy.
Status: PareidoliaShortly before Christmas workers at a Florida restaurant noticed that mineral deposits had created a face-like image on the bottom of one of the warming trays they were using. They knew right away that this had to be the face of Christ. (Who else would appear on a warming tray?) According to this MSNBC article "A spokesman for the Stadium Club says they will not continue to use the pan." In other words, Jesus has ruined a perfectly good warming tray. Thanks a lot, Jesus. I assume the next stop for the holy warming tray is eBay.
Status: FakeYes, that's Tony Blair on the left and President Bush on the right. In the middle is the Duke of Edinburgh. They're dressed up as the three magi. It's pretty obvious that the picture is fake. Bush and Blair didn't really don these costumes. But it's not fake in the sense of being photoshopped. These are actually dummies (wax dummies, specifically) that appeared in a nativity scene at London's Madame Tussauds last Christmas. (Victoria and David Beckham served as Mary and Joseph.) Church leaders protested the scene, and it was soon shut down after being vandalized. But this picture still seems to be circulating around.
Status: Real water, but it's not holyThis is an odd marketing gimmick. This company is selling Holy Bottled Water. Of course, the label could easily be mistakenly read as Holy Water Bottled. But it's not holy water (in the sense of water that's been blessed by a priest). It's just regular old bottled water. The closest they come to explaining why their water is holy is this cryptic claim:
From the River of Living Water flows 'Holy Bottled Water Inc.' Produced by man under the inspiration of God.
They also make the strange claim that "WATER IS TWICE AS VALUABLE AS OIL" (as if that should make you want to buy their water), but wouldn't that depend on the type of oil? (via J-Walk)
Status: TrueVirginia Voiers, a 70-year-old grandmother, has been charged with stealing baby Jesus from a nativity scene in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
"It was a lark, it wasn't any serious stealing,'' Voiers told the Lovely County Citizen newspaper of Eureka Springs. "My granddaughter commented that no one had taken the baby Jesus this year and said, 'Grandma?' I said, 'Oh, what the heck.''' Usually, the baby Jesus is returned by the thief. Voiers said her Saturday caper was the first time she'd taken anything from the nativity. "I didn't know we had a tattletale downtown,'' said Voiers, who is also a Sunday school teacher at a Methodist church.
She got caught because a security camera had been installed to catch pranksters in the act. In other words, the entire theft was filmed. I'd love to see that video.
Status: Hoax websiteBanner of Heaven is (or rather was) a weblog run by a group of mormons who wrote about their experiences trying to balance the pressures of daily life with the demands of their religion. The cast included:
Jenn: "a perky, 20-something Mormon, seeking an eternal mate in the Big Apple"
Mari: "the shyest character, got her neighbor's package by mistake and was afraid to deliver it to him in case he got mad"
Miranda: "the feminist who is disappointed in her husband's ambitions."
Septimus: "a divorced returned missionary with social anxiety and sweaty hands"
Aaron: "a wannabe prophet who sees God's hand in everything"
and Greg: "who isn't Mormon but hangs out with them."
The blog attracted quite a following in the Mormon community, but as an article in the Salt Lake Tribune reveals, it was a hoax. All the characters were fictional:
The storytellers were planning to out themselves by Thanksgiving. But two weeks ago, a group of readers got suspicious. Folks at ninemoons.com offered a free T-shirt to anyone who correctly identified the real people behind Banner's six characters. On Oct. 28, Gibson, Evans and the rest of the Banner gang came clean, publishing groveling mea culpas, apologizing to readers, acknowledging they got carried away. They are sorry for tricking and hurting people or fueling opponents of the LDS Church... Some critics of the LDS Church grabbed onto the Banner of Heaven episode as a parallel for the church's own founding, saying that it was like founder Joseph Smith claiming invented revelations. That is most upsetting to Banner creators who are all believing Mormons, Evans says. "Religion is more than telling a beautiful story, it's about truth."