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Several weeks ago, some wine-industry veterans (Kevin Boyer and Philip James) announced the invention of a gadget that would allow people to make wine at home in only 3 days. They called it the "miracle machine."

The gadget seemed somewhat plausible, given the existence of home-brewing kits for beer. Plus it was promoted by a slick video and accompanying website. So over 600 media outlets took the bait and reported it as news.




But yesterday, the "inventors" issued a press release revealing that the 'miracle machine' was just a hoax. But it was a hoax for a good cause. The idea was to promote a non-profit organization called "Wine to Water," which is trying to provide global access to clean water.
Categories: Food, Websites
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 13, 2014
Comments (0)

A new website has many people slightly puzzled. It claims to be producing artisanal salamis made from lab-grown meat from celebrity tissue samples. So it's kind of like a celebrity version of Manbeef.com (from way back in 2001) — except that it's celebrity beef and the human meat is grown using in-vitro meat production.

Salon.com got a response from "Kevin" on the BiteLabs team who explains that "the site is partly a commentary on food culture, the ethics of meat, and 'the way celebrity culture is consumed.'"

So yes, it's a parody site. However, Kevin also insists that they do actually plan to make salami from celebrity meat.

I'm not sure about the current state-of-the-art of in-vitro meat technology. But I'm doubtful that the technology is good enough to make salami that tastes appetizing. Even if it is meat from Jennifer Lawrence of James Franco.

The idea of celebrity salami recalls an idea PETA proposed a few years back of making George Clooney-flavored tofu.
Categories: Celebrities, Food, Websites
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 27, 2014
Comments (1)
DUPÉ sells bottled fresh air, as well as other products such as bottled moon light, positive thoughts, and "eco-friendly little rays of sunshine."






The site (and storefront) were part of a spoof campaign launched a few months ago by Yarra Valley Water, providers of tap water to the Melbourne area.

If you try to buy any of DUPÉ's fresh air, you get a message telling you: "Buying bottled air doesn't make sense. It's just like buying bottled water."

(Thanks to Patty on WU for the heads up about this).
Categories: Websites
Posted by Alex on Sun Dec 15, 2013
Comments (2)
If you need a meringue top for a pie, and you need it fast, then look no further than eMeringue.com. They're the "Internet's #1 meringue delivery service." Their fleet of eMeringue trucks are gassed up and ready to hit the highway, to deliver your meringue top directly to your door.


eMeringue was an April Fool's Day hoax by the Motley Fool investment people. But it dates back to 1999, so I'm impressed that they've kept the site up all this time.

If you look at the eMeringue welcome page, you'll see a photo of "eMeringue chef Serge LeGrenouille." My wife is the food geek in the family, but she's rubbed off on me enough that I recognized that chef Serge LeGrenouille is actually Chef Patrick O'Connell of the Inn at Little Washington. I wonder if he knows that in addition to being one of America's top chefs, he's also the head chef at eMeringue?


left: eMeringue chef Serge LeGrenouille -- right: chef Patrick O'Connell
Categories: Food, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 22, 2013
Comments (0)
I haven't seen anything on English-language sites about this, but according to dichtbij.nl (with a little help from Google translate), a site calling itself "Green Light District" appeared online several months ago.


It claimed that the municipality of Haarlemmermeer in North Holland was going to put small green windmills on top of 30,000 lampposts in order to generate power for the lights, thereby creating a "green light district". Any excess power would be routed to the electrical grid.

But it turns out that Haarlemmermeer didn't actually have any plans to put up these lamppost windmills. The site was a publicity stunt designed to promote the "Greenest Idea of 2013" campaign.
Categories: Places, Websites
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 10, 2013
Comments (1)
"Is Sparky a sex addict?" the website petcondoms.org asks visitors. "Spot the signs!" The site also offers advice on "how to put on a pet condom".


A few clicks on some of the links soon reveals that, no, this site isn't really selling pet condoms. It was recently launched by the San Francisco SPCA as a way to educate the public about the importance of spaying and neutering your pet. The point being that trying to put a condom on your pet is an ineffective way of preventing unwanted births.

It's actually not the first time the internet has seen a website about condoms for pet. Back in 2005 the site dogcondoms.com launched, followed in 2008 by doggycondoms.com (which now seems to have gone belly up).
Categories: Sex/Romance, Websites
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 10, 2013
Comments (0)
Yesterday, rememberthe13th.com revealed the "big discovery" it had promised. It turned out to be some guy rapping "I'm a purple ninja and I'm so cool." I wasted a minute of my life watching it.

Categories: Websites
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 07, 2013
Comments (3)
According to the website rememberthe13th.com, NASA is going to announce something BIG on the 13th of November:

NASA has made a historic discovery that will shake the entire planet. This announcement will be released to the media on November 13th, 2013. It will be a day to remember and One for the history books. Spread the word to your family & friends and sign up to stay updated.

However, a recent update to the site now says that the date of the big reveal has been moved forward to October 6th "Due to change in plans."


A post on abovetopsecret.com gives some of the (alleged) backstory about this site:

So this is the story... This site was sent to Alex Jones anonymously by an alleged Nasa Employee yesterday Oct 1st (Day One of Gov Shutdown) who was frustrated by the gov shutdown. The website is supposebly unreleased and isn't supposed to be released to the public yet due to the gov shutdown. The site is counting down to Novermber 13th and a HUGE earth shaking announcement is expected to occur on that date by NASA.

I don't think many people are buying the idea that NASA really is going to make a major announcement, either on Nov 13th or Oct 6. There are a number of good reasons for this skepticism:
  • rememberthe13th.com is registered in Panama and doesn't appear to have any legitimate connection to NASA.
  • The site was made by pasting NASA's logo onto widely available clip art.
  • Whoever made the site, isn't great with grammar.
So what's the real purpose of rememberthe13th.com? The main theories are that it exists to harvest email addresses for spammers, or that it's a viral marketing scheme. We should find out which it is on Sunday.
Categories: Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri Oct 04, 2013
Comments (4)
"Every white person needs a black friend," blackfriendconnect.com tells us. And if you don't have a black friend already, they've got you covered. For a reasonable fee, they'll provide a black friend who's willing to "give you a hug, fist bump, high-five or whichever you prefer," and will also attend "your favorite white concert" with you.


The joke here seems obvious enough that there's no need to prove the site is a hoax. But if you really want to prove it to yourself, try placing an order for one of these black friends.

There's a phone number listed on the site, in the top left corner. I googled it, and found a page (scroll down to the bottom of it) that links it to the organization "NRA News Now." Though I didn't call the number to verify this (too late in the day). Maybe I will tomorrow. If it is the number of NRA News Now, perhaps it's meant as a joke — to have all kinds of random people calling the NRA News asking for Black Friend Connect.

Black Friend Connect reminds me of the "Black People Love Us!" site, from way back in 2001 (but which is still online!).

Though my favorite "rent a friend" hoax site remains "Rent a German" — just because I like its slogan, "Rent a German... and smile!"
Categories: Websites
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 21, 2013
Comments (0)
On June 7, an Occupy Seattle activist, Logan Price, posted a video online that appeared to show an embarrassing scene from a private party of Shell Oil executives. Price explained, on his twitter page, that he had managed to infiltrate the party, which was intended to celebrate the launch of Shell's Arctic drilling program, and which was hosted at the top of the Seattle Space Needle.


The centerpiece of the party was a sculpture shaped like an iceberg, topped by a miniature oil rig that dispensed drinks for the guests. In the video, an elderly lady could be seen approaching the model rig, cup in hand, ready to be served the first drink. However, the drink dispenser malfunctioned and began squirting a brown liquid all over her as she screamed in shock.

"Turn it off!" an executive demanded. "I can't turn it off," another replied.



Soon after Price posted it, the video went viral online, spread by bloggers and news sites including Tree hugger, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Gothamist, Gizmodo, and Gawker. The symbolism seemed too perfect — an oil rig drink dispenser springs a leak at the launch party for an oil drilling program!

Of course, it was all just a little too perfect. Soon after being released, the video (as well as the entire event) was exposed as a hoax. Bloggers realized that the pr firm that had supposedly organized the event, Wainwright & Shore, wasn't a real pr firm. Its website had only recently been created. The hoax was traced to the activist group the Yes Men, working in collaboration with Occupy Seattle and Greenpeace. These groups took full credit for the hoax, and even posted another video showing a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the stunt. The elderly spray victim in the video turned out to be Dorli Rainey, an 84-year-old woman who had recently gained fame as a pepper-spray victim during a protest rally.


Wainwright & Shore, a phony PR firm

In a follow-up to the hoax, news outlets and some blogs received a statement appearing to come from Shell Oil denouncing the hoax. This statement also turned out to be a hoax.

Following the video hoax, the Yes Men also unveiled a hoax website, ArcticReady.com. The site purported to be an official Shell site touting how the melting of the polar ice caps, while unfortunate for the planet's climate, also offered exciting opportunities for new oil drilling. Shell Oil is, in fact, taking advantage of polar melting to start new drilling.


Arctic Ready, a hoax website

Links: gawker.com, Salon.com.
Categories: Videos, Websites
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 12, 2012
Comments (0)
The consumer affairs office of the state of Massachusetts has created a series of phony websites designed to teach people how to avoid online scams. The sites advertise products such as work-at-home deals, weight-loss products, and free trips. If anyone tries to order something from these sites, they're directed to a page identifying it as a scam and telling them how they could have spotted the scam. My favorite one is the "Envelope Elf" site.


The SEC did something similar back in 2002. It created a hoax site for McWhortle Enterprises, Inc. The idea was to teach investors that just because a company has a website, that doesn't mean it's a legitimate business.

The SEC actually registered the domain name mcwhortle.com. The Massachusetts consumer affairs office, however, parked all its hoax sites at the same domain: http://topmassachusettsdeals.com. I think they should have paid the $20 and registered envelope-elf.com.
Categories: Scams, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri May 18, 2012
Comments (1)
For over three years, Eternal Earth-Bound Pets has been offering peace of mind to Rapture believers. Should the Rapture come, and the devout are whisked away up to Heaven, this service will take care of their pets that are left behind — for a small fee of $135 per pet.

But now Bloomberg News is reporting that the business was all just a hoax concocted by Bart Centre, a retired retail executive in New Hampshire, in order to promote his book, The Atheist Camel Chronicles. Bloomberg quotes him as saying:

The entire thing was a hoax. What we call on the Internet a poe, a spoof, a parody, a complete fiction. It was all a fiction from the very start. I never had any intent to accept contracts for our service or payment for our service and I never did... I was so concerned that people would actually pay me for the service that I eventually disabled the payment button.

Centre also explains that he's revealing the hoax now because, "the State of New Hampshire’s Insurance Department has asked me to discuss my ‘insurance’ offering... and provide them with all the names of NH clients who have signed on and paid for my pet rescue post rapture service."

It's a shame. I thought the service sounded like a good idea, and a perfectly reasonable business proposition. If someone believes the rapture is on its way, why shouldn't they pay to have their pets taken care of post-rapture?

Categories: Animals, Religion, Websites
Posted by Alex on Sat Mar 17, 2012
Comments (2)
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