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Status: Hoax
image I have pretty bad eyesight and have worn contacts most of my life, but up until now I've never been tempted to try Lasik surgery. However, I am tempted to give this new LASIK@Home device a try. It's the "Affordable In-Home LASIK Surgery You Can Do Yourself!™":

LASIK@Home is the same patented surgical procedure performed at eye clinics around the world, but without the unnecessary equipment and staff.

I like the instructions for use: "1) Find a quiet place with no distractions; 2) Unpack your LASIK@Home™ Kit; 3) Perform the painless procedure. Don't blink!"

It's pretty obvious that this is a hoax. First of all, the idea of home laser surgery is clearly insane. Second, the ordering form is broken, meaning you can't buy the device, but the site does sell Cafepress t-shirts! (T-shirt sales are always a reliable hoax indicator.) Third, google ads on a supposedly commercial site are another hoax giveaway. The domain was registered anonymously via domains by proxy, so I wasn't able to find out who the author of this is. (Thanks to Captain DaFt for the link.)
Categories: Websites
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 05, 2006
Comments (9)
Status: Hoax
image This is in pretty bad taste, but kind of funny nevertheless, in a twisted kind of way. A guy in Bali named Eddie Hutauruk claims to be offering guided tours that allow you to visit Schapelle Corby in her jail cell. (For those who don't recognize who Schapelle Corby is, she's the Australian woman who is currently serving a 20-year sentence for supposedly trying to import 4.1 kg of cannabis into Bali. The cannabis was found in her luggage. A lot of people think she's innocent, and that the cannabis was put in her luggage by baggage handlers at the airport who were part of a drug-smuggling ring.) The Schapelle Corby tours offer a variety of options. The photo tour gives you just enough time to pose for a photo with her, or you can opt for the more expensive All Day Tour:

This tour allows you to observe Schapelle's entire day, starting from her wake up call at 700 am. Optional extra: For just $10AUD or more you can personally ring the wake up alarm to start Schapelle's day. Observation chairs are provided, as well as food and drinks throughout the day. We respect Schapelle's privacy – so the day finishes at 6.30pm to allow Schapelle to return to her bedroom.

I'm pretty certain that the Indonesian authorities aren't going to allow a private tour company to shuttle people in and out of one of their prisons all day. Which is why I'm labelling this a hoax. Eddie's efforts to get everyone to click on his google ads also don't add to his credibility. And the pictures of people posing with Corby are obviously photoshopped. (Thanks to Emily de Saint Jores for the link.)
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri Mar 17, 2006
Comments (25)
Status: Apparently a hoax
Here's news of a hoax from China. (There seems to be more of them coming from there lately.) Massage Milk (great name!) is one of the most popular blogs in China. It was featured in a Newsweek article last month about Chinese bloggers. But a few days ago its site went blank, and the assumption was that it had been forced offline by the Chinese government. At least, this is what news organizations such as the BBC assumed. Turns out everyone was wrong. The disappearing-blog-act was just a hoax. Wang Xiaofeng, the author of Massage Milk, faxed a statement to the Interfax news agency explaining that:

I just wanted to make fun of Western journalists? [content] doesn't need to be serious on the Internet. I don't like it that Western media take a distorted view of China, though China does have problems. I thought that if I closed my blog, it would stir their imagination and then they would begin blah blah. It really is as expected. So let's they have an April Fool's day in advance."

The question is: Is Wang Xiaofeng now telling the truth? Was his site's closure really an early April Fool's Day prank, or did the Chinese government actually have a hand in what happened? Some people think the latter is the case. If it was a prank, it does seem kind of pointless (after all, why shouldn't people have believed the Chinese state would have done something like that? It's not like China is known for its open internet policy), which lends credence to the government-censorship theory.

Update: The Wall Street Journal has posted an article about the Massage Milk hoax. (And I should note that a second Chinese blog, Milk Pig, also participated in the self-shutdown hoax.) The WSJ notes that: "Beijing-based journalist Wang Xiaofeng of Massage Milk says he shut his blog down to make a point about freedom of speech -- just one directed at the West instead of at Beijing. He calls the Western press "irresponsible" and says that the hoax was designed "to give foreign media a lesson that Chinese affairs are not always the way you think." Quite frankly, I don't get it. Is shutting his own blog down supposed to prove to everyone in the West that China actually allows more freedom of speech than journalists over here supposed?
Categories: Politics, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri Mar 10, 2006
Comments (15)
Status: Hoax (mockumentary)
image Mary Woodbridge, from Greenfield, Great Britain, plans to climb Mount Everest, and she's taking her dachsund, Daisy, with her. Some might think her age will prove an obstacle (she's 85), but Mary is very confident in herself and has set herself some real challenges. She writes:

I'm not really into this whole camping thing. So Daisy and I will choose a direct route from the Base Camp to the Top... We have decided to go without Sherpas. Poor guys! I can certainly carry my own food (I have prepared a solid Irish Stew and Power Crunchies!) and the few cans of dog food for Daisy. Since we are training very hard, we don't expect to need additional oxygen on our ascent. (There are no oxygen masks for Daisy anyway!)

Yes, Mary's Everest expedition is just a joke. Her site was created by Mammut, a seller of mountain sports gear. However, EverestNews.com reports that a 74-year-old Japanese woman really is planning to climb Everest. And they swear it's not a hoax.
Categories: Sports, Websites
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 08, 2006
Comments (1)
Status: Parody
image The website of the Ann Arbor Public School system can be found at http://www.aaps.k12.mi.us/. A parody version of it (created by an unknown author) is at http://annarborpublicschools.org/. Apparently the school district doesn't find the parody amusing, because they're sending its domain host a cease-and-desist letter claiming infringement of their intellectual property. The two sites do look very similar, but I don't think their case would hold up in court. After all, parody relies upon copying elements of whatever it's making fun of, and parody has always been a "fair use" exception to copyright that the courts have strongly defended. However, the question will be whether the case ever gets to a court. Often domain hosts see a cease-and-desist letter and immediately take down the material in question rather than risk any kind of legal action. We'll have to wait and see what happens here. But I took a screen shot of the parody site, just in case it does disappear.
Categories: Websites
Posted by Alex on Tue Feb 28, 2006
Comments (9)
Status: Hoax
image Jesus 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)
Categories: Animals, Religion, Websites
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 08, 2006
Comments (21)
Status: A few hoax sites
After getting the first season of Lost on dvd for christmas, I've become hooked on the show. Although I'm beginning to suspect that the writers of the show are simply going to introduce one mystery after another without ever offering an explanation for anything. But anyway, here are some hoax websites related to Lost: Oceanic World Air (the airline that the Lost passengers were flying on), Dharma Industries (the mysterious project that was being conducted on the island), and The Hanso Foundation (The philanthropic foundation funding the Dharma Initiative. This page is part of an alternate reality game, as is the Dharma Industries site). If you know of any other Lost-related hoax sites, let me know.

And here's something that isn't a hoax, but is rather curious. If you type the mysterious numbers from Lost (4 8 15 16 23 42) into google maps, they correspond to the approximate latitude and longitude of an island in the middle of the Pacific. My guess is that this probably isn't an accident.

Update: A few more hoax websites of Lost:

http://www.driveshaftband.com (the website of Charlie's band. Thanks to Nordan for this link.)

http://www.mrcluck.com or http://www.mrclucks.com (websites of the fast-food restaurant that Hurley used to work in, before he won the lottery. As far as hoax websites go, these aren't very fully developed. The front page simply links to a podcast about the show.)

The island in the Pacific mentioned above is Kosrae Island (Thanks to Eric Schucard and Tim for this info).
Categories: Entertainment, Websites
Posted by Alex on Sat Jan 28, 2006
Comments (63)
Status: Hoax
image Pherotones are ringtones that will make you "irresistible to the opposite sex." They're basically like pheromones, but they work via sound rather than scent. They're also a hoax. According to NewsTrend.com, the website promoting them is part of a viral marketing campaign dreamed up by the McKinney-Silver ad agency. NewsTrend writes:

The first mentions of Pherotones began around December 30, on "Dr. Vanderhood's" Pherotones blog, where the good doctor began posting "an ongoing diary of the life of a scientist on the verge of a major breakthrough." The JoniMueller blog caught wind of the Pherotones blog and posted about it on January 16. The real story began to break on January 18th with an Oreilly interview with Vanderhood.

The strange thing is that no one knows what this stealth marketing campaign is for. It seems a bit useless to attract all this attention, and then blow it by not revealing what you're advertising. (Thanks to Thilo for the link.)
Categories: Sex/Romance, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 20, 2006
Comments (6)
Status: Hoax Website (political satire)
image We've already seen W Ketchup, so why not Baby Bush Toys? Their website states:

Sure, we all want what's best for our kids, but let's face the truth: not every child can grow up to be Einstein! At The Baby Bush Toy Company, we offer an exciting range of products for the resoundingly average child.

Products include a "Twisty Thing, That is Red" (shown in the thumbnail), and a "Terror Alert Xylophone." Unfortunately, none of these products seem to actually be for sale.
Categories: Birth/Babies, Politics, Websites
Posted by Alex on Wed Dec 07, 2005
Comments (5)
Status: Hoax website
Banner 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."
Categories: Religion, Websites
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 22, 2005
Comments (9)
Status: Hoax Website
image By-Accident.com claims to be a company that will "deliver customized accidents such as rape, assault and past traumatic experiences. All personally tailored to suit your special needs." The idea is that you can fake a traumatic experience in your past, and thereby get all kinds of attention as a victim. The company will even provide (optional) Aesthetic Scar Surgery to make your past "accident" more believable: "You can have any physical damage you want, our trained surgeons promise it won't hurt and the result will be exactly as you wish."

By-Accident.com is a hoax. Satirical elements such as the Christmas Mugging Special make this fairly obvious: "Your chance to avoid stress and become the center of attention during the holiday season!... Get mugged and make sure to have a warm and happy winter!" In addition, the creator of the site didn't do much to hide their identity. The site is registered to someone called Barbara Nordhjem. A quick Google search finds a poster called Malach on pixelex.com stating that: "the page is a prank.. girl making it is a danish artist. Was working for me as a production assistant some time ago."

Of course, even though the site is a hoax, it does have a core of truth to it in that a company offering such a service definitely would find customers. Witness all the fake victims that popped up after 9/11. Victimhood is very appealing to a lot of people. (Thanks to Bob Pagani, aka Cranky Media Guy, for the link.)
Categories: Psychology, Websites
Posted by Alex on Mon Nov 14, 2005
Comments (3)
Status: Hoax (probably an art project)
image I've received a couple of emails calling my attention to the Human Upgrades website. This group claims to be some kind of futuristic outfit offering bizarre DNA modification procedures such as Simplenose (giving people one large nostril instead of two), Simpletooth (fusing all the teeth into one long, continuous row), and other more sexually explicit modifications (some of the images are not safe for work). The site states that:

Human Upgrades was founded in 2001 by Doc. MUDr. FaVU. Petr Skala CSc. and his team from Institute of DNA Modification in Brno in Czech Republic. Since the contacts around the world and first class expiriences of the team Human Upgrades was able to offer unprecedented portfolio of surgeries based on the newest discoveries in the field of DNA manipulation.

All the text on the site is written in broken English, complete with misspellings. It seems that someone paid a lot of money to design the site, but never bothered to run the text past someone who can speak English. Anyway, the whole thing is obviously a hoax. The Institute of DNA Modification doesn't exist. The question is, who created the site? The main clue I can find is that all the contact information provides the addresses of European offices of the Bosch Group (makers of automotive and industrial technology). So either the contact information is a deliberate red herring. Or Human Upgrades is part of a strange marketing campaign created by Bosch's PR company.
Update: Another theory (because I find it hard to believe Bosch is responsible for Human Upgrades): There's a Czech film director named Petr Skala (same name as Human Upgrades supposed founder, and the registrant for humanupgrades.com). Perhaps he or one of his students created the site. Or perhaps this is yet another red herring.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 11, 2005
Comments (35)
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