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Status: Hoax (supposedly a magic trick, but it doesn't work)
I received this polite request this morning:

Dear web master ,
Please review this website that is able to determine a persons sex just by four visual questions.
Name : Gene Guess .com
Link : http://www.geneguess.com
Thank you ,
Pras Til


So here goes: it worked for me, correctly guessing my gender. I suppose it was an interesting ten-second time waster. I don't know why it worked. Obviously it has a 50/50 chance of getting the answer right (unless you're a hermaphrodite, which might trip it up a bit). My theory is that the color choice question must be an important clue, since guys probably tend to pick darker colors than women.

Update: Based on everyone's comments, the gender guesses it makes appear to be totally random. The trick is apparently that it will be right half the time, thus half the people will think it works. And yet it did fool me into wasting time with it.
Categories: Psychology, Websites
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 10, 2005
Comments (37)
Status: Parody
image Panexa is a drug you need to take, no matter what may, or may not be, wrong with you. As the Panexa site states:

No matter what you do or where you go, you're always going to be yourself. And Panexa knows this. Your lifestyle is one of the biggest factors in choosing how to live. Why trust it to anything less? Panexa is proven to provide more medication to those who take it than any other comparable solution. Panexa is the right choice, the safe choice. The only choice.

Now, Panexa is pretty obviously a parody of pharmaceutical advertising. For those to whom this isn't immediately clear, the Important Safety Information listed on the site should remove all doubts. (Side effects include: shiny, valuable feces composed of aluminum and studded with diamonds and sapphire... everything you think you see becomes a Tootsie Roll to you... inability to distinguish the colors 'taupe' and 'putty.') The Panexa site was created by Jason Torchinsky, who's a member of the comedy group the Van Gogh-Goghs and a contributor to Stay Free! Magazine (which interviewed me a couple of months ago, though I don't know if the interview ever ran in the magazine).

However, the parody was apparently lost on CafePress, which Stay Free! Magazine was using to sell Panexa t-shirts. Carrie McLaren, the editor of Stay Free!, reports that:

After a reader sent me a note wondering what happened to our Panexa merchandise, I noticed that Cafepress has removed it due to copyright and trademark infringement!... Apparently, one of the genuises in Cafepress's police division thinks Panexa is an actual product and that we are infringing. I sent Cafepress an email about this and am awaiting a response.

Maybe there are new copyright laws that prohibit anyone from making fun of pharmaceutical companies. Wouldn't surprise me a bit. (via J-Walk)
Categories: Health/Medicine, Websites
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 03, 2005
Comments (15)
Status: Art Project
image Mindbending Software claims to offer programs that will insert subliminal messages into the favorite computer games of your kids, thereby reprogramming them, as they play the games, to do as you wish. Their website states:

Mindbending Software Inc. is a company specialized on psychological conditioning software packages for children. With the newest technologies our products infiltrate the computer games of your kids and mingle various subconscious or conscious conditiong messages and images in the game contents. The technology can be compared with the subconscious pictures in the TV program, and if you don’t know about them, ask yourself why are you buying all those things you don’t need. You see it works ! Our software uses the same and some other patented methods to condition your kids. Try it out, if you aren’t satisfied you’ll get your money back!

Their subliminal control programs include the Tranquilizer™, Intellectualizer™, Selfesteemizer™, and Professionizer™. So is this real? Not really. It's an art project created by Robert Praxmarer. But what gets me is that he actually will allow people to buy the products listed on the site. Or, at least, he'll take their money. Click on the 'Add to Cart' button, and you'll be taken to a PayPal screen that will transfer money to his account. Most hoax sites, by contrast, carefully avoid taking anyone's money, because if they do take money and don't deliver what they've advertised, that's fraud. So maybe Praxmarer really will send some kind of "subliminal" software to people who pay for it. (He wants, on average, over $1000 per program.) But he could still be opening himself up to charges of fraud if the software doesn't work as advertised.
Categories: Psychology, Websites
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 03, 2005
Comments (6)
Status: Hoax
image According to the HETRACIL website, "HETRACIL is the most widely prescribed anti-effeminate medication in the United States, helping 16 million Americans who suffer from Behavioral Effeminism and Male Homosexuality Disorder." In other words, it's supposedly a drug to treat homosexuality. The look and feel of the site is pretty convincing, perfectly imitating the bland soothing nature of other pharmaceutical sites. And it's plausible that some drug company could try to devise such a product, given that up until the late 1960s the American Psychiatric Association actually did list homosexuality in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual on Mental Disorders as a psychiatric disorder. However, as far as I know, no drug company is currently developing a treatment for homosexuality. In other words, HETRACIL is a hoax. This is revealed on homomojo.com in an interview with Benjamin, the creator of the HETRACIL site. The interview explains that "What he intended with these creations was to spur conversation on a “what if” scenario in which a cure for homosexuality (or at least feminine tendencies) becomes a reality. What would be the ramifications to society if sexual orientation could be manipulated?"
Categories: Health/Medicine, Psychology, Websites
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 01, 2005
Comments (25)
Status: Hoax
imageI'm a bit late on this one, but it's odd enough to be worth recording for posterity. It was the blog of Sam Gustard, "Google's first full-time on-site dentist." As the blog explained:

After they hear this people usually ask why we need our own dentist, or they roll their eyes about supposed extravagence like the well-known free meals at work and so on. Actually, I'm surprised more companies of their size don't have their own dentist. Just do the math (I had to do some math in my interview also): with 3000 employees visiting the dentist twice a year on weekdays, that's 24 patients a day, which is more than a full load. Do you want those people staying at work or leaving the office for several hours each time? On top of that, the after-hours service is key because people here are night owls, and a dental emergency could leave someone unable to work for quite some time during a key product release.

It seemed logical enough (why shouldn't big companies provide on-site dental service to their staff?), and quite a few people fell for it. But when curious bloggers asked Google directly about their dentist, Google denied all knowledge of such a person, revealing it to be a hoax. Since then the GoogleTooth blog has disappeared, though it's still in the Google cache. And below are a few pictures of the office of Google's dentist.

image image
Categories: Websites
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 24, 2005
Comments (7)
Status: Hoax (Fake News Story)
image A fake news article ruffled a few feathers over in Asia by reporting that China had invaded the Japanese island of Okinawa. In the context of growing tensions between the two countries, this was apparently believable to some people. Though there's no word on how many people fell for it. The hoaxers disguised their fake story as a Yahoo! News page. Usually fake news stories are easily spotted by examining the URL. If it looks like a Yahoo! News page, but it's not on news.yahoo.com (or whatever the Japanese equivalent is), then it's a good bet the story is fake. I haven't been able to find out what the URL of the hoax article was in this case.
Categories: Military, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri Oct 21, 2005
Comments (21)
Status: Hoax
AshtonHacked.com supposedly offers up recordings of real messages left on Ashton Kutcher's voicemail, as obtained by two guys who hacked his cellphone. (Some of the messages are not safe for work.) Kutcher's media rep claims that all the messages are fake. The owner of the site, however, continues to insist they're real, though the explanation of how the voicemail system was hacked doesn't sound very convincing. Anyway, the messages would only be of much interest to people who actually care what Ashton Kutcher does with his time.
Categories: Celebrities, Websites
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 26, 2005
Comments (9)
Status: Hoax
image Babycage.net has been selling "infant confinement" products (i.e. cages in which you can lock up your child) since 2001. Or so it claims. It also offers a Teenager Cage, which looks like it could be very useful. The company's philosophy is straight-forward:

At BabyCage.net we believe that the most important tool you need in life to succeed is discipline. Without discipline and structure, a child may become succeptible to liking rock and roll, doing drugs, or in an extreme case believing in liberalism.

Given that all the company's products are pet cages that have been rebranded as baby cages, I'm pretty confident the site is a joke. I'd categorize it in the modest proposal genre. (Thanks to azog for the link.)
Categories: Birth/Babies, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri Sep 23, 2005
Comments (29)
Michel sent an email asking whether the Lesbian Phone Call site is for real or not. A description, from the site, advertises that:

LesbianPhoneCall.com delivers you a phone call from a genuine lesbian!
For $10 one of our professional lesbians will call anywhere in the US or Canada. A member of our diverse lesbian staff will call you within three business days. Simply supply a name, telephone number and tell us what sort of lesbian you'd like. We do the rest! Order a lesbian call for mom!


It's hard to know if this was ever anything more than a joke. (They're currently not taking orders... if they ever did... so you can't call to find out.) I suspect it's a joke created by uncoolcentral.com, to whom the domain name is registered.
Categories: Websites
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 19, 2005
Comments (12)
I always feel guilty when I don't update my weblog regularly. Like when I was finishing my book and didn't have time to post, or this past week when I got the stomach flu and didn't feel like sitting at the computer. The guys at Blogoriented have an ingenious solution to this problem. They're outsourcing blogging:

We are outsourcing blogs to China. Our general business model is a two tiered effort to hire Chinese citizens to write blogs en masse for us at a valued wage... These blogs will pop up in various areas of the net and appear to the unknowing reader to be written by your standard American. Our short term goal for these original blogs is to generate a steady stream of revenue through traditional blog advertising like google adwords... The long term goal is to generate a large untraceable astroturfing mechanism for launching of various products. When a vendor needs to promote a new product to the internet demographic we will be able to create a believable buzz across hundreds of ‘reputable’ blogs and countless message boards. We can offer a legitimacy to advertisers that doesen’t exist anywhere else. The second tier of our plan is a blog vacation service where our employees fill in for established bloggers who need to take a break from regular posting.

All this smells a lot like a hoax to me. It also smells like a hoax to the author of this news.com article. If these Chinese bloggers have such a perfect command of English that they could effortlessly pass for "standard Americans," then they should blog as themselves. That would be more interesting than pretending to be American.

As for the blog vacation service, that's not a bad idea. I've thought about having guest bloggers step in when I don't have time to blog. Or I could invite readers to submit posts and pay a buck or two per post that I choose to put on the site (as a way to share the Google adsense revenue). Interesting thought.
Categories: Business/Finance, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri Aug 19, 2005
Comments (13)
Has Christopher Walken announced his intention to run for President of the United States? If you believe the press release posted on the 'Walken for Pres' site, he has:

09 August, 2005. New York - Early today, actor Christopher Walken, 62, held a private conference at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York in which he announced his intentions to run for the Presidency of the United States in the 2008 Election. Said the Queens native, “I have always been a follower of politics. My father was friends with the mayor of Schodack (NY) back in the 1940’s. We would walk the streets of Schodack and the people, they would wave to him. The children adored him. That is what I love to be, a man of respect and love.”

However, WorldNet Daily (which, I realize, isn't the most credible of sources, but in this case I suspect they're correct), reports a rumor that the Walken For Pres site is a hoax that is being perpetrated by members of the General Mayhem message boards.
Categories: Celebrities, Politics, Websites
Posted by Alex on Sun Aug 14, 2005
Comments (27)
When I was writing my new book (which will be published April 2006) I wanted to include a picture of the Mini Cooper Autonomous Robot, which was an online hoax created by BMW's marketing agency. They were willing to give me permission to include the image in my book, however they objected to the fact that I referred to it as a hoax. I asked how they wanted it described instead. Their response: "It's not a hoax. It's a clever marketing campaign". So I think that's how I now refer to it in my book, though I put the term in quotes. Anyway, it looks like BMW's marketing team is still busy creating new 'clever marketing campaigns'. Alex Knight forwarded me this link to MOTORmate.com, which is a site that sells motoring accessories for Mini Cooper drivers. The accessories are pretty odd (such as a g-force indicator and a 'hey horn'). They're also very expensive. Which would lead one to assume that they're not real. But as far as I can tell, the site really is selling them. At least, the site was willing to take my credit card info when I clicked on the buy info, which is usually a decent sign that something is real (unless it's outright fraud).
Categories: Websites
Posted by Alex on Thu Aug 04, 2005
Comments (4)
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