Hoax Museum Blog: Miscellaneous

Alan Abel in Gelf — Gelf Magazine has an article about Alan Abel, who will be speaking at Gelf's Non-Motivational Speaker Series on Thursday, April 24 in New York City.

The article gives a quick overview of Abel's career: The Society for Indecency to Naked Animals, his obituary in the New York Times, Citizens Against Breastfeeding, etc.

One interesting part at the end, which I've heard people speculate about before, is how Abel funds himself:

This subject is the only one which he's vague about in the interview. He mentions I am probably better off watching his daughter’s recent documentary about him—Abel Raises Cain—to ascertain the details of his day-to-day affairs, but says he works as a consultant, and then gives some examples of the kind of consultations he’s done in the past. Rather than traditional consulting jobs in which one is brought in to advise on business or personal matters, all three of Abel’s stories involve tracking down people or money in cross-country adventures, leaving me with the idea that perhaps Alan Abel is some sort of vigilante mystery-solver, a cross between Harvey Keitel’s character in Pulp Fiction and Encyclopedia Brown. As for securing funding for his hoaxes, Abel is similarly ambiguous, attributing his financial backing to an anonymous millionaire from Florida.

I wonder if this "anonymous millionaire from Florida" would care to fund the Museum of Hoaxes?

Jenny Abel, Abel's daughter, recently sent me a copy of her movie, Abel Raises Cain. I plan to watch it sometime in the next two weeks (right after I finish work on the proposal for my next book), and will post about it then.
Posted: Wed Apr 23, 2008.   Comments (10)

April Fools Email - Not My Doing — Someone pasted part of my April Fools list into an email, and this is circulating around Europe. It has the subject line: Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time.

Whoever is responsible for doing this, used my email address in the "From" field. I know this because I'm being swamped by bouncebacks from people who are not in their office, or whose server is rejecting the message.

I'm hoping the email doesn't have a virus attached to it, but my fear is that it does. There's a link at the bottom of the email inviting people to "Read all the other Doaxes," and this link leads to a suspicious-looking document hosted on secure.filesanywhere.com.

I just want to say, to anyone who might have received this message, that I have nothing to do with it. Unfortunately, I'm also powerless to stop it.
Posted: Mon Mar 31, 2008.   Comments (4)

April Fool’s Day Survival Mode — April 1st is approaching, which means that the Museum will probably experience its annual surge of traffic that results in pages loading incredibly slowly or not at all. I'm going to do whatever possible to stop the site from crashing on April 1st, though I'm not sure how much I can really do.

I've already moved most of the images to a separate server, to reduce the strain on the main server. I'm also going to temporarily eliminate avatars in the forum. I'm not deleting them. They just won't show up until I reactivate them after April 1st. Unfortunately, because of the way the forum software works, I can't move them to a different server. They're either served up by my web host, or they're not served up at all.

I'm also tweaking settings in the blog software. If it can be easily done, I might turn off commenting on April 1st. Better to have new visitors be able to see something, but not leave comments, than not see anything at all because the page won't load.
Posted: Tue Mar 25, 2008.   Comments (10)

Business opportunities I have squandered — When someone wants to rent a midget, I'm apparently the first person they contact. I say this because I receive A LOT of email inquiries from people wanting to rent midgets, such as this one I got yesterday:

do you know any midget strippers that would do a wake up at a bachelor party

or this one from a few weeks ago:

Do you know if I could get 2 male midgets at my Lounge for a party this Friday Jan 25th in Chicago IL.  I would appreciate a response.

It's my fault. I posted about a rent-a-midget service years ago, and ever since then the emails from people seeking midgets to rent have continued to trickle in, usually at the rate of about one a month.

I also receive many inquiries from people who want to buy tapeworms for the purpose of dieting, who want to know if I sell marzipan babies, who are looking to buy a fake sun roof, or who want to join the Nigerian navy.

I'm really missing out on good business opportunities by not offering these services.

Once upon a time I was receiving emails almost daily from people seeking fake doctor notes, but no longer. Apparently someone has usurped my position as the preferred source of information about this product.
Posted: Mon Feb 25, 2008.   Comments (7)

A minor change — Sorry if I caused anyone vertigo. I decided to move the sidebar over to the left side of screen since, visually, I think it makes more sense to have it lined up beneath the museum banner. Nothing else has changed.

It should only take a few moments to regain your bearings.

Update: Ignore what I said above.
Posted: Wed Feb 20, 2008.   Comments (22)

LaMa on the Evening News — Long-time forum regular LaMa (aka Marco Langbroek) has made it onto the news in the Netherlands! Thankfully, it's not for anything bad. He was interviewed in his capacity as an amateur satellite tracker (in Dutch a "satellietspotter") about that satellite the pentagon is planning to shoot down. Marco writes:

Been on the Dutch 10 pm TV news by our National broadcaster NOS today. Had a cameraman and reporter visiting me for that early this evening.
It concerns an item about the spy satellite USA 193 that the US navy is going to knock from the sky with a missile. I am one of the amateur satellite trackers who has been tracking this thing.
The broadcast can be seen here:
The (short) item starts at 2m30s in the record, and my (even shorter) appearance in it at about 3m25s. It shows me behind my desk in my home giving my take on what I think is the real reason behind this exercise, and then it shows me doing some (mock) observations from my home.
As it is in Dutch, you won’t understand a word though…

Marco's right. I didn't understand a word. But it looked to me like he knew what he was talking about. And that's what's important.

But now I'm dying to know -- what is the real reason they're shooting that thing down?

Posted: Wed Feb 20, 2008.   Comments (18)

Tah—In the Flesh! — Two weekends ago I got a chance to meet John Baker -- better known in the Hoax Forum as the moderator Tah. He was in San Diego with his family on vacation. We had lunch and then took the ferry across San Diego harbor. I had a great time.

John's back home now and emailed me this snapshot of the two of us posing in front of the San Diego skyline. (I'm the short one — and I'm six-feet tall!) Our wives and John's daughter are out of view behind the camera.

The only negative is that it was early February so I, thinking it would be chilly down on the water, had come dressed in black jeans and a sweater. It turned out to be 80 degrees that day, so I had shed the sweater by the time this picture was taken. But I was still pretty hot.

I've now met all the forum moderators in person, except for MadCarlotta, Maegan, and Myst (who hasn't been around in ages). I can confirm that they're all the nicest, most intelligent group of people you could imagine.

John also sent a picture of what he suggests might be Nessie in the bay. He notes, "Anne [his wife] seemed to think it was just two seals looking for fish, but I know better!"

Posted: Wed Feb 20, 2008.   Comments (12)

A Warning to Mac Users — I'm a Mac user, and I recently decided to upgrade to the new operating system, OS X Leopard. I thought it would be relatively simple to upgrade. But it wasn't. I've spent the last two days stuck in front of my computer working out all the kinks. So I thought I'd post a warning to help any other people in a similar situation avoid the mistakes I made.

My big mistake was apparently my choice to simply upgrade the existing system. It took an hour or two to complete the installation process, but then, instead of seeing an improvement, the performance of my computer slowed to a crawl. It was like swimming through molasses. I kept getting an endlessly spinning beach ball whenever I tried to do anything. A few times the finder froze. I have a relatively new computer -- an intel mac mini -- so the hardware should have been able to handle the upgrade. I was thinking, "Wow, this new system sucks!"

After some slow searching on the internet, I discovered that other people had been reporting the same problem. The solution was that instead of simply upgrading the system, you had to do a clean install. This meant wiping out everything and starting new. So that's what I decided to do. The problem was, this meant backing everything up first -- something I should have been doing on a regular basis anyway, but hadn't been.

So I spent an entire day backing stuff up, doing a clean install of the system, and then reinstalling everything.

Long story short, I'm back in business, and the new operating system works really well. But it took me two solid days of messing with this to get it to work.

Obviously the experience of others may vary. But I'd definitely recommend doing a clean install right away, and not even thinking about choosing the "upgrade" option. But now that the system is working correctly, I do like it.
Posted: Sat Jan 19, 2008.   Comments (14)

Spammed by the Disinformation Company — Authors love to read reviews of their books, especially positive ones. So, as an author, it's difficult to resist the temptation to periodically check out the Amazon page for your book, to see if readers have posted any new reviews of it. However, in Hippo Eats Dwarf I pointed out the danger of taking such reviews too seriously because so many of them are posted either by friends of the author -- or by rivals. In fact, I actually invited people to post fake reviews of Hippo Eats Dwarf. (You need to go to the early reviews to find the fake ones -- they're obvious when you see them.)

Inviting people to post fake reviews seemed appropriate for Hippo Eats Dwarf, since that book is all about fakery, but it didn't seem to fit for Elephants on Acid. So I never asked anyone to post a review. But when I last checked Elephants on Acid's Amazon product page, I discovered that a fake review had found its way on there anyway. Or rather, a spam review. But the identity of the person posting the spam surprised me. Here's the latest review of Elephants on Acid, posted by "DISINFO CEO":

The review follows the tried-and-true formula of comment spam. A meaningless platitude, followed by a plug for the product the spammer is trying to promote, which in this case is a book by Mark Pilkington. But if you check out the page for Pilkington's book, you'll discover that DISINFO CEO has posted a review there as well -- and in that review he pretty much reveals that he's the publisher of Pilkington's book!

In other words, someone who appears to be the CEO of the Disinformation Company is leaving comment spam on Amazon -- on the page for my book! I've never had any contact with the Disinformation Company, but I am aware of them and had always thought they published some interesting stuff, which is why it really surprised me that THEY, of all companies, would do something that tacky. The irony here is that DISINFO CEO, on his profile page, claims his nickname is "DeathToSpammers".

The possibility that DISINFO CEO is actually someone with no affiliation to the Disinformation Company crossed my mind, but what would be their motive to do this?

I clicked the link to flag DISINFO CEO's review of my book as inappropriate, since I think it's obviously spam. If Amazon agrees, the review may no longer be there by the time you read this.

Update: Amazon has deleted the spammy review. An irony is that I actually thought Pilkington's book sounded really interesting, so I ordered it -- but I ordered it from a used bookstore, so the Disinformation Company won't get any money from the sale. Ha!
Posted: Fri Dec 07, 2007.   Comments (6)

Elephants on Acid Publicity — I received a couple of emails this morning along the lines of: Hey, the Guardian just published a list of the top ten weirdest experiments of all time. It sounds a lot like your list of the top 20 most bizarre experiments. They're not ripping you off, are they?

It's nice that people are concerned, but there's no need to worry. I haven't been ripped off. After I posted my top 20 list back in September, New Scientist contacted me asking if I would like to create a shortened version of it for their magazine. I was more than happy to oblige, and the resulting article will appear in the Nov. 3 issue of New Scientist.

Apparently New Scientist circulated a pre-release version of this article to the media, and it's been picked up by a lot of British papers: The Daily Telegraph, The London Times, and the Daily Mail.

I've also found it in the South African Independent Online, the Sydney Morning Herald, and PhysOrg.com.

Here in America, the Hartford Courant had an article about my book, focusing on the creepy experiments to coincide with Halloween.

So there's been some good publicity. Hopefully it'll help sell a few books.

And speaking of publicity, I'll be doing a book signing at Dark Delicacies bookstore at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 18th. It's a bookstore that specializes in horror, so the first chapter of my book (the one with all the Frankenstein-style experiments) should hopefully find a receptive audience there. If you live in the L.A. area, come on by and say hello.

Update: My publisher also tells me that Playgirl magazine plans to review Elephants on Acid (probably because it has a chapter on weird sex experiments). Thankfully, they're not planning a photoshoot of the author to accompany the review. But I will be able to tell people that I've been featured in Playgirl.
Posted: Thu Nov 01, 2007.   Comments (6)

San Diego Fires — San Diego is on fire again. I've been watching the TV most of the day, tracking the progress of the fires. It's amazing how many people have been evacuated and homes have been destroyed. From what I hear, many more people have been affected by this fire than by the fire back in 2003.

I'm lucky that where I am in San Diego (relatively close to downtown), I'm not in any danger. All that I'm dealing with is the smoke. But that's pretty bad. The air smells strongly of it, and if you're outside for any length of time you start to feel it in your lungs.

Here's a photo I took a few minutes ago from my roof (looking west). You can see the layer of smoke hanging over the city. But still, the smoke is not as bad where I am as it was during the 2003 fire. Compare the photo below to the photos I took during the 2003 fire.

Posted: Tue Oct 23, 2007.   Comments (12)

Campus Book Drop Volunteers Wanted — My publisher is looking for approximately 20 volunteers willing to participate in a campus book drop guerilla marketing effort for my new book, Elephants on Acid. Their idea is to have people leave copies of the book in highly visible places, such as on college campuses, where someone else will pick it up. Hopefully this will help spread the word about the book.

I'm not sure how many sales these book drop efforts actually create, but it's worth a try (especially since my publisher is the one paying for it!). If you volunteer, my publisher will mail you a free copy of the book. Of course, it's not a copy you can keep forever. The idea is to leave it somewhere after you've finished reading it. And yeah, it's all on the honor system, so you could just keep the book. But that would be dishonest!

Contact me by email if you'd like to volunteer. The only conditions are that you have to live in the U.S. or Canada. (Sorry, it's not being published anywhere else yet.) And we're also looking for some geographic variety, so that we don't get twenty people all in the same city.

UPDATE: So I've now already got all the volunteers I need. Thanks to everyone who's agreed to help out. And sorry if you wanted to volunteer, but are only reading the post now. You can always buy the book and leave it somewhere. 😉 The geographic location of volunteers turned out to be well distributed, just by random chance. The largest concentration of volunteers was in Missouri, but there's not enough Missourians to warrant dropping anyone for that reason. After all, It doesn't hurt to have a couple of the books circulating in the same state.

UPDATE 2: One other thing. A couple of people mentioned that the books should be marked in some way to prevent people from simply selling them on eBay. I assume the publisher is going to do this, but I'll point it out to them, just in case this possibility never occurred to them.
Posted: Wed Oct 10, 2007.   Comments (13)

Introducing Elliot Feldman — I was browsing the web a few days ago when I came across a guy who was posting lots of great hoax-related articles to the Associated Content site. He seemed to know all kinds of fascinating, obscure things.

That guy was Elliot Feldman. I emailed him and asked him if he'd consider posting some articles here to the Museum of Hoaxes. Luckily, he agreed. So I want to introduce everyone to Elliot. We should be getting to read his articles regularly from now on.

Elliot says that he was a game show writer for 25 years. Shows included the Match Game, Hollywood Squares, Nickelodeon's Double Dare, and (yes, it's true) That's My Dog. He published his first novel, Sitting Shiva, in 2003. You can buy it at Amazon.

Elliot is also a cartoonist. You can check out some of his comics at detroitcrazy.com and scene4.com.

He supplied four facts about his life, half of which are fake. You have to guess which are the true Feldman Facts and which are the fake ones:

• He once dressed in a molting chicken suit and was beaten to death by San Diego Padres fans.

• He was a cartoonist long before he was a writer.

• His first TV job was as a (blank) for The Match Game.

• He is currently searching for the Loch Ness Monster in Florida.

Elliot's first article, posted in the Hoaxipedia, is about John Howard Griffin, a white man who had his skin darkened so that he could pose as a black man.

He promises future articles about subjects such as thirties and forties con artist Titanic Thompson, golf hustlers, pool hustler Minnesota Fats, con artists who have sold landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Brooklyn Bridge, and Bob, Ivan Stang, and the Church of the SubGenius.
Posted: Tue Aug 28, 2007.   Comments (12)

Minor Change — I decided to add a few visuals to the top of the page. I thought it was looking a bit too plain before. I wonder if anyone can identify all the figures without looking through the museum to find out what they are. (There's no prize. I'm just curious if anyone can do it.)

At some point I'll make the figures clickable, so that they'll link to whatever they represent, but that's a bit of work. I'll save that project for later.

Also, from time to time I might change them around. Take some out, put in a few new ones. It's quite easy to do. I can even have special ones for holidays like Christmas, Halloween, and April Fool's Day, like Google does.
Posted: Thu Aug 23, 2007.   Comments (17)

Everything is back to normal — After a couple days of fussing with the design of the site, I've decided to put everything back to almost the way I had it when I started -- except for a few minor tweaks. I decided I couldn't stand having the google ads smack in the middle of the weblog, even if they do generate more money there. (It's probably a trade off anyway between making more money and driving off readers, so it comes out even in the end.) You can all carry on as if nothing ever happened.
Posted: Wed Aug 15, 2007.   Comments (10)

Another Site Redesign — Once again, I've redesigned the look of the front page. What prompted the redesign was that quite a few people had mentioned to me that they didn't realize the site was anything more than the blog. So I've put links to the entire contents of the site right up top where they're harder to miss. This also allows me to feature the hoax forum more prominently, and increase the width of the column for the blog. One of these days, after I win the lottery, I'll get a professional to design the site. But until then, we'll see how this format works out.
Posted: Tue Aug 14, 2007.   Comments (20)

First review of Elephants on Acid — The first review of Elephants on Acid: And Other Bizarre Experiments is in. It's from Kirkus Reviews:
The author of Hippo Eats Dwarf: A Field Guide to Hoaxes and Other B.S. (2006) enters the realm of reality, albeit from an odd angle.
Boese is a student of the weird. An inquisitive (read: obsessive) sort, he seems to be the sort of guy who, once he gets a superb idea, sees it through to the end and then some. Here, he offers a compilation of weird (there’s that word again) scientific and sociological experiments performed over the past two centuries. Some of the many highlights: a 1931 test to determine whether it’s possible for a chimp to raise a human baby; a 1977 examination on the validity of scratch-’n’-sniff paper; a gentleman who, in 1928, proved males could be multi-orgasmic to the tune of six ejaculations in 36 minutes; and, of course, the titular experiment to determine what happens when elephants are dosed with large quantities of LSD. Boese structures the book in such a manner that it can be read comfortably either front-to-back or at random. Very well-researched and delivered in an engaging, breezy, wink-wink tone similar to that of Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg’s Why Do Men Have Nipples?, this will likely be enjoyed equally by science buffs and casual aficionados of the curious.
One the finest science/history bathroom books of all time.
Then again, it may be the only science/history bathroom book of all time.
The part of the review in bold is what appears on Amazon. The review botches the details of most of the experiments it mentions, but that's a minor matter. What I really like is that line, "One [of] the finest science/history bathroom books of all time." But, of course, while good reviews are nice, what really matters is that people buy the book. (Hint, hint.)
Posted: Wed Aug 08, 2007.   Comments (8)

Alex’s African Adventure — I'm back! The return flight from Africa took almost 30 hours (and with layovers it basically was two entire days of travel), but I made it. I got back late Monday night and then spent Tuesday decompressing, trying to shake off the jet lag.

After a quick glance around, it looks like the site survived my absence. Thanks to Cranky Media Guy for filling in as the Guest Curator while I was gone. He did a great job. I guess this means I'm pretty much expendable around here!

Africa was incredible, but I had no internet access while I was there (and often no electricity either), so my apologies to anyone who tried to contact me while I was gone.

The trip consisted of a week in Malawi and two weeks in South Africa -- two very different countries. Malawi is a very rural society. In many places the lifestyle doesn't seem to have changed much there in hundreds of years. You still see numerous villages dotting the countryside, consisting of a handful of thatch huts. Women walk around with huge bundles of sticks on their heads. South Africa, by contrast, is much more modern. Many areas of it look almost exactly like America, with malls and office buildings... but down the road from the malls you find vast, sprawling shanty towns where people live in pretty wretched conditions.

One of my favorite sights in Malawi was the guys who stand by the side of the road selling mice-on-a-stick. Apparently many Malawians quite enjoy this dish. The vendors catch the mice by starting a fire in the brush to scare the rodents out. Then they spear about four or five of the critters on a stick and cook them -- fur, bones and all -- until they're charcoal black. Although I didn't sample this delicacy, I'm told that the proper way to eat a mouse on a stick is by beginning with the tail and working your way up to the head. You simply spit out the bones, much like you would do when eating chicken wings. I wanted to get a picture of a mouse-on-a-stick vendor, but I never had a chance. My sister, who lives in Malawi, promises me that she'll take a picture of one and send it to me. (In the meantime, I found some pictures of mice on a stick on a blog called Misadventures in Malawi and Beyond.)

I also spent a couple of days at Lake Malawi, where I kept an eye out for any sign of a Lake Malawi Monster. Lake Malawi is also known as Lake Nyassa, so it's monster, if it has one, would, I suppose, be called Nyassie. Unfortunately I didn't see a monster, though I did see a couple of otters, which I thought was pretty exciting at the time.

In South Africa, I got to visit Kruger Park where I saw elephants, rhinos, giraffe, and hippos. However, I saw no elephants on acid, nor any hippos eating dwarves.

While in South Africa, I also got to take a trip down a platinum mine, an experience which made me resolve never to quit blogging in order to become a miner.

Here's a few pictures of me from the trip. From left to right: taking a nap in a hammock at Lake Malawi, very cautiously petting a cheetah at the De Wildt Cheetah Park in South Africa, and 500 meters beneath the ground in a platinum mine (you can tell from the expression on my face that I'm feeling a little claustrophobic).

image image image

Posted: Wed Jul 18, 2007.   Comments (26)

72 hours to get ready for a date—it’s ART! — Unlike a lot of people, I actually tend to like modern art. I can understand, however, why people think that some of it isn't really art, though. It seems that the way to become an art world sensation is to come up with what more accurately be called a publicity stunt, do it in a gallery, perhaps, call it A*R*T and find a super rich guy like Charles Saatchi (a patron of the modern art world in Great Britain) to pay you an enormous sum of money for whatever physical manifestation of it you can whip up.

Lian Sifuentes is an artist who is spending 72 hours getting ready for a date. She is doing this in a tent in Union Square Park on the northern edge of Greenwich Village in New York City. She's being filmed or videotaped as she does this and eventually her "date prep" will be turned into a movie. Every hour she takes will be condensed into a minute of screen time so that she will appear to be moving at normal speed while everything around her will look like it's moving at light speed. Oooookay. Hey, it beats working the fry station at Burger King.

I guess my point in putting this up on MoH is for you guys to collectively discuss whether "art" like this really IS art. Is it just a publicity stunt or a hoax or is it a legitimate form of artistic expression. Have at it.

It must be art 'cause I can't understand it

["It must be art 'cause I can't understand it" is something my old friend Guy Ennis once said when we went to see some pretentious movie I can no longer remember the name of.]
Posted: Wed Jul 11, 2007.   Comments (16)

Net Authority — Net Authority is a site that claims to be...well, I'm not completely sure WHAT it's claiming to be. Something about being the controlling authority over the Internet. That sounds vague, but if you look at the site, you'll see what I mean. I'm very sure this is a hoax, based on how just-outside-of-credible the writing is, but it's very well done.

"Net authority" hoax?

OK, I just found this by the guy who claims to have come up with Net Authority:

"Net authority" revealed?

OK, I looked a little further into Net Authority. It's not really that they're claiming to be in charge of the Internet; it's more like they saying they SHOULD be.

OK, I have to stop saying "OK" so much.

UPDATE: This guy got a "cease and desist" letter from Net Authority. He knows it's a joke, but he doesn't think it's funny:

Not amused by Net Authority

Posted: Wed Jul 04, 2007.   Comments (6)

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