Cubism - a lamp in the corner optical illusion

A real-life black and white Necker Cube illusion 

Joni Mitchell looks at clouds from both sides

Joni Mitchell in 1969. 
Despite looking at something from all sides, 
she remembers the illusions, and realizes she doesn't really know.

Joni Mitchell was on a plane in 1967 reading Saul Bellow's book Henderson the Rain King and looking at the clouds out the window when the book's narrator thinks, while flying in an airplane to Africa:
“And I dreamed down at the clouds, and thought that when I was a kid I had dreamed up at them, and having dreamed at the clouds from both sides as no other generation of men has done, one should be able to accept his death very easily.”
She was inspired to write her song Both Sides Now, which was included in her second album, Clouds.

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I've looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I've looked at love that way

But now it's just another show
You leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know
Don't give yourself away

I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It's love's illusions I recall
I really don't know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say "I love you" right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I've looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I've changed
Well something's lost, but something's gained
In living every day

I've looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all

I've looked at life from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all

The new $100 bill and a brief history of counterfeiting

The new Benjamin, with his 3-D Security Ribbon and a Bell in the Inkwell
"For decades the appearance of the $100 bill remained largely unchanged. In the late 1980s, the so-called supernote made its appearance: highly accurate $100s (and some $50s) that baffled investigators...

Regardless of the source of the supernotes, they prompted the first major overhaul of the paper currency in decades. The first big change came with the introduction of the new $100 bill in 1996, which featured the "large head" design that has since become standard, along with watermarks and color-shifting ink. But the latest version of the $100 unveiled this week takes things to a whole different level."
Article at The Wall Street Journal>>

More on the new $100 bill security features from the U.S. government>>

Does it threaten our planet when people wrap themselves tightly in their beliefs?

"People wrap themselves tightly in their beliefs, and they do it so tightly that you can't set them free. Not even the truth will set them free."

- Michael Spencer, author of Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives.


Scarface play performed by elementary school kids

 "Say hello to my little Nerf gun friend."
The fudgin' video that went viral on fudgin' YouTube.

The real story, from the Los Angeles Times>>

A real-world optical illusion. You... almost in the spotlight

Spotlight Curtain

"For the exhibition Re-kwi-siet during the Dutch Design Week Bart created a curtain with an imaginary spotlight. The spotlight is woven into the curtain and is a combination of unbleached linen and pastel green polyester." 

Bart Hess>> 

'No drawing can lie itself; it is only the opinion of the expert that can deceive.' - Eric Hebborn

 The Portrait of Henri Leroy
by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot 

 The Portrait of Henri Leroy
by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot

"One of these drawings is 'The Portrait of Henri Leroy' by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, in the collection of the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University. The other is a copy of same, done by the notorious forger, Eric Hebborn, whose story has been recently told by philosopher Denis Dutton in his popular book, 'The Art Instinct.' How can one tell the difference?"
Go to Mountshang to learn more from Chris Miller>>

"In his autobiography, two of Hebborn’s themes are the venality of art dealers and the pseudo-expertise of the scholars who authenticated his fakes. Clearly, greedy dealers looked none-too-carefully at his works and sold them for vast profits. The experts whom he tricked may have looked more carefully, but Hebborn was an exceedingly clever forger. Not only was he extremely knowledgeable about materials, he possesses a remarkably adaptable mimetic ability. In this respect, his oeuvre challenges to some extent the widely-accepted belief that forgers invariably give themselves away by allowing their own personal mannerisms to infect their fakes. Hebborn displayed an astonishing ability to think himself into another artist’s style and effectively imitate it. Moreover, many of his fakes are disarming in their life and grace. They are, simply as basic visual objects, beautiful to look at."
Death of a Forger, an article by Denis Dutton>>

"FORGERY and PLAGIARISM are both forms of fraud. In committing art forgery I claim my work is by another person. As a plagiarist, I claim another person’s work is my own. In forgery, someone’s name is stolen in order to add value to the wrong work; in plagiarism someone’s work is stolen in order to give credit to the wrong author."
Forgery and Plagiarism, also by Denis Dutton>>

Eric Hebborn's book, The Art Forgers Handbook, is considered one of the best books on art forgery >>

How much do Americans lie? A new study

We often hear the statistic that people tell one to two lies per day. But a new study on lying shows that this number of lies is an average. In a given day, most people don't tell any lies, while almost half the lies are told by only 5% of the population.

Of course, this is what people report that they do. They could be lying.

The Prevalence of Lying in America: Three Studies of Self-Reported Lies
This study addresses the frequency and the distribution of reported lying in the adult population. A national survey asked 1,000 U.S. adults to report the number of lies told in a 24-hour period. Sixty percent of subjects report telling no lies at all, and almost half of all lies are told by only 5% of subjects; thus, prevalence varies widely and most reported lies are told by a few prolific liars. The pattern is replicated in a reanalysis of previously published research and with a student sample. Substantial individual differences in lying behavior have implications for the generality of truth–lie base rates in deception detection experiments. Explanations concerning the nature of lying and methods for detecting lies need to account for this variation.
From Human Communications Research, at Wiley Interscience (for purchase)>> 

The deceptive butt, brought to you by Booty Pop

The infomercial is new, but the idea is old.

Need science?

"In humans, reproductive-age females, unlike other ages and classes of individuals, deposit fat preferentially on the breasts, hips, and buttocks. This suggests that such fat deposition is a deceptive sexual signal, mimicking other signals of high reproductive value and potential."

See Human hips, breasts and buttocks: Is fat deceptive?>>

"Creating anti-gravity illusion" by Michael Jackson, singer and dancer

The patent Method and means for creating anti-gravity illusion, by Michael J. Jackson, Michael L. Bush and Dennis Tompkins:
A system for allowing a shoe wearer to lean forwardly beyond his center of gravity by virtue of wearing a specially designed pair of shoes which will engage with a hitch member movably projectable through a stage surface. The shoes have a specially designed heel slot which can be detachably...
Watch Jackson's "trick" perfectly integrated into his dance sequence. It's done so quickly, it's as if he's teasing the audience to rub their eyes and say, "Did I really see that?"


He made $38 million seducing and blackmailing wealthy women

Swiss con man Helg Sgarbi
"A former Credit Suisse banker, the 44-year-old Sgarbi used to make his living preying on lonely women of means, seducing them, videotaping them having sex with him, and blackmailing them. That is, until the summer of 2007, when he took on three for-profit affairs simultaneously, including the one with his prize catch—Susanne Klatten, the married heiress to the BMW fortune and the richest woman in Germany, worth $12 billion—who became his downfall."
And later we find out about his associate, Ernano Barretta.
"Ernano Barretta had moved to Switzerland to work as a mechanic in the sixties. By the early nineties, he'd remade himself into a sensitivo, claiming he could help with spiritual troubles. (He was once convicted of dealing stolen cars.) As Barretta's flock grew, so did his mythology, which took on an intensely Christian character. He would appear bearing stigmata and would perform faith healings, receiving in return generous offerings from devotees, allegedly their entire life savings in some cases."
From Details>>

Transforming human bodies into moving objects

Pilobolus is a dance company founded in 1971.
In their performance Shadowland, we see them visibly transmogrify.

How two Scottish rappers conned the music industry

Gavin Bain and Billy Boyd became Silibil'n'Brains.

They only got noticed by record execs when they dropped their Scottish accents for American ones. So they made up a whole American life and fooled everyone. Now they had to actually make a record to become famous, but if they did and it was released, they'd be revealed, and it would all come crashing down.

From an article in the Guardian>>
But the legacy of living a lie has not been easy for Bain, he will readily admit. Now that he's no longer keeping a secret, he can't stop wondering what everyone else must be hiding, and has trouble believing a word anyone says. "Once you know how easy it is, you think, why don't people just lie all the time? Why wouldn't they? It's so easy when you do it - and then you get everything you want."
The book about it all, California Schemin'>>

Deception, paranoia, and ambiguity in 1974's The Conversation

A wiretap expert spies on a couple he suspects will be murdered, in the movie The Conversation. Features an amazing performance by Gene Hackman as Harry Caul. Written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, it's a Roger Ebert 4-star movie:
"Coppola, who wrote and directed, considers this film his most personal project. He was working two years after the Watergate break-in, amid the ruins of the Vietnam effort, telling the story of a man who places too much reliance on high technology and has nightmares about his personal responsibility. Harry Caul is a microcosm of America at that time: not a bad man, trying to do his job, haunted by a guilty conscience, feeling tarnished by his work."

5 fake ATM deceptions: fraud, hacker convention, skimmers, sex, home business opportunity

Did his highly realistic fake ATM costume fool the pretty money girl into making a cash withdrawal?

A warning about realistic fake cash machines>>

Fake ATM has short life at hacker conference>>

ATM skimmers, Part 1>>
ATM skimmers, Part 2>>

Get laid using fake ATM receipts!>>

How he made money (legally) from fake ATM receipts>>

Mirrors you can walk through - an artistic optical illusion installation by Sinta Werner

It seems as if the art exhibit hasn't been finished. We see two rectangular mirrors set up at 90 degree angles to each other. In front of them are various objects, including a ladder, a bucket, cardboard boxes, blue overalls, and two rolled-up works of art. But the artwork relies on you standing in a specific place to see this, because there are no mirrors. (Click image to enlarge.)

Sinta Werner's 4xDoublefixed / Classic Aluminium (2009)

" any controversy, the instant we feel angry..."

 Thomas Carlyle

"A wise man has well reminded us, that 'in any controversy, the instant we feel angry, we have already ceased striving for Truth, and begun striving for Ourselves.'" 

- Thomas Carlyle (1795 - 1881)

Emma Zunz by Jorge Luis Borges

Returning home from the Tarbuch and Loewenthal textile mills on the 14th of January, 1922, Emma Zunz discovered in the rear of the entrance hall a letter, posted in Brazil, which informed her that her father had died. The stamp and the envelope deceived her at first; then the unfamiliar handwriting made her uneasy. Nine or ten lines tried to fill up the page; Emma read that Mr. Maier had taken by mistake a large dose of veronal and had died on the third of the month in the hospital of Bagé. A boarding-house friend of her father had signed the letter, some Fein or Fain from Río Grande, with no way of knowing that he was addressing the deceased's daughter.

Emma dropped the paper. Her first impression was of a weak feeling in her stomach and in her knees; then of blind guilt, of unreality, of coldness, of fear; then she wished that it were already the next day. Immediately afterward she realized that that wish was futile because the death of her father was the only thing that had happened in the world, and it would go on happening endlessly. She picked up the piece of paper and went to her room. Furtively, she hid it in a drawer, as if somehow she already knew the ulterior facts. She had already begun to suspect them, perhaps; she had already become the person she would be.

Ghoul, grill and bikini lady interactive optical illusions

 The Bikini Lady

From the exhibit Eyes, Lies and Illusions at the Southbank Centre in the UK>>

How observant are you?

 David Copperfield's fan illusion

We cannot notice everything. Many things are inconsequential, even if we've seen them many times. Yet if they became important, what would we have observed about them? A small quiz.


Do programmers and animators see the human face correctly?

British actress Emily O'Brian, all gussied up.

"Who sees the human face correctly: the photographer, the mirror, or the painter?" - Pablo Picasso  

Actress Emily O'Brian from the soap opera The Young and the Restless acts as a spokesperson for facial animation software from Image Metric.


"I don't like words that hide the truth." Euphemisms by George Carlin

George Carlin's routine Euphemisms  

I don't like words that hide the truth. I don't like words that conceal reality. I don't like euphemisms, or euphemistic language. And American English is loaded with euphemisms. 'Cause Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality. Americans have trouble facing the truth, so they invent the kind of a soft language to protest themselves from it, and it gets worse with every generation. For some reason, it just keeps getting worse. I'll give you an example of that. There's a condition in combat. Most people know about it. It's when a fighting person's nervous system has been stressed to its absolute peak and maximum. Can't take any more input. The nervous system has either (click sound) snapped or is about to snap. In the first World War, that condition was called shell shock. Simple, honest, direct language. Two syllables: shell shock. Almost sounds like the guns themselves. That was seventy years ago. Then a whole generation went by and the second World War came along and very same combat condition was called battle fatigue. Four syllables now. Takes a little longer to say. Doesn't seem to hurt as much. Fatigue is a nicer word than shock. Shell shock! Battle fatigue. Then we had the war in Korea, 1950. Madison Avenue was riding high by that time, and the very same combat condition was called operational exhaustion. Hey, we’re up to eight syllables now! And the humanity has been squeezed completely out of the phrase. It's totally sterile now. Operational exhaustion. Sounds like something that might happen to your car. Then of course, came the war in Vietnam, which has only been over for about sixteen or seventeen years, and thanks to the lies and deceits surrounding that war, I guess it's no surprise that the very same condition was called post-traumatic stress disorder. Still eight syllables, but we've added a hyphen! And the pain is completely buried under jargon. Post-traumatic stress disorder. I'll bet you if we'd of still been calling it shell shock, some of those Vietnam veterans might have gotten the attention they needed at the time. I'll betcha. I'll betcha.

Is that a fake window? (Yes, it's made with high tech)

These are not real windows.

If you have a room that needs a view, mount some plasma displays on the wall with your own gorgeous video. But if you want to mimic a window more convincingly, build your own using Winscape.
"Real windows are interactive - unlike a painting on the wall.  When you move your head in relation to a window, the view outside shifts up/down/left/right.  If you want to see something in the window’s right periphery, you can move your head left to bring it into view.

We can simulate that effect if we know the location of the viewer’s head in relation to the Winscape displays.  The effect will only look correct to the one person in the room wearing the tracking device, so it’s presented more as a fun party gimmick than as a feature for full-time use."
Winscape at RationalCraft>>

Upside down world map shows "North is Up" is not "the truth"

 Is it deceptive to follow conventional wisdom for many years?
(Click the map to enlarge)

"The notion that north should always be up and east at the right was established by the Egyptian astronomer Ptolemy (90-168 AD). "Perhaps this was because the better-known places in his world were in the northern hemisphere, and on a flat map these were most convenient for study if they were in the upper right-hand corner," historian Daniel Boorstin opines. Mapmakers haven't always followed Ptolemy; during the Middle Ages, Boorstin notes, maps often had east on top--whence the expression "to orient." But north prevailed over the long haul. By the time Southern Hemispheroids had become numerically significant enough to bitch, the north-side-up convention was too well established to change."

On maps, why is north always up? from The Straight Dope>>
Buy a different version of an upside down map (not the same as the one shown) from the Boulder Map Gallery>>

Some bullsh*t happening somewhere... the news video

 The Onion News Network's "desperate attempt to fill 24 hours 
of programming" as they parody the normal news networks.

NSFW with the sound up high, although you might not hear it cause the newspeak sounds right.

For a similar video from across the pound, see Newswipe with Charlie Brooker>>

Eugene Burger film "A Magical Vision" on performing meaningful magic

"If your aim is life is pursuing truth, one of the things you might want to study is why deception is so common in life." - Eugene Burger

A Magical Vision is an hour-long video on the influence of magician and magical philosopher Eugene Burger, and the possibilities of performing more meaningful magic. Why has mystery been so essential throughout history? With magicians Jeff McBride, Robert E. Neale, George Parker and others. Directed by Michael Kaplan. Much of the footage was shot during the Theory and Art of Magic program at Muhlenberg College.

Watch A Magical Vision at Culture Unplugged>>

"No man... can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude..."

"No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true." - Nathaniel Hawthorne

English cannabilism in 1729

“Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own."

This version of Swift’s classic of sustained irony both modernizes and Americanizes spelling and language, and adds brief explanatory notes within the text. (There are many free versions without these, for example, see Project Gutenburg.)


A Modest Proposal: For preventing the children of poor people in Ireland, from being a burden on their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the public.

by Dr. Jonathan Swift

It is a melancholy object to those, who walk through this great town, (Dublin, Ireland) or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads and cabin-doors crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning every passenger for an alms. (charity) These mothers instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in strolling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants who, as they grow up, either turn thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country, to fight for the Pretender in Spain, (Prince James, the Prince of Wales, son of the deposed James II of England, currently living in Catholic Spain) or sell themselves to the Barbadoes. (West Indian islands where the English had a large slave population cultivating sugar cane.)

I think it is agreed by all parties, that this prodigious number of children in the arms, or on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers, and frequently of their fathers, is in the present deplorable state of the kingdom, a very great additional grievance; and therefore whoever could find out a fair, cheap and easy method of making these children sound and useful members of the common-wealth, would deserve so well of the public, as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.

But my intention is very far from being confined to provide only for the children of professed beggars: it is of a much greater extent, and shall take in the whole number of infants at a certain age, who are born of parents in effect as little able to support them, as those who demand our charity in the streets.

As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years, upon this important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of our projectors, (projectors are those who “project” designs - those who form fanciful schemes.)  I have always found them grossly mistaken in their computation. It is true, a child just dropped from its dam (a female parent; used of beasts, particularly of 4-legged animals), may be supported by her milk, for a solar year, with little other nourishment: at most not above the value of two shillings, which the mother may certainly get, or the value in scraps, by her lawful occupation of begging; and it is exactly at one year old that I propose to provide for them in such a manner, as, instead of being a charge upon their parents, or the parish, (the church, responsible for those who could not work) or wanting food and raiment (clothing) for the rest of their lives, they shall, on the contrary, contribute to the feeding, and partly to the clothing of many thousands.

Food advertising pics vs. Reality

Americans don't eat a lot of Herring Salad, but if we did, 
we still might expect the contents of the package 
to resemble the photo on the front.

The West Virginia Surf Report, a blog started by Jeff Kay, with photos of Fast Food: Ads vs. Reality>>

100 products vs reality, in German. They've also made a book. PUNDO3000>>

A fake village of Jews on their way to death

Actor Francisco Reyes as a Nazi commandant in the play Way to Heaven

In June 1944, the Nazis fooled Red Cross inspectors with Operation Embellishment, a fake village filled with Jews being held in "humane" conditions at the Theresienstadt concentration camp, a way-station to Auschwitz. The play Way to Heaven (Himmelweg) is based on the true story of this successful hoax. The play was written by Juan Mayorga, and translated by David Johnston.

Read a review of the play by The New York Times>>

Wikipedia entry on the Theresienstadt concentration camp>>

A fragment of a propaganda film about the camp, Terezin: A Documentary Film of the Jewish Resettlement, directed by Jewish prisoner Kurt Gerron, who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz.

Your cheatin' heart will tell on you

Your Cheatin' Heart has been covered by a multitude of artists. Hank Williams Sr. wrote the song when talking about problems with his ex-wife Audrey in 1952. He said one day that Audrey's "cheatin' heart" would pay, and immediately began writing the words to the song. After 11 number one hit songs, Hank Williams died in 1953. He was 29 years old. He had struggled all his life with chronic pain caused by spina bifida, which likely led to his alcoholism and drug abuse.

Your cheatin' heart will make you weep,
You'll cry and cry and try to sleep.
But sleep won't come the whole night through,
Your cheatin' heart will tell on you.

When tears come down like fallin' rain.
You'll toss around and call my name.
You'll walk the floor the way I do,
Your cheatin' heart will tell on you.

Your cheatin' heart will pine some day
And crave the love you threw away.
The time will come when you'll be blue,
Your cheatin' heart will tell on you.

The song by
Patsy Cline>>
Ray Charles>>
Elvis Presley>>
Melissa Manchester and the Muppets>>
Pepsi Commercial>>

"There's a face in my coffee." Sipping the art of caffeine

Not accidental art, this is art created by baristas wielding espresso and milk foam.

Find more examples at WebUrbanist>>

"Strong belief has wrought the same wonder..."

Santiago Matamoros

From Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft, Letter 1 (1830) by Sir Walter Scott

"Even in the field of death, and amid the mortal tug of combat itself, strong belief has wrought the same wonder… and those who were themselves on the verge of the world of spirits, or employed in dispatching others to these gloomy regions, conceived they beheld the apparitions of those beings whom their national mythology associated with such scenes…

In such moments of undecided battle, amid the violence, hurry, and confusion of ideas incident to the situation, the ancients supposed that they saw their deities Castor and Pollux, fighting in the van for their encouragement; the heathen Scandinavian beheld the Choosers of the slain; and the Catholics were no less easily led to recognize the warlike Saint George or Saint James in the very front of the strife, showing them the way to conquest.

Such apparitions being generally visible to a multitude, have in all times been supported by the greatest strength of testimony.

When the common feeling of danger, and the animating burst of enthusiasm, act on the feelings of many men at once, their minds hold a natural correspondence with each other, as it is said is the case with stringed instruments tuned to the same pitch, of which, when one is played, the chords of the others are supposed to vibrate in unison with the tones produced.

If an artful or enthusiastic individual exclaims, in the heat of action, that he perceives an apparition of the romantic kind which has been intimated, his companions catch at the idea with emulation, and most are willing to sacrifice the conviction of their own senses, rather than allow that they did not witness the same favorable emblem, from which all draw confidence and hope.

One warrior catches the idea from another; all are alike eager to acknowledge the present miracle, and the battle is won before the mistake is discovered.

In such cases, the number of persons present, which would otherwise lead to detection of the fallacy, becomes the means of strengthening it."

Scott's work is available at Project Gutenburg, Google Books and the Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library.

1964 magic with Ali Bongo and Alan Shaxon

Ali Bongo (1929 - 2009)

Magicians Alan Shaxon and Ali Bongo perform at The Magic Circle with a snazzy jazz piano background, in 1964. Click on the pic below to play the video from British Pathe.


Mouse pointer kite optical illusion

This kite points out to you that there's a desktop at the beach. 
Watch the YouTube clip and wonder... is that man getting paranoid?
 (Still photo thanks to Philapple at Flickr.)

Pro baseball players don't cheat, they compete

 April 1979 issue of Sports Illustrated

“We do not play baseball. We play professional baseball. Amateurs play games. We are paid to win games. There are rules, and there are consequences if you break them. If you are a pro, then you often don’t decide whether to cheat based on if it’s “right or wrong.” You base it on whether or not you can get away with it, and what the penalty might be. A guy who cheats in a friendly game of cards is a cheater. A pro who throws a spitball to support his family is a competitor.”

– Former major-league pitcher and manager George Bamberger

"The solutions all are simple - after you have arrived at them..."

"What your actual solution is is unimportant as long as it has Quality. Thoughts about the screw as combined rigidness and adhesiveness and about its special helical interlock might naturally lead to solutions of impaction and use of solvents. That is one kind of Quality track. Another track might be to go to the library and look through a catalog of mechanic's tools, in which you might come across a screw extractor that would do the job. Or to call a friend who knows something about mechanical work. Or just to drill the screw out, or just burn it with a torch. Or you might just, as a result of your meditative attention to the screw, come up with some new way of extracting it that has never been thought of before and that beats all the rest and is patentable and makes you a millionaire five years from now. There's no predicting what's on that Quality track. The solutions all are simple - after you have arrived at them. But they're simple only when you know already what they are."

- Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

"That’s part of the job of being a writer. There is a falseness to it. "

"That’s part of the job of being a writer. There is a falseness to it. You know you meet someone. You... you genuinely like them, but there is an element of facsimile in the friendship that you are creating because it’s going to end the moment the interview is over and you have to - realistically I interview people to get something out of them and they give me interviews because they want something out of me and does that bargaining compromise in every transaction that a writer or journalist carries out?"
Robert Lacey is a British historian and biographer. He wrote the biography Ford (on Henry Ford) and Majesty, on Queen Elizabeth II, and an important book on Saudi Arabia, The Kingdom, among other works.

Video and text at BigThink>>

Can you guess the number one Internet scam in 2009?

Click to enlarge this fake FBI email.

"The amount of money Americans lost to Internet-based scams and fraud soared to $559.7 million last year, more than double the figure for 2008, according to a new report.

The No. 1 scam, making up 16.6 percent of all complaints, was from e-mailers who falsely claimed to be representing the FBI."

The Dallas Morning News>>

Fake FBI email from FBI's Honolulu office>>

Artistic optical illusions by Erik Johansson

This friend of the artist needs uninterrupted hugs.

Swedish freelance photographer and student Erik Johansson works on illusions. The image below, Anlagd översvämning, won Scandinavian Photo's photo challenge 2007. His site is alltelleringet>>

Who worries about the truth instead of lunch?

The Master said, "The object of the superior man is truth. Food is not his object. There is plowing; - even in that there is sometimes want. So with learning; - profit may be found in it. The superior man is anxious lest he should not get truth; he is not anxious lest poverty should come upon him."  - Analects of Confucius

“If you cheat and fail you’re a cheater. If you cheat and succeed, you’re savvy.”

This season 12 episode of South Park is called "Eek, A Penis!" This segment parodies the movie Stand and Deliver. In it, Cartman tries teaching inner city kids the "white person method" of cheating.

Not safe for work or school, at least with the sound turned up.

How Do I Reach These Kids?>>

The practical joker Hop-Frog, a revenge by Edgar Allen Poe

Michael J. Anderson starred in Julie Taymor's 1992 
short film Fool's Fire based on Hop-Frog

Hop-Frog, by Edgar Allen Poe

I never knew anyone so keenly alive to a joke as the king was. He seemed to live only for joking. To tell a good story of the joke kind, and to tell it well, was the surest road to his favor. Thus it happened that his seven ministers were all noted for their accomplishments as jokers. They all took after the king, too, in being large, corpulent, oily men, as well as inimitable jokers. Whether people grow fat by joking, or whether there is something in fat itself which predisposes to a joke, I have never been quite able to determine; but certain it is that a lean joker is a rara avis in terris.

About the refinements, or, as he called them, the 'ghost' of wit, the king troubled himself very little. He had an especial admiration for breadth in a jest, and would often put up with length, for the sake of it. Over-niceties wearied him. He would have preferred Rabelais' 'Gargantua' to the 'Zadig' of Voltaire: and, upon the whole, practical jokes suited his taste far better than verbal ones.

At the date of my narrative, professing jesters had not altogether gone out of fashion at court. Several of the great continental 'powers' still retain their 'fools,' who wore motley, with caps and bells, and who were expected to be always ready with sharp witticisms, at a moment's notice, in consideration of the crumbs that fell from the royal table.

Our king, as a matter of course, retained his 'fool.' The fact is, he required something in the way of folly - if only to counterbalance the heavy wisdom of the seven wise men who were his ministers - not to mention himself.

His fool, or professional jester, was not only a fool, however. His value was trebled in the eyes of the king, by the fact of his being also a dwarf and a cripple. Dwarfs were as common at court, in those days, as fools; and many monarchs would have found it difficult to get through their days (days are rather longer at court than elsewhere) without both a jester to laugh with, and a dwarf to laugh at. But, as I have already observed, your jesters, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, are fat, round, and unwieldy - so that it was no small source of self-gratulation with our king that, in Hop-Frog (this was the fool's name), he possessed a triplicate treasure in one person.

I believe the name 'Hop-Frog' was not that given to the dwarf by his sponsors at baptism, but it was conferred upon him, by general consent of the several ministers, on account of his inability to walk as other men do. In fact, Hop-Frog could only get along by a sort of interjectional gait - something between a leap and a wriggle - a movement that afforded illimitable amusement, and of course consolation, to the king, for (notwithstanding the protuberance of his stomach and a constitutional swelling of the head) the king, by his whole court, was accounted a capital figure.

But although Hop-Frog, through the distortion of his legs, could move only with great pain and difficulty along a road or floor, the prodigious muscular power which nature seemed to have bestowed upon his arms, by way of compensation for deficiency in the lower limbs, enabled him to perform many feats of wonderful dexterity, where trees or ropes were in question, or any thing else to climb. At such exercises he certainly much more resembled a squirrel, or a small monkey, than a frog.

Gigantic eggs and enormous shoes - deceptive art by Petros Chrisostomou

 Wasted Youth (25 Ashbourne Avenue, Whetstone N20 0AL), 2008

Artist Petros Chrisostomou creates unexpected common things out of scale by distorting our frame of reference.

Orgy, 2007

"There is no such thing as conversation. It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that is all."

- Rebecca West, author and intellectual, (1892-1983)

Another pithy quote: "I myself have never been able to find out what feminism is; I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute."