A question of perspective. Deceptive street art in Berlin

I was walking down a street in Berlin and I turned and saw this fence... Or was it a dream and I saw something else?

From Spreeblick>>

At first I wondered how this was painted onto the fence, but if you look closely, I think this was done with strips attached to the fence. This is similar to lenticular printing, by the way.

How to use the deceptive power of The Catbird Seat

Read about 4,000 words on the inevitable and continuous war between men and women, written by Mr. James Thurber and originally published in the The New Yorker on Nov. 14, 1942. Wherein we read how our protagonist, Mr. Martin, discovered the deceptive virtue of being completely anomalous.

The Catbird Seat by James Thurber

Mr. Martin bought the pack of Camels on Monday night in the most crowded cigar store on Broadway. It was theatre time and seven or eight men were buying cigarettes. The clerk didn't even glance at Mr. Martin, who put the pack in his overcoat pocket and went out. If any of the staff at F & S had seen him buy the cigarettes, they would have been astonished, for it was generally known that Mr. Martin did not smoke, and never had. No one saw him.

It was just a week to the day since Mr. Martin had decided to rub out Mrs. Ulgine Barrows. The term "rub out" pleased him because it suggested nothing more than the correction of an error - in this case an error of Mr. Fitweiler. Mr. Martin had spent each night of the past week working out his plan and examining it. As he walked home now he went over it again. For the hundredth time he resented the element of imprecision, the margin of guesswork that entered into the business. The project as he had worked it out was casual and bold, the risks were considerable. Something might go wrong anywhere along the line. And therein lay the cunning of his scheme. No one would ever see in it the cautious, painstaking hand of Erwin Martin, head of the filing department at F & S, of whom Mr. Fitweiler had once said, "Man is fallible but Martin isn't." No one would see his hand, that is, unless it were caught in the act.

"To Fool the Eye" from the Museum of Vision

A brief overview of one of the Museum of Vision's past exhibitions:
"Take a look at the outrageous health claims made by colorful charlatans of the 18th and 19th Centuries.  Their bogus remedies claimed to cure poor eyesight and anything else that might trouble you."
One of my favorites is The Blue Glass Deception, which was debunked in a Scientific American article (read part of the article here at Chest of Books.)

Here's a quick bit of the history of healthy blue glass from the Lynn Museum and Historical Society in Lynn, Massachusetts.

Ironically, blue light is used in modern-day medicine, in Photodynamic Therapy (also known as PDT or Blue Light Therapy.) Some research has shown that blue light, with its shorter wavelength, is more effective than regular white light at reducing seasonal affective disorder symptoms (SAD.) See this article from the Mayo Clinic>>

Um, it was black men at Disney World took the $700,000?

This suburban Philadelphia mom has problems

In 2009 Bonnie Sweeten made national news when she lied that she and her 9-year old daughter were abducted by two black men in a Cadillac. They actually went to Disney World.

Sweeten had taken money from her ex-husband's 92-year-old grandfather to repay a law firm client where she worked. She had previously stolen money from the client. Her ex-husband's family demanded the money back, so she wrote the family a check.

Sweeten fled to Disney World the day the check bounced.

Sweeten, serving time in prison after pleading guilty to identity theft and to making false reports, is now accused of stealing $700,000 from the law firm where she worked. She also posed as her boss to get a mortgage on the law office's property, which she used to repay another of her debts.

Sweeten has been indicted on multiple federal crimes, including "14 counts of wire fraud, two counts of aggravated identity theft, mail and bank fraud, money laundering and related offenses."

Philadelphia Daily News>>

Why you should always feed the good dog

Detail of Moennitarri warrior in the costume of the 
Dog dance. (Karl Bodmer, 1809-1893.)
 "A Native American elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner: Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, The one I feed the most." 
- George Bernard Shaw

An optical illusion you can't pick up (it's a hologram)

The Mirage optical illusion is 9" by 3" and looks like two woks placed together. A small object appears on the hole near the top. When you try to pick up the object, your fingers go right through it.

What's going on? A small object has been placed inside. Each wok shape contains two parabolic mirrors which reflect off each other, producing the illusion that the object appears above the opening.

Here's a video, but it's much better in person.

The Mirage optical illusion by Opti-Gone>>

Seductive advertising door-to-door

Click image to enlarge
"The deeper problems connected with advertising come less from the unscrupulousness of our 'deceivers' than from our pleasure in being deceived, less from the desire to seduce than from the desire to be seduced."

- Daniel J. Boorstin

Financial executives: They're not talented, they just want money

Fat cat. (Replace small bills with million dollar bills.)

From a review of the book Pay Check: Are top earners really worth it? by David Bolchover.
"Mr Bolchover’s case is that the ideas that it takes “talent” to rise high in the world of financial services, and that “excessive” pay is simply a just (and market-generated) way to reward and retain that talent, are two parts of one giant con. Piece by piece, Mr Bolchover demolishes these precepts. Excessive pay, he argues, is not only unjust but harmful."
The Economist review>>

Buy it at Amazon>>

A most disgusting place to hide your money

"The "Brief Safe" is an innovative diversion safe that can secure your cash, documents, and other small valuables from inquisitive eyes and thieving hands, both at home and when you're traveling. Items can be hidden right under their noses with these specially-designed briefs which contain a fly-accessed 4" x 10" secret compartment with Velcro closure and "special markings" on the lower rear portion. Leave the "Brief Safe" in plain view in your laundry basket or washing machine at home, or in your suitcase in a hotel room - even the most hardened burgler or most curious snoop will "skid" to a screeching halt as soon as they see them. (Wouldn't you?) Made in USA. One size. Color: white (and brown)."
This product uses two principles to deceive the potential thief. One, a robber wouldn't think that a pair of underwear would have a secret compartment to hide valuables. Two, a robber would never think to pick up a pair of dirty poop-stained underwear.

I suppose this type of thing would work to deter a thief, but if anyone else saw this thing lying around your home or hotel, what would it say about you? And where do you put it so your valuables aren't just lying around in the laundry basket or in your suitcase? It's likely more people buy this as a gag gift, so they have an excuse to gross out the recipient with a pair of fake dirty underwear: "No, but look, you can hide your valuables in here!"

From Amazon>>

(Although this does make me wonder: where else is this concealment principle used, to hide something valuable with something disgusting?)

Is autobiography really fiction?

Can writers of autobiography avoid writing fiction about themselves?

"No, I don't think they can, because as soon as you change something from life to language, you're changing it. You're changing it in this ineluctable way. It isn't the same. It's something different. And when you put it into language. Even if memory didn't distort, which memory does, you're still changing it. You can't help it. I mean with all the commitment to documentary realism and truth in the world, you still can't help it because you're creating your own voice on a page. I mean, it's not fiction, but it's still a creation. The voice. You write a memoir, and I write a memoir. Your voice is a creation on the page. My voice is a creation on the page. And it's as true as I can make it, and it represents me as if I'm going to be honest, as truly as I can represent myself. But it's still a structure, something I've invented to be me. I've written this style, I've written this sensibility, this way of thinking and I’m saying, okay, for all purposes here in the memoir, this is me. This voice you're hearing is me. There's always artifice there."
- American novelist Robert Stone

Watch video and read more words>>

What's wrong with autobiography, for you?
"I really stay away from autobiography, partly because I've always thought that one of the uses of fiction -- outside of its more important functions -- is the possibility of escape. Escaping from yourself is one of the purposes of fiction for me. So I really haven't been directly or even too indirectly autobiographical."
From a 1997 Salon interview>>

Why nude photos of Julia Roberts are fake

I love this quote by actress Julia Roberts:
“I wouldn’t do nudity in a film. To act with my clothes on is a performance. To act with my clothes off is a documentary.”
If you search the Internet for nude photos of her, all you'll find are old modeling photos that are revealing but not nude, or fake nude photos with her head pasted onto someone else's nude body.

Today, Roberts says she refuses to do nudity because she's a 40-something mother of three. Earlier in her career, it may have been modesty or a calculated business decision so that she could be taken seriously. It's more likely she's always understood the difference between illusion and reality.

From the Insider>>

Does this real photo of an imitation of a real animal look real?

Hiroshi Sugimoto's photo Polar Bear, 1976

In 1974, photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto discovered something fascinating about the dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History.
"I made a curious discovery... The stuffed animals positioned before painted backdrops looked utterly fake, yet by taking a quick peek with one eye closed, all perspective vanished, and suddenly they looked very real. I'd found a way to see the world as a camera does. However fake the subject, once photographed, it's as good as real."
Reality Check: Truth and Illusion in Contemporary Photography, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art>>

"The creepage distances multiply..." (a spectacular trompe-l'oeil)

39GeorgeV is a building in Paris wrapped in a giant photographic mural based on the original building underneath. I think the Babel Fish machine-translated French-to-English text explains it quite well:
"By going up the avenue George V towards the Fields-élysées, the pedestrian of Paris has what to be surprised. By far it perceives a disturbed prospect and wonders whether it is of an optical illusion, a reflection or perhaps even of a mirage. Would the tormented building that he sees be the work of an architect under amphetamine or the new masterpiece of Frank Gehry? A variation of “the house which dances” of Prague”? While approaching, if he does not stumble front, not destabilized by the wobbly construction which seems to move at the bottom of the avenue, the pedestrian identifies an immense trompe-l'oeil.
The traditional Parisian building of the 39 of the avenue George V seems to buck under the effect of an intense heat. The windows and the balconies run and subside. Symmetry haussmannienne crumbles, the creepage distances multiply, it does not remain only one right angle. The beautiful ordinance of the frontage is dissolved."
From the French, translated via Babel Fish>>

See more photos at Flickr Hive Mind>>

Watch a short video of the building from Dailymotion>>

The treacherous Puritan card trick

From AmazingSuperPowers (a webcomic by Wes and Tony)>>

How British intelligence infiltrated the IRA

A Republican mural in Belfast
"During the next few months, Fulton and I met several times on Platform 13. Over time his jitters settled, his speech loosened, and his past tumbled out: his rise and fall in the Irish Republican Army, his deeds and misdeeds, his loyalties and betrayals. He had served as a covert foot soldier in what has come to be called the Dirty War: a cutthroat and secret British effort to infiltrate and undermine the IRA, carried out in the shadows of the infamous Troubles. “It was a lot grayer and darker,” Fulton said of the clandestine war. “Darker even than people can imagine.”

But there’s this: it worked. British spies subverted the IRA from within, leaving it in military ruin, and Irish Republicans - who want to end British rule in Northern Ireland and reunite the island - have largely shifted their weight to Sinn Féin and its peaceable, political efforts. And so the Dirty War provides a model for how to dismantle a terrorist organization. The trick is to not mind killing, and to expect dying."
One of the more sobering facts in the article is how one spy, Scappaticci, the head of an assassination squad, kept his cover:
“The one preconception the IRA had is that if you are dirty - that is, if you have killed - then you cannot be an agent.” Scappaticci exploited that misapprehension. “His best protection,” Ingram continued, “was to keep killing.” 
From The Atlantic>>

An interview with article writer Matthew Teague at NPR>>

Unbelievable lyrebird mimics any sound

During his courtship ritual, the lyrebird of Australia has an uncanny ability to imitate any sound, whether natural or man-made. In this BBC video with David Attenborough, listen as the bird imitates not only other birds, but the shutter of a camera (including a camera with a motor drive), a car alarm, and foresters with a chainsaw. These videos seem fake, because it's difficult to imagine a wild bird imitating what it is imitating.

In this video from the Adelaide Zoo in Australia, the Superb Lyrebird (named Chook) imitates construction noises, such as hammers, saws, leaf blowers, two-way radios, a worker whistling and more.

More at Wikipedia>>

Government spies wants your BS (detectors)

"The U.S. intelligence community wants to master the art of BS-detection. But instead of improving on pre-existing methods, like polygraph tests or voice-stress analysis, they want to amplify our own, intuitive, “pre-conscious human assessment of trustworthiness.”

Iarpa, the intelligence community’s out-there research unit, is behind the effort to overcome even the sneakiest deceivers."
Everything I've read has said that most people, including professionals, cannot distinguish lies from truths much better than chance. But is it possible that some people might be good at it, and could get even better with some type of training?

The problem is that detecting lies might become a truthfulness arms race, where as we get better at detecting, the liars get better at lying.

Read more at Wired>>

The 42-foot-high optical illusion

Here's a photograph of a tree.

And here's what's really going on. 
The tree is framed by a huge backdrop.

Here are people around the backdrop.

South Korean artist Myoung Ho Lee takes photographs of trees with large fabric backgrounds erected behind them, which isolates real trees from their natural environment.

In the first picture, I cropped the photo so the tree is silhouetted against something neutral. When we look at it, we're deceived because we assume it's the sky behind the tree.

In the second photo, we see both the tree and the edge of the backdrop, so we can see that the tree is simultaneously part of its setting and made special by being framed within the setting.

The last photo shows the tree with humans standing next to it, so we can see the actual scale of the tree and backdrop.

See more at Myoung Ho Lee's Facebook page>>

Read an interview with Myoung Ho Lee at The Morning News>>

CIA spy plans: Fake video of Saddam having sex with teenage boy

"During planning for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the CIA's Iraq Operations Group kicked around a number of ideas for discrediting Saddam Hussein in the eyes of his people.

One was to create a video purporting to show the Iraqi dictator having sex with a teenage boy, according to two former CIA officials familiar with the project.

“It would look like it was taken by a hidden camera,” said one of the former officials. “Very grainy, like it was a secret videotaping of a sex session.”

The idea was to then “flood Iraq with the videos,” the former official said."
 From SpyTalk at The Washington Post>>

A quote on deception from Dune

 Princess Irulan from Dune

"...respect for the truth comes close to being the basis for all morality."

From Dune, by Frank Herbert>>

Do not tell the truth directly... or you'll go blind

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant -
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind -

- Emily Dickinson (written about 1868)

"Help! I'm disadvantaged, poetry-wise. What does this mean?"

What Emily is trying to say is that you can tell the truth, but you have to tell the truth indirectly, because favorable results come from moving carefully around the truth and not approaching it directly. You can't just blurt it out.

But why can't we just tell the truth?

Because truth is too bright and clear. Humans crave a quicker gratification, but a quick explanation is weak and not as solid as the actual truth.

The truth is elegant, richly adorned and magnificent, the way lightning appears to small children. Lightning can scare children, too, so to be kind to children, we explain to them what lightning is, and free them from being worried and scared about it. Yet maybe we don't explain all about lightning at first. Maybe we tell stories about it - that lightning is "really" sparks made when the Gods are bowling, for instance. Later, we can explain the scientific truth about electricity.

We have to approach truth the same way. Truth must also be revealed gradually, or it will overwhelm and confuse people, make them unable to see, and cause them to become even more ignorant.

Ironically, Emily tells us that to tell the truth, we sometimes have to tell lies. Maybe she thinks we can't explain the science of lightning to really young children, so we must tell them myths and stories.

If she believes that real truth must be revealed gradually, as "kind" explanations that make people happy, how does she feel we must reveal the truth if it will make people unhappy? She feels truth that makes people unhappy must be revealed slowly and carefully. If it's revealed too quickly, people will become more ignorant and farther from the truth than they were before.

A scientific explanation of lightning for kids>>

I'm not graduating, but I am being kidnapped

Nancy Salas, a 22-year-old UCLA student near graduation, went jogging and disappeared, only to turn up the next day with a story of a kidnapping and assault. What happened was stressful, but it wasn't the truth. She hadn't been a student since 2008, and there was no crime. She just tried to make herself disappear.

Los Angeles Times>>

A deadly crucifix and more... Concealed and disguised knives from the FBI

The Fire and Toolmarks division of the FBI started a collection of knives which are small, easily concealed, and can be considered dangerous. Many are common around the home and office, and most can be bought for less than $20.

To find these types of weapons is not surprising, since it's easy to conceal a knife in a product, and it's very likely somebody will buy it. But are these types of deceptive objects actually used for violence and are they effective as weapons, or are they merely novelties?

Here's a quiz: which one of these items does not conceal a knife?
  • Key
  • Belt buckle
  • Necklace
  • Key ring
  • Ornament
  • Crucifix
  • Pen
  • Walking cane
  • Umbrella
  • Tool card
  • Lighter
  • Money clip
  • Bullet
  • Ring
  • Playing card
  • Credit card
  • Lipstick
  • Comb
  • Hairbrush
From the FBI, in Google docs>>

See discussion at Schneier on Security>>

(Which item does not contain a knife? None. They all do.)

Turn off a TV with these prank gizmos

Here's a little programmable device that switches a TV off and on at random intervals. Get the TV Poltergeist at Ubergizmo>> 

Or, if you want more control, get the classic TV-B-Gone Universal Remote Control. Point it at any TV and click, and it quickly zaps through all the "off" commands until the TV turns off. My friend uses this in restaurants when he doesn't want to sit and watch TV. Go to TV-B-Gone>>

Fans bitch and critics moan, but everybody watches the game

Before and after, with Mr. Barry Bonds

Great article on cheating in sports, focusing on steroid-taker Barry Bonds.
"Judging from the headlines of the day, someone in the sports world is cheating as you read this...

The story isn't so much that sports figures cheat - they have, they do, and, given the big bucks involved, they will continue to - but rather that fans are flocking to the ballpark, arena or superspeedway in record numbers anyway...

Question is, why? Given the media scrutiny, sports fans know all about the cheating. Yet they continue to show up and pay dearly for the privilege. Case in point: Barry Bonds, the poster boy for Major League Baseball's steroids era."
Game of deception at The Denver Post>>

Here's your award. Gimme my money!

You have won an award!
If you want to tell anyone, send $385,000.

"Consumers Digest... doles out awards for vehicles it deems "Best Buys," and then charges the manufacturers thousands of dollars just to mention the awards in their advertising.

...GM, which had 15 vehicles on the Digest's 2010 Best Buy list, likely paid around $385,000 to Consumers Digest for the right to mention the honors."
The Consumerist>>

Pranking the smiling stock photo girl

"A girl signed up to have her picture taken by a company that sells stock photography. Her photos were eventually used on the cover of a book called Smile Lines. A friend of hers decided to play a joke on her, where he encouraged Reddit commenters to post creepy comments on the book's Amazon listing about the cover girl.
So, Reddit commenters started leaving weird reviews..."
 From urlesque>>

A very nice context dependent optical illusion, and ice cream

The Baskin-Robbins logo illusion is similar to the "A B C" and "12, 13, 14" illusion.

The guys at Mighty Optical Illusions like the "A B C" illusion for the same reason I do - the illusion is animated, and very simple. It teaches you that context matters.

Mighty Optical Illusions>>

The great big boobs of Champagne

"Champagne, if you are seeking the truth, is better than a lie detector. It encourages a man to be expansive, even reckless, while lie detectors are only a challenge to tell lies successfully."

- Graham Greene

The mugging of David Copperfield

David Copperfield (real name David Kotkin) is walking back to his tour bus with two female assistants in Palm Beach Shores. They were eating at a steak house after his magic show. A black Malibu pulls up to them and two men jump out and point handguns at them. The two women comply with the robber's requests, handing over money, cell phones and plane tickets. A robber points his gun at Copperfield's head. The robber, later identified as Dwayne Riley, repeatedly demands he turn over his belongings. Copperfield doesn't give him anything. The criminals leave, and are caught a short time later.

So what really happened?

From the police report:
"I spoke with Kotkin who also stated the Hispanic or light skinned Black male had pointed the gun at him. Kotkin described the male as approximately 5'11' and in his late teens or early twenties. Kotkin said the male repeatedly told him to give him his belongings, but Kotkin did not hand over anything."
From the Palm Beach Post news story:
"When Copperfield's turn came, Riley was bamboozled.

Copperfield told Page Two he pulled out all of his pockets for Riley to see he had nothing, even though he had a cellphone, passport and wallet stuffed in them.

"Call it reverse pickpocketing," Copperfield said...

Copperfield explained that he signed several autographs and took pictures with fans earlier on the fateful walk, and first assumed when the robbers came that they, too, wanted his signature."
In magic, this "reverse pickpocketing" is an old ruse known as the "top of the pocket dodge."

In 2005, Copperfield was number 10 on the Forbes list of top 100 celebrities (earning $57 million) and in 2006, the year the robbery took place, he spent $50 million for the island of Musha Cay in the Bahamas.

A very rich and famous guy out with his employees is mugged and has a gun pointed at his head, so he resorts to a magic trick to avoid having to give the guy his wallet?

But really, what's the truth(s)?
  • Copperfield thought they were fans, so no danger warnings went up.
  • Copperfield was very quick-witted to fool an armed mugger.
  • Copperfield was very stupid to risk his life (and other's lives) over his wallet.
  • Copperfield didn't actually have any valuables on him, so he made up the story about fooling the robber for a good story.
  • Copperfield didn't actually have any valuables on him, so he made up the story about fooling the robber to impress the ladies.
Of course, could there be a better reason for deception to occur than when we have a mugging, a magician, pretty ladies, a big ego, machismo, and professional pride all involved?

“One must have delusions to live,” says Woody Allen

“I have a very grim, pessimistic view... I do feel that it’s a grim, painful, nightmarish, meaningless experience and that the only we you can be happy is if you tell yourself some lies or deceive yourself."
-Woody Allen, who has directed over 40 films.
Read a bit more at IndieWire>>

Tell the naked truth, and be ruthless

"I am convinced that anyone can be a great writer … if he can only … tell the naked truth about himself and other people. That, a little technique with words and the willingness to bare heart, soul and body are all it takes. But few people know the truth, and fewer have the artistic intent and perhaps ruthlessness to tell it."

- Clive Barnes

The two best lying songs of 1965

Two memorable songs about the girls lying to the boys, from the 60's garage band sounds of The Castaways and The Knickerbockers. Both songs tell those lying girls that he's just not going to take it much longer, and when he leaves, then she's the one who'll be sad. But not quite yet, because he loves her, and now he's the one who's sad and crying. So why are both tunes so upbeat?


The Castaways

The Knickerbockers

Liar, Liar by The Castaways

Chorus : Liar, liar, pants on fire
Your nose is longer than a telephone wire

Ask me, baby, why I'm sad
You've been out all night, know you've been bad
Don't tell me different, know it's a lie
Come kill me, honey, see how I cry

Why must you hurt me, do what you do
Listen here, girl, can't you see I love you
Make a little effort, try to be true
I'll be happy, not so blue


If you keep on tellin' me those lies
Still goin' out with other guys
There'll come a day I'll be gone
Take my advice, won't be long

When that day comes, won't be mad
Be free of you, but I'll still be sad
In spite of your cheatin', still love you so
I'll be unhappy if I let you go

Lyrics from lyricstime>>

Lies by The Knickerbockers
Lies, lies, you're tellin' me that you'll be true
Lies, lies
That's all I ever hear from you
Tears, tears
I shed a million tears for you
Tears, tears
And now you're lovin' someone new
Someday I'm gonna be happy
But I don't know when just now
Lies, lie-ies
A-breakin' my heart
You think that you're such a smart girl
And I'll believe what you say
But who do you think you are, girl
To lead me on this way hey
Lies, lies
I can't believe a word you say
Lies, lies
Are gonna make you sad someday
Some day you're gonna be lonely
But you won't find me around
Lies, lie-ies
A-breakin' my heart
Someday I'm gonna be happy
But I don't know when just now
Lies, lie-ies
A-breakin' my heart
You think that you're such a smart girl
And I'll believe what you say
But who do you think you are, girl
To lead me on this way hey
Lies (ah!), lies (yeah baby)
I can't believe a word you say
Lies, lies
Are gonna make you sad someday
Some day you're gonna be lonely
But you won't find me around
Lies, lie-ies
A-breakin' my heart
I said, baby, now (breakin' my heart)
Oh, yeah, you're still breakin' my heart (breakin' my heart)
Lyrics from lyricstime>>

Car salesman confesses tricks to NPR’s Car Guys

Car salesman William H. Macy in Fargo

I’ve always hated shopping for a car. It’s because of the salespeople, of course, but ironically, it’s not because of the really dishonest, sleazy salespeople.

No, the ones I hate are the “sincere” ones, because I know they’re trying to sell me a car, and I know they’re going to use little tricks to try to "get me" in all these subtle ways, and they may even be nice people, but the truth is, I know lots of the tricks they’re using, and all I’m really trying to do is figure out which car will work for me.

It’s exhausting.

It’s like watching a bad magician perform. I know how they’re doing the tricks, and I smile and pretend to laugh at the corny jokes, and I fake my astonishment in the way the magician wants me to be astonished.

Why? Because I feel bad for him.

I could call him on his badness, and reveal how much I know, and thereby reveal that I’m a jerk. But I don’t want to be a chump or an jerk, and I haven’t found a “middle way” that works for me.

But the guy in this NPR Car Talk interview seems honest, and he explains the little tricks he uses to get the sale.

Salesman talks to CarTalk>>

Amazing disguise: You as a pile of newspapers

Click to enlarge

Dutch artist Desiree Palmen paints clothing to match the backgrounds so her humans are camouflaged. "It's never perfect," she said. "But when it works that's enough for me. I like the fact people can see it's a real person in a suit and not a fake digital image."

I also like her Painted Book.

Click to enlarge

Your prank sucks and here's why

During a Ranger's hockey game on Valentine's Day, the Gardenvision screen showed a woman rejecting a marriage proposal and walking out on her disheartened man. The video hit YouTube. "Oh the poor guy!" But the whole thing was a prank created by game-presentation staff and carried out by paid actors. I agree with the comment by "SOLID D" on the New York Daily News site:
"I don't get it! Who is the prank on? If they're both actors and are aware of it, then this is stupid. So, you get a whole bunch of people to think that this woman rejected her boyfriend's proposal. Wow, that's really funny! The idiot who thought of this should either be fired or slapped with a hockey stick."
  • It's mildly deceptive. Mildly.
  • It's unlikely a rejection would ever happen like this in real life.
  • It's actually not that funny.
  • It smells like young male humor.
  • It smells like humiliation humor (see "young male humor.")
  • It's been done before.
  • They never did a "reveal" where it was shown to be fake, and the fans could laugh about being momentarily fooled.
  • People got pissed when they found out it was fake (see "reveal.")
  • It's actually not that funny.

The Wall by Jean-Paul Sartre

I hesitated to include this famous Sartre short story (a little over 7,000 words) because very little is directly about deception. It's more about the reality of existence, and how we should conduct ourselves with our life in this world. The main character tries hard to live without any deceptions at all. Yet deception does come, in an ironic way.


They pushed us into a big white room and I began to blink because the light hurt my eyes. Then I saw a table and four men behind the table, civilians, looking over the papers. They had bunched another group of prisoners in the back and we had to cross the whole room to join them. There were several I knew and some others who must have been foreigners. The two in front of me were blond with round skulls: they looked alike. I supposed they were French. The smaller one kept hitching up his pants: nerves.

    It lasted about three hours: I was dizzy and my head was empty; but the room was well heated and I found that pleasant enough: for the past 24 hours we hadn't stopped shivering. The guards brought the prisoners up to the table, one after the other. The four men asked each one his name and occupation. Most of the time they didn't go any further - or they would simply ask a question here and there: "Did you have anything to do with the sabotage of munitions?" Or "Where were you the morning of the 9th and what were you doing?" They didn't listen to the answers or at least didn't seem to. They were quiet for a moment and then looking straight in front of them began to write. They asked Tom if it were true he was in the International Brigade: Tom couldn't tell them otherwise because of the papers they found in his coat. They didn't ask Juan anything but they wrote for a long time after he told them his name.

    "My brother Jose is the anarchist," Juan said "You know he isn't here any more. I don't belong to any party. I never had anything to do with politics."

    They didn't answer. Juan went on, "I haven't done anything. I don't want to pay for somebody else."

    His lips trembled. A guard shut him up and took him away. It was my turn.

"The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But..."

"The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth."

- Niels Bohr

B. D. Esry & C. H. Greene/Univ. of Colorado
Cold collisions. This simulation shows atoms in a two-component Bose-Einstein condensate at a temperature near 1 nK, where Bohr's formulation of the correspondence principle fails most dramatically.

12 unusual steps in a case of bank fraud

Here’s another case of financial malfeasance, in this case a tale of conspiracy, bribery, bank fraud and securities fraud. What’s so unusual about it?
  1. A hotel developer gave payoffs to a bank officer to get loans.
  2. The loans were for $80 million.
  3. The developer put about $20 million of the loans into his personal checking account.
  4. He bought a private island in the Bahamas (cost: $1.5 million)
  5. The bank failed.
  6. About one-third of the bank's losses came from loans to the hotel developer.
  7. Right before the bank collapsed, a bank vice president sold $350,000 in bank shares.
  8. The CEO began every business day praying with the top officers.
  9. They prayed underneath a plaque of “The Prayer of Jabez.” (see image above, and text below.)
  10. The bank was founded as a Christian, “faith-based” bank.
  11. The name of the financial institution?
  12. Integrity Bank.
    Unfortunately, I guess it's not so unusual.

    From Business Week>>

    The Prayer of Jabez
    Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying: Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.
    - 1 Chronicles 4:10

    The Mona Lisa was stolen, but that's not all...

    The Mona Lisa on display in the Uffizi Gallery, 
    in Florence, December 1913. 
    Museum director Giovanni Poggi (right) inspects the painting.
    "The shocking theft of the Mona Lisa, in August 1911, appeared to have been solved 28 months later, when the painting was recovered. In an excerpt from their new book, the authors suggest that the audacious heist concealed a perfect—and far more lucrative—crime."
    The article in Vanity Fair is an excerpt from Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler's 2009 book about the crimes taking place in Paris from 1880 to the beginning of World War I.

    Stealing Mona Lisa, in Vanity Fair>> 

    The Crimes of Paris: A True Story of Murder, Theft, and Detection>>

    8 rules for puzzling out the puzzles of life

    The Centipede puzzle is only for determined puzzlers.

    I like the Livewire Puzzle tips for solving puzzles, whether you're born with the ability to solve them, or you've trained yourself to solve them. Briefly:

    1) Follow the explicit rules. Other rules may be assumptions.
    2) If you can't do it one, way, look for another way.
    3) Forget details and see the "big picture."
    4) Assume nothing's what it appears to be.
    5) Can you use pieces in an uncommon way?
    6) Take a break.
    7) Persist.
    8) Don't break it.

    They specialize in puzzles "where the goal is to separate two interlocked parts, most often a ring or a handle, from the main body of the puzzle."

    LiveWire Puzzles>>

    "It's the best vomit on the market"

     Whoops - the most disgusting laff getter!

    U.S.-made fake vomit takes the cake
    The building holds a secret.

    A vile and totally eeeewwwww secret, one that brings together 12-year-olds and 12-year-olds at heart.

    From the outside, it is another two-story brick warehouse on Chicago's West Side. Step inside, and visitors return to a certain back-of-the-comic-books kind of American childhood.

    The secret is this: It's the world capital of fake vomit where it's still made the old-fashioned American way, ladle by ladle, formed and coagulated for the next generation of pranksters and troublemakers.

    Helping put the ick in America since 1941, Fun Inc. is a repository of practical jokes, magic tricks and gag items -- from chattering teeth to hot pepper gum, oversize sunglasses to oversize toothbrushes to oversize anything. The building, near Grand and Major avenues in the industrial Hansen Park neighborhood of Chicago, is where springs were once manufactured and, later, Cracker Jack prizes.

    Guests walking into the office of Fun Inc. President Graham Putnam might expect to be greeted by a joy-buzzer handshake or a whoopee cushion planted beneath a chair seat. But it is surprisingly bare bones, a room he shares with his wife, Kathryn, the company's corporate secretary, and a clutter of paperwork and faux wood paneling. Fake vomit, it turns out, is serious business.

    Especially at a time when the American fake vomit business is not what it used to be: In the 1960s, upward of more than 60,000 fake vomits were produced annually. These days, Fun Inc. brews up the recipe only a few times a year, making around 7,000 latex barfs annually, as tourist gift shops and joke stores look overseas for cheaper versions (though for $15 a dozen wholesale, Fun Inc.'s prank puke is still a heck of a deal).

    Still, Putnam proudly pointed out, "It's the best vomit on the market."

    Set your eyes on Fun Inc.'s 5-inch disc of latex and colored foam, marketed as "Whoops -- The Most Disgusting Laff Getter," and savor the realism: It is amber-colored and translucent, with tiny bubbles. The texture is soft and sturdy, pliable and complex, with ridges of multihued solid chunks looking like a jagged lunar landscape. It is, the package suggests, perfect for the bathroom, refrigerator, auto seat or sidewalk. And what other fake vomit comes with this suggestion: "Sprinkle with water to make it look more realistic"?

    Fake vomit's pop-cultural significance earned it a reference on "The Simpsons" during Season 4 in the "Last Exit to Springfield episode. Nuclear plant owner Mr. Burns shuts off power to the city. When he turns it back on, production at Fake Vomit Inc. resumes. Mechanized fake vomit machine squirts; workers rejoice.

    "What is the greatest gag of all time? This is it. It is literally a gag item because people react with a sympathetic real gag," said Erick Erickson, a toy historian and former toy designer at Chicago-based Marvin Glass & Associates.

    "It's as gross and vile as you can imagine. It's flawlessly convincing. You can't name one that's better."

    Although fake vomit is immersed deep enough in the pop-culture zeitgeist to warrant its own Wikipedia entry, its ambiguous history exists only in tales passed around factory floors.

    One version goes like this: Sometime in the late 1950s or early '60s, an employee of Marvin Glass, the Chicago toy inventor of the "Operation" and "Mouse Trap games, pitched the idea of latex and foam for fake vomit. Glass thought the idea was disgusting. Then during a meeting with H. Fishlove & Co., a local novelty gag company, the designer barged into the meeting room and slapped the fake vomit onto the table. The representative from H. Fishlove & Co. laughed hysterically, and Glass thought the idea was disgusting no more.

    About the same time, an independent latex-toy manufacturer from Arkansas (he made phony burgers, Jimmy Durante fake noses) found some dried-up discs of latex, which he thought resembled vomit. He threw them in a drawer and forgot about them. After H. Fishlove & Co. acquired the fake vomit idea from Marvin Glass, Fishlove asked this gentleman in Arkansas about mass-producing the fake vomit. The man pulled out the discs and said, "You mean like this?"

    H. Fishlove & Co. was eventually sold to Fun Inc. In 1992, Fun Inc. stopped using outside vendors to manufacture fake vomit and began making it in-house.

    The exact blend is a proprietary secret, but this much is revealed: Production of fake vomit begins with 55-gallon drums of natural latex, which resembles thick milk. Colored bits of foam the size of coarse bread crumbs are added: red, yellow, "natural," two shades of brown, but no green. "Too strong a color," Putnam said.

    "It's kind of like Grandma's recipe," he observed. "A pinch of this, two shakes of that. You kind of know when it's right."

    The slurry is then ladled onto one Teflon sheet.

    The vomitmaster smooths the mixture with the back of the spoon, the way a short-order cook does with pancakes on the griddle. Depending on weather, season and humidity, the pools of fake vomit, 500 to a batch, take overnight to a day and a half to dry. Like snowflakes, no two fake vomits are ever alike, which in the world of manufactured practical jokes is a rare trait.

    At Izzy Rizzy's House of Tricks on Chicago's South Side, Fun Inc.'s version is the best-seller among the three fake vomits available ("Fake Barf has a darker tone and "Pet Barf" has fake hairballs).

    There are two types of people who purchase fake vomit, said owner Mike Rzeminski.

    "You get the adults who come in, and it's a nostalgic thing for them. Then you get the kids, the 10- to 14-year-old boys, who come and say, 'What can I get for two bucks?' " 
    Article by Kevin Pang; Chicago Tribune


    Fun, Incorporated (wholesale sales only)>>

    Should I worry about this warped optical illusion?

    I don't like a lot of optical illusions because they always seem one-dimensional to me, and I don't mean that in the topological sense. When I view an optical illusion, I say things to myself like, "Wow, that's weird!" or "That one hurts my eyes!" and then I go on to the next one. Sometimes there will be an explanation of how the illusion fools my eyes and brain, and that's interesting, yet hardly relevant in my daily life. But if I analyze this illusion, what can it tell me?

    First, I don't know what it is. I mean, it's an abstract shape that doesn't represent anything.

    That's the first thing. As a viewer, I'm told it's an optical illusion, so I know that something's not right with it. I'm not encountering it out on the street or somewhere in my life without an explanation. So the graphic has been framed as an optical illusion for me.

    How is it an illusion? When I look at it, I sense that the figure is not a square, and the lines inside it are not square. So my eyes tell me it's warped. But since I know it's an illusion, I think, "Hey, I'll bet those lines are really straight, and they just look warped." And I'd be right.

    So now it's time to move on to something else. I'm done with that illusion. It's dead to me. But if I don't want to explore all the cognitive and neuro-brainiac details about how the illusion works, what else do I know?

    1) Well, I think to myself, maybe the lines are actually warped, and the illusion is that... that this is actually not an illusion at all. (Which means that I'm lying to you, and messing with you.)

    2) Maybe I don't believe that the lines are actually straight. I'm a very skeptical person. What can I do? I can print out the graphic and measure it with some kind of straight edge, and prove to myself that the lines are straight.

    3) I can wonder to myself: where else in my life can 89 smaller pieces of information (the 89 small black and white boxes) interfere with the other 100 pieces of information (the slightly larger black and white boxes) to distort the view of the largest box, and make it look like what it is not?

    Or, in other words, can viewing small bits of information distort my view of the big picture? You don't need lots of analysis to tell you the answer. The answer is: Yes, small bits of information can deceive you and distort the big picture.

    You're looking at the proof.