Are severed finger crackers deceptive?

A meditation on disgusting crackers

In my philosophy of deception, the fake crackers shown above, marketed as "Gore May Crackers", do not belong. Why? Well, despite the fact that they're made of plastic and may not even look like real food close up, would you be deceived if you were served them? Would you think: "Oh my God my host has given me a cracker with an actual severed human finger!" (I'm ignoring the worm cookies.) You probably not think you were being served actual human body parts, unless you go to much more intense parties than I attend. You'd more likely think: "That's gross!" or "That's funny!" But you wouldn't be deceived.

To deceive someone, you'd have to serve them something else, like plastic crackers that look like real crackers. Put some real cheese on them, and then give them to your guests. Now you've fooled them.

Fake plastic water crackers

But if your intention was to fool them and to disgust them, you've lost. All you've done is pranked them by giving them a plastic cracker they can't eat.

So what happens when you serve these?

Human poop cupcake
(fake)

I assume your guests know you're just as unlikely to serve cupcakes topped with human excrement as you are to serve crackers topped with severed rat heads, so these crap cupcakes should be just as "fake" as rat head cupcakes.

I predict that the human poop cupcake will be more disgusting and "deceptive" than the severed rat cracker. Why?

My hypothesis is that because most of us are more familiar with our body's waste than severed fingers or rats heads, we'd have a more accessible, disgusting and visceral reaction to the poopcakes.

Is this fertile ground for some kind of research grant?

- Gore May Crackers, Fright Catalog>>
- Fake water crackers, Display fake food>>
- TJ's Test Kitchen>>
- Improbable Research>>

The magician who pranked Marconi's telegraph

 Never mess with Maskelyne -
he can control the dead.
"LATE one June afternoon in 1903 a hush fell across an expectant audience in the Royal Institution's celebrated lecture theatre in London. Before the crowd, the physicist John Ambrose Fleming was adjusting arcane apparatus as he prepared to demonstrate an emerging technological wonder: a long-range wireless communication system developed by his boss, the Italian radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi. The aim was to showcase publicly for the first time that Morse code messages could be sent wirelessly over long distances. Around 300 miles away, Marconi was preparing to send a signal to London from a clifftop station in Poldhu, Cornwall, UK.

Yet before the demonstration could begin, the apparatus in the lecture theatre began to tap out a message. At first, it spelled out just one word repeated over and over. Then it changed into a facetious poem accusing Marconi of "diddling the public". Their demonstration had been hacked - and this was more than 100 years before the mischief playing out on the internet today. Who was the Royal Institution hacker? How did the cheeky messages get there? And why?"
- Dot-dash-diss: The gentleman hacker's 1903 lulz, New Scientist Tech>>
- Explore the New Publication “Magic, 1400s–1950s” Cultural Compass, Harry Ransom Center>>

More shoplifting using a long skirt

An upskirt theft of a case of cans

On the blog Boing Boing, Mark Frauenfelder posted the surveillance video below which captures a female shoplifter in the act while her family casually shops nearby.

You can compare her technique with the woman in an earlier Deceptology post of another video of a skillful thief using her skirt, at Shoplifting using a long skirt>>

Not sure of the exact method she's using, but it only takes the woman below nine seconds to complete her illegal transaction (from :06 spitting in hand to :15 looking normal again.)

Remember, shoplifters - watch those camera angles.

The Family that shoplifts together...


Talented shoplifting family show their stuff on video, Boing Boing>>

The realistic butterfly in a jar illusion

It does not require air holes.

This fake butterfly toy is made by Gemmy Industries. The butterfly looks real and reacts differently if you tap on the top of the jar. It can flap or fly around the jar. One source is ThinkGeek>>

(I suggest you turn off the sound of the voiceover if you watch the video below.)

The Fake Butterfly


It's a clever design using (SPOILERS) a fine wire attached to a motor that, depending on its speed, makes the butterfly move only its wings or flutter around the jar. What sells the illusion is the seemingly randomness of the butterfly's movement, plus the invisibility of the wire behind the glass.

If this had been invented years ago, it might have been exhibited onstage as "The Eternal Butterfly".

One famous magical butterfly illusion from the past was called The Mascot Moth. It was performed in the early 1900s by magician Harry Keller and was infinitely more complicated since it involved the visible onstage vanish of a woman dressed as a butterfly... without any covering at all.

The Butterfly Collection, Gemmy>>

Over $1 trillion spent to make you (feel) safe

Part of the money is spent on security groping.

From a Vanity Fair article:
Since 9/11, the U.S. has spent more than $1.1 trillion on homeland security.
To a large number of security analysts, this expenditure makes no sense. The vast cost is not worth the infinitesimal benefit. Not only has the actual threat from terror been exaggerated, they say, but the great bulk of the post-9/11 measures to contain it are little more than what Schneier mocks as “security theater”: actions that accomplish nothing but are designed to make the government look like it is on the job. In fact, the continuing expenditure on security may actually have made the United States less safe.
Read more: Smoke Screening - As you stand in endless lines this holiday season, here’s a comforting thought: all those security measures accomplish nothing, at enormous cost. That’s the conclusion of Charles C. Mann, who put the T.S.A. to the test with the help of one of America’s top security experts. Vanity Fair>>

A fake building in Brooklyn New York

The neighbors at 58 Joralemon Street 
are quiet. Too quiet...

This Greek Revival building from 1847 used to be a residential building but now houses a secret emergency subway exit. One clue might be those blackened windows. (But if the front doors lead to a stairway, what's behind those upper windows?)

- Brooklyn Heights Townhouse is Actually a Decoy, Curbed>>
- Explore the facade with Google Maps>>

Being sexy and deceptive is profitable

Reebok's shoes said they'd help give women
a sexy little butt.

The shoe company Reebok got in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission, which said their ads for EasyTone shoes were deceptive. The FTC claimed Reebok falsely said that the shoes would tone and strengthen leg and butt muscles more than regular shoes without proper scientific evidence.

Reebok based its claims on a "scientific" study which only had five participants.

The FTC said Reebok had to stop making those claims, plus provide refunds of $25 million to consumers who bought their shoes.

The web site Consumerist looked at some numbers, and estimated that if Reebok spent at least $100 million marketing their shoes and added this $25 million refund penalty, those costs came to $125 million, but since Reebok sold 15 million pairs at an average price of $100, the shoes have likely grossed over 1.5 billion dollars.

Due to legal delays, Reebok was able to advertise the shoes for over two years with their dubious claims before they had to stop.

And they can still run ads with tiny athletic women's butts.

"Easy-tone shoes help tone your 
butt and legs with every step."
(Click to enlarge)

My ad critique ahead:
I can't resist talking about this amazing ad. Our model - whose upper body and head are hidden so women can see themselves in that body as they aspire to be her - shows off her Reebok shoes as she's about to step down a staircase. Where is she? An older urban hallway outside her condo on a sunny day? Or is she inside her expensive house? Is she a mother? Does the little kid's tricycle belong to her own kid? Or is she tolerant of her neighbor's kid's trike because she's a cool neighbor? Look how strong she is carrying those bottles. Are they full water bottles? Or is she carrying the empties to be recycled? Of course, the first thing our eyes are drawn to is her small butt, the result of wearing those shoes. She's so confident about the size of it that she's wearing small see-through bikini... what are they? sexy lingerie? mesh runner's shorts? everyday panties? She's strong, young, smooth, sexy, confident, feminine (see her red fingernails), and she has a skinny little tight butt. What woman wouldn't want to be like her? (And what man wouldn't want to be with her?)
Here's a link to the FTC where they show a TV commercial touting the benefits of the Reebok shoes:
FTC "Fitness Instructor" ad>>

- Reebok to Pay $25 Million in Customer Refunds To Settle FTC Charges of Deceptive Advertising of EasyTone and RunTone Shoes - Settlement Order Prohibits Reebok from Making Unsupported Claims that ‘Toning Shoes’ Strengthen, Tone Muscles, FTC>>
- Reebok Spent At Least $64 Million On Deceptive EasyTone Ads, The Consumerist>>
- Reebok Agrees to $25M Settlement Over Butt-Shaping Shoes, Ad Age>>
- Why Reebok Will Love the FTC's $25M Ban on Its EasyTone Ads, CBS Marketwatch>>

What sex are these flight attendants?

The men had to be feminine, attractive 
and proficiency with English and Mandarin.

Can you imagine this happening in the U.S. anytime soon?

An airline in Thailand openly hired four transsexuals as flight attendants. Peter Chan, the president of P.C. Air, said it took much longer to interview them, but he believes that they'll be more suited to their job than attendants who were born biologically as women:
“They might provide better services because they understand both males and females. "
The airline publicized their decision by running a commercial featuring 23-year-old Dissanai Chitpraphachin, who won Thailand's Miss Tiffany beauty pageant, a contest for male-to-female transsexuals.

Commercial for unique flight attendants in Thailand


‘Ladyboy’ Flight Attendants Begin Their Ascent with Thailand’s P.C. Air, Time Newsfeed>>

The nude sleepwalker and 9 other deceptive sculptures by artist Tony Matelli

 "Sleepwalker" in a gallery
(sculpture is on the right.)

In many of his works, Tony Matelli simulates reality.


"Double Meat Head" is a sculpture
made from cast aluminum, 
cast bronze, urethane, and paint.


Fake flies rest on the "Double Meat Head" sculpture.


This glass of water is made entirely from glass.
The cardboard box it sits on is fiberglass.


The water glass that contains no water.


 "Constant Now" - a burning cigarette
balances on a box. It's made of painted bronze,
fiberglass, paint, a smoke machine,
and electronics.


A closeup view of the real fake smoke 
coming from the fake cigarette
not stuck to a real piece of gum.


"Yesterday", a detail of a sculpture with
fake cigarettes and playing cards - 
all made of metal.


Coins (real? fake?) float in a bucket 
of simulated water.


"Josh", who balances.
(He is not a real person.)


"The Idiot (reclining)"
is a cardboard Coors beer
package made of metal.


"The Old Me" -
A real flame continously burns
on photos that are not made of paper.


A metal dandelion weed sculpture grows 
in the cracks of an art gallery.

See more art at Tony Matelli>>
Sleepwalker photo from Harlan Erskine Photography>>

Genuine fake watches

A sign that amuses foreigners.

Evidently these are common advertising signs in many parts of the world. If you search the internet you'll see many examples.

The photo below explains why. I think shoppers would be less confused by these advertising signs if merchants hadn't forgotten to put the accent mark in the word "Faké".

The watches being sold are all from Faké, of Paris.

Genuine fake watches photo by Dan Heller>>
Genuine Fake Watches in Turkey (Funny), Akademifantasia>>

Vegas homeowner's association scam is busted

Four women began investigating 
where all the bodies were buried.

Before the real estate market collapsed, there was a building boom in Las Vegas, Nevada. Since so many homes were built so quickly, there was also a rise in lawsuits against shoddy construction by developers.

A group of fraudsters figured out a way to exploit it.

These scammers would buy condominiums in a community, transfer part of the ownership to people they controlled, and then have those "straw buyers" run for leadership of the homeowner's association.

They would get themselves elected using dirty tricks, sometimes completely rigging the election.

Then, once in office, they'd file lawsuits and win money to fix the problems, with all the legal fees and construction work going to their gang.

Wanda Murray, aged 65, lived in Vistana, one community targeted by the criminals:
Murray first sensed trouble the following October, when the Vistana held its annual board election. The results were surprising. Two newcomers, an ex-cop and a union foreman, won spots on the board. It was odd, if only because nobody recalled seeing much of either man around the neighborhood. Shortly after, the two appointed another stranger to a vacant position.

In Nevada, state law requires that to serve on a homeowner association board, an individual must own property in the development. On a hunch, Murray and a group of her neighbors pulled some property records. As it turned out, the newest appointee had recently purchased a mere 0.5 percent of a single condo at the Vistana. Digging around a little bit, the Vistana residents claim they found records that the new board members were employees of Silver Lining Construction.

Murray wasn’t sure why somebody who didn’t actually live in a condo community would want to serve on its unpaid board. It seemed suspicious. In the weeks to come, Murray, along with three other like-minded ladies at the Vistana, formed a kind of amateur detective agency. They searched state property records. They dug deep into Google search results. They even did the occasional stakeout. The more they investigated, the more arrows they found pointing to Silver Lining Construction.
They went to the police. They tried a recall election, but the votes were tampered with. They had another recall election and the new board lost but refused to step down. They went to court but multiple lawyers were available to defend the new board.

Until the FBI raid...

Read the whole story, which also details an attorney's alleged arson and suicide attempt to avoid prosecution, offshore bank accounts, distant mob connections and broken kneecaps:

Read: Las Vegas real estate scam goes bust, Today News, Bloomberg Businessweek>>

Murdered for a pair of new sneakers?

The dead man's nickname was "Teek Teek."

Eighteen-year old Tyreek Amir Jacobs of Washington D.C. was tragically murdered when crazed shoppers killed him while he was trying to buy a newly released version of the limited edition Air Jordan Concords sneakers.

Readers were outraged. The news traveled throughout the internet. Crowds of shoppers had been fighting over the shoes, and now a young man was dead.

When Sidney Boahen from London England saw a photo of the victim, he realized he knew him, and he also realized it was impossible.

That's because the photo of Mr. Jacobs was actually a photo of Sidney Boahen. There was no such person as Mr. Jacobs. He was made up as a hoax, and the photo of Mr. Boahen was used to complete the deception.

Mr. Boahen's photo was taken five years ago and, unknown to him, had been sold to a stock photo agency. That was the photo that became the fake photo of Mr. Jacobs.

London man depicted as Tyreek Amir Jacobs speaks: "I'm actually alive", The Baltimore Sun>>

Of course the Nazis loved children

They wanted the kids to be good citizens.

German kids were like kids everywhere - they were praised by adults, joined groups with their friends, played with toys and games, practiced sports, waved flags at parades, and went to school.


German girls in a club put up a poster for a political party.


Kids could play with toy figurines.


Children waved flags at a big parade.


Young women practiced gymnastics.


Children played board games.
(In this game, players were rewarded for 
landing on German radio stations, 
and penalized for landing 
on foreign stations.)


Kids might read a book and learn 
to identify Jews by comparing 
their noses to the number "6".


To honor Germany's unknown soldier, young people 
marched in formation in front of big crowds.


The logo on the shirt worn by the young gymnast.


An older man thanks a 
young boy for his letter.

Gallery of images at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum>>

The whimsical rotating billboard prank

They saw a rotating billboard 
and imagined something stranger.

A group of climbing-savvy pranksters converted a rotating billboard in Prague into their own personal merry-go-round, complete with wooden swings and pink balloons.

The airborne artists were vojtěch fröhlich, ondřej mladý, jan šimánek, and vladimír turner.

Merry-go-round prank

Kolotoč / Merry-Go-Round documentation 2011 from sgnlr on Vimeo.

Want some behind-the-scenes scenes? Here you go:

Advertising billboard prank prep

Kolotoč / Merry-go-round MAKING OF from sgnlr on Vimeo.

Pranksters Turn Rotating Billboard Into a Merry-Go-Round Another ad structure is co-opted, AdWeek>>

Should you lie about Santa?

How to both lie and tell the truth about Santa Claus

In 1897, 8-year-old Virginia wrote a letter to the The New York Sun newspaper. It was answered in a column by Francis P. Church. One hundred years later, it is still the most reprinted editorial in the English language.

Said a story in The New York Times on the 100-year anniversary of the original:
Viewed critically, Mr. Church's magnum opus is a sentimental mix of tautology, syllogism and fantasy...

But it is precisely because ''Yes, Virginia'' does not bear close scrutiny that it is a true sleight of rhetorical hand -- and, therefore, magical. ''What this child is doing is knocking on the door of the adult world and asking to be let in,'' said Howell Raines, editor of the editorial page of The New York Times. ''And what this editor is doing is protecting her -- and his adult readers.''

William David Sloan, a journalism professor at the University of Arkansas, once put it this way in The Masthead, the journal of the National Conference of Editorial Writers: ''Had he denied Santa Claus, he might have torn down the fanciful world of many youngsters and tampered with the values and traditions many people consider important. Had he affirmed Santa Claus matter-of-factly, he would have contributed no ideas of lasting significance. What Church did was sustain a child's hope while giving her a statement of ideals that are worthwhile for the adult. He did not simply continue a myth. He gave a reason for believing.''

Santa Claus Wigs, Beards, Etc.


Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus
Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

- Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, Newseum>>
- Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, Wikipedia>>
- Vintage Santa ads and illustrations, (found digital texts & images, material scans, & occasional snapshots) Abaculi>>

The wanted man who wasn't that hard to see

Real on the left, fictional TV character on the right.

Ji Siguang is accused of assaulting a police officer 13 years ago during a robbery in China. His accomplices were caught, but he escaped.

He moved around from place to place but eventually settled in Zhejiang, a city with a large film-making industry. He began acting as an extra in TV programs. Under the pseudonym Zhang Guofeng, he appeared over 30 times on Chinese TV.

He was caught through an anonymous tip.

One of his earlier roles was in the TV series Lurk, where he played an intelligence agent. The show was about a man (played by actor Sun Hong Lei) who pretended to be an ordinary person while spying for the government.

- Chinese fugitive evades police for 13 years – by becoming TV actor. Ji Siguang, who was playing a Buddhist monk in the series Shaolin Tigers, arrested over 1998 assault of police officer. The Guardian>>
- Fugitive-turned TV actor arrested in China, Want China Times>>

Magic disappearing pool

"This is not merely an innocent patio, Mr. Bond." 
(And it's not.)

Hidden Water Pools

7 photographs of the City of Shadows

"The more I wandered around the city, the 
city became for me a kind of city of shadows."

Alexey Titarenko photographed St. Petersburg in the early 1990s, as huge changes swept over the Soviet Union.

To get his photographs, which required long exposures, he had to set up his camera in public places, which was illegal. He said he deceived people and the police by pretending he was "doing geodesic measurements of holes."

His photos explore the mass anxiety of crowds of people being reduced to shadows.












A young boy "swept away by fate."



Alexey Titarenko>>
'City of Shadows' Exhibition Exposes Surreal Scenes of St. Petersburg's Past (Opens PDF file)>>