I missed the best April Fool’s Day prank of 2011. It was the appearance of the Sokoblovsky Petite Lap Giraffe web-site, complete with Giraffe Cam.
The alleged Petite Lap Giraffe breeder operation, tracing its history back to Czarist times, was praised by Ad Week as:
a great example of taking an awesome random detail from a TV campaign and running with it online. The site, concepted and built by Grey (with The Mill in New York handling special effects), offers lots of great tips on owning a tiny giraffe. “PLG’s love being indoors in filtered air conditioning. If they can listen to music of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov it is dream,” notes the copy, which is all humorously written in broken English. And look, they’re tidy: “PLG’s are very clean. With training they will go in box like cats. Allergies never a problem.” Well, I’m sold. Too bad I’m No. 14,870 on the waiting list, with an expected delivery date 21,000 years in the future.
The ads behind all this were the “Gregor the Russian billionaire” commercials (see below).
“End of History” beer made in a limited edition of twelve bottles was the world’s strongest beer (55 proof), came in taxidermy mounts of road-killed animals (four squirrels, seven weasels and a hare), cost $765 a bottle, and sold out immediately upon release by the Scottish BrewDog Brewery. (MSNBC)
Budget cuts force British government to close top secret sea-side resort village operated since 1967. (The Onion)
In light of the current economic downturn, it is unwise to maintain this secret locale any longer,” said a man identified only as Number Two, referring to the bucolic village whose sole aim appeared to be the recovery of desirable information from former intelligence agents. “Plus, the cost of maintaining human chessboards, outdated penny- farthings, and our state-of-the-art escapee- retrieval sphere just proved too much. We would have closed this whole place down years ago had it not been for one particularly uncooperative resident.”
Robin Sage is the name of a 19 day Special Forces problem-solving field training exercise, conducted four times a year, in which students train and lead a guerrilla force in an imaginary hostile country known as “Pineland.”
Tom Ryan of Provide Security recently conducted his own Robin Sage tactical field exercise on the Internet. He created fake Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles under the alias, “Robin Sage,” accompanied by a photograph of a cute girl (borrowed from an adult website). Robin Sage claimed to be a 24-year-old MIT graduate, employed by Naval Network Warfare Command as a “Cyber Threat Analyst.”
“Robin” quickly established social network connections with more than 300 professionals in the National Security Agency, DoD, and Global 500 corporations.
Robin received employment approaches from Google and Lockheed Martin, and Robin’s new friends in the Intelligence Community shared information with her that violated military operational security and personal security restrictions.
Another really bad game camera photo accompanied by an unpersuasive narrative of skepticism and reluctant public release. This time from Minnesota, a long, long way from the original theoretical range of the imaginary North American elusive and unknown large primate.
I don’t think it requires any apparatus more complicated than the eye to recognize the posture of a man underneath what is obviously a suit.
Tim Kedrowski and his sons, Peter and Casey, say they aren’t pushovers for Bigfoot stories. But a frame on a game trail camera set up on their hunting land north of Remer, Minn. has left them wondering.
“To us, it’s very hard because we lean toward the skeptical type,” Kedrowski said in a telephone interview from his Rice, Minn., home.
But after checking with neighbors and any other hunters who might have been walking through the dense woods at 7:20 p.m. on the rainy night of Oct. 24, he said they couldn’t imagine what else the image could be. Tim said he considered ideas from a bear to a bow hunter in a fuzzy suit. But the arm and hand couldn’t be a bear’s, or its upright gait. And there is no evidence in the photo of a bow or flashlight a hunter might be using to track a wounded deer. ...
Casey Kedrowski said he and his brother had gone out to the family’s hunting shack prior to deer season to bring in firewood and make other preparations. They set up a game trail camera to see what might be wandering around their property.
Casey said he and his brother were the only people who knew where the camera was located. They took the camera down when deer season started, and a couple of weeks later checked on what they had caught.
When they came to the picture of the long-armed creature walking upright, Casey said, “We just looked at each other. Each of us thought we were playing a trick on each other.”
When they determined that neither of them had pulled a prank on the other, they checked to see if anyone had been in the area that night. Tim said the only neighbors were two elderly hunters in their own shack, neither of whom matched the size and appearance of the creature caught on camera.
However, he said, when he asked the men about the night the camera clicked on the mystery, they said they had gone out about 2 a.m. to use the outhouse and had heard strange squealing noises. Tim said he asked them to show him the direction of the sounds. They pointed to the area where the camera had been, although they had no idea of its location.
Tim said he just released the photo and permission for its publication last weekend.
The photo itself is unconvincing and displays many of the attributes associated with previous “man in an ape suit” photos and YouTube videos. Note the lack of articulation on the back of the legs where the thigh meets the knee and continues to the calf. The “fur” has the draped appearance of a pant leg – not the musculature of a wild animal. The hands have the rubbery look of an ape from a 1930s Bela Lugosi B-movie. Notably, the face of the “creature” is blocked by a small tree, conveniently obscuring any facial details, the most difficult part of a costume to fake effectively.
Despite the “internet sensation” claim, Ananova is really the only news source on this one.
A photograph purporting to show a 55ft snake found in a forest in China has become an internet sensation.
It was originally posted in a thread on the website of the People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper in China.
The thread claimed the snake was one of two enormous boas found by workers clearing forest for a new road outside Guping city, Jiangxi province.
They apparently woke up the sleeping snakes during attempts to bulldoze a huge mound of earth.
“On the third dig, the operator found there was blood amongst the soil, and with a further dig, a dying snake appeared,” said the post.
“At the same time, another gold coloured giant boa appeared with its mouth wide open. The driver was paralysed with fear, while the other workers ran for their lives.
“By the time the workers came back, the wounded boa had died, while the other snake had disappeared. The bulldozer operator was so sick that he couldn’t even stand up.”
The post claimed that the digger driver was so traumatised that he suffered a heart attack on his way to hospital and later died.
The dead snake was 55ft (16.7m) long, weighed 300kg and was estimated to be 140 years old, according to the post.
However, local government officials in Guiping say the story and photograph are almost certainly a hoax as giant boas are not native to the area.
Anannova seems to have gotten the story from QuirkyChina, which claims to be quoting the People’s Daily for November 11th, but no such story turn up in a search of the English language edition of the paper’s web-site.
The use of the term “boa” is obviously inaccurate. Boa constrictors are native to the New World. The visible markings on the snake’s back, I think, identify it clearly enough as a reticulated python. And Chinese English news reports do clearly routinely refer to pythons (native to Asia) as “boas.”
This 40 k. (88 lbs.), 4 m. (13’) long reticulated python found by Yunnan villagers in this October 22, 2006 story is referred to as a “giant boa.”
There is a problem with range. Guping is a bit north of the generally described range of Python reticulatus.
Wikipedia estimated range of Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus)
Jiangxi Province, China
And there is a problem with the size. The photograph is obviously calculated to mislead. The snake is hanging from the bucket in the extreme foreground in an effort to induce viewers to take the people and cab behind as an indication of scale. If someone could identify the model of the backhoe, and could determine the actual size of the digging bucket, it would be pretty easy to come up with a more accurate estimate of the actual size of the snake.
Estimates of how large reticulated pythons can grow vary. Wikipedia says “more than 28 feet (8.7 m),” quoting Murphy/Henderson (1997). Wall (1926) proposes 30’ (9.14 m.). Oliver (1958) goes all the way up to 33’ (10.06 m.).
Yet, there is a news agency account, dated January 8, 2004, describing the capture in Indonesia of a nearly 49 foot (14.9 m.), 990 pound (450 k.) monster reticulated python, complete with 0:33 video.
Last week’s story of the discovery of a deceased Sasquatch in northern Georgia has been debunked. When the block of ice enclosing the alleged body was melted, a rubber Bigfoot suit emerged. California Bigfoot “researchers” claimed they had been deceived and were disappointed. George’s Clayton County Police said they were going to fire the police officer involved.
Looks like a gorilla mask, a buffalo rug, and a bear paw to me
Searching for Bigfoot, Inc. of Redwood City, California announced the alleged recent discovery of a deceased male Bigfoot in the woods of northern Georgia by a Clayton County police officer named Matthew Whitton and a friend, Rick Dyer. Robert Barrows, a Burlingame, California publicist, and Tom Biscardi, Las Vegas promoter and long-time Bigfoot “researcher,” made the announcement and claim to have seen the body personally.
DNA and photographic evidence are promised to be presented at a press conference to be held Friday, August 15, 2008, at noon at the Cabana Hotel-Palo Alto, 4290 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, California 94306.
A body that may very well be the body of the creature commonly known as “Bigfoot” has been found in the woods in northern Georgia.
DNA evidence and photo evidence of the creature will be presented in a press conference on Friday, August 15th from 12 Noon to 1:00pm at the Cabana Hotel-Palo Alto at 4290 El Camino Real in Palo Alto, California, 94306. The press conference will not be open to the public. It will only be open to credentialed members of the press.
Here are some of the vital statistics on the “Bigfoot” body:
The creature is seven feet seven inches tall.
It weighs over five hundred pounds.
The creature looks like it is part human and part ape-like.
It is male.
It has reddish hair and blackish-grey eyes.
It has two arms and two legs, and five fingers on each hand and five toes on each foot.
The feet are flat and similar to human feet.
Its footprint is sixteen and three-quarters inches long and five and three-quarters inches wide at the heel.
From the palm of the hand to the tip of the middle finger, its hands are eleven and three-quarters inches long and six and one-quarter inches wide.
The creatures walk upright. (Several of them were sighted on the same day that the body was found.)
The teeth are more human-like than ape-like.
DNA tests are currently being done and the current DNA and photo evidence will be presented at the press conference on Friday, August 15th.
Alas! the publicity scheme worked only too well. Searching for Bigfoot’s web-site quickly exceeded its bandwidth limit. You can see the original press release in the Google cache, or go to the Inquisitr, who managed to get a copy via Cryptomundo (whose site is also swamped by traffic and unresponsive).
Richard published at Gawker published the original news item on Tuesday alleging that the above object had washed up on a Montauk, Long Island beach, and hinting that it may have originated from the federal Plum Island Animal Disease Center, the vacation spot promised fictional supervillain Hannibal Lector were he to help recover a Senator’s daughter kidnapped by a serial killer in Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs.
The authorities at Plum Island obligingly cooperated with the silliness by issuing a denial.
The story spread, and was picked up by CNN who ran a
The story went international, and the British Telegraph gravely reported:
The identity of this creature, which reportedly washed up on a New York beach last month, has captivated the blogosphere and is dividing animal experts.
The beast, dubbed the Montauk Monster after the Long Island resort where it was discovered, has a hairless, leathery body, sharp teeth and what appears to be a beak.
A photo of the animal appeared on the gossip website Gawker earlier this week under the headline “Dead Monster Washes Ashore in Montauk”, and the story has since been picked up by US networks Fox News and CNN.
The woman who claims to have taken the original photo on Montauk beach on July 12 says she had no idea what the creature was.
“We were looking for a place to sit when we saw some people looking at something,” said Jenna Hewitt.
“We were kind of amazed,” the 26-year-old added, “shocked and amazed.”
Other locals have now come forward to say they saw the animal, which has been variously identified by blog commenters as a dog, raccoon, and shell-less sea turtle.
The dog theory, which depends on the creature’s beak actually being a nasal cavity, currently appears to have most support.
An initial theory that the image may be a hoax produced as part of a viral marketing campaign has been undermined by the number of witnesses.
All this was so much fun that today Newsday climbed on board with its own photograph and witnesses, claiming:
A. Something really did wash up in Montauk, one sunny day, two weeks ago.
B. More than four people saw it.
C. More than one person photographed it.
The surf was rough, flipping the thing, over and over, and over again.
Jenna Hewitt, of Montauk, and three friends crept up to examine one side. And Hewitt snapped the camera shot heard ‘round the world.
But here’s the rub.
Her group was the second on the scene that afternoon.
The first was a quartet of sun-worshipers from western Suffolk and New York City.
“It looked like nothing I’d ever seen before,” said Ryan O’Shea, of Brooklyn. “It looked like it died angry.”
They were so puzzled by what they saw, they left and came right back, with more friends.
The second time around, Christina Pampalone, of East Northport, borrowed O’Shea’s camera. She aimed and kept on firing.
The result is lots of—ew—gross photos of a carcass that looks more domestic than exotic, a bloated dog, not the Hound from Hell.
It shows ears. A big swatch of fur. And its proportions appear to be less distorted—making the head appear to be a suitable complement to the body.
“I was telling people, all day (Wednesday), that I had better photos,” Pampalone said.
“Everybody I showed her pictures to said it looks like a dead dog,” O’Shea said.
“But looking at the claws, and at the teeth in the front, it looked like it could be something else, something vicious.”
It was relatively small, roughly 21/2 to 3 feet long, he said.
She also told our man Wargas—who had started his workday high on the hope of seeing, and no doubt, smelling, the beast’s remains—that the carcass had been moved from the backyard of her friend to another location.
Joann Dileardo saw it at the end of Roe Avenue in Patchogue, a few weeks ago. “I didn’t know what that thing was,” she said. “It looked like a pig.”
Another reader, Pat, e-mailed that the ladies in his office saw it on an East Quogue beach—back in April.
Elizabeth Barbeiri said her family saw it about a mile east of Gurney’s Inn in Montauk, July 14. And Ryan Kelso, via iPhone, said he spotted it—alive!—in the Montauk dunes. “It looked about the size of an average fox, gray in color, eyes like a mole, hairless and was breathing quite heavily,” he wrote, “needless to say we were freaked out by this discovery and fled the area quickly.”
Lavey Fater saw a surfer bring one to shore, near Ditch Plains.
“It was hairless and gross,” Fater reported. “... The surfer said he had no idea what it was, but that he threw it in the dunes because he didn’t want to be surfing next to it.”
Keith found something last week in Greenport; Chris found one a month ago at Jones Beach east of Field 6. (“The one I saw had a longer snout or beak or whatever you want to call it.”) Sean said he buried one, 3 feet deep, in South Jamesport.
Matt Pressman at Vanity Fair explores the many ways in which Americans hate the New York Times.
It’s such a given in the media business that few even stop to notice it: people love to hate The New York Times. They read the paper every day, and seemingly could not function without it, yet they never tire of, and often seem to delight in, pointing out its errors, biases, and various other real and imagined shortcomings. They’re a bit like the callers on sports talk radio—hopelessly devoted to an institution, but wanting nothing more than to voice their (often very loud) opinion about how awful and disappointing it is. ...
The most commonly cited explanation was that same nagging emotion that makes the French love to hate America and computer geeks love to hate Microsoft: envy and resentment. “The Times is the coxswain, the one setting the pace for the entire culture,” Jonah Goldberg says. “Sociologically, it just matters more.” (“Ideologically, it drives me fucking bonkers,” Goldberg couldn’t resist adding.) “It occupies a position that no other newspaper does,” adds Alex Pareene. “So you get more offended when they’re using that platform to promote David Brooks or something.”
Then there’s the question of the paper’s attitude. “Almost in inverse proportion to its own survivability, The New York Times becomes more and more holier-than-thou,” says Michael Wolff. “You’ve lost your way journalistically, you’ve lost your way from a business standpoint, you’ve lost your way from an authoritative standpoint, and yet you are still so holier-than-thou.”
Goldberg echoes Wolff’s complaint, saying, “The idea that ‘we’re not part of that club’ feeds a sort of resentment on both the left and the right.” Goldberg says, among his conservative brethren, the paper’s offenses occasion “an eye-rolling thing—there they go again.” But when the Times “screws the left,” he says, “it feels like a matter of betrayal. So, in some ways the rage is much more intense.” ...
Wolff, it’s fair to say, has stopped expecting better. “Once, it mattered. Once, it set an agenda,” he says of the Times. “But it’s like a time delay: We know you’re over with, but you don’t know it, and you’re still here, so die! Let’s not put a fine point on it. They don’t do anything right. Their journalism is not good, their view of the world is not correct.”
A new report from the Oldest College Daily advises the well-and-truly-grossed-out news-reporting and news-reading worlds that Aliza Schvarts (Y’08)’s miscarriages-as-art project was merely a naughty undergraduate joke intended to spark conversation and debate.
Aliza Shvarts ’08 was never impregnated. She never miscarried. The sweeping outrage on blogs across the country was apparently for naught — at least according to the University.
As the news of her supposed senior art project chronicling a year of self-induced miscarriages was greeted with widespread shock on campus and elsewhere, the Davenport College senior traded barbs with Yale officials on Thursday over a project she described as an exhibit documenting a nine-month process during which she claimed to have artificially inseminated herself “as often as possible” while periodically inducing miscarriages.
But while Shvarts stood by her project and claimed that administrators had backed her before the planned exhibition attracted national condemnation, the University dismissed it as nothing more than a piece of fiction.
“The entire project is an art piece, a creative fiction designed to draw attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman’s body,” Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said in a written statement Thursday afternoon.
Klasky said Shvarts told Yale College Dean Peter Salovey and two other senior officials Thursday that she neither impregnated herself nor induced any miscarriages. Rather, the entire episode, including a press release describing the exhibition released Wednesday, was nothing more than “performance art,” Klasky said.
“She is an artist and has the right to express herself through performance art,” Klasky said. “Had these acts been real, they would have violated basic ethical standards and raised serious mental and physical health concerns.”
But in an interview later Thursday afternoon, Shvarts defended her work and called the University’s statement “ultimately inaccurate.” She reiterated that she engaged in the nine-month process she publicized on Wednesday in a press release that was first reported in the News: repeatedly using a needleless syringe to insert semen into herself, then taking abortifacient herbs at the end of her menstrual cycle to induce bleeding. Thursday evening, in a tour of her art studio, she shared with the News video footage she claimed depicted her attempts at self-induced miscarriages.
“No one can say with 100-percent certainty that anything in the piece did or did not happen,” Shvarts said, adding that she does not know whether she was ever pregnant. “The nature of the piece is that it did not consist of certainties.”
Told of Shvarts’ comments, the University fired back. In a statement issued just before midnight on Thursday, Klasky told the News that Shvarts had vowed that if the University revealed her admission, “she would deny it.”
“Her denial is part of her performance,” Klasky wrote in an e-mail message. “We are disappointed that she would deliberately lie to the press in the name of art.”
Yale’s response to the supposed exhibition came at the end of a day of widespread shock. The blogosphere erupted in stunned indignation over Shvarts’ detailed description in Thursday’s News of her supposed exhibition, which she said would include the display of blood she preserved from her nine-month endeavor.
As more news outlets posted their stories online early Friday morning, Shvarts responded to the University’s second statement, asserting that her project was, in her words, “University-sanctioned.”
“I’m not going to absolve them by saying it was some sort of hoax when it wasn’t,” she said. “I started out with the University on board with what I was doing, and because of the media frenzy they’ve been trying to dissociate with me. Ultimately I want to get back to a point where they renew their support because ultimately this was something they supported.”
It was a media frenzy that Shvarts triggered herself. The article in Thursday’s News was prompted by a press release Shvarts circulated on Wednesday in which she discussed — in graphic detail — what she called a cycle of self-insemination followed by “repeated self-induced miscarriages.”
The Drudge Report linked to the News’s story early Thursday, overloading the newspaper’s Web site with traffic and attracting the attention of news outlets across the country. The article generated more press inquiries from the University than any matter since the controversy surrounding Yale’s admission of former Taliban diplomat Rahmatullah Hashemi flared up in 2006, according to a Yale official.
In an interview for the article in Thursday’s News, Shvarts explained that the goal of her exhibition was to spark conversation and debate about the relationship between art and the human body. She said her endeavor was not conceived with any “shock value” in mind.
“I hope it inspires some sort of discourse,” Shvarts said. “Sure, some people will be upset with the message and will not agree with it, but it’s not the intention of the piece to scandalize anyone.”
Shvarts said her project would take the form of a large cube suspended from the ceiling of a room in the gallery of Holcombe T. Green Jr. Hall. Shvarts said she would wrap hundreds of feet of plastic sheeting around the cube, with blood from her self-induced miscarriages lining the sheeting.
Recorded videos of her experiencing her miscarriages would be projected onto the four sides of the cube, Shvarts said.
And while some news stories late Thursday dismissed Shvarts’s exhibition as a wholesale hoax, the Davenport senior showed elements of her planned exhibition to News reporters, including footage from tapes she plans to play at the exhibit. The tapes depict Shvarts, sometimes naked, sometimes clothed, alone in a shower stall bleeding into a cup. It was all part of a project that Shvarts said had the backing of the dean of her residential college and at least two faculty members within the School of Art.
Davenport College Dean Craig Harwood — whom Shvarts said supported the project — and Shvarts’s thesis adviser, School of Art lecturer Pia Lindman, could not be reached for comment Thursday. The director of undergraduate studies in the School of Art, Henk van Assen, referred a request for comment to Yale’s Office of Public Affairs.
Which denoument makes a lot of sense. The whole business did sound just a little too far out there in a variety of ways to receive academic approval. And it’s true, we all gaped and marveled, but accepted the story at face value.
Does this prove that news organizations and bloggers are unbecomingly credulous? I don’t think so. The alleged miscarriage project was not all that far removed from any number of real examples of purported art featuring unlikely materials of organic origin, in some cases personally provided by the artist.
Aliza Schvarts’ alleged art project made news on the basis of its man-bites-dog outrageous character, but these days the relationship of major universities and the arts to perversity and shock is so warm and intimate that it all had a distinct air of plausibility.
Despite the unfortunate aesthetic and moral aspects of her prank, my own disposition is to smile and extend congratulations to Aliza Schvarts for successfully pulling so many legs. What is undergraduate life for, if not for shocking and outraging the adult bourgeois world?
Well done, Aliza.
Her taste may be questionable, but she demonstrated admirable quantities of imagination, flair, and enterprise. The world should keep an eye out for this girl. What an advertising campaign manager she is liable to make!