Beware the Photoshop pranksters

"Small graphic request. I think you can 
do this in PS, can someone take 
the headshot out of the picture?"

Many people have photographs they want to alter in some way, but don't have the skills to do it themselves, so they resort to websites where they ask others if they'll do the Photoshop image alterations for them for free.

Yet tricksters exist on these sites, and these trolls with Photoshop skills and too much time on their hands pretend to misinterpret the instructions and deliver photos with ridiculous results.

The website Photoshop Troll documents these photos and exchanges.

The guy who posted the above photo of Steve Johnson with a request to remove the headshot gets a reply: 
"I'll see if I can." 
And then he receives this response:
"I wasn't sure what you meant exactly, so I did it both ways."

(Look closely inside the helmet in the second photo.)

More examples at: Photoshop Troll>>

A pine tree can kill you in 43 seconds

A group of pine trees burn in
Waldo Canyon, Colorado.

It's June 2012, and multiple wildfires are burning across the state of Colorado. Over 300 square miles have burned, and hundreds of buildings have been destroyed.

What helps the fires spread? Hot weather (over 100 degrees F), low humidity (less than 7%) and high winds (over 50 mph).

Also, many of the pine trees in the forest have been killed by pine beetles. Those dry trees are still standing and are an even more potent source of fuel.

Looking at a forest fire from a distance, or hearing statistics about how fast a fire is moving, is not the best way to understand how quickly a fire can spread.

It's deceptively fast.

To get a better idea, take a look at this video showing how quickly a pine tree (in this case a dry Christmas tree inside a room) can burn.

Now imagine a whole forest of them.

Christmas tree fire (Dry Scotch Pine tree fire)

This controlled burn was created and filmed by the U. S. government's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

- Fire on the Web, NIST>>
- National Institute of Standards and Technology>>
- Photos of Colorado Wildfires, The Denver Post>> 
- 2012 Colorado wildfires, Wikipedia>>

3 scribbled wire illusions by David Oliviera

This skeleton torso is not a drawing.

The woman, her cat and his signature 
are all sculpted from galvanized wire.

A gallery hand.

Portuguese artist David Oliviera works in wire.

David Oliviera>>

The WW2 plane crash - an optical illusion

A B-26 Marauder
(Click to enlarge)

A photograph was taken of this aircraft as it was about to crash.

But that's not true.

The plane was fine. If you look below the plane you can see that it's merely passing over a train on the tracks below.

The Allison Collection of World War II Photographs, 77.09.4222a>>

SpongeBob, giclées, art fraud and ninjas

Todd White commemorated 
the event in his painting: 
"Nice Doing Business With Ya".
(Click to enlarge)

A Vanity Fair magazine article tells the story of rising artist Todd White, who formerly worked on the SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon, Peggy Howell, the enthusiastic gallery owner who promoted and sold his paintings, and their falling out, which involved three ninjas.
In 2003, at an art show in Los Angeles, White met Peggy Howell, who showed an immediate and intense interest in his work. Howell and White had plenty in common. Like him, she was a self-made go-getter from the South—an army brat from Arkansas who, after a career in corporate architecture, clawed her way up the art market. “Peggy was a hustler,” White says. “She was a mover, a shaker. She could sell art.” White recalls Howell telling him that she had once convinced a gowned bride in the bathroom of the Hyatt to buy one of White’s pieces before her ceremony began.

Howell was just as impressed by White’s ambition. “He was absolutely determined to be one of the top living artists,” she says, “and I could see it in his eyes.” Howell, who introduced herself to White’s friends as “Mama Peg,” took an almost maternal interest in the rising star. She was also his passionate promoter, transforming the Hyatt gallery from a second-rate tourist shop to a destination for the well-heeled patrons of Orange County. “She wanted to be Todd’s number one gallery”...
Read the tale: Sponge-Fraud! Artist Todd White seemingly had it all... Vanity Fair>>
Todd White>>

Very tall man at a train station - an optical illusion

Optical illusions - An Illusion of Perspective
(Click to enlarge)

This perspective optical illusion shows us a very tall man at an old train station, standing near a normal-sized man.

(Or is it a small man near a normal-sized man at a small train station?)

Of course the two men are the same size.

I'm a sucker for these old optical illusion cards.

This card also contains another perspective illusion besides the man in the white suit. Can you find it?

(If you find it, don't give it away in the comments. Just tell us you've found it, and let the others suffer.)

Major Drapkin Optical Illusions 21, Museo Illusionario, Flickr>>

A criminal teaches an entrepreneur bitter truths

Rajat Gupta was a leader of McKinsey & Company 
and a former Goldman Sachs board member.

Indian entrepreneur Alok Kejriwal explains what he learned from Rajat Gupta, a successful Indian-American businessman convicted of conspiracy and securities fraud:
I heard Rajat Gupta speak as a keynote at the Harvard Business School (HBS) in March 2010. HBS had invited a clutch of Indian entrepreneurs to discuss entrepreneurship in India. And so, why was Rajat Gupta there? Well, he was the most illustrious Indian in the United States!

If you were present at the event, correct me if I am wrong, but I heard Rajat Gupta with a cracked voice. I heard more philosophy than gyaan. (Note: "gyaan" is spiritual knowledge or understanding.) I heard the voice of regret ring out loud. On that particular day, I just assumed that he must've had a bad day. But today I am much wiser.
Mr. Kejriwal said he learned "five bitter lessons" from the fall of Mr. Gupta:
  1. Hanging out with criminals turns you criminal.
  2. Listen to your conscience.
  3. If you deny reality, you're listening to your ego.
  4. When you're wrong, people abandon you.
  5. Greed can motivate you, but don't worship it.
Read the entire article: 5 bitter business lessons Rajat Gupta taught me, The Economic Times, India>>
- Rajat Gupta Convicted of Insider Trading, Dealbook, The New York Times>>
- The Rajat Gupta affair, Forbes India>>

Read the censored work "The Art of Shoplifting"

Banned in Australia

In 1995, four editors of the student paper Rabelais in Australia were arrested for publishing a radical article explaining how to shoplift. The legal case, which led to an examination of what constituted free speech in Australia, ended four years later with no charges.

The shoplifting article banned in Australia is similar to the provocative left-wing trickster words found in Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book, or The Anarchist's Cookbook. In this type of work, the ideas expressed are sometimes scarier than the deceptive techniques being taught.

Here's the complete text of The Art of Shoplifting. Skip the first eight paragraphs on anti-capitalism if you just want to read the meat on stealing.
The Art of Shoplifting

Shoplifting is a topic that is practically relevant to many and it should therefore not become an exclusive craft confined to a small shoplifting elite. On the contrary, shoplifting is an art that deserves the widest possible dissemination. For your convenience we have printed below a step by step guide to shoplifting. Good luck.

How to get close to your lover, in Iran

Take advantage of a shared taxi

Journalist Kamin Mohammadi talks about how young Iranians find their way around obstacles:
As for dating and sex - well, what would you expect of a population that is overwhelmingly young? Some 70% of Iranians are under the age of 35 and this army of young people has grown up under the restrictions - and its curious contradictions - and they are used to bending the rules. The state runs to keep up.

When my friend and I were able to stray further from home, we had to take taxis home. In Iran, as well as private taxis, there are shared taxis called savaris which you can share with as many other people as are going your way. The driver squeezes in as many people as he can and here the normal rules of the Islamic Republic - so keen on gender segregation - seem to go out of the window.

Although people try to arrange themselves so that strange men and women are not sitting on top of each other, my friend and I found ourselves sitting so close that I could feel his heart beating, the closest we had ever come physically.

One friend, Iranian-born and brought up in the West like myself, told me of a romance she had had with a young man from Tehran which consisted purely of them riding around in savaris. They would ride from one end of town to another, asking the driver to take no other fares when they wanted to talk, and asking him to take other fares when they wanted an excuse to get physically close to each other.
- Viewpoint: Taxi sharing in Iran's 'sexual revolution' BBC>>
- Cartoon by Touka Neyestani from Irancartoon>>

He stole women's nude photos and posted them

 That creepy guy from high school?
He just got more creepy.

Joseph Bernard Campbell, a 24-year-old from Tampa, Florida, hacked into 350 - 500 email accounts of women, some of whom he knew from high school.

To get into their accounts, he used a phishing scam where he would pretend to send a greeting card that could only be accessed if they typed in their user names and passwords.

Some did.

Once he had access to their private Facebook accounts, he would search them. In 19 accounts, he found nude or risqué photos which women had sent to their boyfriends.

Then he went to work.

He swapped the private photos for their normal Facebook profile photos.

He posted their photos on a website called "Dumpster Sluts" and a forum called "Revenge".

He placed all the photos on "Pinellas County Sluts", a website he'd created.

And he would link accounts to each other so the embarrassing information would be found.

The U. S. Secret Service got involved.

They found him.

Mr. Campbell said he wanted "to harass the victims and cause them emotional distress."

He pleaded guilty to cyberstalking and unauthorized access to a computer and was sent to Federal prison.

My opinion?

I think it's very possible Mr. Campbell might have some issues regarding women.

Hacker places risqué photos of women on their Facebook pages, Tampa Bay Online>>

The white hat magicians do black art illusions

Claude Brun and Jérôme Helfenstein in the dark

Two French performers create a world of Magritte-like illusions with their performance of black art theater, which combines a love of circus, pantomime, juggling, comedy and magic.

The secret of the magic seems simple - white shows up on stage and black does not, so whatever you want to hide is covered in black, and whatever you want to appear is not covered in black.

But that's not all there is to it, as you'll see.

Les Chapeaux Blancs

Madness and illusions - artist Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama, born in 1929, is a prolific avant-garde artist and writer who has never stopped being avant-garde.

Due to mental illness, she has been hallucinating dots since she was a child.

Some of her work involves installations in rooms covered in colored dots or with walls of mirrors and hanging, color-changing LED lights.

"I'm Here, But Nothing"

"Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity"

"Infinity Mirror Room -
Filled with the Brilliance of Life"

A short biography of Yayoi Kusama

- Her bio>>

Why a McDonalds burger looks different in ads

A store-bought burger on the left, and
a gussied-up burger on the right.

Love them or hate them, you've got to admit McDonalds Canada knows how to do public relations. They've set up a YouTube channel where they respond to consumer questions.

In this video, the director of marketing answers the question: "Why does your food look different in the advertising than what it is in the store?"

The McDonalds executive orders a quarter pounder with cheese from a restaurant, then compares it with the version that will be used in advertising.

Using the same ingredients, a design studio employs tricks like melting the cheese with a hot iron, carefully applying condiments with syringes, and placing the top bun back farther than the bottom bun to show more of the burger.

They freely admit it takes hours of preparation from food stylists, photographers and a Photoshop "imaging specialist" to make a photo-ready burger.

How's that for honesty?

Behind the scenes at a McDonald's photo shoot

Can you read this puzzling thing?

What does it say? 

How about this one? 

This one is written backwards.

Answers (and more) here: The 3-D Alphabet, UniversResolved>>

3 unbelievable thefts from moving objects

They want your stuff. 
Your stuff is moving. 
Here's what thieves might do.

When real thieves steal sheep tossed from the back of a truck, it looks like this:

Thieves Steal Sheep From Moving Truck

When real thieves try to steal from a moving vehicle and are filmed by a night vision camera on a helicopter, it looks like this:

Romanian thieves attempt a night heist, 
filmed by Romania's Department 
for Organised Crime and Terrorism

When fake thieves steal an expensive sports car from a moving train as part of an $86 million dollar movie, the behind-the-scenes view looks like this. (But they also smash their own truck into the train and...)

Fast Five - Featurette: "Train Heist"

Illusions of shadow and light by Kumi Yamashita

Something will appear
at the edge of this square.

Enjoy the gradual revelation of one of artist Kumi Yamashita's works, called Fragments.

"Fragments" consists of 
40 colored resin tiles.

When Ms. Yamashita was in New Mexico 
in 2008, she met many people.

They were of different 
backgrounds and ethnicities.

With her art, Ms. Yamashita  
created a testament and 
celebration of their lives.

Kumi Yamashita:
"I sculpt shadow with light or sometimes light with shadow, but both function in essentially the same manner. I take objects and carve and place them in relation to a single light source. The complete artwork is therefore comprised of both the material (the solid objects) and the immaterial (the light or shadow)."
I altered the earlier images so all you saw was the panels. Here they are, uncropped. Each panel depicts the silhouette of a real person.

Fragments is in the permanent collection of the 
New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe, USA.

Kumi Yamashita>>

How to defeat Nigerian e-mail scams

Why don't the Nigerians say:
"We're from New Jersey"?

Nicholas Thompson in The New Yorker explains:
...Microsoft Research, a think tank run by the company, published a white paper titled “Why Do Nigerian Scammers Say They Are from Nigeria?” Many of the scammers, the report notes, are indeed from Nigeria. But they lie about lots of things (like “we have a large sum of gold”). Why not also pretend to be from a place that is not known for e-mail scams? Why don’t they make the whole scheme seem a little less ridiculous at the outset? Why don’t the scammers say they are from some place more plausible, like “New Jersey”?

The report’s answer, which involves a lot of math, is fairly simple: scammers only want really gullible people to respond to their initial query. These scams are complicated — they involve lots of negotiations, charm, and conning. Many of them fall through. If Mr. Mutumba sends out fifty thousand e-mails, it’s going to make his life much easier if his claim is so ridiculous — and so easy to debunk through Bing or Google — that only ten, and not a hundred, potential suckers respond. Scammers, like the rest of us, have other stuff to do...
Read the whole thing: The Golden Rule: A New Way to Defeat Nigerian E-mail Scams, The New Yorker>>

The Chinese mushroom prank

A hand grasps the strange-looking fungus.

Villagers in Liucunbu, China were drilling a new well when they encountered a strange object, a rubbery-looking mushroom.

An investigative news team from "Xi’an Up Close" was called, and reporter Yunfeng Ye arrived with a film crew. In her report, she and a local man speculated on camera about what's been found, and how they believed it might be a large specimen of a medicinal mushroom called lingzhi. Said Ms. Ye:
“When the Emperor Qin Shi Huang [the First emperor of China] was on the hunt for the secret to longevity, it is said he discovered this lingzhi was the answer.”
However, after the TV report was aired, many viewers realized that the supposed mushroom was not a mushroom with the secret to long life.

It was actually a sex toy that could be used for a man's sexual satisfaction.

The station had to air a humble apology, mentioning that the reporter was "... very young and sheltered.”

How did a sex toy get found by well diggers?

Was this an actual case of people in town misidentifying a lost item, or was someone in the town of Liucunbu secretly laughing at a successful "mushroom" prank?

"I can't believe they fell for it!"

Chinese news team confuses rubber vagina for mushroom

Sex Toy Fools Entire Chinese Village, ABC News>>
The image is a 2004 painting by well-known Chinese artist Yue Munjun, rotated on its side.

Will smoking adults listen if tricked by kids?

"Can I get a light for my cigarette?" 
asks a little kid

In Thailand, this anti-smoking ad was created by Ogilvy Asia for the Thai Health Promotion Foundation. In the commercial, little children try to get a light for their unlit cigarette from adults who are smoking. But it's a trick to get the adults to explain to the kids why smoking is bad for you.

Anti-smoking ad in Thailand

It's an effective ad. Yet it's not only the smoking adults in the ad who are being tricked. I think we're being tricked, too. It's very likely that the ad did not film unknown smokers on the street. Is it possible they used actors to pretend to be unknown smokers on the street, combined with a "hidden camera" style to make the ad more powerful?

What do you think?

Thai Health Promotion Foundation>>

"Mandarin - Find his hat" - an optical illusion

(Click to enlarge)

This is a vintage optical illusion cigarette card used for advertising by Major Drapkin & Co., part of the United Kingdom Tobacco Co.

This is in homage to my friend Gregg, who as I write is currently working as background (an extra) on the Johnny Depp movie The Lone Ranger.

Gregg's work is an illusion as well. Although he's Japanese-American, he will appear in the movie as a Chinese laborer.

"Chinese laborer number 18", to be exact.

And about the Mandarin's hat - I couldn't find it. It probably doesn't help that I don't know what it looks like.

He cheats to kill more people

It's only in a video game, but still...

Many people like to play online multi-player video games. But some people don't like to play just for the fun of the game - they want to win at all costs.

An article at Kotaku profiles a 21-year-old guy who cheats at games like Battlefield or Call of Duty. Is he a super-smart hacker? Nope. He pays a company called Artificial Aiming $25 a month and they provide him with software that lets him win.

Instead of using skill, he uses various cheats that give him easy ways to kill opposing players.

He has an excuse:
"Technically hacking does ruin games... I do feel bad for doing it, ‘cause I know regular legit gamers—which I once was—just want to have fun and play the game with their friends. I basically go into servers and hack, because it's like releasing anger with my job..."
When the group he'd been playing with figured out what he was doing, they banned him:
"It took a few days to sink in as I realized what I had done to the gaming clan I had been with for four or five years... I felt like utter crap. I actually cried for about five minutes, wishing I could go back in time..."
But he kept cheating.

Even when he gets banned by the game makers, he gets a new account and keeps coming back.

The companies that make the games say it's a never-ending arms race against the companies that make the cheats.

One Shot, One Kill, No Skill: Why a Regular Gamer Started Paying to Cheat at Video Games, Kotaku>>

The disappearing Dracula magic toy

Tenyo Dracula Bank
(the top)

This Dracula Bank magic trick is unique in that it doesn't require the person handling the trick to know the secret. You just put in a coin, push Dracula down, and he disappears.

Magician and inventor Mark Setteducati created the Dracula Bank for the Japanese toy and magic company Tenyo in 1993.

Watch it in action in the video below.

You see, it works because you 
can't see Dracula in a mirror.

Tenyo Dracula bank


Human body parts as jewelry

An ear earring

No, they aren't real human body parts. Percylau at Etsy will sell you a tiny body part made from Sculpey clay that you can then hang from your own body parts.

This ear earring wears its own earring.

If you're fond of puns, you can wear this.
"What's that?" 
"It's my ear ring."

Noses and more intimate body parts are also available.

- Little Third Ear, Etsy>>
Found via Book of Joe, who found it via the blog Things that look like other things>>

The real face mask that looks fake

Creepy and real

Usually the interesting deceptive masks are ones that are fake but look real, but in this case, a real photographic mask of German politician Angela Merkel worn by a protestor looks like someone did a sloppy cut and paste job on a photo.

German Cabinet approves new benefit program, Boston Globe>>

The amazing slow motion Slinky drop

Slinky can do more than just walk down the stairs.

What happens when you hold the top of a stretched out Slinky and drop it?

It's not intuitive.

What happens is it looks like magic.

Slow motion Slinky drop (5 videos in one)

Watch the first 15 seconds of this video
for the best slow motion Slinky drop

Found here: Holy Levitating Slinky, Kottke>>
Slinky image at Regretsy>>

Why robbing banks is stupid (at least, financially)

It's high risk / low reward,
this profession

I've said this multiple times in this blog - bank robbery is a bad idea.

Now it's been proven by economists from the Royal Statistical Society and the American Statistical Association. They were asked by a banking trade organization to analyze the economics of adding security measures to banks. So they wrote a paper on the finances of bank robberies, from the financial perspective of the bank robbers.

Their conclusion? Robbing banks is a bad idea.

Of course they used statistics.

The average UK bank robbery only nets £20,330 (about $31,613).

But most robberies had more than one person, so the take per person was less: £12,706 (about $19,985).

They figure that gives a robber a modest English lifestyle for six months.

Except that some robbers did better, and some worse. And over a third of robberies completely failed.

Thieves in the U.S. did much worse. In the U.S. the FBI says the average take per robbery was only $4,300.

- Found via Boing Boing: Robbing banks is a crappy way to earn a living>>
- Economists demonstrate exactly why bank robbery is a bad idea. The typical return on a bank holdup is, "frankly, rubbish." Ars Technica>>