Watch a little over 7 minutes of ZooZoo

They have been called "alchemists, magicians, 
theatrical animators, and physical comedians."

This video shows excerpts from Imago Theatre's show "ZooZoo".

ZooZoo is a magical show combining pantomime, dance, music and special effects performed by actor/dancers dressed as various endearing creatures.

I especially like the paper bag, and the mechanism for the anteater's tongue.

ZooZoo (excerpts)

Imago Theatre, based in Portland Oregon, was founded in 1979 by Carol Triffle and Jerry Mouawad.

- ImagoTheatre>>
- More videos>>

Nude man escapes the authorities

It was a well-endowed planned operation.

If you're going to pull off a proper streaking prank, you need to cover any identifying features (face and license plate), have a handy escape route, and have practiced so you don't snag your tenders on chain link fences.

As one commenter wrote, his were obviously made of brass.

High school streaker escape

This paper bag can hold water. How?

Yes, there's a trick to it.

Canadian artist Michel Harvey is a magician who uses clay instead of the stage to fool you. Shown above is his Porcelain Paper Bag.

All the wrinkly details, except in clay

Michel Harvey, Wantist>>

Child pornography and "flesh meshing"

I think that Mr. Hendricks 
might be the very definition 
of middle school "creepy".

I heard about the term "flesh meshing" after reading a story about Richard D. Hendricks, a 32-year-old guy who was secretly taking inappropriate photographs of students at a middle school where he was a technology teacher and yearbook advisor.

A child pornography investigation discovered he was viewing live sex shows involving children and adults in the Philippines, so authorities seized his computer. Besides a collection of images and movies he had collected, they also found his own hidden camera pictures, where he would place a camera under a table and capture images up the skirts of girls in his classroom.

And evidently, to make his photos more sexual, he tried to enhance them using a Photoshop technique that acted as an X-ray filter that would allow him to see through girl's clothing.

"How to Use Flesh-mesh X-ray in Photoshop".
I obscured the person's face.
Click to enlarge.

I doubt that this technique works as described to see through clothing, but it probably did not help Mr. Hendrick's defense.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Former Middle School Teacher Sentenced To 10 Years In Child Porn Case, Hartford Courant>>

Why the little magician was sent to an exorcist

He was last seen 
mesmerizing the chair.

I haven't found the original page this was taken from, so I'm not exactly sure how his trick was supposed to work. I do hope the hidden thread is not piercing the boy's flesh.

The image is from Grolier's 1931 The Book of Knowledge, advertised with the slogan "New worlds to discover. More wonderful than Aladdin's lamp". 

From verpabunny (Kelly Vivanco), Flickr>>

Why is this street covered with some sort of foam?

A lot of foam

This is called "sea foam", a strange occurrence where various organic particles from the ocean get whipped together with air and arrive on the shore.

In this case, the huge quantities of sea foam in the Australian town of Mooloolaba were caused by the rough weather from a nearby cyclone.

It's such an odd-looking thing that some people seeing the images for the first time might think it was a hoax.

It's not, but something tricky does occur in the following video:

Sunshine Coast Floods

Metal rings and fabric - magic by Tina Lenert

Imagine a silent ritual that creates real magic.

Magician Tina Lenert shows us the magical possibilities of a scarf and rings.

Tina Scarf&Rings


Tina Lenert>>

Lies parents tell their kids

"Eat them or you'll go blind!"

And parents wonder why their children lie to them:
Most parents tell lies to their children as a tactic to change their behaviour, suggests a study of families in the United States and China.

The most frequent example was parents threatening to leave children alone in public unless they behaved.

Persuasion ranged from invoking the support of the tooth fairy to telling children they would go blind unless they ate particular vegetables.

Another strategic example was: "That was beautiful piano playing."

The study, published in the International Journal of Psychology, examined the use of "instrumental lying" - and found that such tactically-deployed falsehoods were used by an overwhelming majority of parents in both the United States and China - based on interviews with about 200 families.
I think the lie I use most with my kids is "I don't have any cash on me", but of course they know I could use a credit/debit card, so really, who is fooling who?

And while we're on the subject of carrots, eyes, and blindness, here's a Bill Plimpton animation:


Read more: Most parents 'lie to their children'. BBC News>>
Via Metafilter, Instrumental lying by parents in the US and China>>

Playing a prank on the homeless

Prank-it-forward

Tricksters Tom Mabe, Roman Atwood and Dennis Roady play a trick on some homeless people, although I'd say it should only loosely be defined as a prank and more of a random act of kindness disguised as a prank.

Feeding The Homeless Prank

Marty McFly animated gif magic

"Look ma, I'm flying!"

Wait, the hoverboard wasn't real? Michael J. Fox reveals the special effects used to make his Marty character fly in the movie Back to the Future, part II.

There are not enough "real" Chinese restaurants

Of course, the locations you see in 
movies and TV are sometimes fake.

The above Chinese restaurant was used in the movie Men In Black III, but a movie location scout based in New York knew immediately it wasn't a real Chinese restaurant in New York. That's because such a stereotypical Chinese restaurant doesn't exist.

Directors want an "authentic-looking" place, but authentic does not mean what exists in reality.

Read more: Why Everyone Films At The Same Damn New York Chinese Restaurant, Scouting in New York>>

Building a better lie detector

Authorities want a machine that can detect liars. 
Are they getting closer to finding it?

From Wired magazine:
Since September 11, 2001, federal agencies have spent millions of dollars on research designed to detect deceptive behavior in travelers passing through US airports and border crossings in the hope of catching terrorists. Security personnel have been trained—and technology has been devised—to identify, as an air transport trade association representative once put it, “bad people and not just bad objects.” Yet for all this investment and the decades of research that preceded it, researchers continue to struggle with a profound scientific question: How can you tell if someone is lying?
That problem is so complex that no one, including the engineers and psychologists developing machines to do it, can be certain if any technology will work. “It fits with our notion of justice, somehow, that liars can’t really get away with it,” says Maria Hartwig, a social psychologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who cowrote a recent report on deceit detection at airports and border crossings. The problem is, as Hartwig explains it, that all the science says people are really good at lying, and it’s incredibly hard to tell when we’re doing it.

In fact, most of us lie constantly—ranging from outright cons to minor fibs told to make life run more smoothly. “Some of the best research I’ve seen says we lie as much as 10 times every 24 hours,” says Phil Houston, a soft-spoken former CIA interrogator who is now CEO of QVerity, a company selling lie-detecting techniques in the business world. “There’s some research on college students that says it may be double and triple that. We lie a ton.” And yet, statistically, people can tell whether someone is telling the truth only around 54 percent of the time, barely better than a coin toss.

For thousands of years, attempts to detect deceit have relied on the notion that liars’ bodies betray them. But even after a century of scientific research, this fundamental assumption has never been definitively proven. “We know very little about deception from either a psychological or physiological view at the basic level,” says Charles Honts, a former Department of Defense polygrapher and now a Boise State University psychologist specializing in the study of deception. “If you look at the lie-detection literature, there’s nothing that ties it together, because there’s no basic theory there. It’s all over the place.”
Read more: Deception Is Futile When Big Brother’s Lie Detector Turns Its Eyes on You, Wired>>

If you're an ironic person, are you also a liar?

This plant is not ironic.

I think much of my life has been a struggle between an ironic versus a sincere stance regarding the world.

On the one hand, I want things to mean what they mean, and on the other hand, I know things have layers of meaning, and I enjoy figuring out (and exploiting) those layers.

Christy Wampole, an assistant professor of French at Princeton University, wrote an essay about ironic "hipsters" for The New York Times. While I don't agree with everything in her essay, she does make an important point about ironic posturing - it makes deception easier:
Irony is the most self-defensive mode, as it allows a person to dodge responsibility for his or her choices, aesthetic and otherwise. To live ironically is to hide in public. It is flagrantly indirect, a form of subterfuge, which means etymologically to “secretly flee” (subter + fuge). Somehow, directness has become unbearable to us.
She identifies certain kinds of people who live without irony, and those types of people also tend to be those who live without deceiving others:
Nonironic models include very young children, elderly people, deeply religious people, people with severe mental or physical disabilities, people who have suffered, and those from economically or politically challenged places where seriousness is the governing state of mind. My friend Robert Pogue Harrison put it this way in a recent conversation: “Wherever the real imposes itself, it tends to dissipate the fogs of irony.”

Observe a 4-year-old child going through her daily life. You will not find the slightest bit of irony in her behavior. She has not, so to speak, taken on the veil of irony. She likes what she likes and declares it without dissimulation. She is not particularly conscious of the scrutiny of others. She does not hide behind indirect language. The most pure nonironic models in life, however, are to be found in nature: animals and plants are exempt from irony, which exists only where the human dwells.
Read the entire essay: How to Live Without Irony, The New York Times>>

Can you cheat a Las Vegas casino?

It depends on who has the best information.

A Verge article explores the world of cheating and the countermeasures taken by Las Vegas casinos:
With over a thousand cameras operating 24/7, the monitoring room creates tremendous amounts of data every day, most of which goes unseen. Six technicians watch about 40 monitors, but all the feeds are saved for later analysis. One day, as with OCR scanning, it might be possible to search all that data for suspicious activity. Say, a baccarat player who leaves his seat, disappears for a few minutes, and is replaced with another player who hits an impressive winning streak. An alert human might spot the collusion, but even better, video analytics might flag the scene for further review. The valuable trend in surveillance, Whiting says, is toward this data-driven analysis (even when much of the job still involves old-fashioned gumshoe work). "It's the data," he says, "And cameras now are data. So it's all data. It's just learning to understand that data is important."

Ultimately, catching cheaters is a small part of what casino surveillance teams do. There simply aren’t that many cheats out there, compared to the number of purse-snatchers and pickpockets, the ordinary criminals that people like Ted Whiting deal with almost every day. When it comes to cheating, Whiting says, "We're never going to be ahead. Remember that people who get paid to catch the bad guys get paid whether they catch them or not. The cheats don't get paid unless they figure it out. So they're motivated, and they've succeeded. But once they do, we go full in."
Yet all the surveillance technology still benefits from the human element. Ted Whiting, director of surveillance at the Aria casino, says this about spotting cheaters:
"Believe it or not, when you've done this long enough, you can tell when somebody's up to no good. It just doesn't feel right."
Read the rest: Not in my house: how Vegas casinos wage a war on cheating, The Verge>>

Spidora - the woman with the body of a spider

This is likely how the spider illusion
was originally presented on the stage.

The human spider or spider woman illusion, which came to be known as Spidora, is an illusion where a woman's head seems to be grafted onto a spider's body. It was invented by magician Henry Roltair in the late 1800s as a stage trick, and then exhibited in his traveling show and at Coney Island. It became a common illusion in carnival midways, with the talker's spiel enticing you to "step right up and meet the living girl with the beautiful face and the body of a hideous spider..."

It would be interesting to see what a modern presentation might be like if it used a combination of robotics and the old principle used in this illusion. To me, the problem with this illusion is that it's too obvious that there's a real woman's head attached to a fake spider's body, so a viewer merely wonders how her body is being hidden and never believes that it's a real spider woman.

Then again, the illusion is over 100 years old and it still fools people, so what do I know?

The illusion as presented in Tod 
Browning's 1927 movie "The Show"
(Mr. Browning is also responsible 
for the sideshow horror film "Freaks.")


In "The Show", the illusion was called 
"Arachnadia! The Human Spider".
Now this is the face of a spider woman.


Here, Spidora seems 
embarrassed by her fate.


A faded photograph of a spider woman 
illusion banner and her tent.


This circus sideshow banner was painted by the 
artist Snap (David C. Wyatt) in the 1930s.
Banners said "Alive" to distinguish the 
"living" attractions from various 
types of stuffed displays.


A self-contained Spidora and 
her three gentleman callers.


Looks like this Spidora 
has a bit of lobster in her.


A boxy Spidora


An illustration in the 
Abbotts Magic Company catalog
advertising a Spidora.


 Spidora as exhibited by 
John Strong Shows.


 A contemporary Spidora banner 
for a haunted house.


Spidora in a box with bikini talker.


Spidora - alive.

- The spider woman illusion appears, along with other actual sideshow illusions, in the 1927 movie The Show by Tod Browning. The entire movie is on YouTube. At 4:30, you can see "Cock Robin, the ballyhoo man at the Palace of Illusions" present a series of illusions, including"Arachnadia! The Human Spider" The Show, YouTube>>

Other Spider woman photos are from:
- John Strong>>
- Carny Trash>>
- Adam Arcana, Myspace>>
- Deborah Klein's Art Blog>>
- Anorak>>
- Double - M, Flickr>>
- James D. Julia Auction>>
- Sideshow World>>
- Hauntspace>>
- Weird Vintage>>

- And if you want to make your own Spidora, there are plans in the book Haunted Illusions, by Paul Osborne>>

An impossible double viaduct illusion

You have to enlarge it to see it.

The image was created by Zsolt Miclós Kovács-Vajna, an engineering professor at the University of Brescia in Italy.

Impossible World>>

A writer is stalked by a former student

A man who thinks too much is 
harassed by a woman's outrageous lies.

James Lasdun, a writer and teacher, wrote an article about his experience of being stalked online and through emails by a former student he labels with the pseudonym Nasreen. He adapted his essay from his book, Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked.

Nasreen's wild accusations placed him in the position of having to deny them to other people. His agent Janice also began receiving emails:
It's one thing to be abused in private: You experience it almost as an internal event, not so different from listening to the more punitive voices in your own head. But to have other people brought into the drama is another matter. It confers a different order of reality on the abuse: fuller and more objective. This strange, awful thing really is happening to you, and people are witnessing it.

Along with the accusations of theft, Janice had also received details of my supposed (but equally fictitious) affairs with Nasreen's former classmates, complete with descriptions of various kinky sexual practices that Nasreen claimed to have heard I went in for. (She had an uncanny way with that transparent yet curiously effective device of rumor, the unattributed source: "I'm told he ..." "I hear he ..." "Everyone knows he ....")

Regardless of whether Janice believed a word of these e-mails (and she assured me she didn't), my impulse was to deny them indignantly. But even as I was forming the words, I felt the futility of doing so. Intrinsic to the very nature of Nasreen's denunciations and insinuations was, as I began to understand, an iron law whereby the more I denied them, the more substance they would acquire and the more plausible they would begin to seem. Their very wildness was a part of their peculiar power. On the basis of there being no smoke without fire (so I imagined Janice, and then Paula, and then, as things got worse, all sorts of other people, thinking), surely something as shocking as these e-mails must indicate that I was guilty of something.

"I think this is called verbal terrorism," Nasreen wrote at one point. I hadn't heard the phrase before. But as I came to appreciate Nasreen's grasp of the dynamics of asymmetric conflict, where she had apparently nothing to lose and I had everything, I realized that it was peculiarly apposite.
Mr. Lasdun realizes that "reputation", which has connotations of an earlier era where someone could "ruin your reputation"with slander, gossip and lies, today of course is manipulated using the Internet:
It was quickly discovered that you could manipulate it: glamorize your image, finesse your biography. You could also manipulate other people's presence: boost an ally's standing or launch a corrosive lie against an enemy. One would think that the ease of performing such manipulations, and the large scale on which they began occurring, would have discredited the Web as a source of information about anything. But although we all acknowledge the need to be cautious, our first instinct, being creatures of the word, is to trust it. Even on deeper consideration, we tend to feel that it is basically more right than wrong, and that we can accept its approximations as the truth. You are what the Web says you are, and if it misrepresents you, the feeling of outrage, of having been violated in some elemental layer of your existence, is peculiarly crushing. Reputation ("the gentleman's second soul," as someone put it) is once again asserting its power to make or break us.
Read the entire essay: ''I Will Ruin Him'' How it feels to be stalked, The Chronicle of Higher Education>>

How to run a Montana phone fraud operation

Steven Sann is a healthy man who
wants to inspire America's youth.

Steven Sann and his family live in Montana, where the fresh air and wide open spaces are more enjoyable when you have lots of money.

Mr. Sann, his wife Terry, his son Nathan and his accountant Robert Braach figured out a way to keep lots of money flowing their way.

They discovered the joys of cramming, the practice of placing fake charges on a customer's phone bill.

First, the Sann enterprise obtained lists of phone numbers, which they said they got from customers who filled out online forms.

They sent this customer information to companies called billing aggregators, who then placed the charges on customer phone bills from phone companies such as Verizon, AT&T, and Frontier.

The charge, typically $14.95, appeared every month on a customer's bill.

Many customers didn't notice the extra charge, and dutifully paid their bills every single month.

These charges were for services such as voice mail and electronic faxes.

But what if a customer did notice the charge? Did the Sanns quickly remove the charge so the customer wouldn't get more suspicious?

No, they merely changed the company name under which the charge was billed, which was easy, since they owned nine different companies:
American eVoice, Emerica Media Corp., FoneRight, Global Voice Mail, HearYou2, Network Assurance, SecuratDat, Techmax Solutions and Voice Mail Professionals.
Some of the money they collected went to a charitable religious organization they founded called Bibliologic, which has no members and is located at no physical address.

Bibliologic did, however, give money to Mr. Sanns so he could pay his legal fees due to a federal medical marijuana dispensary case, and to buy 94 acres to set up a youth organization called Salmon Lake Youth Camp.

But maybe the Sanns are being falsely accused? Maybe they were just cursed with a high number of disgruntled customers who actually used their services but didn't want to pay their bills. How many customers actually used the accounts that the Sanns were billing them for?

As of April 2012, the Sanns had 119,810 customers who were billed for voice mail accounts.

The number of customers who accessed those accounts?

Twelve.

The Sanns have had to return $40 million after disgruntled customers challenged the charges.

Since 2008, the Sanns are accused of billing customers $70 million.

Some accounts are still being billed every month.

In a statement on his web site for Salmon Lake Youth Camp, this is what Steve Sann says about himself:
As Founder and Executive Director of the Salmon Lake Youth Camp, Steve Sann is building the premier youth outdoor leadership camp in the county.  At 19 Steve Sann began his career working with young people,  spending the next 12 years as a full-time college campus outreach minister. Some twenty plus years later and after founding several successful businesses,  Steve finally has time to return to work with youth in Missoula and Western Montana.  It’s been a challenge these many years, but this experience has done nothing but instill his vision of inspiring America’s youth to become great leaders.
- Montana family accused of placing $70M in bogus charges on phone bills, Missoulian>>
- FTC Asks Court to Shut Down $70 Million Cramming Operation, FTC>>
- Mystery Charges on Your Phone Bill, FTC>>
- Steve Sann Missoula>>

Glass optical illusion house in the Netherlands

They call it "The Glass House".

In the market square in the Dutch town of Schijnde, an architectural firm designed a building called The Glass House.

In this photo, the building looks like a ghost.

The walls of the building are made of transparent glass printed with images of old farmhouses, so the building can look like a solid building, a translucent building that glows from within at night, and a structure that literally mirrors its surroundings.

Will it make people feel younger?

The dimensions of the building's graphics are also larger than real life, so people walking around the building might see themselves smaller, as if they were children, and feel nostalgic for their own childhoods.

A view from within the building.

Japanese cheaters love their "infidelity phones"

These older cell phones make it easier to hide 
your text messages. Appropriately enough, 
the phones are called the "F-Series".

From The Wall Street Journal:
Over the past few years, as many people rushed to trade in their old phones for smartphones, Japan's philanderers have remained faithful to one particular brand: Fujitsu Ltd.'s older "F-Series" phones, which feature some attractive stealth privacy features.

The aging flip-phone—nicknamed the "uwaki keitai" or "infidelity phone"—owes its enduring popularity to customers who don't believe newer smartphones are as discreet at hiding their illicit romances.

A Japanese blogger who goes by the name Bakanabe and writes anonymously about picking up women, said he looked into buying a new device but found the privacy settings fell short of his current phone. Instead, he opted to refurbish his battered, three-year-old Fujitsu flip-phone with a new casing and a new battery.

"Women may want to check my phone for strange emails or calls when I'm not around. With Fujitsu's 'privacy mode,' they can't see that information at all," he said in an email. "The key is to give off the impression that you're not locking your phone at all."
Read more: Japan's Philanderers Stay Faithful to Their 'Infidelity Phones' , Wall Street Journal>>

How to make fake gold bars

To discover a fake, you need 
to drill or use ultrasound.

Last year I wrote a post about a Manhattan jeweler who was tricked when the gold bar he bought was not 100% gold. (The hollowed-out gold bar scam>>)

L. Burke Files pointed me to an article in his ÆGIS Journal that goes into more detail on how to make and detect fake gold:
To create a top-of-the-line fake gold bar, one that’s capable of being passed off as a real gold bar (the only kind we think worth making), you need to match the color, surface hardness, density, chemical, and nuclear properties of gold perfectly.

To do this, you could start off with a tungsten slug about 3 mm smaller in each dimension than the finished gold bar, and then cast a 1.5 mm layer of pure gold all around it.  This bar would feel right, it would have a dead ring when knocked (as gold does), it would test right chemically, it would weigh correctly, and it would also pass an x-ray fluorescence scan, the 1.5 mm layer of pure gold being more than enough to stop the x-rays from reaching any tungsten.  You’d pretty much have to drill it to find out that it’s fake.
Read more: How To Make Fake Gold, ÆGIS Journal>>

Debunking the hoax of the moon hoax

S. G. Collins debunks the debunkers

An American who lives in Amsterdam explains why the U. S. government and NASA didn't fake the moon landing in 1969.

He has a novel argument against it being a hoax, and it's definitely worth 13 minutes of your time to watch his video and see him explain why.


I especially agree with his observations at the end.

And he mentions Stanley Kubrick, too.

moon hoax not



Via: Kottke, Why the Moon landing wasn't faked>>

What we see when watching a simple magic trick

"What the visual system does is predict 
what is going to happening in the future." 
- Dr Gustav Kuhn

The Language of Illusion - Horizon - BBC

She helped convict the man who did not rape her

One of these men was her rapist.
The other was innocent.
Unfortunately, she picked the man 
who was innocent.

Jennifer Thompson-Cannino wrote this essay about the wrongful conviction of Ronald Cotton:
I Was Certain, But I Was Wrong

In 1984 I was a 22-year-old college student with a grade point average of 4.0, and I really wanted to do something with my life. One night someone broke into my apartment, put a knife to my throat and raped me.

During my ordeal, some of my determination took an urgent new direction. I studied every single detail on the rapist's face. I looked at his hairline; I looked for scars, for tattoos, for anything that would help me identify him. When and if I survived the attack, I was going to make sure that he was put in prison and he was going to rot.

When I went to the police department later that day, I worked on a composite sketch to the very best of my ability. I looked through hundreds of noses and eyes and eyebrows and hairlines and nostrils and lips. Several days later, looking at a series of police photos, I identified my attacker. I knew this was the man. I was completely confident. I was sure.

I picked the same man in a lineup. Again, I was sure. I knew it. I had picked the right guy, and he was going to go to jail. If there was the possibility of a death sentence, I wanted him to die. I wanted to flip the switch.

When the case went to trial in 1986, I stood up on the stand, put my hand on the Bible and swore to tell the truth. Based on my testimony, Ronald Junior Cotton was sentenced to prison for life. It was the happiest day of my life because I could begin to put it all behind me.

In 1987, the case was retried because an appellate court had overturned Ronald Cotton's conviction. During a pretrial hearing, I learned that another man had supposedly claimed to be my attacker and was bragging about it in the same prison wing where Ronald Cotton was being held. This man, Bobby Poole, was brought into court, and I was asked, ''Ms. Thompson, have you ever seen this man?''

I answered: ''I have never seen him in my life. I have no idea who he is.''

Ronald Cotton was sentenced again to two life sentences. Ronald Cotton was never going to see light; he was never going to get out; he was never going to hurt another woman; he was never going to rape another woman.

In 1995, 11 years after I had first identified Ronald Cotton, I was asked to provide a blood sample so that DNA tests could be run on evidence from the rape. I agreed because I knew that Ronald Cotton had raped me and DNA was only going to confirm that. The test would allow me to move on once and for all.

I will never forget the day I learned about the DNA results. I was standing in my kitchen when the detective and the district attorney visited. They were good and decent people who were trying to do their jobs — as I had done mine, as anyone would try to do the right thing. They told me: ''Ronald Cotton didn't rape you. It was Bobby Poole.''

The man I was so sure I had never seen in my life was the man who was inches from my throat, who raped me, who hurt me, who took my spirit away, who robbed me of my soul. And the man I had identified so emphatically on so many occasions was absolutely innocent.

Ronald Cotton was released from prison after serving 11 years. Bobby Poole pleaded guilty to raping me.

Ronald Cotton and I are the same age, so I knew what he had missed during those 11 years. My life had gone on. I had gotten married. I had graduated from college. I worked. I was a parent. Ronald Cotton hadn't gotten to do any of that.

Mr. Cotton and I have now crossed the boundaries of both the terrible way we came together and our racial difference (he is black and I am white) and have become friends. Although he is now moving on with his own life, I live with constant anguish that my profound mistake cost him so dearly. I cannot begin to imagine what would have happened had my mistaken identification occurred in a capital case.

Today there is a man in Texas named Gary Graham who is about to be executed because one witness is confident that Mr. Graham is the killer she saw from 30 to 40 feet away. This woman saw the murderer for only a fraction of the time that I saw the man who raped me. Several other witnesses contradict her, but the jury that convicted Mr. Graham never heard any of the conflicting testimony.

If anything good can come out of what Ronald Cotton suffered because of my limitations as a human being, let it be an awareness of the fact that eyewitnesses can and do make mistakes. I have now had occasion to study this subject a bit, and I have come to realize that eyewitness error has been recognized as the leading cause of wrongful convictions. One witness is not enough, especially when her story is contradicted by other good people.

Last week, I traveled to Houston to beg Gov. George W. Bush and his parole board not to execute Gary Graham based on this kind of evidence. I have never before spoken out on behalf of any inmate. I stood with a group of 11 men and women who had been convicted based on mistaken eyewitness testimony, only to be exonerated later by DNA or other evidence.

With them, I urged the Texas officials to grant Gary Graham a new trial, so that the eyewitnesses who are so sure that he is innocent can at long last be heard.

I know that there is an eyewitness who is absolutely positive she saw Gary Graham commit murder. But she cannot possibly be any more positive than I was about Ronald Cotton. What if she is dead wrong?
- In the photo above, Mr. Cotton is on the right.
- Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton wrote a book together: Picking Cotton>>

The reaction of a "no pants" victim

"Is the girl in the video on this website you?"

The First No Pants Subway Ride


The No Pants Subway Ride, Improv Everywhere>>

The Tesco supermarket's meat prank

Some said it was an unbridled disaster.

It was discovered that certain beef burgers sold by the supermarket chain Tesco in the UK contained horse meat.

Although customers were not thrilled with the discovery, it did provide fuel for pranksters.

Tesco Wheres My Mum? Horse In Loughborough Tesco


Horsemeat discovered in beefburgers on sale at Tesco and Iceland, The Independent>>

Thief caught by an innovative burglar alarm

"I didn't think he'd have 
aerial surveillance!"

David Zehntner was flying his Cesna 182 aircraft over his home in LaBelle, Florida when he noticed something a little bit odd.

There was an unfamiliar truck in his driveway.

Mr. Zehntner circled around his home for ten minutes, watching an unfamiliar man walk around his home. The man looked up a few times but didn't seem too concerned with the plane.

At first the man tried to break into his house. Then he attached Mr. Zehntner's red trailer to his truck and drove away.

Mr. Zehntner called the police as he followed his property with his plane.

The thief, Gary Robert Haines, was stopped about 40 miles from the scene of his crime and charged with grand theft.

Florida pilot spots theft at his home from his airplane, NBC News>>

For 14 years, reporter just invented people

Reporter Karen Jeffrey was real, but some
of the people she wrote about were not.

She isn't sure exactly why she did it. From The New York Times:
When an editor at The Cape Cod Times was reading the newspaper last month, she thought an article about the Veterans Day parade from the day before seemed slightly off.

The article, written by Karen Jeffrey, a longtime reporter, told of a Ronald Chipman, 46, and his family from Boston. The Chipmans apparently were oblivious to Veterans Day until they saw the parade. Ms. Jeffrey described the family in detail, including a scene in which the parents used their smartphones to find information about the holiday, creating a “teachable moment” for themselves and their children.

Maybe it was the tidiness of the tale. Or the notion that adults were unfamiliar with Veterans Day. But the article did not ring true to the editor and she set out to find the Chipmans. She searched several databases but turned up nothing. She reported her finding to the editor in chief, Paul Pronovost.

Mr. Pronovost asked the editor — whom he would not name to protect her privacy — to check other recent articles by Ms. Jeffrey. After more people in the articles could not be found, he then asked Ms. Jeffrey for help in locating the Chipmans. Ms. Jeffrey said she had thrown out her notes.

“That’s when the alarm bells went off,” Mr. Pronovost said.
Read more: Newspaper on Cape Cod Apologizes for a Veteran Reporter’s Fabrications, The New York Times>>

Freaky molded animal faces optical illusion video

"One of us... one of us..."

If video doesn't appear, go here>>

How Google detects bad ads

Google uses both machines and 
humans to discover shady ads.

From Time Magazine:
The Internet is full of get-rich-quick schemers, phishing scammers and just straight-up shady dudes — and they all try to get ads for their “businesses” to show up next to Google’s search results. It’s the job of hundreds of Google employees to make sure they don’t.

Virtually every minute, somebody somewhere is trying to dupe Internet users into clicking on an ad for a dubious business. Those ads show up right alongside the results of Google, Bing and other search engines, and they’re sometimes even tagged as a “sponsored ad.” Click on the wrong ad and you could encounter cons including phishing (an attempt to acquire personal information that oftentimes leads to identity theft) and cloaking (a method of deceiving a search engine so it thinks it’s a legitimate website), as well as rings selling counterfeit goods, a wide range of get-rich-quick scams and just about any other disreputable practice you can think up.

Shady ads have become such a problem for search engines that hundreds of employees now work round-the-clock to protect users before they get ripped off. Google has employed “ad cops” charged with sniffing out questionable advertisers basically since the search engine began in the late 1990s. Today, Google earns about 95% of its revenue from advertising, so making sure its ad marketplace is free of illegitimate businesses is a big part of the search giant’s own business.
Read more: Policing the Web: How Google’s ‘Cops’ Track Down Bad Ads, Time>>

Magicians as pictograms

When I hold up a magic wand, my hat 
flies off my head, a rabbit appears, 
and my hair vanishes.

Here are some magician images for you to use, found at a stock photo site.


I bow because I was able to rescue the 
Partridge Family bird from her cage. 
Thank you.


 I can levitate a stumpy-legged
 woman over a hole.


I'm unsure which parts of her 
are sticking out of these boxes.


"Bad dog! You ate my leg!"


(I think this is some sort of private moment.)

You can get these royalty-free pictogram stock photo images of magicians at this site: Illustration - Magician Magic Show Icon Symbol Sign Pictogram, 123RF>>