Thursday, February 20, 2014

13 Hoaxes People Actually Believed

Louis de Rougemont
Louis de Rougemont was a would be explorer that many believed exaggerated his adventures. We're not here to judge. If you want to find out the truth for yourself, a dramatization of his amazing story is being presented February 19-23 at Texas Woman's University in Denton. For tickets and more information about Shipwrecked!, visit Shane's website here. In his honor, we have constructed a list of 13 hoaxes that people actually believed.

1. Left-Handed Whopper - Burger King cooked up a whopper of a different sort for April Fools' Day in 1998, but that didn't mean fast-food customers were any less willing to swallow it. In a full-page ad in USA Today, Burger King announced a solution for the 1.4 million left-handed customers visiting their restaurants every day: the Left-Handed Whopper. Southpaws eagerly tried to order the burger the next day. The thought that a burger is basically, you know, a circle apparently never crossed their minds.

Santili's Alien
2. Santili’s Alien Autopsy - A low-quality black and white film surfaced in 1990s that Santili claimed was sent to him by a former military cameraman. In the film, an autopsy of an alien creature is shown. By the time the film was revealed as a hoax, it had already been sold to television networks and shown in 32 countries.

3. George Hull’s Giant - In 1869, workers digging behind a barn in New York unearthed a 10 foot tall petrified man. George Hull set up a tent, charging people 50 cents a head to come see the giant man. By December of that year, Hull confessed it was a hoax. He had paid for the man to be carved out of gypsum by Chicago stonecutter Edward Burghardt. Eventually, Hull sold his interest in the giant for $23,000 ($425,000 today).

Camel Spider
4. Camel Spider - In 2004, an email started circulating that claimed that American troops in Baghdad were being bitten by huge camel spiders that hid in sleeping bags. The email claimed that the spider had a vertical leap greater than a professional basketball player, that they inject you with a local anesthesia so that you aren't aware you're being fed upon, and that unlike usual spiders, they actually ate your flesh. While some of that is true, the claim about them being flesh-eating anesthesia-injecting beasts was mere folklore.

5. Napoleon’s Dead - In 1814, a man wearing the uniform of a British military officer arrived at an inn on the coast of the English Channel, claiming that Napoleon was dead. News quickly spread to London, where jubilant investors quickly bid up the prices of stock on the London Exchange. Bad news soon arrived: reports of Napoleon's death had been a hoax created to manipulate stock prices. Lord Thomas Cochrane was implicated and imprisoned as the mastermind of the plot.

Mechanical Turk
6. Mechanical Turk - In 1770, a machine was constructed that was able play a strong game of chess against a human. The machine could also complete a "knight's tour", a puzzle that requires the player to move a knight to occupy every square of a chessboard exactly once. The machine was actually a mechanical illusion which allowed a chess master to hide inside the machine, giving the illusion of the Turk being an automaton. The hoax was uncovered in the 1820s. By then, the Turk had already beaten players such as Napoleon and Benjamin Franklin.

7. Fiji Mermaid - By the 19th century, mermaids had been included in side-shows for hundreds of years. In 1842, P.T. Barnum came into possession of a curiosity purported to be a mermaid. In reality, the creature was the torso of a monkey attached to the back half of a fish and covered in paper-machè.

8. Piltdown Man was a hoax in which bone fragments were presented as the fossilized remains of a previously unknown early human. These fragments consisted of parts of a skull and jawbone, said to have been collected in 1912 from a gravel pit at Piltdown, East Sussex, England. The significance of the specimen remained the subject of controversy until it was exposed in 1953 as a forgery, consisting of the lower jawbone of an orangutan deliberately combined with the skull of a fully developed modern human.

9. Crop Circles began in the early 1970s by hoax-masterminds Doug Bower and Dave Chorley. They were inspired by the "saucer nests" in Australia, which were likely created by whirlwinds. To this day, crop circle hoaxes continue to pop up, with people still believing that they are created by UFOs.

10. War of the Worlds - On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles took to the radio waves to read a dramatiazation of H.G. Wells's novel War of the Worlds. The first 2/3rds of the broadcast were presented as news reports, and many who were listening believed that the fictional tale was true. It didn't help that the story was presented without commercial interruptions. Although there was a disclaimer at the beginning of the program, many tuned in in-progress, which led to a small panic.

11. Balloon Boy - On October 15, 2009, a balloon released by Richard Heene was reported to have onboard his son, Falcon. After a more than hour-long flight, the balloon landed near Denver International Airport. When authorities found that the balloon was empty, a man-hunt began to find the boy, who many believed may have fallen from the balloon. Later that afternoon, it was revealed that the boy had been hiding in the attic the entire time.

Q33 NY
12. Q33 NYC Wingdings - Shortly after the devastating attacks of September 11, 2001, an email began circulating claiming that Microsoft had predicted the future. If you typed in Q33 NY (one of the flights that was hijacked that fateful day) into Microsoft Word and changed the font to Wingdings, it depicted a visual representation of the attacks. However, none of the planes involved in the attacks were registered as Q33. This didn't stop several thousand people from falling for the hoax before all was said and done.

Publicity for Blair Witch Project
13. Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity - Films such as these have been around since 1971's Punishment Park. They are constructed of "found footage" that may be retrieved from protagonist video cameras, security footage, or discovered film. 1999's Blair Witch Project was so convincing with its found footage promotions, that many believed that the film was an actual documentary and protested the film. It wasn't until the cast appeared together in public that the rumors began to dissipate.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

9 Actors Who Underwent Drastic Body Changes for Roles

Shane Strawbridge
in Shipwrecked
1. Shane Strawbridge - The award-winning actor lost over 80 lbs for his role of Louis de Rougemont in Shipwrecked! The production runs from February 19-23 at Texas Woman's University in Denton. For tickets and more information, visit Shane's website here.
2. Christian Bale has undergone big body changes on multiple occasions. Most memorably, he lost 63 lbs for his role in The Machinist by eating only one can of tuna and an apple a day.
3. Jonah Hill lost 40 lbs to play Officer Schmidt in the movie adaptation of TV's 21 Jump Street. He set a goal of 30 lbs and gained weight at first, but was able to complete his goal with the help of a nutritionist and a trainer.
4. Tom Hanks has changed his appearance on more than one occasion. The most memorable was his 50 lb loss for the film Cast Away. In 2013, Hanks reported that his repeated weight yo-yoing for roles probably contributed to his diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
Tom Hanks in Cast Away
5. Robert DeNiro went from one extreme to the other for the filming of Raging Bull. For the boxer's younger years, DeNiro trained heavily with Lamotta himself. For his later years, DeNiro packed on 60 lbs. He was rewarded with a Best Actor Oscar for his efforts.
6. Vincent D'Onofrio isn't a small guy to begin with, so when he packed on 70 lbs for his role in Full Metal Jacket, the look was shocking. It took him nine months to shed the weight for his next role in the film Adventures.
7. Charlize Theron took home a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Aileen Wuornos in Monster. She gained over 30 lbs and wore prosthetics to complete the look. It was surprisingly accurate.
8. Natalie Portman/Mila Kunis - Both of these actresses lost 20 lbs from their already small frames to portray ballet dancers in the 2010 film Black Swan. They achieved the transformation through extreme low-calorie diets and extensive dance workouts.
Renee Zelweger in Chicago and
Bridget Jones' Diary
9. Renee Zelweger, it would appear, holds the record for weight yo-yoing among actresses. For 2001's Bridget Jones' Diary, she gained 25 lbs. A year later, she had lost all the weight and then some for her role as Roxie Hart in Chicago. But wait, there's more! A few years later, she packed on another 30 pounds for her roles in Cold Mountain and the second Bridget Jones' movie.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

9 Show Titles that Are Longer Than They Need to Be

Shane Strawbridge and Natalie Beech
in Shipwrecked!
1. Shipwrecked! An Entertainment – The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told By Himself) 

Fear not theatre-goer! This production, playing February 19-23, 2014 at Texas Woman's University in Denton, will not take up your entire evening! The show is an action-packed storytelling feat clocking in at a mere 90 minutes. The play stars award-winning actor Shane Strawbridge along with Natalie Beech and Kolby Campbell. For tickets and more information, visit

2. The Troublesome Reign and Lamentable Death of Edward II, King of England, with the Tragical Fall of Proud Mortimer; The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet; A most pleasaunt and excellent conceited Comedie of Syr John Falstaffe, and the Merrie Wiues of Windsor. Entermixed with sundrie variable and pleasing humors, of Syr Hugh the Welch knight, Justice Shallow, and his wise Cousin M. Slender. With the swaggering vaine of Auncient Pistoll and Corporall Nym

Quite a be fair, that's three titles listed together, all of them by William Shakespeare. Eventually, the man with the telescoping pole that changed the marquee got pissed and the titles got shortened. At least that's what I saw on Wikipedia.

3. For Colored Girls Who've Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf

This experimental choreopoem was initially staged in California. It has gone on to runs off and on Broadway, a book adaptation, and a movie. The play deals with love, abandonment, rape, domestic violence, and abortion. Not for the weak of heart.

4. Aristophanes' The Acharnians: One Man's Private Peace During the Compassionately Conservative Bombing Campaign on Canada, the Adventures That Befell Him Thereafter, and What Jesus and the Tooth Fairy Had to Say About It All 

This 2001 adaptation of Aristophanes' The Acharnians did not go over well. Kerry Reid of the Chicago Reader said it "provides a snapshot of what that lefty place might be like--and it's not just boring, it's witless and as smugly self-righteous as the Christian right." Ouch.

5. Tom Ryan Thinks He’s James Mason Starring in a Movie by Nicholas Ray in Which a Man’s Illness Provides an Escape From the Pain, Pressure and Loneliness of Trying to Be the Ultimate American Father, Only to Drive Him Further Into the More Thrilling Though Possibly Lonelier Roles of Addict and Misunderstood Visionary.

You'd think a 53-title would tell the entire story, right? Right? Apparently not. This two-person play is an adaptation of the 1956 movie "Bigger Than Life"...maybe they were trying to make a point with the length of the title? It is bigger than life. Unless you mean the game of Life...that thing is brutal. Stupid spinny wheel.

6. The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade

Usually abbreviated at Marat/Sade, this play by Peter Weiss incorporates characteristic elements of both Artaud and Brecht in a bloody depiction of class struggle and human suffering. Sounds like a perfect date night.

7. The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures

Will someone please, please, please stage this across the street from Westboro Baptist Church? I will give you a dollar. First come, first served.

Friday, February 14, 2014

7 Things to Bring on a Desert Island

So you're going to be stuck on a desert island? How fortunate that life told you ahead of time that you'd be stranded and likely die miserable and alone! Not sure what to pack? Let us help with this handy guide!

Kolby Campbell as Bruno
and Shane Strawbridge
as Louis de Rougemont
1. Pet - Many people are obsessed with their pets. They dress them up in costumes, pamper them, treat them better than family...for castaway Louis de Rougemont, his dog, Bruno, was his only companion while he was Shipwrecked on an island for two and a half years. A dramatization of his amazing story, Shipwrecked! An Entertainment: The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told By Himself), will play on the Texas Woman's University stage in Denton from February 19-23. The play stars award-winning actor Shane Strawbridge alongside Natalie Beech and Kolby Campbell. Tickets and more information is available at
2. Phone - Even though most people have lived a majority of their lives without being tethered to a cell phone, many people panic if they realize they left theirs at home. Let's just hope the Verizon guy can hear you now.
3. Book - Groucho Marx once said, "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend; inside of a dog it's too dark to read." It's hard to argue with the many people who said that they would bring their favorite book along for the trip. Books can, as Louis de Rougemont states in Shipwrecked!, break down the walls of your infirmary prison. At least you'll finally have time to finish War and Peace. Or maybe a Bible? If you're a believer, it could bring comfort. If not, its's a handy source of kindling.
4. Friend - Who wouldn't want a friend with them? Someone to talk to! Someone to help build camp! Someone to eat when they die first!
5. Sunscreen - Cancer is a bitch. You've got enough to worry about. Slather on some SPF 50 and hunt down a food supply.
6. Alcohol  - Why is all the rum gone? Because you drank it. You know they say dying of dehydration is like the hangover that finally kills you...may as well enjoy it. Drink up!
7. A boat - Why didn't we think of this in the first place?

11 Hoaxes, Lies and Scandals

From bottom: Natalie Beech,
Kolby Campbell, and Shane Strawbridge
in Shipwrecked!
1.      Louis de Rougemont was a would-be explorer who claimed to have been shipwrecked off the cost of Australia for 30 years. His epic tale was printed in the Wide World Magazine in the late-19th century. Almost immediately, his story was called into question. A dramatization of his amazing story, Shipwrecked! An Entertainment: The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told By Himself), will play on the Texas Woman’s University stage in Denton from February 19-23. The play stars award-winning actor Shane Strawbridge. More information and tickets are available at
2.      Bernie Madoff – The New York money manager’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme is the largest fraud ever by an individual. The fraud was exposed in December 2008 when Madoff, now doing 150 years in prison, confessed to his sons. The case led the SEC to focus on investment advisor fraud.   3.      Anna Anderson/Anastasia – In 1920, a woman emerged claiming to be Anastasia, Czar Nicholas II’s oldest daughter. Romanov relatives rebuffed the woman, Anna Anderson, as an impostor.  Anderson's tale inspired many books and the 1956 film Anastasia starring Ingrid Bergman. The claim was debunked in the 1990s, when posthumous DNA evidence proved she was not related to the royal family. 4.      The Lewinsky Scandal a political sex scandal emerging in 1998, from a sexual relationship between President Bill Clinton and 22-year-old White House Intern, Monica Lewinsky. The news of this affair and the resulting investigation eventually led to the impeachment of President Clinton in 1998.
5.      The Watergate Scandal was a major political scandal that occurred in the United States in the 1970s as a result of the June 17, 1972 break-in at the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C., and the Nixon administration's attempted cover-up of its involvement. The scandal eventually led to the resignation of Richard Nixon, the President of the United States, on August 9, 1974—the only resignation of a U.S. president to date. The scandal also resulted in the indictment, trial, conviction, and incarceration of 43 people, dozens of whom were Nixon's top administration officials. 6.      Trojan Horse – The Trojan War had been raging for 10 years when the Greeks came up with a plan. In a stroke of genius, the Greeks built an enormous wooden horse with a hollow belly in which men could hide. After the Greeks convinced their foes that this structure was a peace offering, the Trojans happily accepted it and brought the horse within their fortified city. That night, as the Trojans slept, Greeks hidden inside snuck out the trap door. Then, they proceeded to slaughter and decisively defeat the Trojans. 7.      Frank Abagnale spent his years as a check forger and conman. He managed to impersonate an airline pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer before his capture in France in 1969. In 2002, a movie based on his life – Catch Me If You Can – was released.
Charles Ponzi
8.      Charles Ponzi - In 1919, the Italian immigrant promised investors they could yield considerable profits by purchasing international reply coupons from other countries and then redeeming them in the U.S for postage stamps. But soon enough, the scheme began to raise eyebrows, eventually collapsing and bringing six banks down with it. Collectively, his investors lost an estimated $20 million. 9.      Eduardo de Valfierno was an Argentinean conman who masterminded the theft of the Mona Lisa. Valfierno paid Louvre employee Vincenzo Peruggia to steal the Mona Lisa. On August 21, 1911 Peruggia hid the Mona Lisa under his coat and simply walked out the door. Before the heist took place, Valfierno commissioned six copies of the Mona Lisa. After the heist the copies were delivered to art buyers, each thinking they had the original which had just been stolen for them.  Eventually Peruggia was caught trying to sell the painting and it was returned to the Louvre in 1913.
The Piltdown Skull
10.  Piltdown Man was a hoax in which bone fragments were presented as the fossilized remains of a previously unknown early human. These fragments consisted of parts of a skull and jawbone, said to have been collected in 1912 from a gravel pit at Piltdown, East Essex, England. The significance of the specimen remained the subject of controversy until it was exposed in 1953 as a forgery, consisting of the lower jawbone of an orangutan deliberately combined with the skull of a fully developed modern human.
11.  Naked Came the Stranger is a 1969 novel written as a literary hoax poking fun at contemporary American culture. Though credited to "Penelope Ashe", it was in fact written by a group of twenty-four journalists led by Newsday columnist Mike McGrady. McGrady's intention was to write a deliberately terrible book with a lot of sex, to illustrate the point that popular American literary culture had become mindlessly vulgar. The book fulfilled the authors' expectations and became a bestseller in 1969; they revealed the hoax later that year, further spurring the book's popularity.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Icemageddon: The Return

Between Thanksgiving and Icepocolypse, I let the diet slide. I'm up to 252. But that's ok. Work to do. Let's do this. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Quick update

I'm tired. I feel sick. I'm cranky. And my power just went out. 

Here is this week's weigh-in info. 

Weight - 245.2 (-3.8)
BFC - 33.5 (+0.7) what?
BMI - 32.5 (-0.5)

Whatever. I'm gonna go back to a supine position now.