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295234.  Thu Mar 13, 2008 7:49 am Reply with quote

But surely, if you’re a QI Elf, your interests are, by definition: “everything (& etc).”

The fact that my metal detector was made by an organic cricketers’ co-operative on a bird sanctuary in the People’s Republic of Tripura is purely coincidental.

297927.  Tue Mar 18, 2008 7:47 am Reply with quote

Continuing my mini-series on faked excuses for war ...

As part of the build-up to the forthcoming attack on Iran, the Western media reported in October 2005 that President Ivor Dinnerjacket of Iran had called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”

Language experts seem to agree that he said no such thing. Juan Cole [no, really, that’s his name], Professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History at the University of Michigan, an expert “Farsi language analyst,” translates the notorious passage as the altogether less remarkable: “The regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.”

S: Morning Star (John Pilger, specifically), 3 Feb 07

297958.  Tue Mar 18, 2008 8:22 am Reply with quote

This is a graph showing the Bush administration’s 935 positively identified lies concerning WMDs during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. I don’t know why, I just find the fact that it’s a graph intensely funny.


298060.  Tue Mar 18, 2008 11:07 am Reply with quote

What you have there is a classic Gaussian distribution (or 'Bell') curve (with an aberrant datum point in Dec 2002 - Christmas, maybe?)

298063.  Tue Mar 18, 2008 11:10 am Reply with quote

Bush doesn't dare lie in December, because

"He knows if you've been naughty or nice ..."

Frederick The Monk
303865.  Thu Mar 27, 2008 6:23 am Reply with quote

William Dodd - the Macaroni Parson - was the last man to be publically hanged for forgery at Tyburn.

Dodd (29 May 1729 - 27 June 1777) was an English Anglican clergyman and a man of letters. He lived extravagantly, and was nicknamed the "maccaroni parson". He dabbled in forgery in an effort to clear his debts, was caught, convicted, and, despite a public campaign for a Royal pardon, became the last person to be hanged at Tyburn for forgery.

Dodd was born in Bourne in Lincolnshire, the son of the local vicar. He attended Clare Hall in the University of Cambridge from 1745 to 1750, where he achieved academic success and graduated as a wrangler. He then moved to London, where his spendthrift habits soon left him in debt. He married impulsively on 15 April 1751, to Mary Perkins, the penniless daughter of a domestic servant, leaving his finances in an even more precarious position. At the urging of his concerned father, he decided to take holy orders, and was ordained a deacon in 1751 and a priest in 1753, serving as a curate in a church in West Ham, then as a preacher at St James Garlickhythe, and then at St Olave Hart Street. He became a popular and fashionable preacher, and was appointed as a chaplain in ordinary to the King in 1763. He became a prebend in Brecon, and was a tutor to Philip Stanhope, later 4th Earl of Chesterfield. He became chaplain to the King, and became a Doctor of Laws at Cambridge University in 1766.

After he won £1,000 in a lottery, he became involved in schemes to build the Charlotte Chapel in Pimlico, and bought a share of the Charlotte Chapel in Bloomsbury. Despite his profession, he continued his extravagant lifestyle, and became known as the "maccaroni parson". In 1772, he became rector of Hockliffe, in Bedfordshire, and vicar of Chalgrove.

In 1774, in an attempt to rectify his depleted finances, he attempted to obtain the lucrative position of rector of St George Hanover Square. He wrote a letter to Lady Apsley, wife of the Lord Chancellor, offering her £3,000 to secure the position. The letter was traced back to Dodd, and he was dismissed from his existing posts. He became an object of public ridicule, and was taunted as Dr Simony in a play by Samuel Foote in the Haymarket Theatre. He spent two years abroad, in Geneva and France, while the scandal subsided. He returned to England in 1776.

In February 1777, he forged a bond for £4,200 in the name of his former pupil, Lord Chesterfield, to clear his debts. Trusting the honesty of the clergyman, the bond was encashed by a third party, but it was disowned by the Earl. The forgery was discovered, Dodd admitted his fault, and begged time to make amends. He was, however, imprisoned in the Wood Street Compter pending trial. He was convicted, and sentenced to death.

Samuel Johnson wrote several papers in his defence, one of which including the famous remark "Depend upon it Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully". Some 23,000 people signed a 37-page petition seeking a pardon. Nevertheless, Dodd was publicly hanged at Tyburn on 27 June 1777.

Nb The term Macaroni - A dandy or fop; spec. (in the second half of the 18th cent.) a member of a set of young men who had travelled in Europe and extravagantly imitated Continental tastes and fashions. This use seems to be from the name of the Macaroni Club, a designation prob. adopted to indicate the preference of the members for foreign cookery, macaroni being at that time little eaten in England. There appears to be no connection with the extended use of Italian maccherone in the senses ‘blockhead, fool, mountebank’ (cf. MACAROON n. 3), referred to in 1711 by Addison Spectator 24 Apr. 178/2: Those circumforaneous Wits whom every Nation calls by the name of that Dish of Meat which it loves Italy, Maccaronies.]

Links to: Frauds/ Fakes/ Forgery


304132.  Thu Mar 27, 2008 11:50 am Reply with quote

... with a link, of course, to feathers.

304280.  Thu Mar 27, 2008 2:59 pm Reply with quote

Fakir Tricks #1

The Bed of Nails:

This is done for real and relies on the equation pressure = force/area. A bed of say 500 nails will reduce the pressure per nail to below the value required to puncture skin. The trick is actually how you get on and off the bed as putting all your weight on your bottom say before lying back could cause injury. However If you stand vertically against the bed and are gradually tilted backwards whilst remaining in contact with the nails you will escape injury. It is often said that a woman in high heels does more damage than an elephant. In fact a simple sum will show that the pressure from a pair of stiletto heels can easily be ten times higher than that exerted by an elephant’.

304282.  Thu Mar 27, 2008 3:00 pm Reply with quote

Fakir Tricks #2

Sword Swallowing:

Although many people (including Houdini and The Encyclopaedia Britannica) would have you believe otherwise, this is also done for real. It started among fakirs in India about 4000 years ago. The technique involves suppressing various reflexes (e.g. the gagging reflex) and allowing the sword to pass down the esophagus, through the lower esophageal sphincter and into the stomach. The average distance to the lower esophageal sphincter is 40cm and the Sword Swallowers Assoc. International (SSAI) require members to prove that they have swallowed a sword longer than 38cm and broader than 1.25cm. Swallowing swords longer than 61cm is not recommended. During early development of the endoscope, researchers worked with sword swallowers on their technique. Feb 28th 2008 was International Sword Swallowers Awareness Day. Andrew Stanton in Las Vegas lays face down on a bed of nails and swallows a sword whilst clutching his ankles.

A fake sword (one which curls inside the mouth) is known in the trade as a Gaff. This could well be the root of the expression “to blow the gaff” meaning to expose the trick.

304284.  Thu Mar 27, 2008 3:02 pm Reply with quote

Fakir Tricks #3

The Indian Rope Trick:

The full trick is more complicated than most people think. A man throws up a rope which remains suspended in mid air. His child assistant climbs the rope and vanishes at the top. The fakir puts a knife between his teeth, climbs after the boy and also disappears. Body parts fall to the ground. The fakir descends and places a cloth over the body parts whereupon the boy is magically reconstituted.

Many people ‘believe’ that they have seen this trick but there is no verifiable source. A researcher Peter Lamont believes that he can trace the source back to an article in the 1890 Chicago Tribune written by a Fred S. Ellmore. No such reporter existed and S.Ellmore = sellmore. In fact the whole thing was a hoax and the paper printed a retraction.

By the 1930’s professional conjurors were beginning to believe that they were being taken for a ride. The ‘magic circle’ of the day offered 500 guineas to anyone able to perform the trick. There is a report of a ‘performance’ of the trick by “Karachi” and his son “Kyder” (Karachi was actually an Englishman Arthur Claud Darby) done in a field at Wheathampstead near Hatfield in January 1935. The actual account only describes the rope hanging to a height of about 8 feet and being ascended by the boy. There is a photograph. The prize was not awarded because the trick was not complete. This would appear to be the closest anyone has come to performing it.

David Acheson and Tom Mullin have recently done some remarkable work making a linked chain of three sticks stand upright by rapidly oscillating the base support up and down. The chain could be pushed over to 45 degrees but returned to its upright position. Their work has been extended to a four stick chain and even curtain wire. Early experiment was filmed for BBC Tomorrows World in October 1995.

304286.  Thu Mar 27, 2008 3:03 pm Reply with quote

Q. What did Dr Johnson get from Scratching Fanny in Cock Lane in 1762?
A. A dent in his reputation.

Dr. Johnson among others was asked by the Lord Mayor of London to investigate the phenomenon of Scratching Fanny – allegedly the spirit of one Francis Kent, deceased, who communicated by scratching. It was eventually exposed as a fraud but not before Johnson & his cohorts had spent a whole night listening at Francis Kent’s coffin. Even though Johnson was fairly convinced of some form of counterfeit, he was ridiculed by caricature (as the character ‘Pomposo’) in a contemporary play by Charles Churchill.

Huge crowds would gather in Cock Lane to hear a ‘performance’ – Horace Walpole & Oliver Goldsmith both wrote about the phenomenon. Scratching Fanny became a celebrity because she allegedly accused her husband William of her murder. In fact Fanny died of Smallpox and her husband was entirely innocent. He had enraged his alcoholic landlord, Richard Parsons of Cock Lane, by pressing for the return of a debt. Parsons could not afford to pay and tried to besmirch his creditor’s reputation by inventing this fake spirit. Parsons was pilloried and he and his lady accomplice were later imprisoned.

304287.  Thu Mar 27, 2008 3:04 pm Reply with quote

Gold Fraud in Ethiopia.

Quite recently the Ethiopian government tried to realise some of its gold reserves by selling them to South Africa. The gold was politely returned with the comment that the bars were merely gilded steel ingots. The Ethiopians checked back and found that a fair amount of their gold was fake. Arrests are being made and the investigation continues. What is extraordinary is that gold is so much heavier than steel (a 400 troy oz. size Bar would weigh 12.44kg in gold but only just over 5kg in steel.) Why wasn’t this spotted?
Tungsten has an almost identical density to gold (19.25 g/cc as opposed to 19.3g/cc) and so could be gilded to make pretty convincing fakes. Tungsten sells at say $38 per kg, so $475 per bar as against gold at $400,000. This would give a healthy profit. The only problem being Tungsten melts at 3407 deg. C.

304289.  Thu Mar 27, 2008 3:05 pm Reply with quote

The Brassiere Brigade.

In September 1950 police discovered that ladies in the counting house of the Southern Bell Telephone Co. were smuggling coins out of the building in their bras. The ladies’ job was to put coins collected from the company’s call boxes into counting machines. As this was the first record of the revenue the company didn’t even know that the money was going missing. In fact after the scam was discovered (and even a couple of ladies had confessed) the police were unable to charge them as they couldn’t actually prove that a crime had been committed. Confessions were retracted and it looked like the perfect crime until some forensic accounting proved otherwise. 11 people were charged. The three main offenders were given a year in jail and ordered to repay $24,118 to the phone company. In reality the sum is likely to have been much higher – maybe as much as $100,000 – big money in 1950.

304290.  Thu Mar 27, 2008 3:05 pm Reply with quote

Fake Feral Child.

Misha Defonseca wrote a book in 1997 called Misha: a Memoir of the Holocaust Years – an ‘autobiography’ in which she described wandering across Europe aged 6 before being sheltered by a pack of wolves. Other exploits included killing a German soldier and sneaking in and out of the Warsaw Ghetto. The book was filmed.
In 2008 the author admitted that the whole story was a fiction. He real name is Monique Levy (nee de Wael).

304292.  Thu Mar 27, 2008 3:06 pm Reply with quote

Defrauding a Fool.

Jeremy Clarkson was defrauded after purposefully placing his bank details in the public domain. In the wake of the ‘lost computer disks’ he wanted to show that people were worrying unnecessarily. He was convinced that such details would only allow people to deposit money into the account, not retrieve it. His next bank statement showed a direct debit set up to send £500 a month to Diabetes UK that had been made by a wellwisher.

Link to Fools


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