Older than the Internet is the net's most famous con—the Nigerian Letter, or 419, scam. If you've been around long enough, you've probably received an e-mail or even a letter from someone, usually in Africa, informing you that, for one reason or another, there is an unclaimed fortune that is yours if you only pay a relatively small fee to transfer the money. When you pay the fee, of course, it ends up not being enough to get you the goods—there's always some snag and another transfer to make, each one probably larger than the last, until, at the very end, the deal just fades away, and eventually you realize there was no fortune in the first place. It's a version of the Spanish Prisoner con, which has been around for centuries. It works for a couple interlocking reasons: for starters you are shocked into submission by the promise of incredible wealth, and your eyes do that thing that sometimes happens in cartoons where they spin like slot machines and end on dollar signs, at which point you stop thinking clearly and would do just about anything for the payoff; and second they get you on the hook early with some nominal fee so that you develop a sense of investment in the enterprise, so that you want to believe it's true so much that you convince yourself it must be.
If there's one thing con movies teach us, it's that you have to be a little bit greedy yourself in order to get conned. That's why, in the end, the con men end up being the biggest marks. And that's why it feels so perfect when the good guys at 419 Eater are able to turn the tables on a Nigerian scammer (in this case from the Ivory Coast, but whatever) and get him to invest in their con:
Thank you very much for your very interesting email, however I am afraid that I will be unable to help you at this time. These next three months are by far the busiest and most profitable period for my company and I cannot give any time to anything other than finding new artwork for our galleries especially wooden carvings.
You may already know of me since it was you that contacted me. My name is Derek Trotter and I am the director of Derek Trotter Fine Arts & Artist Scholarships. We are dealers in fine art and ethnic art from all over the world. We run eight art galleries and two scholarship centres here in the UK. We also offer scholarship donations to aid up and coming new artists who may otherwise not have the financial means to be able to produce or improve upon their work. Our scholarship payments range from between $25,000 and $150,000 depending on the potential of the artist.
I am sorry but I am unable to enter into your business proposition at this time, however if you have any contacts in your part of the world who may be artists that you think may benefit from our financial help then I would be very interested to be put in touch with them. We are especially very keen on promoting new artists with experience in wood carving and will be happy to offer a very generous $25,000 to $150,000 scholarship package to young or old artists with good potential who may benefit from our help.
Israel doctors have innovated a technique which apparently increases the success of fertility treatment: clowns.
That's right. Clowns.
[...] after introducing clown therapy to patients having in-vitro fertilization, doctors at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center in Zerifin, Israel, said the conception rate rose from 20 to 35 percent. [...] Thirty-three of the 93 women entertained for 10-15 minutes by the professional clown conceived, compared to 18 patients among the same number who had not had a good dose of humor.
Link (via Broadsheet). As Rockwell points out, some people find clowns creepy and may not be too psyched about magic tricks or rubber noses. However, it does demonstrate the value of laughter.
It reminds me of an episode of Roseanne where Roseanne tells daughter Becky that jumping up and down after sex does not confuse the sperm or decrease the chances of pregnancy. I wonder if the shaking from laughing (much like jumping) actually increases the chances of conception.
Brandon Hardesty re-enacts scenes from classic (okay, mostly eighties and nineties) movies. Years from now, film students will study the low-budget minimalism and sheer gonzo passion. Witness, for instance, this write-up in the Village Voice:
[A]s with all of Hardesty's films—one-man re-enactments of choice scenes from The Shining, Princess Bride, and other mainstream classics—the viewer's emotional arc moves from the soft prejudice of low expectations through growing astonishment at Hardesty's uncanny, note-for-note re-creation, arriving in the end at an almost tragic sense of the gap between fandom and professionalism. Now showing on YouTube (of course), Hardesty's work is Web culture at its finest: Funny, loving, democratic, hybrid, weird.
This is the "Battle of Wits" scene from The Princess Bride. A mysterious man in black has been chasing three criminals who have kidnapped a princess. He has beaten a swordsman and a giant. Now all that's left is outsmarting the genius of the group, Vizzini, in a battle of wits.
------------------------------ -------------- RECENT QUESTIONS AND STATEMENTS ANSWERED:
Yes, that is my actual voice. (Wtf?)
Yes, I realize that there is a glaring continuity error, and I hit myself for not noticing it. I didn't go back and fix it for two reasons:
1. I didn't feel like it.
2. It was only a small continuity error, and I'm not trying to focus on getting the scene picture perfect to the original. I'm focusing on the acting and dialogue.
I know I fell the wrong way. There was a desk to my right. I would have collided with it.
Here's a list of what I used, and what they were supposed to represent in the scene. My mask = a pair of boxers with holes cut in them My moustache = a brown-colored toothpick scotch-taped to my face Wine = Iced tea Wine bottle = a tupperware container The Princess (scene briefly on the right of the screen near the beginning) = a rocking horse with a red shirt on it