The internet was weird this week. Mostly in a good way. But also in a bullshitty way.
No, Kurt Cobain's skis are not for sale on Craigslist
People magazine made it seem like a good deal. A collection of Kurt Cobain memorabilia — an old pair of skis, a rad plastic telephone and a used video game — for just $800! Except a now-deleted Craigslist ad was the only basis for the story, which was picked up by news outlets and other sites around the world.
Turns out the ad was a hoax by Derek Erdman, a Seattle-based artist/prankster. Erdman told music network Revolt that he orchestrates this sort of hoax "pretty often" without getting noticed. For those who got duped, a reverse Google image search of the photos in the Craigslist ad would have been a pretty good indicator that it was fake. From Erdman: "I don't have that stuff, I just found those photos on the internet. If I had a Swatch phone, there's no way that I'd sell it."
No, Tupac was not at a Celtics game this week
— SB Nation (@sbnation) March 6, 2014
If he were alive, do you really think he'd still be wearing that fucking bandana?
Seriously, you're not getting a Hoverboard
Thanks a lot, Tony Hawk. The pro skater lied to all of us this week when he appeared in a video for a new company called HUVr shilling real-life hoverboards like the ones in Back to the Future II. "I can't believe how well it works," Hawk said. HUVr promised it was legit on Facebook, those monsters. The whole thing was orchestrated as a cruel joke by Funny or Die.
Lots of people got duped.
I need this…now http://t.co/3O4XOdLEME
— Vjeran Pavic (@vjeranpavic) March 4, 2014
IF YOU HAVENT HEARD, They have invented Huvr Boards! Its a real life hover board!! Tony hawk has already tested them! pic.twitter.com/EUuu6vo5xQ
— Life of a boarder (@boardvsboard) March 5, 2014
But some were skeptical from the start, like this eagle-eyed Twitter user who spotted the shadow of a crane in the original HUVr video:
— Denis (@ForeverZabuzov) March 4, 2014
Either way, that first video was watched more than 10 million times in a matter of days. And people got really excited. (Kind of like how excited people are about the still-unconfirmed prospect of power laces hitting retailers next year.) So Tony Hawk felt bad and apologized.
Back to the Future's Christopher Lloyd, who also appeared in the HUVr tech ad, explained in a Funny Or Die video we were all "hoodwinked, flimflammed, hornswaggled, shanghaied, bamboozled, hoverduped, swindled and scammed."
Whatever, Doc Brown.
Ellen's Oscars selfie wasn't technically product placement but yes it was come on
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) March 3, 2014
So Ellen DeGeneres tweeted a selfie with a bunch of A-listers at the Oscars and it blew up the Internet and became the most retweeted tweet ever, breaking the previously held record by President Barack Obama.
People apparently loved the photo until they started realizing that maybe it was part of a planned product placement — Bradley Cooper snapped it using the awkwardly big Galaxy Note 3 that host Ellen was toting as she hosted.
So I asked Samsung about the selfie moment. Was it orchestrated as part of a deal with Samsung? A spokeswoman for MWW, a PR agency that works with Samsung, sent me the same prepared statement that the company sent to other media outlets: "While we were a sponsor of the Oscars and had an integration with ABC, we were delighted to see Ellen organically incorporate the device into the selfie moment that had everyone talking. A great surprise for everyone, she captured something that nobody expected." (Samsung also said it's donating $3 million to two charities of Ellen's choice "in honor of this epic moment" and to symbolize the 3 million retweets.)
So what exactly does "an integration" mean in this context? And what did Ellen/ABC promise to do as part of the deal? I repeatedly asked Samsung for clarification but got only this from the spokeswoman: "Samsung has no additional details to share at this time about their integration with ABC."
Bottom line, Samsung may not have meticulously planned the selfie but they paid an estimated $20 million and provided the phone to make it happen. That sounds like an advertisement to me.
The New York Times is lying to you. No one is wearing monocles.
Warby Parker been selling monocles and monocles for dogs (I'm sorry to be the one to tell you) for a while now. And not even they claim that monocles are a growing fashion trend.
But the New York Times — the same publication that in 2009 reported the new "ritual" among teenagers of hugging one another as a way of greeting — says monocles have made a come-back as an accessory. Naturally, the story elicited a collective come onnnnnnnnnnnn from pretty much everyone with eyeballs. (Warby Parker declined to speak on-record about how monocle sales compare with glasses sales, but next time you're in a Warby Parker store, just ask the sales person what he or she thinks.)
So one woman decided to create a survey to find out just how insane The New York Times really is.
"I was hearing a lot of skepticism about this new 'trend,' so I thought we needed some data," ProPublica's Lois Beckett told me.
— emily bell (@emilybell) March 6, 2014
Beckett was nice enough to give me exclusive access to the results from the survey she created. (The data is now public, so you can scope it out, too.) As of this morning, she had more than 400 responses. The overwhelming majority of people said they had never spotted a real-life monocle-wearer, but about 12 percent of those polled reported sightings (they are obviously joking because no one is wearing monocles).
Most of these alleged monocles were seen in parts of Brooklyn — raising the possibility that it's just one dude with a monocle who walks around a lot. (Bonus monocle: One dog and/or baby spotted wearing a monocle in Park Slope.) Monocles were also reportedly seen in London, Boston, San Francisco and... New Jersey.
There was also one monocle sighting at a Halloween party and another at an 1880s-themed costume party. Someone else had a weird high school friend who wore one. Another person reported seeing a monocle-wearer in Portland "in like 2006." Sounds about right.
"I will say I definitely don't think they're a rising trend," said Meredith Modzelewski, who reported seeing somebody wearing one in Brooklyn. "That is ridiculous."
Probably the best reported monocle wearer from Beckett's survey was an "elderly former CIA agent" in Newport, R.I., who also carried "a cane rumored to be filled with booze."
In conclusion, obviously no one wears monocles.
Elsewhere on the web this week, Arby's really did buy Pharrell's hat for $40,000. Everybody's confused about who invented Bitcoin. A bored guy from Wisconsin trolled TV networks by pretending to be a chef and offering terrible ideas for holiday leftovers. And some movie trailer trolled the Midwest with the sound of an emergency alert system. The FCC fined three media companies $1.9 million for carrying the ad. Oh, and one more fake thing on the internet: This Antiviral ripoff. You can stuff your major H/Ts in a sack, Washington Post. (H/T Gizmodo.)
Surprise!!! Your 6-month relationship was a hoax engineered by Jimmy Kimmel/Funny or Die/and your heart!
— J-Dubs (@Brotherwags) March 5, 2014
[Photo via HUVr Tech/Facebook]