Monday, January 30, 2006
We all know those little chalky candy hearts (also known as "Conversation Hearts"), which taste a lot worse than those than those sickly sweet red hot cinnamon hearts (if such a thing were possible). They have those saccharine-tinged messages on them, usually something cute sounding like "UR KIND" or "DREAM GIRL." Quite possibly one of the most disgusting candies ever made, if used for any other use except for a garnish or for a projectile, it could quite possibly mean the end of a relationship if given out on Valentines Day. Incidentally, Cockeyed.com features a thorough deconstruction of conversation hearts and shows an inventive use for them once they were finished with them.
Certainly, I could think of a zillion more appropriate gifts, probably something that would be more appreciated by one's prospective Valentines, rather than a chalky piece of tooth decaying ickyness. I'm not much of a romantic (I don't often get the opportunity), but even I know to utilize flowers, jewelry, or a nice dinner (with bonus points if it happens to be homemade).
There is a simple explanation for this, though. And given the reputation for the Internet to attract lonely guys all over, this should be no surprise whatsoever.
This is Mandy (pictured right).
Mandy is an amateur model (judging from the amount of red-eye in the photos) and the person who is selling the candy heart in question. Supposedly the spokesmodel and head of staff at Elektrik Auctions (that logo on the shirt looks photoshopped), she's promised to add additional photos of herself once the auction goes above a certain level, which she certainly has.
While you can get all sorts of useful (and not so useful) stuff on eBay, it has also become a bit of a springboard for people who want to get their Warholian 15 minutes. Sure, she can get $51 for a chalky candy heart, but she has been seen by (as of this posting) 1577 users.
eBay has also been used to showcase the personality of the auctioners, giving the chance to show off their design skills. Unfortunately, a disporportionally large percentage of auction pages are an absolute headache to read. This is one of them. Whoever designed the page inserted a completely unecessary Flash animation that forces the user to listen to the song "Broken" by Seether featuring Amy Lee (from the band Evanescence) and does not give the option of turning the song off. If you accidentally click on the wrong part of the page, the page reloads and the song starts again. When writing this posting, I must have been forced to listen to that song about five or six times.
With this level of cynicism, it's no wonder why I'm still single.
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Now, we have this guy.
Dubbing himself DeadBodyGuy, he is an aspiring actor whose dream is to be featured as a corpse in movies and television. To help him with that, his website has a collection of photos depicting the DBG in a series of hilariously morbid situations, whether it be the end result of running with scissors, being rampled to death by customers trying to get the last Xbox 360 (who steal his), and blowdrying his hair in the bathtub.
So far, his efforts have paid off, as he is on his way to becoming a minor celebrity, having been recently cast in the independent film Stiffs and having been featured in the television show What I Like About You.
And where would an actor be without his merchandise? DBG is selling autographed photos of himself on eBay, complete with the necktie used in the shot. While I question the value of his celebrity, merely judging from his website, he seems like a fairly down-to-earth guy who just wants to be in the pictures. Indeed, some of the photos are legitimately funny. It's the people like this who we want to see succeed.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Despite the fact that my Mandarin is piss-poor and my Cantonese isn't that much better, I know enough about Chinese to order in a restaurant and to know when family members are talking ill of me. Sadly, despite years upon years of Chinese language training, I haven't quite gotten past phrases in Mandarin such as shi hui jiu yi hao ("Socialism is Good") and wo bu zhi dao ("I don't know") and Cantonese phrases such as lei yiu muht yea ("what do you want") .
However, repeated viewings of John Woo's Lashou Shentan ("Hard-Boiled") have taught me all sorts of great phrases such as mo yook ("Don't move"), mo yup lei ah ("Don't come in"), and pok gai (what you say when you are an undercover cop named Allan and you and another cop named Tequila have been running through the corridors of a hospital armed with semi-automatic weapons, shooting everything that moves, and then you come to a realization that the last guy you shot three times at point-blank range was actually a cop).
The introduction of Asian culture into North America has had its ups, whether it be the proliferation of Chinese restaurants, the explosion in popularity of Japanese animation (or anime), and Quentin Tarantino's influences from Japanese and Hong Kong cinema (as seen in Kill Bill parts 1 and 2).
And then there are the downsides, whether it be the fetishization of Asian women (appropriately named "yellow fever"), phoney martial arts acadmies (widely discussed in the website, Bullshido.com), and people developing an interest in Asian culture for the completely wrong reasons.
And then we have stuff like this.
One enterprising eBay seller from Australia is selling framed his-and-hers prints of people's names "translated" into Chinese. That is, they take the closest syllable sound in Mandarin or Cantonese, regardless of what it means. The end result is an ugly mish-mash of random characters that makes no sense to a native Chinese speaker.
Despite the fact that my understanding of Chinese is minimal, even I know that this does not translate into "Benjamin." Best I could come up with is ben-zhi-ming. Broken down per character: ben: measure word, used between a numerical value and a noun (eg: yi-ben shu: one book). ming: prefix, has no meaning without following word (eg: mingbai - understand; mingnian - next year). I'm not sure what the middle symbol means.
This isn't as bad as getting tattoos, though. There are many horror stories about people with a passing interest in Asian culture who get tattoos of Asian characters (whether it be Chinese hanzi characters or Japanese katana characters), but have no idea what they mean, or get a really mean spirited translator or tattoo artist. At least having a print with a mistranslated Chinese phrase doesn't require expensive and painful surgery to remove.
Hanzismatter.com deconstructs many of these tattoos to hilarious effect, whether it be a person who has glaring grammatical errors in Chinese, reversed characters, or just plain bad translations. Among the more embarassing ones: "Abusive Husband Pimps Me Out" and "Crazy Diarrhea."
The best take on the matter is courtesy of the boys at Zug.com. The prankster managed to convince a female coworker that the Chinese character tattoo on her arm was actaully taken from a Chinese take-out menu.
I decided to get in on the fun myself, with my webcomic, Major Studio Production. In my latest strip, I researched four Chinese tattoos that would look really ridiculous if a person decided to go ahead and get them permanently etched on their skin. I have consulted with the webmaster of Hanzismatter.com and with his suggestions, the characters should be accurate.
And by the way, gung hei fat choy.
Monday, January 16, 2006
- Paid $50 CDN (including USD conversion and shipping) for a berimbau, a Brazilian rhythm instrument used in the art of Capoeira, a martial art that I've been studying. I indicated to the seller that I wished for it to be shipped in separate parts to avoid breakage. When it arrived, not only was it shipped pre-assembled, two vital parts were cracked and useless. Thinking that the order was insured, I contacted the seller to send additional parts. He would not ship unless I paid him more money. Jerk.
- Paid $15 for a copy of a Japanese film, Battle Royale. Not only does it not arrive in standard factory shrinkwrap, upon closer inspection, I realize that the DVD case insert was reproduced on a laser printer. It's clear that this is a bootleg.
- Paid $8 for a bunch of New X-Men comic books which are advertised as being in "Mint Condition." While I can understand that the Canadian postal service isn't the most gentle when it comes to handling stuff, close insepction of the comic books reveal that they have been read multiple times and carelessly handled.
- Paid $5 for a CD, Wreckage by Overseer (the CD was not available in Canada at the time). Good news: it's not a bootleg. Bad news: there's a sticker covering the UPC box that says, "Property of Sony Music. Not for resale. Subject to recall."
Which brings me to my next story.
Zug.com is a humor website that features a lot of pranks and craziness. Among them is a blow-by-blow account on the effects of Olestra, a test to see which retailers check the signatures on credit cards, and prank phone calls to companies such as AT&T.
In one particular prank, an individual named Jeff put an Apple G4 Powerbook, a fairly pricy notebook computer, up for sale on eBay. There was one response from UK and they offered to pay the buy-it-now price of $2100 USD. However, the seller smelled something really fishy with the method of payment (escrow), so he checked it all out and realized that the escrow site was fake. After checking with eBay, it turned out that, yes indeed, the account was accessed by an unauthorized user.
So with that in mind, the seller had the ultimate revenge: send him a notebook computer. As in, an old three ring binder with a bunch of old computer keyboard caps glued on the inside, complete with a bunch of fake peripherals. To make things even sweeter, he also put a dollar value on the package, forcing the buyer to pay out a 27% duty. That worked out to about $550.
The story has a strange epilogue to it. In retalliation, the scammer attempted to send a virus to the seller, followed by a DoS (Denial of Service) attack on the seller's websites, causing them to shut down. The writers at Zug.com also report that Jeff is nowhere to be found.
Sadly, dishonesty is one of the bigger parts of eBay, and even though many things are being done to minimize that, it's up to the user to maintain some level of vigilance and rely on a lot more than just feedback ratings.
I haven't decided whether or not to call B.S. on this one.
According to the auction page, this gentleman voluntarily paid for his ex-girlfriend's breast augmentation surgery, as she was (is?) a model that goes to a lot of car shows and the like. Predictably, the story ends in tragedy...in an effort to please his soon-to-be-ex girlfriend, he pays to have a mouse pad modelled after his girlfriend, only to have her leave him for some other guy. To cut his losses, he's selling the mouse pads on eBay.
eBay is filled with auctions that include pleas such as this one, such as the infamous case of Larry Star, the guy who sold his ex-wife's wedding dress while posing in the wedding dress. Through this, his auction got millions of hits, won him instant fame, almost sold for $3,850 (the bid was withdrawn) and got the dress owner a stand-up comedy gig and guest appearances on NBC's Today Show. However, it was later revealed the whole story was fabricated.
As it stands, there are a large number of novelty 3D mousepads being offered on eBay which allow you to rest your wrist on a woman's chest, most of them depicting women drawn in anime style. Given the ease at which one can make novelty mousepads, it's not hard to do something along this line. But, according to the auction, they were "perfectly scaled" to his girlfriend. Hmm...
Previously, I wrote about high-profile items being purchased by GoldenPalace.com. Many of the items featured include religious themed images embedding themselves into objects such as Jesus Christ on a perogi and the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwhich. So, in response to that, one enterprising individual out of Tallahassee, Florida is offering his very own do-it-yourself miracle kit, which comes complete with a nail and a few stencils that will allow you to scratch the image of Jesus Christ or Elvis Presley on the surface. Best of all, the seller is offering free re-sell rights to the purchaser of the kit.
Religious images being depicted in foodstuffs will always garner equal parts of skepticism and controversy. Skepticism, because there are many non-religious people out there, and just as many who believe that the same results can be attained with a soldering iron and a steady hand. Controversy, because $28,000 USD that was paid for a ten-year-old grilled cheese sandwhich could go to a lot better use.
But on the other hand, who has ever seen a commercial or an ad for GoldenPalace.com? Regardless of the methods, GoldenPalace.com's guerilla marketing strategy is both cost effective and memorable. However, it does indicate a few problems with society, such as the extent people are willing to go to earn money. It also shows how frivolously society in general tends to live.
Friday, January 13, 2006
According to the specifications of this auction, the rock measures 3.75" x 2" by 2", weighing in at 10 oz (9.5 cm x 5.08cm x 5.08cm @ 0.285 kg, for people who don't live in the USA). His opening bid? $4,495.00 USD. My guess is that the seller is banking on GoldenPalace.com to pick this one up.
GoldenPalace.com is an online auction site that has a unique form of advertising. Instead of buying ad space in traditional media outlets (print, web, and broadcast), they generate publicity by buying high-profile oddities on eBay, whether it be Pope Benedict XVI's car or Britney Spears' pregnancy test. They also have a lot of benevolent causes, possibly to deflect any criticism of the nature of their business.
The seller got greedy, though. A look at GoldenPalace.com's previous auctions will indicate that they purchased a Weeping Jesus Rock for $2,550 USD and a rock that was used to escape an angry bear for only $100 USD. You have to squint when doing a cross comparison of the two items to see any sort of resemblance, and even still, it's a major stretch.
Monday, January 09, 2006
If only I knew what this was supposed to resemble, maybe I would put in a bid for it. To me, it somewhat resembles Grimace fom the McDonald's commercials (only not purple and without legs).
On the eBay page, the seller thinks "someone worked on it a little with their finger nail," which doesn't really bode well for his sales pitch. I gotta say that it completely blows the illusion when even the seller admits that the whole thing might be a sham.
What's there to stop the average Joe from buying a sack of potatoes, working them over with their finger nails, and claiming that it came in as such?
However, if you paint it white and add a little black magic marker, it might vaguely resemble a Storm Trooper from Star Wars.
Wow, sign me up!
Some sad sack out of London, Kentucky really needs to come up with $15,000 to pay off his student loan debts, so he's soliciting on the largest auction site. In exchange, he (based on the user name "shawnoandrew") is offering his lifetime friendship.
Unfortunately, there isn't anything in the way of certificates of authenticity, receipts, or the like, so I don't know if there's any way to quantify "friendship" per se. How much is friendship worth anyway?
To most people, friendship is priceless. To "Shawnoandrew," evidently, it's worth $15,000.
UPDATE, January 16, 10:05AM. This auction was actually cancelled two or three days ago, well before the auction's deadline. This seems to indicate that it may be in violation of eBay's terms of service, but then, it's no different from the naming rights for babies.
In September 0f 2005, New York based writer Brian Sack put up a hilariously written eBay auction trying to sell a pair of DKNY (Donna Karin New York) leather pants. Brian is a former ad copy writer, which explains how he is able to come up with some hilariously written material.
This eBay auction continues to generate hits long after the pants have sold (for $102.50 + shipping and handling), now up to over 3.16 million hits.
While he may have only received a fraction of the original purchase price for the pants (I imagine that they retail for significantly more than $120.50), the page has received a large amount of notoriety, having received coverage from such publications as The Independent, The New York Post, and Women's Wear Daily.
Brian Sack regularly contributes to Banterist.com. Under the archives section, he has other hilariously written auctions for other items such as a gaudy 75-piece set of Versace flatwear and a "Marchmond Jones Edition" Macintosh computer.