A video showing what seemed to be–if looked at the right way–a Chinese version of the Loch Ness monster paddling around near the Three Gorges Dam turned out to be a twenty-meter-long industrial airbag. Or in some articles, a long piece of tubing, which may or may not be another way of saying the same thing.
What was the right was way to look at it? Mind-altering substances (a category that includes alcohol) have been shown to be effective.
In California, a robocop was mistaken for a robocop. It was rolling through a park, demonstrating that it could do everything the police force had said it would do: patrol large open spaces and use its microphone to deter crime. So when a fight broke out, a witness ran up to it and pushed the emergency alert button.
What did it do? It said, “Step out of the way.”
Eventually she stepped out of the way and it rolled off, stopping now and then to tell people to keep the park clean.
Another witness just called the police on an old-fashioned phone.
The robot turned out not to be connected to any actual police. It called the company that made it. Which may or may not have called the police. I don’t really know.
Its video camera also wasn’t connected to the police department. Its ability to read license plates and track cell phones? Ditto. It will, eventually and presumably, get connected, but in the meantime it runs around playing cops and park attendants and costs $60,000 to $70,000 a year.
It has not yet been mistaken for the Loch Ness monster.
A cash machine in London mistook a fake £20 bill (or note if you’re British) for a real one. Which would be understandable enough except that the bill said, “Twenty poonds” on the back. Not to mention, “This is play money.”
The machine apologized for any problems it might have caused and explained that it can’t actually read.
You can by counterfeit twenties on the internet. They go for around £8 each, although if you’re okay with money that announces that it’s not real you can get ten for around £15.
No, I’m not recommending it. It just seemed like something you’d want to know.
The person in charge of the US nuclear arsenal mistook an internet hoax for something real. Rick Perry, the secretary of Energy, reposted a warning having to do with Instagram being able to use people’s photos in accordance with a treaty that the US isn’t part of.
The good news is that he didn’t run up to a robocop, push a button, and expect it to protect the nuclear arsenal.
“Jerusalem” was voted the U.K.’s favorite hymn. Or at least the favorite of the people who listened to the BBC’s Songs of Praise and took the trouble to vote.
What’s that got to do with mistaken identity? The song’s almost universally mistaken for a hymn. The words are by William Blake, who was intensely religious but nothing like an orthodox Christian. Among other things, he didn’t attend church and didn’t believe he needed a god to redeem him. “The Creator of this World is a very Cruel Being,” he wrote in “A Vision of the Last Judgment.”
But let’s be fair and separate the writer from the words he wrote. Did he, in spite of himself, write a hymn? Here it is:
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land.
It’s stunning, but is it a hymn? He’s asking if the countenance divine shone forth upon our clouded hills, not saying it did. He only gets into statements when he calls for building a Jerusalem, and that’s in the England of this world, not in the next. I’ll admit that using Jerusalem as a metaphor means drawing from Christian imagery, but that’s as far as I’ll go. Blake had no use for organized religion, and especially for state-sponsored religion. So inevitably his poem has been adopted as the hymn of a state-sponsored religion.
The music that goes with it was written in 1916. (Blake died in 1827.) It’s also beautiful. This version comes from the movie The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner.
And I still say it’s no hymn.
Five out of ten flies will mistake a cow for not-a-cow if you paint it with zebra stripes–which of course you will sooner or later. They register their belief that this is not a cow by not landing on it and not biting it. The cows painted as zebras still identify as cows. They register this belief by mooing and eating grass and allowing themselves to be milked.
A national police database in Britain mistook thousands of cybercrime and fraud reports for a security risk and quarantined them, creating a backlog of 9,000 cases and leaving some of them there for a year. The problem is that the reports include words and symbols that the database’s program recognized as risk markers, so yeah, it quarantined them.
Rory Stewart–Member of Parliament; former candidate for leader of the Conservative Party; former member of the Conservative Party; and currently independent candidate for the mayor of London–mistook three Irish musicians for minor gangsters.
Stewart’s plan was to walk through every London borough while he was running for Conservative Party leader, and he asked the men if he could film them. They agreed, then found out he was a politician and said they “didn’t fuck with politics.” They left.
So far, so good, and if he’d left it at that he’d have been fine, but at a later event he talked about meeting three “sort of minor gangsters” who told him he was an idiot.
The people he was talking to turn out to be a band called Hare Squad, from Dublin. They’re black, which is presumably why Stewart decided they were gangsters.
“We’re all about peace and love,” one of them, Lilo Blues, said.
In addition to being denounced as a racist, Stewart was also asked, “What the hell is a minor gangster?”
A four-year-old was mistaken for a neighborhood menace when the Birmingham Council (that’s the city government, and we’re talking about Birmingham in Britain, not in the U.S.) sent her a letter saying she’d been accused to antisocial acts –shouting, banging, and visitors. Presumably that’s disruptive visitors. Visitors aren’t inherently a problem.
Her mother says the girl has eczema and sometimes cries at night.
The kid was invited to contact the council if she had any questions. I don’t know if she did, but when I was four my questions would’ve been something along the lines of “what’s for dessert”–nothing the council could’ve answered.
What’s worse, I couldn’t write yet. Or read. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that she can’t either.
Well, no wonder she’s getting in trouble. What’s wrong with the schools today?
An early Renaissance masterpiece was mistaken for some old thing hanging in a French kitchen. An auctioneer spotted it when he came to value the furniture after the woman decided to move.
It was auctioned off for 24 million euros.
A Viking warrior was mistaken for some other Viking warrior’s nice little wifely homemaker in Norway. For years. Apologies for the heavy use of stereotypes there, but I’m not the only person dragging them into the story.
The good news is that it didn’t bother the warrior, because she’d been dead for years. The thousand-year-old body was correctly identified as a woman, but even though she was buried with an armory big enough to take down several English or Irish villages, when she was first found they disregarded all that because she was a woman and–hey, we know this: Women aren’t warriors and never were. She was just buried with that stuff because, um, they were cleaning house and the weaponry was in the way.
Now a new team of scientists have reinterpreted the skeleton, looking at the partially healed battle wound to her skull, probably made with a sword. A reconstruction of her face–never a 100% reliable thing–shows one tough-looking woman.
Some of the people working on this were from the University of Dundee, so the story does actually have a British connection.
This final item has nothing to do with mistaken identity but I had to put it in: Scientists in the US have discovered that driving tiny electric cars lowers stress levels in rats, in theory because of the pleasure of learning a new skill. They used a mix of lab-raised rats and rats from the real world. The real-world rats turned out to be significantly better drivers than the lab rats.
The point of the experiment was to explore the possibility of drugless treatments for mental illness, but it might be more useful to know that if you’re hitching a ride with a rat you’ll want to look for one raised in the real world. The safe life isn’t necessarily the best preparation. And I tell you that as a former cab driver.
My thanks for Bill, who in response to last week’s post tells me that there is a culture out there that puts the year first when they write the date: the Japanese. Thank you, Bill. Also domo arigato gozai mas.