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Boese, Alex 1968-

Boese, Alex 1968-

PERSONAL:

Surname pronounced "Burr-za"; born June 13, 1968, in Glenside, PA. Education: Received degree from Amherst College, 1991; University of California, San Diego, M.A.

ADDRESSES:

Home—San Diego, CA. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer; curator of Web site The Museum of Hoaxes, 1997—; contributor to various periodicals.

WRITINGS:

The Museum of Hoaxes: A Collection of Pranks, Stunts, Deceptions, and Other Wonderful Stories Contrived for the Public from the Middle Ages to the New Millennium, Dutton Books (New York, NY), 2002.

Hippo Eats Dwarf: A Field Guide to Hoaxes and Other B.S., Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.

Elephants on Acid: And Other Bizarre Experiments, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2007.

Contributor of articles to periodicals, including Smithsonian, New Scientist, and Mental Floss.

SIDELIGHTS:

Alex Boese was born in Glenside, Pennsylvania, but grew up primarily in London, England, and Washington, DC. He earned his undergraduate degree from Amherst College, then went on to further his education at the University of California at San Diego, earning a master's degree in the history of science, and settling down in San Diego after graduation. Boese's dissertation research in the history of science expanded into the popular Web site The Museum of Hoaxes. The site describes various frauds perpetrated on an unsuspecting public, from the only female pope c. 850 A.D. to an April Fool's documentary produced by the BBC that reported on Swiss spaghetti farming in the 1950s, and including the more modern hoaxes carried out via the Internet, such as the amazing photograph that circulated in 2000 of Snowball, the 87-pound cat.

In 2002, Boese compiled a book version of The Museum of Hoaxes, titled The Museum of Hoaxes: A Collection of Pranks, Stunts, Deceptions, and Other Wonderful Stories Contrived for the Public from the Middle Ages to the New Millennium, that includes hundreds of scams, pranks, and deceptions dating as far back as the Middle Ages. In addition to the tricks and forgeries featured on his Web site, recent hoaxes are also described, including the case of nonexistent film critic David Manning, who enthusiastically promoted Sony films, and the recurring report circulated via the Internet that KFC no longer serves meat from chickens, but rather from "genetically engineered organisms." Boese also details such cases as the 9/11 photo supposedly showing a tourist on the observation deck of the World Trade Center with a low-flying jet in the background. Gavin Quinn, a reviewer for Booklist, called the collection "amusing" and indicated that "readers are sure to find many laughs," an opinion echoed by a commentator in Kirkus Reviews who concluded that "all dissertations should be this much fun." In Publishers Weekly, a reviewer also noted that "Boese minimizes his theorizing, letting readers just have fun browsing through a few centuries of human trickery."

Boese's next book, Hippo Eats Dwarf: A Field Guide to Hoaxes and Other B.S., was released in 2006. Written in the same spirit as his first book on hoaxes, Hippo Eats Dwarf takes a look at a broad range of urban myths, fraudulent e-mails, and advertising campaigns consisting of sworn testimonials, shedding light on the true nature of these amusing, yet often misleading items of media interest. Boese also addresses the issue of misinformation, and looks into the various ways that false news items can sometimes appear reported as fact from trusted sources such as legitimate news outlets. However, much more common are Web sites that appear to be legitimate but that are in actuality hoaxes. Boese discusses the various styles of hoax sites that proliferate the Internet, and he provides a few simple tips regarding ways in which the average person can determine whether or not the information they are reading is true. Some of the most common hoax sites include the practical joke, the parody site, and sites that are actually ad campaigns in disguise. David Pitt, in a review for Booklist, dubbed Boese's effort "a reasonably thorough, not to mention playful, guide to fakery."

In Elephants on Acid: And Other Bizarre Experiments, Boese offers readers another collection of strange and unlikely anecdotes, only instead of hoaxes, he focuses on weird science experiments, every one of which was—at least at one point—legitimate. Boese did extensive research for this book, reading through numerous old scientific and medical journals in search of interesting, intriguing, and just plain appalling scientific experiments that captured his imagination. The results of his efforts included an experiment designed to produce a dog with two heads, one that addressed the effects of giving acid to an elephant, and yet another that attempted to run races between roaches. While some of the experiments might border on the disgusting, Boese avoided any seriously objectionable lab work, such as the experiments conducted by the Nazis during World War II. Instead he maintains his humorous tone throughout, while still making his point that one never knows what path scientific research might take. Robert Saunderson, in a review for School Library Journal, found the book to be "by turns funny, scary, gross, but always entertaining." A contributor for Kirkus Reviews dubbed it "one the finest science/history bathroom books of all time." Booklist reviewer Mike Tribby remarked that Boese's work is "excellent short-order reading fare, engagingly presented."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 15, 2002, Gavin Quinn, review of The Museum of Hoaxes: A Collection of Pranks, Stunts, Deceptions, and Other Wonderful Stories Contrived for the Public from the Middle Ages to the New Millennium, p. 550; February 1, 2006, David Pitt, review of Hippo Eats Dwarf: A Field Guide to Hoaxes and Other B.S., p. 9; October 15, 2007, Mike Tribby, review of Elephants on Acid: And Other Bizarre Experiments, p. 12.

Entertainment Weekly, December 6, 2002, Chris Nashawaty, review of The Museum of Hoaxes, p. 102.

Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2002, review of The Museum of Hoaxes, p. 1438; August 15, 2007, review of Elephants on Acid.

Publishers Weekly, September 30, 2002, review of The Museum of Hoaxes, p. 59.

School Library Journal, December 1, 2007, Robert Saunderson, review of Elephants on Acid, p. 161.

ONLINE

Museum of Hoaxes,http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/ (June 5, 2003).

SFGate,http://www.sfgate.com/ (December 19, 2002), David Emery, "The Bunk Stops Here: An Interview with Alex Boese, Curator of the Museum of Hoaxes."

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