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April Fools Day
PetaPixel has a nice roundup of images from April Fool's Day 2012, including this one of an ad by Hipstamatic (an iPhone app) for contact lenses that will give everything you look at the warm glow of a vintage photo. (Thanks, Bob!)

INTRODUCING: Hipstamatic Contact Lenses. See the world through the shadows of John S, the sexy glow of Lucifer, the dreamy haze of Loftus--and many, many more. Inspired by the beautiful effects of our HipstaPaks, these babies will rock your world. Pop them in to make every moment extraordinary.

Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 04, 2012
Comments (0)
I received an email from Peter Barss recounting a 1985 April Fool's Day hoax he was involved in. It's a great story, so I'll let him tell it in his own words:

In 1985 the Bridgewater Bulletin had an April Fool's front page. Turn over the bogus page and there was the true front page with the day's news. One reporter created an image of a twelve foot starfish climbing out of the sea and up the side of a fisherman's building. Another wrote a story about an international airport that would be constructed just outside Bridgewater (Nova Scotia). That story made it to the provincial legislature where the Minister of Transportation stood and demanded why he hadn't been told about the airport.

My story, a feature on the upcoming Annual Whale Migration, was the longest article and caused the most consternation in our readership. The Lahave River is a wide slow-moving tidal river that runs inland from the sea about twelve miles from LaHave to Bridgewater and then turns into a smaller, faster moving river whose source is about fifteen miles further inland from Bridgewater. The distance from LaHave on the Atlantic side of Nova Scotia to the Bay of Fundy on the other side of the province is about 75 miles.

The central idea of my story was that whales, driven by instinct, migrate up the LaHave River and then overland to the Bay of Fundy every spring. The Department of Natural Resources was kept busy for weeks before the migration cutting a pathway through trees and brush to assist the whales in their overland journey. The department also applied grease on slopes facing the Bay of Fundy so that the whales could slide downhill.

As the day of the migration neared, plans were in the works for pancake festivals and other festivities along the banks of the LaHave River. Free balloons for the kids. The elderly Miss Whale Migration 1928 would be on the lead float in the grand parade that celebrated the whale migration.

Every article on the bogus front page and every cutline under every picture ended with "Happy April Fool's Day."

Nevertheless, the joke was taken very seriously by some people--more than one person bought a pair of binoculars to watch the whales. And when those who had been tricked figured out that they had been tricked there were many angry calls to the paper and not a few subscription cancellations.

Each year two young boys were chosen from the village of LaHave to watch for the whales and fire the cannon at the mouth the LaHave River when they sighted the first whales (see arrow). The attached picture (with arrow pointing to whales) was on the front page of the April Fool's Bulletin. The boys are my sons who agreed to pose for this picture before school.

Categories: Animals, April Fools Day, Folklore/Tall Tales
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 03, 2012
Comments (3)
Here's a few of this year's April Fool's jokes that I've come across so far:
  • Gmail Tap: Google brings back morse code for mobile computing: youtube.
  • Google Maps 8-Bit: A low-res version for NES. youtube
  • Virgin Volcanic: Richard Branson announces plans to travel to the center of the earth.
  • Water Runways: South African airline Kulula announces the introduction of new water runways.
  • Triple-Decker Buses: New Zealand's 3 News ran a story about a company introducing new high-rise buses.
  • Grabaseat Straight Up Fare: a "standing-in-the-aisles" fare for cheap air travel.
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Sun Apr 01, 2012
Comments (7)
I came across these creepy April Fool masks from 1930 on eBay. Or rather, it's an auction for an article from 1930 about April Fool masks.

I've never heard of mask-wearing being part of April Fool's tradition in any country. But I'm sure it would freak people out if you showed up somewhere, such as work, wearing one of these things. Especially that pig mask.

Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 21, 2012
Comments (1)
In my article about the origin of April Fool's Day, which I wrote a few years ago, I noted that the first explicit reference to April 1st being a day for pranks can be found in a poem written in late-medieval Dutch (around 1561) by Eduard De Dene. The title of the poem is "Refereyn vp verzendekens dach / Twelck den eersten April te zyne plach." Marco Langbroek kindly translated this for me as: "Refrain on errand-day / which is the first of April."

But it recently occurred to me that although I knew about the poem, and had the title translated, I had never seen the full text of the poem itself. And in fact, I don't believe the poem has ever been translated into English. To me, this seems like a glaring omission in our knowledge of the history of April Fool's Day.

So I've tracked down the poem, which originally appeared in De Dene's work Testament Rhetoricael. I found it on the Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren. I've copied it below, but the version on the dbnl includes a few extra footnotes.

I'm hoping the internet can do its magic and help me get this poem translated. Any Dutch speakers out there? Marco? I'm guessing the language in the poem may be a bit of a challenge even for native Dutch speakers.

Categories: April Fools Day, Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 15, 2012
Comments (12)
A few times when I've done interviews about April Fool's Day, I've been asked whether the tradition of foolery on April 1st is dying out because, despite the day's popularity online, most people don't celebrate it.

My answer is that April Fool's Day has always been ignored by the majority of the population, but the influence of the celebration can be seen in what people don't do on April 1. Even people who have never played a prank in their entire life, will nevertheless acknowledge the tradition by not scheduling important events, such as weddings, on the day. Also many businesses avoid making major announcements on April 1.

A case in point this year is Chrysler, which has announced it's going to push back the production launch of the Dodge Dart until after April 1 in order "to avoid being jinxed" by an April Fool's Day launch

But Coors Light has decided to ignore the April Fool's Day Jinx, and has announced it will debut Coors Light Iced T on April 1. Even though this immediately makes people wonder if the product is a joke -- which apparently it's not.

The most famous example of a company that decided to ignore the April Fool's Day Jinx is Google, which chose April 1, 2004 to launch Gmail. This led to widespread speculation about whether Gmail was a joke, but the speculation worked in the company's favor because Google had a history of April 1 jokes, and the timing of the launch got people talking about how Gmail seemed too good to be true (because it offered 1GB of storage space, which was unheard of at the time).
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 06, 2012
Comments (3)
On April 1st of this year, hundreds of thousands of men with mustaches are going to gather in Washington, DC to demand tax equity for Mustached Americans. They're hoping to persuade Congress to adopt the Stimulus To Allow Critical Hair Expenses Act, or STACHE Act. The act would allow Mustached Americans to claim tax deductions for expenses such as:

Mustache and beard trimming instruments, mustache wax and weightless conditioning agents, Facial hair coloring products (for men and women over 43 years of age), bacon, mustache combs and mirrors, DVD collections of "Magnum P.I." and "Smokey & The Bandit," mustache insurance (now required by state law in Alabama, Oregon, Maine, and New Mexico, and Puerto Rico), billy clubs or bodyguards to keep women away as a mustache increases good looks by an estimated 38 percent, little black books and jumbo packages of kielbasa sausage, Burt Reynolds wallet-sized photos.

The organizations behind this mustached march on Washington are the American Mustache Institute (AMUI) and H&R Block.

At first, I assumed the entire thing was an April Fool's Day joke campaign organized by H&R Block. But I now think that the American Mustache Institute was around before H&R Block got involved -- though it's obviously a rather tongue-in-cheek organization.

John Yeutter, an accountant at Northeastern State University, wrote a paper in 2010 titled, "Mustached Americans And The Triple Bottom Line: An Analysis Of The Impact Of The Mustache On Modern Society And A Proposal For A Mustached American Tax Incentive." The idea for the Mustached March on Washington seems to have been inspired by that paper, and gained momentum, eventually attracting H&R Block as a sponsor.
Categories: Advertising, April Fools Day, Fashion
Posted by Alex on Mon Mar 05, 2012
Comments (0)
Happy April Fools! I've been busy working on my book, but April 1st has managed to pull me back to the site.

Last year I posted a brief rant about the origin of April Fool's Day, explaining how every year reporters write articles claiming that the most likely origin of the holiday is the Gregorian calendar reform of the late 16th century. This explanation gets trotted out every year, even though there's just no way it's true. Last year I noted:

I realize it's probably overly optimistic to expect reporters to do much fact checking when they're on a deadline and told to write a story about the origin of April Fool's Day, which is why I expect the calendar-change hypothesis to keep getting rolled out year after year by reporters, well into the future.

This year is already true to form. Yahoo's Buzz Log posted an article about April Fool's Day which not only manages to identify calendar change as the likely origin of the day, but claims that it's a hypothesis I support! Mike Krumboltz, the author of the Buzz Log piece, writes:

There are several theories regarding the origin of April Fools' Day, and none of them are 100% definitive. However, one does stand above the rest: The Museum of Hoaxes explains that in 1564, King Charles IX of France passed a law that changed the beginning of the year from April 1 to January 1. News of the change traveled slowly. Those who were either misinformed or slow to make the adjustments still celebrated the New Year on April 1. As a result, they were mocked and pranks were pulled.

He even links to my article about the origin of April Fool's Day, apparently not realizing that much of my article is spent trying to debunk the calendar-change hypothesis.

Some things never change!
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 01, 2010
Comments (19)
A strange April Fool's Day prank: A Ministry of Fisheries worker on a trawler in subantarctic waters radioed his superior to tell him that a human arm had been found in the water. Specifically, his message said:
"Me again. We had a rather gruesome catch in tonight's shot. The remains of a human arm. It has been taken off below the elbow and it is not a clean cut. Yuk. It hasn't been in the water for very long, and I was wondering if any of the Russian boats has had an accident. The captain has been on the radio to the Korean vessels and none of them have had any accidents, so I'm guessing it's off a Russian. It is in the hold with the birds so let me know what you want me to do with it. Cheers."

A full-scale search and rescue operation was prepared, but then the observer admitted it was just an April Fool prank. Apparently he had played the same one five years ago. Sounds like someone is going a little stir crazy down there in the subantarctic! [Otago Daily Times]
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Mon May 11, 2009
Comments (2)
If there's one thing I've learned from running a website it's that you can't please everyone. And apparently my selection of the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest as the #1 April Fool's Day Hoax of All Time hasn't pleased Mike Jones, staff writer for the Gaylord Herald Times. I recently stumbled upon this comment he made in his column:

All-time hoax, not!

One thing we like here at the old “5 Nuggets of Knowledge” is “best of and top 10” lists. We recently came across “The Top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes of All Time.”

Again, you be the judge. The list was supposedly compiled based on “notoriety, creativity and number of people duped,” and this apparently is the best they could come up with.

Drum roll please: No. 1: The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest — This hoax occurred in the more simple, gentle and gullible time of the 1950s in Great Britain. Apparently a BBC news program announced a mild winter had eliminated the dreaded spaghetti weevil and Swiss farmers had harvested a bumper crop of spaghetti. News footage showed Swiss peasants harvesting strands of spaghetti down from trees and large numbers of viewers were taken in by the hoax.

I'll admit that a lot of the April Fool's Day hoaxes on that list are somewhat arbitrarily placed. After all, it's impossible to be objective about something like that. But come on! How can he question the selection of the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest as #1? That's like April Fool's Day sacrilege! It's obviously #1, if for no other reason than it's, hands down, the most famous April 1st hoax ever.

If Mike ever reads this, I'd be curious to know what he thinks should be the top pick.
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Fri Apr 17, 2009
Comments (24)
For some, April Fool's Day means innocent fun. For others it appears to be an invitation to explore the dark corners of their twisted psyches. That's the only reason I can think of to explain why every April 1st stories like this one, featuring a woman who "pranked" her brother-in-law by calling him and telling him that her 1-year-old child wasn't breathing, appear in the news.
Categories: April Fools Day, Hate Crimes/Terror
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 08, 2009
Comments (2)
According to the Chicago Tribune, 18,786,325 people viewed Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" video on YouTube on April 1st. That indicates the number of victims that were RickRolled by pranksters on April Fool's Day. Which means that in only two years, rickrolling has risen from nothing to become the most popular April Fool's Day prank, eclipsing even the classic "trick a victim into phoning the zoo" prank. [Chicago Tribune]
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 08, 2009
Comments (0)
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