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April Fools Day
Status: True
Imagine getting delayed because of this:

STUNNED holiday-makers flying back to Britain from Tenerife said they were told by the captain they could not land because an air traffic controller was on a tea break.

Because this occurred on April 1st, the passengers initially thought the captain was joking when he announced the reason for the delay over the intercom, but it turned out he wasn't. So the plane had to circle for almost half an hour until the guy came back to work. The British do love their tea breaks.
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 05, 2006
Comments (13)
Status: Prank that backfired
The Brainerd Dispatch (requires registration) reports on an April Fool's Day prank that went slightly wrong, ending up with the prankster, a 57-year-old woman, getting charged with disorderly conduct:

About 10:15 a.m. Saturday, the woman stopped at Wells Fargo Bank at 424 W. Washington St. in Brainerd to make a legitimate withdrawal from an account. When she was finished, she handed the teller a note that read, "I'm here to take money," said Brainerd Police Chief John Bolduc... a bank employee called 911 indicating the bank was being robbed. Officers from Brainerd and Crow Wing County responded to the bank but the woman had left, Bolduc said. She was stopped by a Crow Wing County sheriff's deputy a short time later at Highways 18 and 25 in east Brainerd, where she was arrested for disorderly conduct and taken to the Crow Wing County jail.

I guess banks, like airports, are one place where you don't want to joke around about security issues.
Categories: April Fools Day, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 05, 2006
Comments (7)
Status: Misinterpreted April Fool's Day Prank
image This story offers a sad commentary on the state of affairs in America. Five teenage girls living in Ravenna, Ohio got into the spirit of April 1st by decorating a few public places in their town with brightly colored boxes designed to look like the power-up cubes in the Super Mario Bros. game (the ones you jump up to hit and get extra energy). They got the idea from qwantz.com. Local residents who didn't recognize what the boxes were supposed to be weren't amused and called out the bomb squad. And it seems like the police are coming down pretty hard on the girls:

[Ravenna Police Chief] McCoy said even though no harm was intended by the girls, they could face criminal charges for their actions. “The potential is always present when dealing with a suspicious package that it could be deadly,” McCoy said. “In today’s day and age, you just cannot do this kind of stuff.”... McCoy said the incident will be referred to the Portage County Prosecutor’s Office for possible charges against the girls.

Lots of blogs are posting this story, and it seems like everyone agrees that the police seem to be overreacting. The incident reminds me of April 1, 2003 when seven young guys were charged with making terrorist threats because they posted signs reading "All your base are belong to us" around Sturgis, Michigan.

Update: It seems that the prosecutor has decided not to charge the girls with any crime: "The girls were imitating an art project which they found on the Internet,” the prosecutor said. “None of the girls had any prior contacts with the police or juvenile court and are all good students.”
Categories: April Fools Day, Hate Crimes/Terror
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 05, 2006
Comments (15)
Maybe I'm just being paranoid, but it sure seems like all the items in UKTV's list of 20 Great April Fools, which Jon Holmes presented on air on April 1st over in Britain, were lifted almost verbatim from my list of the Top 100 April Fools ever. Not to complain (actually to complain bitterly), but it took me a long time to create that list... a lot of tedious searching through decades of old newspaper archives to find all the April Fool's Day classics that had been, for the most part, forgotten. If UKTV did their own research and collected together what they thought were the Top 20 April Fools, that would be fine. But their research seems to have simply consisted of visiting here and cutting and pasting what they found, and then presenting this to their viewers as their own work. Can that actually be legal?
Categories: April Fools Day, Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 04, 2006
Comments (28)
Status: April Foolery
Happy April Fools, everyone! Sorry about the light posting recently, but the past few days I've been doing almost back-to-back radio interviews to promote Hippo Eats Dwarf. (I've got a few more radio interviews today, then I'm doing a book signing at the Borders in downtown San Diego.) You may also have noticed that the site is loading slowly. That's the April Fool's Day effect, which happens every year. Traffic to the site spikes, causing the server to grind to a halt. There's nothing I can do about it. I'm lucky the site is loading at all.

Whenever I have a chance during the day (which may not be often), I'm going to try to list some of this years April Fool's Day hoaxes here. I should note that for the past few years Jason Pearsall of urgo.org has been keeping a great list of April Fools internet hoaxes, and he's doing it again this year, so definitely check that out. Hopefully I can supplement what he has by noting some of the offline hoaxes from newspapers and advertisers.

[Note: if anyone in the UK could scan some of the April Fools-related pictures appearing in the UK papers and email them to me, I'd love to see them.]

Google Romance. "Search for love in all (or at least a statistically significant majority of) the right places with Soulmate Search, our eerily effective psychographic matchmaking software." And "Endure, via our Contextual Dating option, thematically appropriate multimedia advertising throughout the entirety of your free date."
The Hair Color Diet: "The Hair Color Diet tells you how to eat right for your hair type."
♠The Fat Tax (An Esquire article, with an accompanying website).
Jackass Penguin: The Sun ran a photo of a penguin wandering along the banks of the Thames. "It is believed to be the first time a penguin has been spotted in the Thames -- and comes weeks after tragic Wally the Whale got stranded... Experts said the penguin, normally seen at the South Pole, may have been released into UK waters by fishermen who accidentally snared him... Marine biologist Lil Faroop said: 'It looks like a Jackass. They feed on sprats and fly through the water at five miles (eight kilometres) per hour. They have a donkey-like bray.'"
Biscuit Highway: The Daily Express claimed that biscuits were being mixed into tarmac to help make roads safer. "Scientists yesterday revealed that broken biscuits are in fact the perfect material to help resurface roads... Years of experimental research revealed that crushed-up ginger nuts are the best biscuit for a road's sub-base, as they are more porous and allow water to drain away."
Royal Family Tree: The Daily Mirror claimed that an oak tree bearing the likeness of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and Prince Charles had been found by "Lionel Day" as his dog chased a squirrel. "The exact location of the tree in the New Forest, Hampshire, is being kept secret because of fears it could attract druids."
Red Door for 10 Downing Street: The Daily Mail reported that Tony Blair, in a "literally incredible break with decades of tradition," had decided to paint the door of 10 Downing Street red. ""After 270 years, Blair paints No 10 front door socialist red."
Coldplay singer becomes conservative: The Guardian reported that Coldplay singer, Chris Martin, known for his liberal views, had decided to throw his support behind Conservative David Cameron.
Chip and Sing Cards. The Times reported that "Britain's banks are developing a system of credit card security that uses the voice's tonal range. Rather than needing to recall a PIN, you will need to remember a line of a song... Optical scans are too fallible, and standard voice recognition too easy to mimic electronically. But no two people sing the same way. Tills and cash dispensers are to have microphones."
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Sat Apr 01, 2006
Comments (17)
Status: Journalistic errors
CNet has an article about April Fool's Day hoaxes on the internet. It has some interesting info in it, but surprisingly it makes two rather large errors. First of all, it describes the Microsoft iLoo (an internet-enabled portable toilet) from 2003 as an April Fool's Day hoax. Microsoft announced the iLoo on April 30, making it a real stretch to describe it as an April Fool's Day hoax. But more importantly, although Microsoft did initially say the iLoo was a hoax, it later changed its mind and admitted that it was a real project. And that was the final word from them about it.

The article also describes a story that ran in the BBC last year about Cold war bombs being warmed by chickens as a hoax. I believe that's wrong. The story was odd, but true. Although when it ran a lot of people suspected it to be a joke. Wikipedia correctly lists the story as genuine but widely interpreted as an April Fools joke.
Categories: April Fools Day, Journalism
Posted by Alex on Sat Apr 01, 2006
Comments (0)
Status: Commentary
Jeff Daniel, in a recent column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, wonders if anyone celebrates April Fool's Day anymore. He writes:

For all practical purposes, the official day of practical joking appears to be as flat as a deflated whoopee cushion if reports from Sacramento, Calif., and Columbus, Ohio, are to be believed. Last April 1, newspapers in those cities ran stories investigating the tradition's demise. In one of the pieces, a reporter's random polling found not a single April Fools' Day participant.

Daniel conducted his own informal poll, asking people at a local mall if they observed April 1st. He found one person who did, but "The next 20 or so people queried at the mall have no April Fools' Day tales to tell. Zilch. Nada. No pranking. No punking. Just a lot of, 'Nothing leaps to mind' and, 'I don't think people do much these days, do they?' Our collective joy buzzer seems to have lost much of its buzz."

Of course, people have been predicting the imminent demise of April Fools' Day for a long time. On April 1, 1874 the New York Times printed this commentary:

"The absurd customs of All Fools' Day are fast passing away, and although there is but a yearly recurrence of the season, people are prone to tire of follies which are entirely destitute of even the slightest flavor of wit. In England the April-fools making custom has still some standing, but here it dies out apace, and if it has any tangible existence at all, it is among small boys, who adopt such shallow devices to make fools as suits their idea of fun."

I'd agree that most people don't bother to celebrate April Fools. They never have. But a small, dedicated group of pranksters does the hard work of pranking for the rest of us. And thanks to the internet, their exploits have a far larger audience than ever before. So, in this sense, April Fool's Day has never been more popular. In other words, I think there's no chance that April Fool's Day is going to fade away any time soon.
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 28, 2006
Comments (10)
Status: April Fool Pranks
CareerBuilder.com has issued a press release listing what they have determined to be the top ten office pranks, based on a survey of 2500 office workers. Here they are:

1. Change the caller ID on a co-worker's phone to read Mr. Kitten every time he calls someone.
2. Place random objects from people's desks in the vending machine.
3. Place a live goldfish in an IV bag in a clinic.
4. Sneak onto someone else's computer and send out an "I love you" email to the entire office.
5. Wall-paper someone's entire cube with headshots of his co-workers.
6. Pull the shelves out of the break room refrigerator, hide inside and jump out at co-workers as they open the door.
7. Sit on the copier and place the copies back in the paper bin. Anytime co-workers make copies, they have the image of the prankster's backside in the background.
8. Turn all the clocks in the office one hour back to make the work day seem longer.
9. Lock all the doors, shut off the lights and put a "Closed" sign in the window when the boss went out for lunch.
10. Place fake rubber chocolates in the break room and watch as co- workers try to chew them.

Which reminds me of another office April Fools prank someone told me about. (They swore they participated in it.) On April 1st everyone in the office quit, filing into the HR person's office one after another. Almost caused the boss to have a heart attack. Of course, the danger with that prank is that you might not get rehired.
Categories: April Fools Day, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 28, 2006
Comments (31)
Status: Hoax
image An article in the current issue of Esquire describes the tax-reform campaign of a sixty-six-year-old recluse named Irwin Leba. His idea is to enact a fat tax. The idea is pretty simple. Charge overweight people higher taxes. That way you raise more tax revenue and encourage people to be healthier, at the same time. Here's exactly how it would work:

sometime between January 1 and April 15, every American will have to visit a government-sponsored weigh station and step on a scale. You'll leave with a notarized certificate attesting to your body-mass index (BMI). If that number is 25.5 or higher—24.9 is officially the upper limit of normal—you'll have to pay Uncle Sam a little something extra, corresponding to how overweight you are and scaled to your income.

You can also check out Leba's website, FatTaxFacts.org, which operates under the umbrella of an organization calling itself the Institute for a Healthy America. No, none of this is real. It's an early April Fool's day joke. Irwin Leba is none other than Alan Abel, who you can see posing in the thumbnail as Leba. Leba is Abel spelled backwards. The hoax was revealed yesterday in the Washington Post.
Categories: April Fools Day, Body Manipulation
Posted by Alex on Mon Mar 27, 2006
Comments (35)
Status: Annual tradition
Joey Skaggs has once again announced details of New York City's Annual April Fools Day Parade. Here's the full press release. Details include:

This year's floats will include a Fundamentalist Noah's Ark float featuring two of all of earth's creatures, including dinosaurs; a Hurricane Katrina Victim's float where for $1 a throw you can attempt to dunk Michael Brown in a vat of toxic sludge packed with snakes, rats and a big crocodile; a Last Chance Cruise Ship float offering gambling and shuffleboard, plus off-shore abortions when Roe v. Wade is overturned; and a Clandestine CIA Prison float featuring the latest prison torture techniques.

Related Post:
March 23, 2005: 20th Annual April Fool's Day Parade
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 23, 2006
Comments (4)
There's a rumor going around that a sequel to the '80s movie Pretty In Pink will come out next year, starring all the original cast: Molly Ringwald, John Cryer, and Andrew McCarthy. It will supposedly revisit the characters from the original movie twenty years later, to find out where they are now. I know the rumor must have spread pretty far because I heard it from my wife last week, and she thinks she heard it on the radio, or somewhere like that. However, the rumor is just a hoax. There is no sequel. The source of the rumor was an April Fool's Day hoax perpetrated by ComingSoon.net. From there it got picked up by the British press, who failed to realize that it was a joke, despite some obvious clues (such as the sources for the story leading to pages that said 'April Fools Day'). The No True Bill blog has the full details.
Categories: April Fools Day, Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Sun Apr 17, 2005
Comments (15)
I'm still coming across April Fool's Day hoaxes from this year. This one ran in Popular Photography Magazine. The editors of the magazine took a series of classic photographs by masters such as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, and then asked (supposedly in all seriousness) 'Can these photos be saved?' They then proceeded to photoshop the images to make them more like what you'd find in modern fashion or entertainment magazines (smoothing out wrinkles, etc.). In the process they transformed Lange's Migrant Mother from a woman burdened down by Depression-era worries into some kind of smooth-faced suburban soccer mom. Readers were outraged. Popular Photography reports receiving hundreds of letters from indignant readers demanding to know how they could dare deface a classic work of art and call it an improvement.

I think this is one of the better hoaxes from this year because, first of all, it was believable enough to actually get people upset (unlike almost all the other hoaxes this year which weren't believable). Also, its premise was completely absurd. At least, it's absurd if you're halfway familiar with the history of photography and the kind of reverence accorded to Lange's photographs, particularly the Migrant Mother. Real photographers would never, ever dream of improving the Migrant Mother by smoothing out her wrinkles.
imageimage

Categories: April Fools Day, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 07, 2005
Comments (16)
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