April 1, 2009

Today is April Fools' Day

Today is April Fools' Day, a holiday celebrating practical jokes of all kinds. Some people say that April Fools' Day began in France in 1582 when the Gregorian replaced the Julian calendar, making New Year's Day fall on January 1st instead of April 1st. At the time, news of such things traveled slowly, and it took many years for everyone to get up to speed. People who continued to celebrate New Year's on April 1st came to be known as April Fools.

Last year, this was the best April Fools' Hoax, in my opionion:

Snoop Dogg a Mormon? April Fools!

Folks are asking if there's any truth to the CNN report that

rapper Snoop Dogg has converted to Mormonism. The answer is no. If you check the date of the story, you'll see it's April 1 -- April Fools' Day. If you look closely at the URL of the alleged CNN article, you'll see it isn't really a valid CNN site at all. And if you look really, really closely at the fine print at the bottom of the phony Web page, it says: "You just got fooled! Snoop's not Mormon... yet!"

Top 10 April Fools' Hoaxes, number 5 is my favorite:

#1: The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest - In 1957 the respected BBC news show Panorama announced that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. It accompanied this announcement with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. Huge numbers of viewers were taken in. Many called the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this the BBC diplomatically replied that they should "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."

#2: Sidd Finch - In its April 1985 edition, Sports Illustrated published a story
about a new rookie pitcher who planned to play for the Mets. His name was Sidd Finch, and he could reportedly throw a baseball at 168 mph with pinpoint accuracy. This was 65 mph faster than the previous record. Surprisingly, Sidd Finch had never even played the game before. Instead, he had mastered the "art of the pitch" in a Tibetan monastery under the guidance of the "great poet-saint Lama Milaraspa." Mets fans celebrated their teams' amazing luck at having found such a gifted player, and Sports Illustrated was flooded with requests for more information. But in reality this legendary player only existed in the imagination of the author of the article, George Plimpton.

#3: Instant Color TV - In 1962 there was only one tv channel in Sweden, and it
broadcast in black and white. The station's technical expert, Kjell Stensson, appeared on the news to announce that, thanks to a new technology, viewers could convert their existing sets to display color reception. All they had to do was pull a nylon stocking over their tv screen. Stensson proceeded to demonstrate the process. Thousands of people were taken in. Regular color broadcasts only commenced in Sweden on April 1, 1970.

#4: The Taco Liberty Bell - In 1996 the Taco Bell Corporation announced that it had
bought the Liberty Bell and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Hundreds of outraged citizens called the National Historic Park in Philadelphia where the bell was housed to express their anger. Their nerves were only calmed when Taco Bell revealed, a few hours later, that it was all a practical joke. The best line of the day came when White House press secretary Mike McCurry was asked about the sale. Thinking on his feet, he responded that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold. It would now be known as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.

#5: San Serriffe - The news media have been responsible for some of the greatest April Fools' Day pranks in history. In 1977, the London newspaper The Guardian published a seven-page supplement commemorating the anniversary of the independence of San Serriffe, a completely imaginary small island nation located in the Indian
Ocean. The article described the geography of the nation — it consisted of two main islands, which together formed the shape of a semi-colon; the northern one was called "Upper Caisse" and the southern one, "Lower Caisse."

The island's natives were of "Flong" ethnicity, but there were also the descendents of Europeans settlers who had colonized the nation: "colons." The two groups had intermarried over the years; their offspring were "semi-colons."

The capital of the nation was Bodoni and the national bird, the "Kwote."

In the supplement, there were even advertisements from real companies. Texaco announced a contest whose winner would receive a two-week vacation to the island's Cocobanana Beach. Kodak placed an ad saying, "If you have a picture of San Serriffe, we'd like to see it."

The day it ran, The Guardian was flooded with calls for more information. Travel agents and airline companies complained to the editor because the news had been disruptive to their businesses — customers refused to believe that the islands were only imaginary.

The Guardian has reused the prank on a few other April Fools' Days — in 1978, 1980, and 1999 — and each time the island has changed location, moving from the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea to the North Atlantic.

#6: Nixon for President - In 1992 National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation program announced that Richard Nixon, in a surprise move, was running for President again. His new campaign slogan was, "I didn't do anything wrong, and I won't do it again." Accompanying this announcement were audio clips of Nixon delivering his candidacy speech. Listeners responded viscerally to the announcement, flooding the show with calls expressing shock and outrage. Only during the second half of the show did the host John Hockenberry reveal that the announcement was a practical joke. Nixon's voice was impersonated by comedian Rich Little.

#7: Alabama Changes the Value of Pi - The April 1998 issue of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter contained an article claiming that the Alabama state legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.14159 to the 'Biblical value' of 3.0. Before long the article had made its way onto the internet, and then it rapidly made its way around the world, forwarded by people in their email. It only became apparent how far the article had spread when the Alabama legislature began receiving hundreds of calls from people protesting the legislation. The original article, which was intended as a parody of legislative attempts to circumscribe the teaching of evolution, was written by a physicist named Mark Boslough.

#8: The Left-Handed Whopper - In 1998 Burger King published a full page advertisement in USA Today announcing the introduction of a new item to their menu:
a "Left-Handed Whopper" specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new whopper included the same ingredients as the original Whopper (lettuce, tomato, hamburger patty, etc.), but all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers. The following day Burger King issued a follow-up release revealing that although the Left-Handed Whopper was a hoax, thousands of customers had gone into restaurants to request the new sandwich. Simultaneously, according to the press release, "many others requested their own 'right handed' version."

#9: Hotheaded Naked Ice Borers - In its April 1995 issue Discover Magazine announced that the highly respected wildlife biologist Dr. Aprile Pazzo had discovered a new

species in Antarctica: the hotheaded naked ice borer. These fascinating creatures had bony plates on their heads that, fed by numerous blood vessels, could become burning hot, allowing the animals to bore through ice at high speeds. They used this ability to hunt penguins, melting the ice beneath the penguins and causing them to sink downwards into the resulting slush where the hotheads consumed them. After much research, Dr. Pazzo theorized that the hotheads might have been responsible for the mysterious disappearance of noted Antarctic explorer Philippe Poisson in 1837. "To the ice borers, he would have looked like a penguin," the article quoted her as saying. Discover received more mail in response to this article than they had received for any other article in their history.

#10: Planetary Alignment Decreases Gravity - In 1976 the British astronomer Patrick Moore announced on BBC Radio 2 that at 9:47 AM a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical
event was going to occur that listeners could experience in their very own homes. The planet Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, temporarily causing a gravitational alignment that would counteract and lessen the Earth's own gravity. Moore told his listeners that if they jumped in the air at the exact moment that this planetary alignment occurred, they would experience a strange floating sensation. When 9:47 AM arrived, BBC2 began to receive hundreds of phone calls from listeners claiming to have felt the sensation. One woman even reported that she and her eleven friends had risen from their chairs and floated around the room.

Notice, there has been nothing new of this caliber for about 10 years!

Check out all 100 here.

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