Monday, April 1, 2013

Wonderful April Fool's Day pranks from the past

It's April 1st. Over the years I have undertaken a number of pranks, but my two favourites were tied to the marketing of Elm Park Place, a condominium project I developed in the 90's at Larch and West 41st in Kerrisdale.

In 1998, Prince Charles came to Vancouver, so I paid for an 'advertorial' in the Courier that reported that the Prince was rumoured to have purchased a Kerrisdale condominium near a park. A number of excited purchasers contacted me to ask whether he had in fact bought at Elm Park place. However, my favourite call was from a purchaser who was furious that I would sell to a member of the royal family without consulting other purchasers. "How are we going to manage with all the extra security?" she wanted to know.
The following year I wrote an 'advertorial' that the provincial government had secretly approved a SkyTrain extension along West 41st with a station at Larch and West 41st. A surprising number of people were fooled, including one of my daughter's Crofton House classmates who brought in a copy of the Courier as her 'show and tell' story.

"There's going to be a SkyTrain to Crofton House" she exclaimed. My daughter had to explain that it was just one of her dad's April Fools' Day jokes. Unfortunately, the girl had never heard of April Fools' Day.While some people get quite upset about April Fools' Day pranks, I think they can be wonderful. However, I must confess I was fooled a couple of years ago by the following story that appeared in the Vancouver Sun on April 1 2010

City considers building a shelter for homeless chickens

Now that some homeowners are allowed to keep the birds, officials expect some to be abandoned when reality sets in

Heather Havens of Surrey holds  Zilla, one of her two hens.
VANCOUVER - Anticipating a wave of buyers’ remorse, city staff are recommending the city build a special shelter for hens they expect will be abandoned by owners having second thoughts.
The 36-page report to city council details every change the city will have to make before backyard egg farmers will be allowed to set up shop. In March 2009, council lifted a 30-year prohibition on keeping urban hens and directed staff to develop the guidelines.

The report deals with everything from the decibel levels of crowing roosters, which will not be allowed, to pest control techniques to ward off marauding rats hunting for chicken feed.
Apartment dwellers will not be allowed to keep chickens on their patios, as the guidelines say only single- and multi-family homes will be allowed to house hens.

The report recommends the city spend $20,000 of the community services budget to build a facility at the Vancouver Animal Control shelter to house seized or abandoned hens.
“Even now we get the odd hen or rooster in the shelter,” said Tom Hammel, the city’s chief licence inspector. “So there will be more.”

To keep the numbers down, as well as reduce the risk of avian flu, the report says residents may keep no more than four hens, which must be older than four months.
“We don’t want people buying cute fuzzy chicks on impulse and then finding out they don’t want them,” said Hammel.

Jordan Maynard, manager of Southlands Farm in Vancouver, says some urban chicken farmers may get fed up with their hens if they buy the wrong breed.

“If they get birds that are bred for meat they won’t be suitable for the backyard. Those birds are pathetic. They don’t walk properly and they grow too fast and they will just lay on their side and not lay eggs,” he said.

Also, hens usually stop laying eggs after about six years and residents may not want to kill them, but they may not want to keep them either, he said. “It depends on whether people come to think of them as pets.”
People who tire of their chickens won’t have a problem finding them new homes, Maynard said. “I’ve heard that someone on Saltspring Island is starting a retirement home for chickens.”

Hammel said the city does not recommend people give away their hens to large chicken farms because of the risk of spreading avian flu to commercial stocks.

The report includes guidelines to minimize odour, stating that coops must only be kept in a back or side yard, and that owners must remove the manure and keep the food and water inside the coop.

Those who want to kill their hens must take them to a veterinarian or farm for slaughter.

The guidelines will go before the planning and environment committee next Thursday. Should the committee approve, the report will go to public hearing May 18.

Health concerns and noise complaints were the main reasons urban chickens were not allowed in the past. But now the city says chickens have important environmental benefits.

The about-face comes as the city strives to be the greenest in the world. According to the report, by providing eggs for urban residents and fertilizer for urban gardens, backyard hens contribute to local food production, which “reduces the city’s carbon footprint.”

Hammel said there will be an online registry that owners must sign so the city can locate the chickens in case of an outbreak of disease. There will be no licence fee to keep the birds.

After reading this story I had to contact Patricia Graham at the Vancouver Sun to see if it was a delayed prank or a real story. After checking, she wrote back to say it was for real!

The following wonderful pranks are from a list of the 100 all time best April Fool's Day pranks

3: Instant Color TV
1962: 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.

10: Planetary Alignment Decreases Gravity
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.

20: The 26-Day Marathon
1981: The Daily Mail ran a story about an unfortunate Japanese long-distance runner, Kimo Nakajimi, who had entered the London Marathon but, on account of a translation error, thought that he had to run for 26 days, not 26 miles. Reportedly Nakajimi was now somewhere out on the roads of England, still running, determined to finish the race. Various people had spotted him, though they were unable to flag him down. The translation error was attributed to Timothy Bryant, an import director, who said, "I translated the rules and sent them off to him. But I have only been learning Japanese for two years, and I must have made a mistake. He seems to be taking this marathon to be something like the very long races they have over there."

#38: Operation Parallax
1979: London's Capital Radio announced that Operation Parallax would soon go into effect. This was a government plan to resynchronize the British calendar with the rest of the world. It was explained that ever since 1945 Britain had gradually become 48 hours ahead of all other countries because of the constant switching back and forth from British Summer Time. To remedy this situation, the British government had decided to cancel April 5 and 12 that year. Capital Radio received numerous calls as a result of this announcement. One employer wanted to know if she had to pay her employees for the missing days. Another woman was curious about what would happen to her birthday, which fell on one of the cancelled days.
#43: An Interview with President Carter

2001: Michael Enright, host of the Sunday Edition of the Canadian Broadcasting Corpation's radio program This Morning, interviewed former President Jimmy Carter on the air. The interview concerned Canada's heavily subsidized softwood lumber industry, about which Carter had recently written an editorial piece in The New York Times. The interview took a turn for the worse when Enright began telling Carter to speed up his answers. Then Enright asked, "I think the question on everyone's mind is, how did a washed-up peanut farmer from Hicksville such as yourself get involved in such a sophisticated bilateral trade argument?" Carter seemed stunned by the insult. Finally he replied, "Excuse me? A washed-up peanut farmer? You're one to talk, sir. Didn't you used to be on the air five times a week?" The tone of the interview did not improve from there. Carter ended up calling Enright a "rude person" before he hung up. Enright then revealed that the interview had been fake. The Toronto comedian Ray Landry had been impersonating Carter's voice. The interview generated a number of angry calls from listeners who didn't find the joke funny. But the next day the controversy reached even larger proportions when the Globe and Mail reported the interview as fact on their front pages. The editor of the Globe and Mail later explained that he hadn't realized the interview was a hoax because it was "a fairly strange issue and a strange person to choose as a spoof."

#58: Portable Zip Codes
2004: National Public Radio's All Things Considered announced that the post office had begun a new 'portable zip codes' program. This program, inspired by an FCC ruling that allowed phone users to take their phone number with them when they moved, would allow people to also take their zip code with them when they moved, no matter where they moved to. It was hoped that with this new program zip codes would come to symbolize "a citizen's place in the demographic, rather than geographic, landscape." Assistant Postmaster General Lester Crandall was quoted as saying, "Every year millions of Americans are on the go: People who must relocate for work or other reasons. Those people may have been quite attached to their original homes or an adopted town or city of residence. For them this innovative measure will serve as an umbilical cord to the place they love best."

#93: Eiffel Tower Moves
The Parisien stunned French citizens in 1986 when it reported that an agreement had been signed to dismantle the Eiffle Tower. The international symbol of French culture would then be reconstructed in the new Euro Disney theme park going up east of Paris. In the space where the Tower used to stand, a 35,000 seat stadium would be built for use during the 1992 Olympic Games.

#95: Chunnel Blunder
In 1990 the News of the World reported that the Chunnel project, which was already suffering from huge cost overruns, would face another big additional expense caused by a colossal engineering blunder. Apparently the two halves of the tunnel, being built simultaneously from the coasts of France and England, would miss each other by 14 feet. The error was attributed to the fact that French engineers had insisted on using metric specifications in their blueprints. The mistake would reportedly cost $14 billion to fix.

100: The British Postal Address Turnabout
In 1977 the BBC gave airtime to Tom Jackson, General Secretary of the British Union of Post Office Workers. Mr. Jackson was up in arms about a recent proposal that the British mail adopt the German method of addressing envelopes in which the house number is written after the name of the road, not before it (i.e. Downing Street 10, instead of 10 Downing Street). Jackson spoke at great length about the enormous burden this change would place upon postal employees, insisting that "Postal workers would be furious because it would turn upside-down the way we have learned to sort." His comments elicited an immediate reaction from the audience, many of whom phoned up to voice their support for Jackson's campaign. What the audience didn't realize was that there were no plans to change the way the British addressed their mail. Mr. Jackson's diatribe was an elaborate April Fool's Day joke.


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