Wednesday, 2 April 2008

The Fools on the Hill

The British love a good April Fool's joke, the press especially. You'd think the news media would be reluctant to take part in pranks, given the low trust many readers put in the stories that aren't meant to be made-up--and the frequency with which stories over here are assembled out of half-truths and lies. But no harm's done, I guess, and I'm in favor of anything that brightens our otherwise doomed, pathetic lives.

While flipping through the Guardian while on the bus to London yesterday I saw an ad for new technology from BMW: The Canine Repellent Alloy Protection system prevents dogs from peeing on your wheels by administering a 200-volt shock. The ad, as well as "news" stories about the advanced feature, were in other British papers, including Metro. It was a joke, of course, though PETA didn't find it very amusing. "The car company's choice of April Fools prank is not exactly in good taste," grumbled one PETAphile.

The BBC pulled a prank showing a group of penguins that have developed a unique way of migrating. The fact that the video clip was introduced by Monty Python's Terry Jones should have been a tip-off. The best BBC April 1st prank must be the 1957 "Panorama" report on the Swiss spaghetti harvest, told with the detail and specificity that makes good jokes work, and delivered in a straightforward Beeb style that makes you question how you could ever question it.

Here's a roundup of other April Fool's stories, from the Daily Telegraph. The Guardian's article on Britain turning to France's first lady for advice on stylishly dealing with problems such as binge-drinking and the collapse of Northern Rock fooled My Lovely Wife. That's the problem with April Fool's jokes over here: The papers are filled with such bizarre stuff, it's hard to decide where fact ends and fiction takes over.

London Calling
We packed in a lot during our daytrip, including visits to the Royal Academy and the Tate Modern. It was from that last venue, in a converted power station on the south bank of the Thames, that I snapped this shot:

The museumgoers taking a break on the Tate's balcony look as if they're watching the world's largest high-definition television--which I guess is what reality is.


mark from alexandria said...

The Washington Post, today, carried a story in the metro section on an April Fool joke gone bad. A man paid for an "in memorium" piece that included the "I could never quit you" line from "Brokeback Mountain." The victim was a well known former ambassador who spent the day telling people he was not dead. Apparently, the prankster just went a bit too far in a longtime history of April fooling.

Great photo from Tate Modern, always one of my favorite stops in London.

MEB said...

Today's Post also ran a story of someone who warned people in DC that a careless zookeeper had let a dangerous pronghorned "loof lirpa" escape -- an animal described as looking like a large gazelle.

Richard said...

The most magnificent IMHO was the Guardian's magical island of San Serriffe. And now I'm going to try that HTML trick

San Serriffe


mark, not from alexandria said...

We hit three Tates on our recent trip to London -- Britain, Modern, and St. Ives.

John, what did you think of the Munoz?

mark, not from alexandria said...


Sorry, poor editing. I do know St. Ives is not in London.

mark from alexandria said...

I'll see your St. Ives and raise you a Liverpool.

John Kelly said...

@Richard: That Guardian spoof is great. I'll have to send the link to the art director at the Post. He gets positively priapic when talking about type.

@MArk NFA: We didn't do the Munoz. I've decided I'm not crazy about him, or at least crazy enough to pay the extra admittance. (I feel the same way about George Segal.) We did the Picabia, Man Ray and Duchamp show instead. It was great. I only knew some of the iconic Man Ray and Duchamp so it was fascinating to see their other work. And Picabia I didn't know at all. They were all wonderful artists in any media. And they had a great sense of humor, which I appreciate in anyone.