Tuesday, April 09, 2013

April Fool's Day Can't Keep Up

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This past Monday, as you know, was April Fool's  Day. And, as always, jokers and pranksters everywhere tried to pull the wool over the eyes of their fellow citizens with straight-faced claims of outrageous events and plans.

In the age of the Internet, April Fools' jokes seem to have gotten bigger and more elaborate, certainly more widespread.

The message service Twitter, for example, announced that from now on, users would be subjected to a two-tiered system: You could pay $5 a month for the currently full level of functionality, or you could keep using Twitter for free - but you wouldn't have access to vowels, so yr twts wld lk lk ths.

Google claimed to be introducing "Google Nose," which would allow users to search for smells online. Lindsay Lohan announced that she was pregnant. Alas, this last joke fell rather flat, because (a) it's too plausible; and (b) no one really cares about Lindsay Lohan anymore.

As I've said before, however, one of the hardest things about spoofs, satire and cons in this modern world is keeping ahead of a reality that's becoming increasingly more bizarre. Some stories that you could swear were pranks turned out to be true.

So, just for fun, see which of the following stories from last week were true, and which ones were April Fools' jokes:

- NASA announced plans for a mission that would send a robotic spacecraft into deep space to capture an asteroid and tow it to the moon, where it could be more easily studied and, possibly, mined for raw material. The asteroid would be trapped inside a giant bag deployed from the spacecraft and towed back to lunar orbit.

- Airline Samoa Air announced that it was going to start pricing tickets by the weight of the passenger and their luggage. "The rates range from $1 a kilogram (or about $2.20 per pound) for the weight of the traveler and their baggage - on the airline's shortest domestic route to about $4.16 per kilogram (or about $9.17 per pound) for travel from Samoa to the neighboring nation of American Samoa," according to a story in Time magazine.

- A Turkish Muslim group claimed victory after iconic Danish toymaker Lego announced that it was withdrawing one of its playsets depicting Jabba the Hutt's palace from the "Star Wars" movies, after complaints from the group.

The Turkish Cultural Association claimed that the palace itself closely resembled the Hagia Sofia Mosque in Istanbul. Further, they said, the figure of the galactic underworld kingpin Jabba was shown as a "terrorist who likes to smoke hookah and have his victims killed," and the playset was thus insulting to Muslims.

Lego originally insisted that it was only "following the film," but announced this week that it would discontinue the product as of 2014.

- A professor at the University of Rochester in New York who described himself as a "hard-core libertarian" caused a stir when he published an online essay proposing that it shouldn't be illegal to have sex with people who are unconscious, "in a way that causes no direct physical harm - no injury, no pregnancy, no disease transmission."

The professor went on to ask, "As long as I'm safely unconscious and therefore shielded from the costs of an assault, why shouldn't the rest of the world (or more specifically my attackers) be allowed to reap the benefits?"

- Two North Carolina lawmakers introduced a resolution in the General Assembly last week calling for North Carolina to declare itself exempt from the "no establishment of religion" clause in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
If passed, the resolution would state that "the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion." Further, the resolution states, North Carolina would "not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the state of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the state from making laws respecting an establishment of religion."

Give up? All of the above stories are real.

Truth: It's not only stranger than fiction, it's also more foolish.

Sunday, April 07, 2013