Brooks (brooksmoses) wrote,

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April Fools jokes

(Aside: Y'all know the difference between a joke and a malicious prank, and don't need to be told not to do the latter, right?)

A friend's post (pointing out his displeasure with malicious pranks on the day) got me thinking about April Fools jokes that I've enjoyed. I particularly like the spoofs that hobby magazines used to do in years past. The "ClearView 3000" article that Scale Auto Enthusiast printed in the early 1990s was legendary -- a spray paint that would turn any plastic parts transparent, complete with photos of samples. (Especially funny to those of us who knew our model-car history -- yup, there's the hood from the '68 Firebird kit that inexplicably had a clear hood, and the body from the extra-rare clear-body MPC Charger kit, and....) Sadly, it had the unfortunate side effect that it didn't completely deactivate once the parts were clear, and after they sat for a month or two, they'd turn completely invisible. The April issue of their much smaller competitor, Plastic Fanatic (which had a short lead time, and in those days SAE had their April magazines printed and delivered to subscribers by late February) featured an answering spoof -- a product that you could spray around the room like an air freshener, and it would make your irretrievably-lost invisible model car parts visible again.

And then there was the Model Railroader article in their "No, really, the real railroads do this too!" column (generally about things like sectional track, which model railroads have had since a decade after the dawn of time, and which is of course entirely unprototypical, except that now real railroads have flatcars of it for emergency repairs), about magnetic uncouplers. On model railroads, a common way of uncoupling the cars in a train without having to handle them is a magnetic uncoupler; a bar magnet set up under the tracks in such a way that if you stop a train with the coupling between the cars over the magnet, the metal bits in the couplers will be pulled apart and the car decoupled. As the story went, this small industrial railroad decided that would be a good idea to save labor in running their trains, and bought a bunch of large magnets sufficient to do that on a real railroad. The article described their travails in obtaining these -- the special all-wooden railcars that needed to be built for the transport, the selection of routes without metal bridges, the accident that occurred when they were transporting the magnets under a stone bridge at the same time that a small car was driving over it, and the time that it pulled the railroad manager's pants down by his belt buckle when he was riding on a caboose over one of the magnets.

The things that I like best are the ones that don't involve telling tales at all, though. Some of them are just visual jokes; for instance, I'm fond of things like Coding Horror's new site design, which is clearly an April-1st-only redo to look like an old BBS login screen on a green monochrome terminal. But what I really like are the stories that sometimes accompanied the April-Fools jokes in the magazines; the ones where someone had done something that seemed entirely implausible or absurd, but had in fact done it and so the story was entirely true.

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