Thursday, March 31, 2005

Under the spreading pasta tree

The "#1 April Fool's Hoax of All Time," according to The Museum of Hoaxes website:
On April 1, 1957 the British news show, Panorama, broadcast a segment about a bumper spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland. The success of the crop was attributed to an unusually mild winter. The audience heard Richard Dimbleby, the show's highly respected anchor, discussing the details of the spaghetti crop as they watched a rural Swiss family pulling pasta off spaghetti trees and placing it into baskets...

Dimbleby anticipated some questions viewers might have. For instance, why, if spaghetti grows on trees, does it always come in uniform lengths? The answer was that 'this is the result of many years of patient endeavor by past breeders who succeeded in producing the perfect spaghetti.'

And apparently the life of a spaghetti farmer was not free of worries: 'The last two weeks of March are an anxious time for the spaghetti farmer. There's always the chance of a late frost which, while not entirely ruining the crop, generally impairs the flavor and makes it difficult for him to obtain top prices in world markets.'

But finally, Dimbleby assured the audience that, 'For those who love this dish, there's nothing like real, home-grown spaghetti.'

Of course, the broadcast was just an April Fool's Day joke. But soon after the broadcast ended, the BBC began to receive hundreds of calls from puzzled viewers. Did spaghetti really grow on trees, they wanted to know. Others were eager to learn how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this the BBC reportedly replied that they should 'place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.'
--via our local Eugene daily, in honor of April Fools Day. Other noteworthy ruses:
Instant color TV: In 1962, Sweden's only TV channel tells viewers they can begin receiving color TV by simply pulling a nylon stocking over their sets, even showing a demonstration. Color TV didn't actually come to Sweden until 1970.

The Taco Liberty Bell: In 1996, the Taco Bell Corporation announces that it has bought the Liberty Bell from the federal government and is renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell.

Nixon all over again: In 1992, NPR's "Talk of the Nation" announces that Richard Nixon will run for president again. His new campaign slogan? "I didn't do anything wrong, and I won't do it again."

Different pi: The April 1998 issue of "New Mexicans for Science and Reason" newsletter contains an article claiming the Alabama Legislature has voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.14159 to the "biblical value" of 3.0.
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