So I'm in my car this morning en route to San Francisco, experimenting with acceleration techniques to boost the mpg on my Civic Hybrid and listening, as is my wont, to Sunday Weekend Edition on National Public Radio. The "British sailor case." The Final Four. The women's Final Four. And here's something interesting: a segment about a New York City councilman, David Yassky, who thinks cell phone rings have gone too far. According to program host Liane Hansen, Yassky says "distracting ringtones in the workplace cost the economy more than $1.2 billion each year." Yassky tells Hansen that he wants to control "ring rage" by restricting the number of available ring tones in NYC to just four that have been screened and approved by a panel of audiologists.
Nice ring tones, I'm thinking. Wonder where I can get one?
End of segment; time for sponsorship message. And here it comes, delivered by NPR's friendly-voice-of-God:
Weekend Edition is underwritten in part by The Soylent Corporation, makers of protein-rich products in a range of colors. Soylent Green is people!
Yeah, that's me on the Bay Bridge, banging my hand on the steering wheel: April Fooled by NPR one more time.
It's a long and glorious tradition at the network. I first became aware of it in 1992, when John Hockenberry, then host of Talk of the Nation, bamboozled listeners (including this one) into believing that Richard M. Nixon was casting off the mantle of disgrace--and finding a way around Constitutional law--to enter the presidential primary and seek a third term in office. As I remember it, various legal scholars (Norman Ornstein among them) weighed in, and a bunch of callers who'd been let in on the joke expressed degrees of very convincing dismay and enthusiasm. The show included a clip of "Nixon" (actually comedian Rich Little) announcing his candidacy. It wasn't quite Orson Welles's War of the Worlds, but it did qualify for inclusion in the Museum of Hoaxes.
Listen to today's foolery (minus the ad, unfortunately--anybody out there find a working link?--and plus a disclaimer that I imagine the lawyers forced them to include) and see links to some past years' jests, but not the Hockenberry/Nixon one, which dates from the pre-digital era. And, by the way, you can also download those audiologist-approved ring tones.