Sunday, April 02, 2006

Weaving the tangled web of deception: confessions of an April fool

Well, it's the morning after (or, rather, the afternoon after). And in the sober light of a non-April Fool's Day, as I reflect back on my little prank of yesterday, I'm chastened. Chastened, but still a neo-neocon.

I had no idea so many people might think, even for a moment, that yesterday's post was true. I feel a tiny tiny bit like Orson Welles after his "War of the Worlds" radio show stunt.

When I was quite young, my mother had told me all about Welles's hoax, which she vividly remembered. Welles asserted he had never meant to fool anyone into thinking the Martians had actually landed. And in fact there were disclaimers at the beginning of the show and at an intermission, but (at least according to my mother) most people missed the beginning because they were listening to the end of another very popular radio program (if memory serves me, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy). And later, people were too panicked to hear:

Welles had no idea of the consequences of this seemingly innocuous choice of entertainment. The play used the names of actual places well known to most, especially those on the east cost, and was set in current time with its use of apparent live and remote announcers in the field,; tales of fiery meteors falling to the earth... of strange metallic cylinders embedded in the ground emitting unearthly noises and the subsequent uprising of monstrous, mechanized Martian war machines bent on world conquest. The play became all too real for hundreds of thousands of Americans who were apparently glued to their radios aghast. Whether they missed the introduction and the intermission, both of which stated plainly that what was being broadcast was merely a radio-play, or whether holiday spirits enhanced the naturally alarming elements of something dreadful and terrifying coming from another world... we'll never really know. But it became known as the night that panicked America.

As I said, I only feel a little bit like Welles. And, speaking of which--at the time of the Halloween hoax, Welles was only a little bit like the Welles he later became. Take a look:

Definitely--most definitely!--hotter than John Dean of Watergate times.

I had another "interesting" April Fool's experience yesterday. I was at the customer service counter ( a somewhat Orwellian designation, in this case) of a major chain store that will remain nameless. I was having one of those experiences I often have there, in which something that was supposed to have been put on hold was nowhere to be found. While I waited, and waited, another employee was dealing with the somewhat easier business of a youngish man next to me. The customer seemed a trifle spacey; he seemed to think it was Friday, not Saturday. The clerk told him what day it actually was, and added--with a great big smile--"And don't forget to set your clocks forward tonight!"

Now, I'd somehow missed the fact that it was time to reset the clocks again (how, I don't know; perhaps I'm the space shot). But because of the clerk's huge smile (I even imagined I'd seen him wink conspiratorially), I was sure it was an April Fool's joke.

This placed me in an uncomfortable ethical dilemma. Should I remain silent, let the prank stand, and allow this poor young man to go home, set his clock ahead, and bear the consequences? Or was it my duty to be a party pooper and to warn him that his leg was being pulled?

Ah, the stresses of trying to live the moral life. I mulled the quandary over a while, deciding to remain silent, but after a few minutes more of guilt (that poor man! He'd wake up tomorrow and he'd miss church, or brunch with his mother, or whatever, and it would be my fault, all my fault!) I could take it no more. I blurted out that it was April Fool's Day, and added that it was not the day to change the clocks; that that had been a joke. This time the clerk looked at me with a big, broad smile (no doubt thinking that I had decided to make a rather clever and convoluted April Fool's joke). Transaction over.

I went home that evening feeling the warm glow of self-righteousness. Duty had called, and I had not shirked it. I had saved that young man from the dire consequences of the cruel hoax the clerk had been trying to play on him. And I basked in that warm glow of the doer of the good deed, right up until late that night when I turned on the TV and discovered that it was in fact time to set the clocks forward--and felt myself to be quite the April fool, indeed.

Glad it's the 2nd.


At 3:23 PM, April 02, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Take no counsel of thy fears. The question is always, is it true? ANd how you tell if it is true or not is you go check. Take no counsel of your fears means to not make actions based upon them, rather seek confirmation first if you have to really really do something because you're afraid.

At 4:08 PM, April 02, 2006, Blogger Tom Grey said...

Slovakia set it last week -- we went to the later mass.

We found out that Latvia, Portugal, and another EU country have stopped DST, or summer time. Bad for the kids, going to bed too late, or such things; and really not much energy saving.

I like it; but the kids ARE staying up late.

At 4:26 PM, April 02, 2006, Blogger neo-neocon said...

Well, I love this part, when it stays light so late. I just was outside doing yard work, walking by the ocean, etc. etc. So much more time to do those things, and so many people outside enjoying the beautiful warm weather.

At 7:21 PM, April 02, 2006, Blogger Steve said...

I much prefer Daylight Savings because it allows me some light when I get home in the evenings.

Usually some time in February I become oppressed by the Northern winter and start counting the days and the temperature. Usually by Spring (3/21) things are getting OK, in terms of temp and darkness. But the first weekend in April -- the time for the time change -- is always a watershed.

Incidentally, starting next year, the clocks will be turning back a week or two earlier, in March, and ending a week or two into November (instead of the last weekend in October.) That will take a bit of the edge off the end of winter.

Bottom line: I'd rather wake up in the dark than come home in the dark.

At 8:53 PM, April 02, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wake up at 8AM usually. This morning I woke up at 7AM and spent half an hour trying to remember if I set them ahead an hour or behind an hour.

So, why I woke up to a "real-time for me" 6AM instead of a fake 9AM remains a mystery! But it's the easiest transition I can recall!

At 10:25 PM, April 02, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back to confessions...

My wife and I took care of her parents (and, God rest their souls, they took care of us) from the time we were married until their passing some 7-8 years ago.

My Mother-in-law treated me like her own son from the first day I came for dinner (and came back the next day for breakfast, etc., ... long story). But she had a pretty devilish streak in her when it came to April Fool's.

Early on, she used to wrap up a lunch of leftovers for me almost every day. We're not talking PB&J here, but lasagne, turkey dinner and that sort of thing, complete with dessert.

One April 1 her joke was to include several frisbee-shaped doggie treats in my lunch instead of cookies. I forget what they were called. She hadn't thought I'd seen them, but I recognized them at lunch and got a chuckle... then a big shit-eating grin - kind of like a doggie-treat-eating grin, but without all that nagging humiliation.

So I wait until about 3pm and then I call my wife to tell her that I felt just awful - that I'd had an almost incapacitating bout of heartburn and then spent the rest of the afternoon in the bathroom "screaming at both ends". I asked her if she thought I should go to the hospital, or what. She was in on the joke so she told me to wait, then immediately called Mom.

Mom proceeded to call the doctor, then the vet and then finally the 1-800 number on the back of the doggie treat box to find out if they should pump my stomach, or worse.

I made myself "unavailable" until about 5pm to let them all stew for a bit. When I walked in the door after work, feeling chipper and fine, none the worse for wear, the return volley prank hit her like a cinder block. The transition on her face when I walked through the door was about the most priceless I can recall - from fear, to shock, to a kind of angry confusion, to outright rage (the fake "I'm gonna kill you" kind - few of us know what REAL mother-in-law "I'm gonna kill you" rage is like, and are the better for it).

Eventually, we both laughed so hard we could hardly stand.

I sure do miss that little prankster.

At 2:45 AM, April 03, 2006, Blogger Ed Driscoll said...

Warner Brother's two-disc DVD of Citizen Kane contains a clip of the press conference Welles faced the morning after The War of the Worlds broadcast. As I wrote a couple of years ago, "His mouth virtually melting butter, he cooed to reporters that he had no idea of what would happen during the broadcast. He merely set out to tell an entertaining story!" It was surely Welles' best bit of acting, ever.

It's no coincidence that Welles' first line of dialogue in Citizen Kane's "News on the March" mockumentary was, "Don't believe everything you hear on the radio!"

At 4:10 AM, April 03, 2006, Blogger camojack said...

Daylight Saving is a crock...

At 5:41 AM, April 03, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was a general lack of advance anouncement this year. My wee wifey heard about it on the classic rock station's morning show; not a reliable source. I spent several minutes with google before I decided to set the clock forward, and still made a point to check whether Windows had reset it's clock before getting dressed to go pick her up from work. She told me that a full 50% of first shift didn't arrive on schedule.

At 9:22 AM, April 03, 2006, Blogger SippicanCottage said...

In keeping with my odd fascinations with extraneous things, consider that Neo touches on the detail that there was a time in our recent history when it was considered entertaining to have a ventriloquist on the radio!

At 11:26 AM, April 03, 2006, Blogger SippicanCottage said...

I've heard recording of WC Fields and Charlie McCarthy.

Fields: Your mother was a gate leg table.

McCarthy: If so, your father was under it.

Fields: Quiet, or I'll put a Japanese Beetle on you.

At 12:29 PM, April 03, 2006, Blogger neo-neocon said...

kcom: It's always amused me that Bergen was a ventriloquist on the radio. After all, even I could be a ventriloquist on the radio.

According, to my mother, source of all important cultural information for that era, Bergen was a great ventriloquist for the radio because he was actually a pretty lousy ventriloquist, technically speaking. But he was funny.

Wikipedia backs her up.

At 12:32 PM, April 03, 2006, Blogger neo-neocon said...

ed driscoll: Welles was quite the enfant terrible, wasn't he? Although I do think he was most likely suprised at the extent to which people believed the show, he probably was not all that displeased.

At 2:45 PM, April 03, 2006, Blogger neo-neocon said...

Well, at the moment I can't connect to Blogger and post today's post. It's there, ready and waiting--the first of a two-part series on coercion and mind control, starting with the Carroll kidnapping and then seguing into the strange case of Patty Hearst.

So, hopefully Blogger will return to business as usual shortly, and I can publish it. Till then, all I can do is comment.

At 3:20 PM, April 03, 2006, Blogger neo-neocon said...

Blogger back up. Good old Blogger!

At 5:30 PM, April 03, 2006, Blogger Ed Driscoll said...

Neo wrote:

"Welles was quite the enfant terrible, wasn't he? Although I do think he was most likely suprised at the extent to which people believed the show, he probably was not all that displeased."

Welles' last commercially released film, F For Fake explored how easily people are manipulated--I wonder what he'd think about today's brand of tricksters: Michael Moore, Morgan Spurlock, Al Sharpton, Ward Churchill, et al.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Powered by Blogger