Friday, April 3, 2015

Celebrating April Fool’s Day – Part Two

In my last post, I began a countdown of the top April Fools’ Day stories of the year from the world of urbanism.  Admittedly, most of the stories aren’t the pranks that are the supposed mainstay of April Fools’ Day, but I’m using the day as a convenient excuse to deplete my stockpile of stories that are quirky, whimsical, cringeworthy, or just plain fun.  And I’ll make no apologies for stretching the definition of April Fools’ Day.

Last time, I counted down the stories from #14 to #8.  Today, I’ll continue upward to #1.

#7 Best Transit Ad: Although not from the past year, this ad for the Danish transit carrier Midttrafik is worth watching again because it points the way toward the next story on the list.  The creative firm for Midttrafik was given great artistic latitude in their effort to make transit cool.  And they took full advantage.  Even without subtitles, the message would have been evident.

#6 Even Better Transit Ad: Midttrafik and their creative firm returned this year with an even better ad, involving a Paraguayan beauty queen and a burning Mercedes Benz.  This time, we don’t even get the subtitles, only the Danish audio, but the message comes through fine.

#5 Seattle Graffiti: Graffiti takes the next three spaces on the list, beginning with a graffiti artist who writes in paint that is only visible when it rains.  Luckily, he lives in Seattle, so his work is on display much of the time.  (I don’t suggest that he relocate to the North Bay.)

#4 Graffiti Grammar: Faced with a repressive regime in Ecuador, a small and anonymous group tries to pushback in their own individual fashion by correcting grammatical mistakes in graffiti.  And it’s a surprisingly democratic effort, with the group meeting to debate the corrections before undertaking their tasks.

#3 Chalk Drawings: Next up is an Ann Arbor graffiti artist who does chalk drawings that are wonderfully creative, quirky, and endearing.

#2 Interactive Billboard: In a story that would have been #1 before a late entry took away the top spot, a designer conceived and executed a video billboard linked to sensors which detect whether passersby are on foot or in cars.  Walkers get applause, joggers get wild enthusiasm, and drivers get silence.

#1 Preserving Bad Plazas and More: The Project for Public Spaces had great fun with April Fools’ Day, writing stories that would have taken multiple places in my list if they hadn’t all been on the same webpage.   The lead story covers a newly announced government initiative to historically preserve the poorly conceived public plazas of the 1970s that so irritate proponents of good public places.  But the story that gave me the biggest laugh was the one at the bottom, asking whether a park bench was blue/black or white/gold.

I’m already collecting links for the 2016 April Fools’ Day posts.  If I work diligently, perhaps I can make it a three-post event.

In my next post, I’ll celebrate the return of baseball by updating my annual listing of North California ballparks that can be easily reached by foot, bicycle, or transit.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (

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