I’ve stopped doing april fools pranks, hoaxes and jokes, since unfortunately my jokes had a tendency to become true. “Dude, we’ve got a tax-misunderstanding” led to half a year of explaining why nothing was wrong. “DHL wants us to pay a strange import fee” wasn’t fun when DHL called three days later. I talked to your boss and hear Microsoft has bought your company… a couple of days later… you get the picture.

But, that doesn’t stop me enjoying aprils fools day, my favourite came early with the EU requiring online retailers to refund their customers before getting the merchandise back. Let’s have a look at great april fools jokes and pranks:

  • In 1957 a show called Panorama announced that a mild winter had increased the Swiss spaghetti harvest (see YouTube)
  • The BBC had a commercial for a documentary of Antarctica’s colony of flying penguins
  • In 1980, the Big Ben was reported to be switching to digital, and the clocks hands would be sold to whoever called in first
  • Branson’s hot air balloon that resembled a UFO in 1989 was a great one (video below)
  • What I’m sure would tame many flamewars online was also an april fools joke: the proposed law that it’d be illegal to use the Internet while drunk from 1994
  • The April 1998 issue of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter contained an article claiming that the Alabama state legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi from ~3.14 to the Biblical value of 3.0

See these great clips:

Do you have other april fools jokes, hoaxes or pranks that are worthy to be included in this very informal all-time best list? Leave a comment :-)

Eik Bank, who in 2007 bought the Danish part of Skandiabanken and thus got me as its customer, is in trouble. The share has fallen from ~86 DKK in august to ~30 DKK today, the board has resigned, the Færoe government is wondering if they can bail it out. Apparently the 9,1 million DKK guarantee the Danish government gave is worthless, the same article notes that the security behind the bank is stock in the bank and a failed construction company, so now they’re frantically trying to sell the Danish part, the one they bought in 2007. The Danish Finance Ministery guarantees that all deposits are safe, but nowhere do I see that means that customers will actually be able to access their money/pay their bills. A similar uncertainty was in Norway when the Icelandic bank Kaupting was put under administration and people’s money were safe but unavailable. (English readers, see this summary article on Eik Banks trouble)

This is where it gets interesting: The Danish part is an Internet only bank. The customers are people who are used to using the net, and thus quickly find out what’s going out. They usually also have a second bank, so all the ~100.000 customers going online and transferring their money to another bank should be a relatively quick thing. Thus we have a virtual run on the bank. Not queues as we know them, but lots and lots of transactions. And besides the run, who is going to want to buy an server-infrastructure with ~100.000 empty accounts?

So how serious is this? Just me pulling my money? Well, two days ago an ATM refused to talk to Eik Bank anymore, the first time I have experienced that. No problem with my other cards. Then todays headlines. Quite serious, and the news in danish TV isn’t helping them either. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. How this plays out will probably shape internet-only banks for a very long time to come. And that’s a banking concept I’ve been very fond of since I became a Skandiabanken customer in Norway a long, long time ago.

We already know that Mattheson disliked French singers, but he doesn’t spare the British either. Quoting chapter 9 in Der Vollkommene Capellmeister paragraph 13-14: ...Germans generally produce more basses and tenors but the Italians more altos and sopranos than all other regions: together with the more rugged climate and lifestyle also beer drinking contributes to this in the case of the Germans; but the Italians are the opposite in both respects, and in addition there is the frequent castration.

Thus it is also certain that for example in England there are not by a long shot as many well-trained voices, and in France everyone sings mroe out of the throat and not from the chest as in Italy, where the voices are more sonorous, clear, pure and expansive

I’ve been reading Mattheson’s Der vollkommene Capellemister and written about it a bit in my blog in the entries Mattheson on Perfection, The Location of Paradise Revealed, The Origin of Music and What you really need to know about Angles. Today I’m reading chapter six, and I love how he writes about the need for good posture:

Can the attentive listener be moved to pleasure if he [….] sees a dozen violinists who contort their bodies as if they are ill? If the clavier player writhes hsi jaws, wrinkles his brow, and contorts his face to such an extent that it could frighten children? If many of the wind instrumentalists contort or inflate their facial features (one must not omit the lips of the flutist) so that they can bring them back to their proper shape and color in half an hour only with difficulty?

It is even said of Minerva, that she threw the flute away just because wind instruments have the misfortune that they distort the features; and is also known from history that Alcibiades, though he was otherwise a great lover of music, nevertheless hated flute playing for the cited reasons. The viola da gamba would have pleased him more: For there is, after the lute, hardly any instrument with which one can produce a more refined posture. Because of this, the French love both instruments before all others, since their strong inclination toward the bon air often goes so far that their zeal makes them seem comical.

During a visit to the coffee shop with Ulrik and Ketil recently, I learned that in the renaissance the zink/cornetto and the oboe are described as the instruments that are closest to the voice, so one can speculate if singing technique has changed from very nasal in the renaissance to a more “classic” ideal that is closer to the flute when Quantz writes On playing the Flute.

While discussing embouchure (Chapter 4, page 55) Quantz notes how close the flute is to the human voice and saying that working with chest voice and falsetto is just like tightening the lips when playing the flute (in his view it is this that makes the flute a natural instrument), he comes with the funniest attack on the French and their singing:

“The Italians and several other nations unite this falsetto with the chest voice, and make use of it to great advantage in singing: among the French, however, it is not customary, and for that reason their singing in the high register is often transformed into a disagreeable shrieking, the effect of which is exactly the same created when you do not cover the mouth hole sufficiently on the flute, and when you try to force out the high notes by blowing more strongly.”

Unfortunately I haven’t heared many (only one comes to mind) recordings where the singers have experimented with using shrieking or very nasal singing. Perhaps the contemporary ways of baroque singing is still too nice?