American Student in Cunning Stunt

Deep joy to read that the younger generation is still capable of big dreams. I refer of course to the American student who attempted full-body penetration of a giant vagina in the German university town of Tubingen. Possibly he’s a Star Trek fan with the motto, To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before, engraved on his heart. Jim Kirk would certainly be proud.

The Guardian has a full account here. Unfortunately, the lad became trapped, and had to be rescued by 22 firefighters “by hand and without the application of tools”. Quite right too. Anything else would be unsuitable for a family blog.


The vagina in question: Chacán-Pi (Making Love), by Peruvian artist Fernando de la Jara

While you have to applaud our hero for his ambitions, clearly he didn’t know what he was getting into.

Lest you should think this post is merely an opportunity for gratuitous smut and innuendo, I was struck by a comment made by Tubingen’s Green mayor, Boris Palmer:

He told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that he struggled to imagine how the accident could have happened, “even when considering the most extreme adolescent fantasies. To reward such a masterly achievement with the use of 22 firefighters almost pains my soul.”

It demonstrates a command of wit and irony to which most politicians in this right, tight little island cannot even aspire. It seems you get a better class of mayor in Germany. This excellent English-language interview with Palmer is well worth a listen.

And let’s spare a thought for the student, who probably wishes the internet had never been invented. There, but for the grace of the gods…

Book Review: Delete This at your Peril!

Delete-this-at-your-PerilEveryone with email has received them – messages in fractured English from corrupt officials in oil-rich nations, job offers that involve merely processing payments, love letters from stunningly beautiful Russian women who will happily overlook the fact that you are fat, balding and middle-aged. The common factor is a request for your bank details. Amused or irritated, you can’t really avoid them.

Allow me to introduce an unlikely White Knight who tilts at these internet trolls on your behalf. His name is Bob Servant, a native of Broughty Ferry, which is a suburb of Dundee – the spiritual home of Beautiful Railway Bridge. Ah, that shining city on the silvery Tay! Bob is a veteran and chief beneficiary of the Burger Van Wars (1988-9), once owner of the biggest window cleaning round in Western Europe, and consummate piss-artist.

Bob likes to unwind of an evening, after the pubs are closed, by leading scammers down the long and convoluted garden path of their own greed. He’s a sort of Scottish Siren, luring them onto the unforgiving rocks of Broughty Ferry. If they weren’t such amoral scumbags, you could almost feel sorry for the victims. His method is to distract attention from the point – their need for his bank details – with a bewildering array of side issues. He also puts forward counter-proposals that proliferate into surreal and bizarre scenarios in Bob’s mind, aided and abetted in these imaginations by his drinking pals, Frank the Plank, Tommy Peanuts and Chappy Williams. Invariably the scammers go along with these suggestions. At one point Bob is so disgusted at the lengths they’ll go to that he voluntarily ends the game.

Sadly, Bob Servant is the fictional creation of Scottish author, Neil Forsyth, based on his own experience with internet scammers. This does have its benefits. Bob is allowed the most outrageous libels against the worthy institutions of Broughty Ferry – the Post Office and Bowling Club get a lot of stick – and Forsyth can then ride to the rescue with a footnote saying this couldn’t possibly be true. Appropriately enough, each section is a sequence of emails, with all the necessary footnotes to defuse Bob’s cheerful defamations.

Delete This at your Peril! became a BBC Radio 4 series, and Bob Servant also reached television in BBC 4’s Bob Servant Independent, where he runs for election. I watched the first episode – you can see episode 2 in the video below – but it was so bloodless compared to the inspired profanity and deranged imagination of Delete This at your Peril! that I didn’t watch any more. The best thing about it is the Broughty Ferry location, the views of Dundee and the glorious Tay Bridge.

I urge you get the book and enjoy a vicarious revenge against internet scammers.

I’ve Been Foxed

I take some pride in being immune to viral internet phenomena and wall-to-wall coverage of slebs. Where slebs are concerned, my usual course is to ignore them and refuse to watch or read anything related to these needy people. It’s impossible not to know the names of course – that much I pick up by osmosis – but I will not inquire any further.

For example, I know there’s a tribe called Kardashian, the defining feature of which is that all its members have first names beginning with K. Apparently they even choose partners with the same initial.

The same with the recent royal rug rat. I know it exists. The name, George, has been forced on my consciousness, yet I’ve managed to avoid reading any news of it or seeing any pictures. This is due in part to a useful browser extension that claimed to remove all articles on the subject in the Guardian. I certainly haven’t seen any since, so for all I know the heir to the throne is a werewolf, as suggested in an episode of Doctor Who.

As to viral internet crazes, I’ve never yet seen more than a few seconds of the Gangnam Style bollocks, and mercifully forgotten even the name of the one before it.

But now I’ve been foxed. Tempted by a quirky spelling variant of Elvis, I clicked on Ylvis and discovered their horribly addictive vulpine friend. It’s the maniacal surrealism of the whole thing, combined with the pleasure of sound for its own sake. Almost 49 million YouTube hits so you’ve no doubt seen it before.

Nevertheless, here it is, my shame and delight.

Having dipped a toe in the water, I had a look at some of Ylvis‘ other stuff. Now I’m not only foxed but hooked. Brilliant, completely off-the-wall lyrics and a mastery of musical genres. Don’t know what’s going to come out of the singer’s mouth next, and that’s my highest accolade.

Another five songs for your delectation.

Doctor Who: The Bells of Saint John (7.2.1)

The Bells of Saint John

The Bells of St. John

Gay go up and gay go down
To Ring the Bells of London Town
“Oranges and Lemons” say the Bells of St. Clements
“Bullseyes and Targets” say the Bells of St. Margaret’s
“Brickbats and Tiles” say the Bells of St. Giles
“Halfpence and Farthings” say the Bells of St. Martin’s
“Pancakes and Fritters” say the Bells of St. Peter’s
“Two Sticks and an Apple” say the Bells of Whitechapel
“Maids in white aprons”say the Bells at St. Katherine’s
“Pokers and Tongs” say the Bells of St. John’s
“Kettles and Pans” say the Bells of St. Anne’s
“Old Father Baldpate” say the slow Bells of Aldgate
“You owe me Ten Shillings” say the Bells of St. Helen’s
“When will you Pay me?” say the Bells of Old Bailey
“When I grow Rich” say the Bells of Shoreditch
“Pray when will that be?” say the Bells of Stepney
“I do not know” say the Great Bell of Bow
Gay go up and gay go down
To Ring the Bells of London Town

– Nursery Rhyme

First you should see the prequel to Clara’s proper introduction to the series.

It sets the scene for the main episode. The Doctor is holed up in a 13th century monastery, apparently prompted by young Clara’s suggestion that he go off somewhere quiet for a think, to help him find his lost friend. It all ties in with the image of the bells, which directly link the episode to London through the old nursery rhyme. The conceit is also effectively used as the windows of the houses chime alight to represent the captured minds being activated later in the episode.

I’m a little disappointed and not quite sure why. It has the wonderful Clara, who I have been waiting for since The Snowmen, her previous, inconclusive encounter with the Doctor. And it’s stuffed to the gills with brilliant Moffat inventions and allusions.

We have London in general, and the Shard in particular, showcased in a piece of mega product placement, along with a classic Triumph motorbike. The action sequences have a Bondian feeling, with the Doctor riding up the sheer face of the Shard to confront the soul-stealers in their office. There’s a nod to Amy in her novel, Summer Falls, and a spoonface is created out of the creepy little girl on the cover. Clara even refers to the Doctor’s regenerations in her comment on the chapters – “Eleven’s  the best. You’ll cry your eyes out.”

The idea of the Great Intelligence hoovering up the minds of internet users through their wifi connection is utterly contemporary, and not so far from the truth. I particularly liked Clara’s take on it – “Isn’t that basically Twitter?” This reflects Moffat’s animus against Twitter in real life. There’s also an ironic appreciation by Celia Imrie’s boss lady of the Great Intelligence’s love for his stolen minds, ending in “No-one loves cattle more than Burger King.”

Entertaining as all this is, the threat-of-world-domination plot is slight and the Great Intelligence easily vanquished. The real business of the episode is the bonding of the Doctor with Clara. No smooth sailing here, what with Clara being a little skittish about this strange man who so obviously wants her to run away with him. Quite rightly, she won’t get into a cramped police box, even in the face of danger. Nor will she fly off in the Doctor’s “snog box” when all is explained. But she’s attracted, and the flirting is very enjoyable. You can’t blame her, really, given that the Doctor comes across as a bit of a stalker. He even changes his clothes for a smoother image, which I don’t entirely approve of. That tweed jacket was a classic look.

So we’re left with the Doctor essentially told that Clara’s washing her hair that night, but he’s welcome to try again tomorrow. And off he goes to ponder her mystery: “Right then, Clara Oswald, time to find out who you are.”

I think my reservations spring from there being so much good stuff jammed together in this episode that it was hard to get a handle on it. I can understand why Moffat wanted to knock our socks off, including a revamped opening sequence and music, plus a Tardis that looks like Changing Rooms was given a free hand in the make-over. But it comes across as an extremely entertaining dog’s breakfast.

Presumably things will settle down and get a bit deeper as the relationship between the Doctor and Clara develops.

The Troll Catalogue

Internet TrollsI would have reblogged this website if it were possible, but since I can’t, a link will have to do. The Troll Catalogue is exactly what it says on the tin, a list of the more common trolls you find infesting forums and blogs, along with an illustration and an apt description.

It’s brilliantly done and very more-ish, like a box of assorted chocolates. I started with one small troll, intending to move on to the other things I really needed to do that day. Several hours later I was still there, sprawled and bloated, having gobbled down the whole lot in one sitting.

Seeing all the little buggers assembled in one place had a curious effect, rather like reading a book of medical symptons. Not only could I recognise trolls from Comment Is Free, the Guardian’s online forum, I could also see myself in some of the descriptions. Quite disconcerting.

Trolls can be destroyed, as Classics professor Mary Beard demonstrated in a recent infestation. She had the audacity to question whether a member of a BBC Question Time audience had all the facts at her fingertips regarding the effect of immigration on social services in Boston, Lincolnshire. Beard, who had actually read the council report on the issue, was subjected to vile, mysogynistic online abuse, emanating from Twitter and one website in particular – Don’t Start Me Off! You can read her blog post about it here. Beard’s followers and colleagues responded by spamming Don’t Start Me Off! with Latin poetry. Amazingly, this worked, and the website has been shut down. This is not so much destroying trolls as destroying the mothership.

So let’s hear it for Latin poetry – who knew a Latin attack could be so effective – and for Mary Beard who stood up to the bigots and ignorami(?)! If you haven’t heard of her, here’s the first episode of her BBC documentary, Meet the Romans.

TED Talks: Social Media

A weekly post featuring talks by innovative thinkers, sponsored by TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design). This is what the internet was made for – to allow challenging ideas to escape from their academic ghettoes and hang out in a place where they can talk to each other.

If you’ve ever wondered how companies use social media to promote their products, then this talk will answer all your questions. Given by a successful social media consultant, this analysis reveals the secrets behind an exciting new opportunity for social media consultancies.

Rumble Rumble Discontent…

I am not best pleased with this internet thingy right now. Beautiful Railway Bridge at Blogger, the art and photography gallery, went doolally over the last couple of days. I could get to the dashboard, even make posts, but the stupid bloody internet couldn’t find the blog. Unavailable due to “network errors.” I only found out where the problem lay by using the Library computer, where I discovered that some interfering, busybody organisation called Websense has been filtering out my site. I sent them an email, discovered that they couldn’t get an IP from the blog name, and that had something to do with how they classified the blog. This was the upshot.

The site you submitted has been reviewed and assigned the following category: – Blogs and Personal Sites

Categorization updates should be reflected in the next scheduled database publication, and will be available shortly to Real-Time Updates subscribers.

Sounds promising, doesn’t it? We shall see.

The other thing contributing to my disgruntlement is the appalling slowness of my internet service. Sometimes it positively trundles along at walking speed and then, for no apparent reason, chokes off to the point where I lose connection. It’s never been an Olympic sprinter. Which makes hard work of something that should be pleasurable, and is one of the reasons I so frequently get behind in reading, liking, and commenting on your blogs – they take forever to load. Getting to WordPress for the Reader, Notifications, and Stats is also a slow business. I’m not famous for patience, and get a lot of growling practice (really, I do growl at vexing things) with all this going on.

So, as a reality check, does Beautiful Railway Bridge load in a timely fashion where you are? And how about WordPress? I need some sort of comparison. Thanks.