Thursday, 2 July 2009

Fringing is, like, SO July 2009

I love London Sceptics in the Pub - it’s like a collection of the greatest people in the world, but just in London . Some hairy, some pretty, some absolutely gorgeous, all wonderful.

Wednesday 1st July saw yet another gathering of these fine fastidious folk for a “Troublemakers Fringe” in the Penderel’s Oak, championed by the voracity-inducing Vaughan Bell, the delectable Dr Petra Boynton, and the bête noir of penis jokes, Ben Goldacre (follow him on Twitter if you don’t believe me).

I took the trouble of recording the event on my trusty dictaphone, but as luck would have it, you can find a synopsis by two of the legends themselves here and here. For Ben Goldacre’s talk, I strongly recommend you buy his book or borrow it off an uber-cool mate, or read it straight away if it’s gathering dust somewhere. If you’re about next Friday, you may even be able to get it signed.

Vaughan Bell’s talk was educational and informative, but in a good way. Did you know that when philosophers started using allegories as a teaching aid, some people thought it might corrupt the minds of the youth? He chuckled a bit when picturing schoolboys behind the bike sheds swapping dirty allegories, like we all did in school. As an adult, I’m still constantly sharing allegories with my mates, but on secret blogs that no-one will ever read… *cough*

Pretty much every single new form of media/communication has been met with derision by some. Eventually, of course, it becomes the norm (books, radio, and television to name a few) but the internet is somehow seen as different. For example, I take issue with the notion that social networking sites damage ones ability to interact with people face to face (Porn will find you lol). Through social networking, I am able to be popular not just because of my incredibly toned, feminely muscular body, but because of my vast intellect, and above average sense of humour. The internets might cause cancer, but then a lot of things cause cancer and some things are more proven to cause cancer than Facebook.

It’s a shame there wasn’t enough time for Q&As as I had a couple of questions:

1) How long do these cycles of technophobia usually last? Is it until a newer technology comes in? I, for one, cannot wait until the days of Quantum Facebook. I don’t even think my imagination can cope with the possibility of it without breaking out into song… where’s my ukulele when I need it?

2) Why are people so afraid of technology? I hope I didn’t miss the point here, but the gist I took home with me was “Argh! Writing! Evil!…. Oh noes! Allegory! Stories of Satannnn!…. Chutzpah! Radio! Decline of family values Grrr…..” et cetera, et cetera.

I, like most people, cried like a child at the end of Terminator 2, another very scary film. (I am young enough to have actually been a child when I saw it, and let me assure you it scared the hell out of me. I’ve never gotten over my fear of Caucasian policemen, to the point where I now make awkward jokes around them about doughnuts or if they’ve ever considered commissioning their own theme tune. I’m not socially inept or anything, just nervous around the fuzz.)

The point I’m trying to make is why aren’t there more psychologically damaged kids out there (who have probably all seen The Exorcist, let’s be realistic here) and why doesn’t your average reader of papers read these papers and think to themselves “I’m on Facebook and yet I’m not a knuckle dragging socially incompetent fucktard”, instead of buying into this idea that new=bad? One of my cousins was shocked when I told her I had a Facebook AND a Myspace, her reaction was “ohnothatisjustsoawfulsomeonecouldstealyouridentity!” Not bloody likely, my darling, no-one wants my crippling debt.

Perhaps I will pose these questions to him via the medium of Twitter, as it’s the 21st Century and it’s the thing to do. It’ll also come across less “TMI” (as my mother likes to say). Anyway...

The talk smoothly sauntered over to Petra Boynton, who is even better looking in the flesh than in the photo on her blog. I joke a lot about switching over to the lesbian end of the spectrum, but for her, I just might. She was fucking hilarious, and made some damn good points at the same time, all of which can be found here.

In the UK , we have one of the highest (if not the highest) rates of teen pregnancy. VDs are rife. 27 year olds don’t know even how to shag. These are serious problems (all except the last one, which isn’t true for all 27 year olds, just ones I have casual grudges against) and yet we’re a country that is rich enough to be able to educate young people on shagging and how to do it responsibly (and well, although that might be a bit progressive for school children in 2009). Sex education is a bit of a taboo, especially for parents worried about their kids being handed out condoms and dildos before they’ve learnt their 3x tables. Unfortunately for these children, our beloved media prints headlines like these which are really amusing if you have no invested interest in the welfare of the UK’s population, and don’t care about the wider consequences/implications of irresponsible journalism, but for the rest of us they’re quite annoying.

She made seven other really great points but this was the one that really got to me. I went to catholic schools whilst growing up, and we had one PSE lesson in eleven years. That’s not good enough. Please read her article, it’s spot on.

The ravishing Ben Goldacre’s talk was his usual charismatic fast-paced format. Buy his book and read it in a charmingly emphatic sort of way, wearing an afro wig. It’s pretty much the same experience. Failing that, attend one if his excellent talks, details of which can be found here. If you buy one of his t-shirts, he’ll probably stare at your boobs, or better yet, take a photo of them (sadly, after *literally* 25 minutes of searching through my re-tweets dating back to March 2009, I found the source of the photo, but it had expired. If anyone knows how I can recover this - please let me know! I also managed to embarrass myself by asking Ben Goldacre about his photos and then sort of implied that I was a stalker. Initially I assumed he’d see the funny side of it but pseudo self deprecating humour doesn’t transcribe so well through my iPhone. I’m sure there’s an App for that somewhere).

Peace out Sceptics x


  1. "27 year olds don't even know how to shag"


    It was a great night though, excellent to meet you guys, although it was a bit rough having to go straight from crashing at Ben's to work the next morning :(

    Lots of really fascinating talks there, I'm still trying to digest all the stuff that Vaughan and Petra said... must blog it over the weekend.

  2. Ha! Obviously, that wasn't aimed at you. I've heard the rumours ;-) (They call you "Fury", because you're hu-... never mind)

    Fantastic to meet you too! Cheers for the comment. Looking forward to your next post :-)

    Carmen x

  3. I'm liking the idea of quantum facebook ... along the lines of several chosen options occurring until some observes your page or all of them occuring differently to everyone looking at it?

    I may be thinking a bit to much about this after red wine ...

    EL :D

  4. I couldn't agree more, EL!

    A fantastic feature of inventing something (like a quantum computer) is it's ability to be used by the general public in our everyday lives. As a voracious user of social networking, it fills me with joy that one day maybe quantum facebook will be a reality :-)

    Thanks for the comment,

    Carmen x

  5. Do you think if I grow my hair and stare at boobs, I'll get more people to buy my book? Maybe I should try that in Croydon.

  6. @The inimitable Professor Hood

    Graced again by your comments, I'm flattered!

    Well that's exactly what I did and I now have SEVEN followers on my blog. If that isn't impressive... I don't know. I really don't know.

    Incidentally, I wanted a copy of your book so I could get it signed! Can I buy a copy off you and get it signed at the next SITP London? I'll buy you a drink for the hassle :-)