Archive for February, 2008

Plant reference puts willies up Auntie

black-mans-willy.jpgWhether you call it Rhodochiton volubilis, R volubile or R astrosanguineus, it amounts to the same thing: it’s a certain appendage of the male Homo sapiens of a certain colour. But you’re not allowed to say “black man’s willy”, so we won’t.

Right, now that’s got your attention, let’s talk about the row. A row over nothing, really. Last October, BBC Radio 4 recorded a Gardeners’ Question Time in which a listener rang in to ask the panel a question about what he termed BMW, or, as he then put it, black man’s willy. Oh, we’ve said it again.

Anyway, this is just the popular name for this plant of the Plantaginaceae family, but the PC brigade got up in arms about it and now the supine BBC has caved in and apologised.

The reference got the panellists giggling, of course – as you would expect. Although its colour was mentioned by one of them, it doesn’t sound as if there were any racial overtones. The Thisislondon news website says,

Panellists were heard giggling their way through a discussion about the plant. Gardening author Bob Flowerdew admitted he had “only ever seen one close up – and not that colour”.

Horticulturalist Anne Swithinbank added: “I’ve never seen one in my life. They don’t really like the cold, as you can imagine. They shrivel up and look very unhappy.”

All good, only mildly ribald stuff, at no one’s expense. But there’s no accounting for the politically correct, and an inquiry went into overdrive and the BBC has now issued an apology, after “some listeners” complained of what the news site calls “racist stereotyping and vulgarity”. (Haven’t heard a peep from John “Massa” Beyer, yet, though.)

The fact is that plants have common names, such as Jew’s ear, or Auricularia auricula-judae. This is a fungus that looks like an ear, and the name comes from its Latin binomial, as you can see. Do Wiccans complain about witch’s butter (Tremella mesenterica), another fungus? Nope.

For the botanically minded among you, incidentally, depending on which story you read, BMW is called Rhodochiton volubilis, R volubile or R astrosanguineus (the last being in Wikipedia).

One thing’s for sure: drivers of Beamers will think twice now about referring to their pricey set of wheels as a BMW! Especially if it’s a black one.

MoToons: How Al-Jazeera got it so wrong!

Incredible but True Department – this comes from the editor of Jyllands-Posten, Flemming Rose, on his Northern Light blog. Jyllands-Posten, you’ll remember, was the Danish paper behind the MoToons row, which has been rehearsed so many times on this blog and others that the issue needs hardly any introduction.

But the latest twist is that Iceland – not Denmark, but Iceland, and not the frozen-food supermarket group, either – has been asked to apologise.

Al-Jazeera, the Arabic TV station, made the request in an interview – even though Iceland has had nothing to do with Denmark since 1944.

The request came during an official visit by Iceland’s president, �lafur Ragnar Gr�msson, to Qatar. Gr�msson later told Radio Iceland that the Al-Jazeera interviewer “tried to put pressure on me regarding two things”. He goes on:

He asked if I would apologise for the behaviour of the Danes, and if I would ask forgiveness for what they did, this insult, this provocation, this disgrace – he used very strong words – that the Danes had demonstrated with the publication of these caricatures. But of course this was not part of my responsibilities. And to tell you the truth I didn’t expect that this case was still alive and such a hot issue that the most important TV station in the Arab world found it necessary to raise it during a visit by the president of Iceland, and they wanted to discuss it in detail.

“It’s ironic”, says one commenter on Rose’s blog, “that they try to make the case that certain people are culturally insensitive, while they fire their accusations in the wrong direction.”

What has Tom’s Cruise missile unleashed?

This must be the mother of all free-speech-versus-religion battles, as an entire church is set to be in the line of fire of the siege engines of bloggers and hackers across the Internet.

That is if this Guardian story is to be believed (though you can also find it in the Telegraph, The Times and more).

All hell seems about to break loose, as hackers propose a wave of attacks against the Church of Scientology, after it was accused by a group calling itself Anonymous of a “campaign of misinformation” and “suppression of dissent”.

The Times, says,

The group . . . is a disparate collection of hackers and activists. It called for a wave of attacks against Scientology, after accusing the church of “campaigns of misinformation” and “suppression of dissent”. At least one Scientology website was still down this morning.

The group also claims to have stolen a number of “secret documents” from the church’s database, which it says are now circulating on file-sharing networks.

Anonymous has spearheaded attacks against other websites in the past, and is calling on its supporters to “rise up against the church” after a video of its second-in-command, the Hollywood actor Tom Cruise, was leaked onto YouTube. This video was taken down after, it’s believed, the church claimed violation of copyright.

In the embarrassing vid, Cruise says, among other things, “We are the authorities on getting people off drugs, we are the authorities on the mind, we are the authorities on improving conditions . . . we can rehabilitate criminals . . . we can bring peace and unite communities.”

The Times story continues:

In response, the group – which calls itself an “Internet hate-machine” – set up a website to co-ordinate a string of attacks using phone, Internet and fax methods, which it called Project Chanology.

The website asked members to bombard the church’s website with hits so that it would collapse – a technique known as a “denial of service” attack, as well as exploit the vulnerabilities in the site using sophisticated hacking techniques.

The “intensity of the battle shows no signs of easing”, says the Guardian:

A day of free speech protests have been planned outside Scientology centres around the world next Sunday, with campaigners mobilising on Facebook and YouTube.

Protesters are vowing to picket buildings in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and York on the British leg of the day of direct action, three weeks after a group of internet activists called Anonymous vowed to destroy the movement.

Roll on next Sunday, then. Should be a good scrap. Bets, anyone?


Sunday news briefs

Bishop Nazir-Ali of Rochester, having made some comments critical of the socially divisive effects of Islamic extremism, gets death threats. The letters “Q”, “E” and “D” spring to mind.

Channel 4’s Undercover Mosque, which recorded imams making hateful speeches to congregations in a Birmingham mosque and was as a result subjected to a slanderous barrage of abuse from Muslim groups and – most outrageously – a display of gesture-policing in the form of a bogus investigation by the West Midlands Police, has been nominated for a Royal Television Society award.

Mediawatch-UK, the self-appointed authorities on what adults should and should not be permitted to watch on TV and in cinemas, is urging Catholics to support a private members bill by Julian Brazier MP (Canterbury), which aims to make the British Board of Film Classification more accountable to Parliament. They hope this will help stem the tide of filth engulfing the nation as a direct result of the BBFC’s depraved libertinism.

Legalistic cyber-bullying raises its pig-ugly head again, this time in the form of a lawyer’s letter from Paul Staines (aka Guido Fawkes) to Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads. Tim had posted an article accusing Guido of “stealing images and bandwidth”. Bartholomew notes with some amusement, Staines has already admitted to “ripping off images” anyway. But the real point is that the firing off of intimidating lawyer’s letters over such a trivial matter is the act of a cry-baby slimeball which brings shame upon us all. Grow up, Staines.

German atheist kids’ book slammed

preacher pigsApparently the German Family Ministry has a list of books considered “dangerous to young people” – and they want a new children’s book about religion added to it.

Titled “How Do I Get To God, Asked the Small Piglet”, the book tells the tale of two little friends (a pig and a hedgehog) who set out to look for God. Their adventure leads them to discover certain things about Christianity, Islam and Judaism. According to the ministry “the distinctive characteristics of each religion are made ridiculous”.

That can’t have been difficult.

The two tiny chums meet a rabbi, a bishop and a mufti who are portrayed as insane violent and continually at each other’s throats. Perhaps the book is considered to close to real life for sensitive German children?

The Deutsche Welle article linked above isn’t exactly sympathetic to the book, but is quite amusing in the descriptions of the three faith leaders featured.

The bishop, a pale fat man with a clearly insinuated predilection for child abuse, makes up the unholy trinity which eventually convinces piglet and hedgehog, after they have survived the long search in the maze of religions, that nothing of any importance has been missing from their lives.

The publisher, Alibri, has condemned the ministy’s action as an attack on free expression, and the author, Michael Schmidt-Salomon, said the book was

desperately needed considering the enormous mass of religious children’s stories.

Children also have a right to enlightenment. They should not be left defenseless to the scientifically untenable and ethically problematic stories of religion.

We need an English translation – NOW!