Thursday, August 6, 2009

Totally screwed!

In a moment of abject self-pity, reviewing the dismal "statporn" (© Iain Dale) of Malcolm Redfellow's World Service , Malcolm made an even more depressing discovery.

His top "hits" of all-time involved:and
A lexical malfunction

All those hundreds of thousands of well-honed words, dozens of thoughtful postings, the wry comments on the Not so Great and Not so Good: all wasted. The cyber-world wants only an easy laugh and a cheap thrill.

So Malcolm felt a frisson of recognition when he discovered that the iPhone dictionary is equally open to mockery:
The spirit of Thomas Bowdler lives on at Apple. The increasingly bizarre nature of the approval process for the iTunes App Store has reached new levels of eccentricity with the revelation that a dictionary app was blocked because it contained “objectionable content”.
The story is that a developer, Matchstick, submitted an application, Ninjawords, to the iTunes App Store. It was rejected because of "objectionable content".

Yeah, yeah. All the old favourites were there:
Consequently Ninjawords was forced to bowdlerise the dictionary in order to get it onto the Apple devices. The list of omitted words includes ass, snatch, pussy, cock and screw, but Apple still displays a 17+ age rating and the accompanying warning that the app may contain objectionable material.
Well, says Malcolm, I object!

It's all those niggling frustrations that the blue-noses build in.

He remembers first encountering it at Wells, from the Norfolk County Library Service. There comes a moment in a young man's life when he moves on from Biggles, crosses the aisle, and investigates the adult fiction shelves. There he found T.H.White's The Once and Future King. When Malcolm presented this to the issuing desk, he was quizzed as to its suitability, and whether his parents would approve.

The experience was, at the time, unpleasant. In retrospect, it's hard to see any objection to the book (except for White's politics). Yet it had a lasting product -- a continuing fascination for fiction in all forms. That is why, when he hears someone decrying the young modern male's distaste for reading, Malcolm suggests the quickest remedy is to ban the whole corpus of literature for a decade. Then they'll all want some.

Pursuit of the missing couplet

There was the moment, around the age of fifteen, Malcolm was preparing for GCE Eng Lit Those, of course, were the days when, as Michael Gove maintains, exams were truly testing. More to the point, the books studied were real literature: none of yer modern rubbish. From the General Prologue to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales this turned up:
For if a preest be foul, on whom we truste,
No wonder is a lewed man to ruste;


Wel oghte a preest ensample for to yive,
By his clennesse, how that his sheep sholde lyve.
Today, of course, a quick flick to that hotlinked source will give the missing couplet. In those, pre-electronic days, it involved a hike to a main library or, as Malcolm did it, hoicking after school to Dawson Street, and Hodges Figgis (now a Waterstone's, by any other name, and opposite its original site), to check it out. Forbidden fruit!

And so it goes on.

Today, school networks have to be protected by all kinds of firewalls and safeguards. Since the kids are infinitely more cyber-savvy than the staff and technicians, this rarely works for long.

Such nannying has consequences. For example, it is virtually impossible, in most schools, to access Shakespeare texts. Early on in the download, the built-in Bowdler cuts in and the text cuts out. Did David Blukett know just how filthy and corrupting Romeo and Juliet is, when he approved it for Key Stage 3?

So, how can one teach technology if "screw" is verboten? Sphere: Related Content


Dewi Harries said...

All of that Malcolm was just to get your visits up!!

Malcolm Redfellow said...

Come, come, young Dewi!

How can you be so cynical?

Subscribe with Bloglines International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
Add to Technorati Favorites