Friday, August 16, 2013

On Being Servalan

I've always loved Servalan. She is the best character ever on television (apart from Special Agent Albert Rosenfeld). Unfortunately, for a long time it seemed that no bugger knew who she was.

When I was handed the keys to the BBC's Cult TV website, one of my first actions was to put up a gallery of pictures of Servalan. Popular as it was, it did not go down well internally. I received an email telling me she was "perhaps a bit obscure". "But it's a site about Cult TV!" I protested. Until the penny dropped that "obscure" was a euphemism. For, uh, well, um... (embarrassed whisper) ... gay.

Anyway, the point about Servalan is that, she's always amazing. She's the Blake's 7 equivalent of Doctor Who's Radiophonic Workshop. No matter how bad the surroundings, she's always making interesting noise.

I once dressed up as Servalan for a party. It was a fancy dress party. I learned a lot of things that night. Firstly, that if you do turn a broom handle into a pair of shoulder pads you will be unable to walk through doors without garrotting yourself.

Also, as no-one knew who Servalan was, most people assumed I was just doing weird drag. Or going as That Man From The Crying Game Who Was In Stargate. There are, it seems some people who should not do weird drag. Or dress up as That Man From The Crying Game Who Was In Stargate. I'm one of them.

My oldest school friend turned up to the party. He was not in fancy dress. Nor were the three Sloaney Girls he'd brought along. They took one look at a room full of people in Star Trek uniforms and Magic Roundabout characters and decided that they'd take their wine elsewhere. Somewhere where it couldn't be got at by large pink cows or men with badly-shaven legs. I rather think I lost a friend that night by being a hideous embarrassment.

Anyway, the important point is that I've now got to write for Servalan. It was a thrilling experience, and apparently the woman herself was very nice about (how disappointing. I'd have preferred it if she'd been thoroughly nasty. In heels).

I will be celebrating by not dressing up as her ever again:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The internet and the library

There's a lovely story here about The British Library wi-fi accidentally blocking Hamlet. Security experts and free speech people are quoted saying that this proves that attempts to block, filter and restrict the internet are useless.

I'm just remembering the mid-90s, when the World Wide Web was new and shiny, and it turned up on 3 terminals in the University library. I was at first baffled by this Information Superhighway. It took me a while to work out where the start of it was (why was the index called Yahoo?).

This being a library, my browsing was furtive and circumspect. I didn't even dream that it would one day be an unlimited source of breasts. I was just terrified that someone would catch me cheating as I used the search tool to find all of the references to "satire" in Horace's Art of Poetry. Surely, I thought, I could get into trouble for not actually reading a book?

No librarian came over and shushed me. I was lucky. So I became more adventurous. I found a web page about The Avengers. Amazed, I printed it out, along with a list of quotes from Press Gang. I didn't print out the Star Trek web pages. There were just too many of them - over a hundred. And anyway, they were organised in the format of a space ship, and each room needed to be explored. It was almost Virtual Reality.

One day, I was even able to look at a JPEG of Mrs Peel, right there on my screen. I was amazed. Even more so when I found the full script for Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. I maxxed out my account printing that rare treasure off (in case it vanished, or I couldn't find it again - those Uniform Resource Locators were sometimes very long and took ages to copy down, and sometimes I couldn't read my handwriting correctly).

I started to look at the WWW almost every time I visited the library. Nearly daily did I type into the Yahoo a search term with trembling fingers - of course, you didn't have to search. Yahoo also handily had about a dozen categories and subcategories, so you could find the page you wanted just by a lot of clicking (Entertainment... Television... The Avengers). The internet seemed very neatly organised, if you asked me.

And still no-one told me off. I knew I was doing wrong. Because I was in a library and looking up information for the sheer fun of it.

One day, of course, I got caught. I was staring at a list of ISBN numbers for Target Doctor Who books. I heard a tutting sound over my shoulder. It was my tutor. "Dear me," he said, "How embarrassing."

From that day on, I only ever used the internet for research. Well, until they invented cats.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Undead Neighbour On Demand

I've written before about my slightly ghoulish preoccupation with buying a neighbouring flat when the owner dies. The signs had been good - district nurse, unwatered window boxes...

Today, a Virgin Broadband man turns up and the two are stood on the balcony, laughing, drinking tea and talking about cricket. Damn, and yet, also, good for him.