Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tele Tübbingen

I am back from another enjoyable trip to Tübingen. This one was a lot more intense, since it was mostly a work trip. I had the terrific honor of meeting with Niels Birbaumer for a couple hours to discuss ideas for grant proposals, and was otherwise busy working on that. But, I also got to meet some new people in his lab and hang out with friends from before, mostly the soon-to-be-doctor Femke Nijboer, who seemed freakishly calm and well adjusted for a late stage PhD student.

The train ride was fun and pretty, so much so that the train's speed was almost regrettable. The countryside looked so lush and inviting that I thought - do we really need to tear through this at 3 miles a minute? Would it be so absurd to just stop? Everyone in the train gets off, rolls in the grass, climbs pine trees, wades about the muddy river, and maybe shares some picnic baskets? Yes. Yes, that would be absurd, and would surely incur vicious mocking on this blog, enough to badly demoralize several ducks. But I would also acknowledge it as unique, certainly concordant with the strict tenets of flaneur.

Sunday featured a huge event near the main train station. It is called Hauptbanhof, which coincidentally translates as 'main train station.'

Relevant line from Airplane!:
There's an emergency in the cockpit!
The cockpit?! What is it?
It's a room in the front of the plane where the pilots sit, but that's not important right now.

This exchange plagiarizes Lewis Carroll, but is still funny.
The event was sponsored by a German kids' TV channel called KIKA and included a stage with four dancing Teletubbies. Behind that was a huge screen presenting the ubiquitous Teletubby background - rolling grassy hills with flowers and bunnies, and an occasional segue to a sun with a laughing baby face. I found the background quite peaceful, although the show is meant for kids and teens on acid. I then realized that it was in fact quite well tested with adults: remove the flowers, bunnies, and baby Apollo, and you have the default background of Windows XP. Hm. Perhaps, just as Disneyland is a huge and psychologically brilliant scam to impress happy associations on kids so they forever love Disney, Teletubbies is a secret tool to instill a sense of childlike calm and trust in the Windows background. Indeed, the red Teletubby looks kinda like Bill Gates, and has a nerdy air about him.

While talking with a few people in the crowd, I asked if they were familiar with the fuss that Falwell created a few years ago with his suppository supposition that the purple teletubby (Tinky Winky) is gay. This stemmed from Falwell's view that purple is a gay color and the triangle above his head is a gay symbol. (Oddly, he voiced no suggestion that the name might be a giveaway. Hence we can assume that he considers Tinky Winky an appropriately manly, Christian name.) Indeed, the Germans had heard of this and thought it very funny. I thought it would be even funnier to dress up as a black Teletubby, with a little Hitler moustache and a swastika above my head. What the hell are the other four actors going to do to me? Kick my ass? Dressed up as Teletubbies? And it's safe to assume the typical Teletubby actor doesn't moonlight as a cage fighter. With me wearing a padded costume, I doubt I would get badly injured. Plus I would act quite inconspicuous. Teletubby dancing looks really easy, almost as simple as the dancing you see in most clubs. I could do that, and just throw in the occasional Nazi salute. And maybe the hills in the background would periodically feature a Panzer behind a hill, or replace baby Apollo with Goebels, or show people practicing darts or watching Triumph of the Will. Rather than Tinky Winky, I could be called Tinkolf Adolf or Happy Heil or Dipsy the Inferior Jew. I really think the German government does not adequately appreciate me nor my suggestions. First they blow off my new and improved German language, and now they don't even thank me for my latest idea to subtly popularize their imminent darttrooperblitz. No wonder they keep losing. Perhaps I should approach the French.

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