Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/03/10/cebit_blog/

Frisky Fräuleins on your phone

and teutonic toilet humour

By Joe Fay

Posted in Bootnotes, 10th March 2006 12:32 GMT

CeeBitch Another year, another CeBIT. Which as usual, means trudging round in the snow, ice, hail and fog, with nothing to look forward to except a freshly boiled bockwurst and ein or zwei biers at the end of the tag. It’s like Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow without the bravery, drama and funny hats.

RFID basket cases

Watching the TV news showed that while CeBIT might not be as big a deal on a European level as it used to be, it’s still major news in Germany. The evening news bulletins were full of it. One of the major themes appeared to be RFID, with footage of stand dolly types pretending to wheel a supermarket cart full of RFID’d goods through an automated check out while chancellor Angela Merkel looked on. I don’t know the German word for 'threat to civil liberties', but no one appeared to be particularly rattled by the prospect of these annoying little tags being slapped on just about anything that moves. Of course, this is Germany we’re talking about, where respect for authority is supposedly as in-bred as a love of pork products and mounting beach barbecues while naked. Still, there seems to be a little dissent rumbling in this country. Germans are renowned for only crossing roads at a designated crossing, and then only when the green man is flashing. Nevertheless, between the airport and the hotel, our taxi driver had to avoid what can only be described as flagrant jaywalkers. A populace thumbing its nose at authority? Perhaps. Or yet another reason to chip the populace...

Goethe go to the loo

And what would a show blog [=report - Ed] be without reference to the toilets. Like the public spaces, Germany’s semi-private spaces are usually pretty clean, and what they lack in cosiness, they make up for in functionality. But here, again, there seem to be outbreaks of anti-authoritarianism. German kharzis have a breadth of graffiti you rarely see in the UK, long treatises, often accompanied by website addresses, along with exquisitely drafted pictures. Much of it is in English, and often quite witty - eg, Why’s the pope a German? He got his beach towel on the balcony first. And before you ask, I know this was all written by Germans, not itinerants Brits. For a start, the handwriting is legible, and the words is all spelt correct.

If there’s one thing Germany is renowned for, it’s efficiency. You may be staying in Hamburg, an hour and a half’s train journey away, but you can rely on the EIS train to get you to the show on time. There are even staff on the platforms, kitted out with laptops to help give information to confused passengers. I watched one, with his Thinkpad set on a wooden lectern, nicely setting off his shiny red cap with a big polished badge. He calmly directed passengers, switching seamlessly between German and English. And, when he was done, he folded down the lid of his laptop, ready to move along the platform. What I didn’t expect was that he would do this by pushing the lectern on a set of concealed wheels. Efficient, perhaps, but kind of missing the point

A bird in the hand

Germany is also renowned for an open attitude towards sex, in particular, and the human body in general. Nudity in adverts is nothing to be surprised about. Still, while channel surfing for CNN first thing in the morning it’s a bit irksome to be confronted by an advert for mobile phone downloads featuring a young fraulein stripping off in the middle of what seemed to be an open air toy car racing track. I’m not talking about showing a bit of shoulder either, or loosening a couple of knots on the dirndl. I’m talking about the whole kit and kaboodle. Off, gone, over the back of the chair. All while remote controlled cars appeared to be humping one another in the background. This inevitably leads to one of two conclusions. Either the download content boys haven’t sussed out that an ad for online smut is supposed to be a come-on, a little wave from first base, not the whole home run. Or, the stuff people are actually downloading to mobile phones here is so filthy that the average Brit would have a heart attack, assuming their mobile hadn‘t actually melted first. Which makes it all the more surprising how composed the graffiti in the public conveniences is. ®