The Frankie Roberto Interview

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The Frankie Roberto Interview

Frankie meets... Ming Mang

Meeting Ming Mang, from Sussex, the first
thing I am
curious to ask her is how she invented her distinctive
h2g2 nickname.

'At the time of signing up, I had just made up a new
saying, 'Ming Mang' and I thought that in lack of anything
else, it was good. Originally I
was just 'Ming'. I know it sounds like an
insult, but when I realised that I couldn't think of any
good reason why I should change my name.
However, recently I got fed up of people thinking
I was Emperor Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon and
changed it to 'Ming Mang'.'

Ming Mang has a pet rat called Samson. Her other rat,
Joey, died recently, and so I tread carefully when asking
about her unusual pet.

'Samson is a big fat rat. He is still pining
for Joey. Samson is always looking for him, and
looks so lost. He's getting used to Joey not
being around now, but it was heart-wrenching watching
Samson after Joey had died. It made me feel worse than
Joey actually dying, and I'm not normally really
emotional either. But Samson is very sweet-natured, like most pet rats.
He has never once taken hold of my finger with his
teeth, even though he's not entirely comfortable with
me yet. He loves sitting on my shoulder, but only if I
don't move too much because my shoulder is small and
he is quite big, so he can't always keep his balance.
He also likes sitting on my lap, and he has gone to
sleep on me before, which was nice.

The only other person I've ever known to keep pet rats
before was one of my previous science teachers. She worked
for an animal sanctuary, and once
brought a pair of rats into our classroom, so that they could
become used to being around lots of people before being adopted
by a family somewhere. I remember there being much hysteria among
my classmates, and rumours that the teacher was using them for
scientific experiments. This is not a memory I share with Ming Mang.

'Joey was slightly smaller than Samson. He was the
leader of the two of them, and where Samson was
content to curl up and go to sleep, Joey would be
walking around and generally taking an interest in
everything. He never trusted me as much as Samson does,
but that was because I had to keep giving him
antibiotic for the sniffles, which is what he died of.
Because he never quite trusted me, he did
occasionally take my finger or sometimes my nose or
ear in his teeth, but he never bit. I have never once
been bitten by a rat. Joey would take hold of almost
anything he could get his teeth round though, which
included the phone if I was talking to someone while
the rats were out. I guess he was a bit like a small
child. I think he was still quite young, not even
a year old, when he died, which just makes it worse...'

She looks at me sadly and pauses a moment before
continuing her story.

'Joey was also more agile than Samson. I
bought them a big bird cage instead of their old fish
tank, and Joey was always climbing up the bars, which
is why I got it for them. Samson very rarely did,
although he does more now because, when I gave them
treats, I made them climb to the top of the cage to get
them. Joey was always first, and Samson would try to
pinch Joey's while he was climbing down. He rarely got
anything though, and would have to climb up himself.
Now he climbs up whenever he wants food! Joey used
to do that as well.'

I ask if it is hard keeping rats as pets.

'Not really no, so long as you know how to look after
them, and can remember to feed them every day.'

People often think of rats as dirty, verminous animals.
What would she say to that?

'Well, they often are dirty in the wild, but that is because
of the environment we've given them. They are actually
remarkably clean animals, better than hamsters.
Hamsters might smell cleaner, but rats won't smell
at all if you clean them out every week.'

I ask her what the best thing about keeping rats
as pets are.

'The companionship of rats, once they trust
you, is amazing. Just getting them out after a bad day
makes me feel better. I'm not sure whether Samson or
Joey know what sort of a mood I am in, but one of
mum's rats, Chocolate, can. If you're upset she'll
come and sniff your face if she's on your shoulder.
Even if it doesn't cheer you up, it makes you
smile because it tickles. But if you're not
unhappy, she'll wander round on your shoulders. She's
a wonderfully sweet rat, but she's just had a second
operation because of cancer, poor girl.
The other thing I love about having rats is just
watching them. I don't know why. I guess I just like
watching any animals, including humans, to see how
they react to each other. It fascinates me. I don't know why...'

One of Ming Mang's entries is all about how to get away
with not ironing. She tells me about her non-ironing tactics.

'In my family, if anyone want clothes ironed, they
do it themselves or pay one of my sisters to do it.
I'm too lazy! But if I'm doing the washing then I
give everything a good shake before hanging it to dry
so that the weight of the wet clothes pulls a lot of
the creases and wrinkles out. And as all my clothes
are jeans and t-shirts, the few wrinkles left don't
show. Am I sounding knowledgeable about this?
Uh-oh... Don't tell my mum!'

I laugh with her, I often do this myself, and so,
I expect, do a lot of people. It also helps if you take
the clothes out of the machine as soon as they are finished
so they're not just left sitting there...

We move on to talking about the Guide in general.
Because h2g2 is so multi-faceted, everyone seems to
gain from it in a different way. I ask Ming Mang to think
about what she finds most appealing about the site.

'Escapism probably. Getting out of that scary
depressing thing, 'the real world', and living in an
electronic one. It's brilliant. There's a lot less bitchiness, if
any, on h2g2, and my parents can't get at me here.
Although they keep chucking me off it...'

The world of h2g2 is certainly very different
from the 'real' one. I get Ming Mang to think about
how it is better and how it's worse when compared
to real life.

'Better about it; you have time to think of what
you're going to say and how to say it, so you don't
make mistakes you'd make in real life, and so accidentally
hurting someone doesn't happen as much. A lot of
stereotypes and prejudices that put people off making
friends with others do not apply on h2g2 because
people cannot see what others look like or hear how
they speak, which is what a lot of prejudices are
based on. Also, on h2g2 everyone is so friendly, which
just doesn't happen in the real world.'

'Worse about it; you can't tell what tone people are
meaning, whether they're being sarcastic or they're
joking, from just text on a screen. This can lead to
misunderstandings and can go as far as electronic
stalking and hate-mail, although I don't believe
anything has gone quite that far on h2g2.'

One of Ming Mang's pages is 'The Scapegoat
Here, researchers can arrive and find someone else to
blame for their problems. It's a strange idea, but original,
and was recently featured under 'Abi's
Community Activites
. Ming Mang explains how
it arrived.

'I had the idea for the Service
while I was walking home from school (I always have
ideas walking home) after a particularly bad day. But,
unlike most of my ideas, I actually put it into
reality. I still have no idea why I did, but there you
go, my brain works in strange ways!'

We start talking about school, and what day-to-day
life at school is like. Ming Mang's summary is pretty
acurate for most of us I think.

'Well, it's average really.
Most people would
probably call it boring, but that's because it mostly
is. Breaktimes I sit around in the music
room with everyone, but they all talk and I don't. I
don't know why, I just don't have anything to say. I
hate gossip and rumours. I quite enjoy just sitting by
myself though. Sometimes I start yelling 'Ni!' at
one of my friends who yells 'Ni!' back and everyone
else gets really annoyed with us, it's quite funny.'

'About once a fortnight someone falls out with
someone else and I'm usually the person who gets
complained at and who attempts to sort everything out.
Two of my friends who are slightly taller than me
continually complain about their weight and I
continually try to make them feel better as I'm nine
stone, atleast a stone
heavier than either of them, but they still

The issues surrounding teenage health issues, such
as bulimia and anorexia, have received a lot of
attention in the press. It's a depressing, but
complicated issue. I ask Ming Mang how much of a
problem she thinks it is for teenage girls.

'I think it's horrible that girls feel they have to be
thin to be accepted. Taking it to extremes like that
is risking their life, and also their friends if they
have to go away to hospital to recover. And apart from
that, it simply isn't true that they have to be thin
to be accepted. Sure, being obese is not good for your
health, but at least you probably won't die early in
life from it, like anorexia. I have known at least
four girls who became anorexic, and none of them were
remotely fat to begin with. Worse, I believe one of
them became pregnant whilst in treatment for it, but
I'm not sure about that. Being thin is not a short-cut
to popularity, and it is not a way to keep being
popular, unless you are popular with a lot of
half-wits who don't care about you as a person, only
about your image. Friends are people who like you for
your personality.'

A lot of the blame seems to have been placed on
the 'supermodels'...

'I don't think the supermodels are to blame, I
think it is the 'girlie magazines'. They always have
pretty girls on their covers and only ever show thin
pretty girls. They show you ways to look thinner and
how to look more attractive and pretty. They even give
tips on dieting. They are playing up to artificial
society ideals instead of encouraging people to become
who they are. I bought one issue of a girlie magazine
and haven't bought one since. I think they, along with
various TV programs, are creating a totally artificial
generation of girls who feel they must live up to
society ideals or go round wearing paper bags and
pretending not to exist for the rest of their life.
This also goes for boys, but there isn't so much
pressure on them that I can see.'

'I think that people should stop conforming to society
ideals that aren't good for them and be who they are
instead. There are society ideals that are good for
you and the society, but being thin and pretty isn't
one of them. It gets you nowhere except artificial
popularity. At one point, I did try to conform to the 'thin pretty
girlie girl' but I failed. Before and since I have
been myself and I'm happy with myself. I may look
normal and dull, but that's me. Look into my character
and I'm not entirely dull and boring, (well I am a
bit, but that's just me). If someone doesn't like me, they
can go and find another friend. I won't mind. That's
just them.'

Ming Mang is far from boring. My conversation with
her covered more than could be printed here. At one point
we were discussing how popping bubblewrap is theraputic
and a good way of relieving depression. At another Ming
Mang explained her habit of taking things apart and
putting them back together again, which gives her the
ambition to be a Chartered Engineer. Since the interview
we've spoken in forums, and she's one more instance
of where I can now see the person behind the username.

Frankie Roberto

Next Week: In a Frankie Roberto Special, Bob and Elly, the famous
h2g2 couple, reveal how the site brought them together.

to this series of Interviews and be notified when each interview is

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