Truth be told, I’m not completely sure what to make of this news that the producers of the Simpsons have elected to recast the voice of Homer’s friend Carl so that he’s voiced by a black man. On the one hand, I can certainly see where they’re coming from: of course black characters ought to be portrayed by black actors, just as disabled characters should be played by disabled people. It applies to any minority, and lends a degree of authenticity to a role. On the other hand, does it matter as much when dealing with cartoons? Audiences don’t actually see actors, just hear their voices, so does the same principal apply? In animation, just about anything can be anthropomorphised and given a voice, from mice to trains to toys: it’s up to an actor to step into a role. Given Carl has been voiced by Hank Azaria for thirty-odd years, moreover, won’t audiences notice the change? It’s a toughie.
With a second Scottish independence referendum now looking more and more likely, and support for a united Ireland growing, both due to Brexit, today we begin to wonder how long it will be before Kent declares itself independent from the UK. Quite unbelievably, the Outists are now saying that there will now need to be a border around Kent in order to control customs to and from the EU. Can things get any sillier? If that happens, I reckon it won’t be long before Kent starts it’s own independence movement. After all, in the so-called dark ages, Kent was it’s own kingdom; things are now so insane that, if this border is established, it won’t take much for some kind of Kentish independence movement to start to appear. If Brexit goes as catastrophically as any sensible person thinks it will, it could well motivate Kent even further to leave the UK and rejoin the EU on it’s own, benefitting from the trade through it’s ports as well as the Channel Tunnel. How amusing would that be? And the crazy thing is, it might not be that far fetched.
Yesterday NASA announced plans to send people back to the moon for the first time since the seventies. Ordinarily, I’d be bouncing up and down with excitement at such news: I’m all for anything that advances humanity’s exploration of space. These days though, I can’t help suspecting that this is less about science and more about geopolitics. With China having announced it’s own plans to send people to the lunar surface, America seems desperate to retain – or reclaim – what it seems to feel as it’s inherent position as the world’s leading spacefaring nation. The position the US once had, or thought it had, as the most advanced nation on earth is slipping. It assumed the cosmos was theirs alone for the taking – we can see that in it’s plans to mine the moon, as if it automatically belonged to America. The fact that other nations are catching up and possibly overtaking America is why it now seems desperate to repeat it’s great triumphs of fifty years ago. Thus while I’m all for the exploration of the final frontier, I can’t help feeling this has more to do with a once great nation trying to restore its prominence.
Saint Aigur Blue Cheese and Jam (preferably my mum’s home made strawberry jam) spread in equal measure on toast may sound a bit weird, but as I learned this morning, it’s absolutely delicious. I’ve seen serkan making it for himself a couple of times, and today curiosity got the better of me. He says it’s his own invention. What at first glance might seem like a very strange combination actually goes together really well, the sweetness of the jam offsetting the musky bitterness of the cheese. I dare you to try it.
Compared with London, Congleton is a small, dull place; so why am I craving once again strolling around it in my powerchair? I have now lived in the capitol for over ten years, and I still love it for it’s energy and vibrancy. I love the feeling of being in a world city, one of humanity’s major cultural hubs. Yet recently I’ve been thinking about the small Cheshire town where I grew up. I’ve been back there a few times since I moved to london, of course, visiting my parents; yet I didn’t take my powerchair with me, so I couldn’t wander around the town as I once did.
I think that’s what I’m missing. It’s not that there’s much to see, especially compared to the metropolis: there’s just something about following the roads, lanes and paths I have known since infancy which I find myself craving. I used to go out for hours in my powerchair, to the town centre or through the park, where I still remember being pushed on the swings as a child. Either that or up the lanes between the fields towards Swettenham, trundling along listening to the birds. These days I can go to Eltham or Woolwich or Greenwich, or anywhere in this vast urban expanse; yet there’s something about trundling about that quiet northern town surrounded by countryside which I’m starting to crave. Something about those streets which I once knew so well, which I have so many memories of, but which I last went down a lifetime ago.
I’m obviously just feeling nostalgic. Many people are, these days: this year has been so relentlessly depressing that we all want to return to happier times. All the same, I hope that, soon enough, perhaps next spring, I’ll find myself heading in my chair down Rood Hill or through Congleton Town Centre, trying to spot anything or anyone I recognise. I will probably be feeling rather snooty and superior about now being a Londoner, but beneath that there will be a great deal of affection. I may have changed a great deal over the last decade as I have grown used to the cut and thrust, the speed and noise of life in a great metropolis; but I will always be from that small town up in Cheshire, surrounded by fields.
The details are fairly complex so I better not try to summarise them here, but I want to flag this quite important Disability News Service article up. As I touched upon a few days ago, the new Coronavirus Act looks like it is going to have a lot of worrying consequences for people with disabilities. While as the article says, it is up to individual county councils whether to trigger the particular ‘easements’ which would threaten peoples’ right to social care, people are now nonetheless very, very worried about now suddenly having their support taken away.
To be honest I hadn’t heard of Ruth Bader Ginsburg before this morning, but her sad death has made me aware of the loss of a very important figure in American politics. From what I’m now hearing, this news should concern us all. Ginsburg was a liberal, a champion of women’s and minority rights; one of the few remaining figures tethering American politics to any form of sanity. If she is now replaced, as now seems likely, with a far more right wing Supreme Court Judge, it would only accelerate America’s drift towards the right. Under Trump, it is already frighteningly conservative as it is, with some even calling his perverse plans for the teaching of a one sided view of American history fascist. If Bader Ginsburg is replaced with someone as reactionary, intolerant and stupid as trump, one who is likely to side with him over any election dispute, the world’s foremost economy would effectively have become a fascist state. My, what truly frightening times we live in.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve been watching The Joy of Painting quite a bit recently. The classic series from 1985 is being repeated every evening on BBC Four. There’s something enormously therapeutic and relaxing in watching a weird, but obviously very talented, American guy create a painting from scratch. Of course, the program was designed to teach people various techniques of landscape painting, but given I can barely hold a paintbrush let alone replicate anything the great Bob Ross shows us, I think there is something else in this television show which fascinates me. There is something about watching an image being created from a blank screen over half an hour which is both relaxing and compelling. The pictures Ross creates are usually quite beautiful and evocative. Who knows whether a program like that could be commissioned these days, but in repeating them I suspect BBC Four is trying to tell us all to chill out a bit.
This just about sums up the utter stupidity of Brexit.
At PMQs earlier today, the new Lib Dem leader Ed Davey told Bojo (and the country) how new Coronavirus legislation is unfairly impacting people with disabilities. Unfortunately the exchange, as well as Johnson’s reply, was fairly vague, so it isn’t clear what impact Davey thinks the new Coronavirus Act will have, but he seemed to imply that people’s ability to get their care needs assessed will be affected. Getting such an assessment is hard enough these days as it is, so this could mean a lot of trouble for a lot of people. From what I’ve read, though, it will also remove local social services’s duty of care for disabled people, effectively undoing whatever progress we have made towards independence and equality over the last forty years. Councils will no longer be legally required to provide support for people like me to live independently. Typically, of course, the snivelling little p’tahk we currently call the Prime Minister just waved the question airily away, saying he’ll write to the Lib Dem leader, obviously indicating he doesn’t fully understand the implications of his own legislation.