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I think I just ought to record that I had a wonderful birthday yesterday. I saw mum and dad for the first time since Christmas – it was, as ever good to see them. I opened my presents after breakfast, with everyone sitting round, watching. We talked a bit, and started to sort some things out that needed to be sorted. In the afternoon, Lyn needed to pop to the bank, and then we went to the pub for a bit and came home. Unfortunately, the party we intended to have never materialised as nobody came, but we had a great time anyway listening to the cat Empire and Beatles.

Well, today is bright and sunny, and I have things to do. May the birthday weekend continue!

Japan almost a week on

I can’t help reflecting upon the fact that it has now been a week since the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. I remember, last Friday morning, warming up my computer and turning on facebook. I often check out the news first, but that morning I felt like checking what everyone was up to. I noticed a few odd status messages, referring to something in Japan, but then one referred specifically to an earthquake. I ran through and put the TV news on, and what I saw totally horrified me. I suspect it will be one of those events where you will always remember where you were where you first heard about it – like the death of Princess Dianna, or the September 11 attacks, events of sufficient magnitude stick in your mind, imprinting firmly onto one’s memory. Of course, that was even before the tsunami struck, and days before the nuclear crisis. In Japan, horror is following horror, and my heart goes out to the Japanese people.

bird watching indeed!

I noticed something rather irritating about my lightwriter yesterday. We were in Costa’s, talking about puns. Lyn and I both like to play with words, and she is especially good at coming up with naff, often cringeworthy ones. I decided to tell her my favourite play on words, which can be attributed to Humphrey Lyttelton, if memory serves: ”this is called orthinology, the art of word-botching” I said, using my lightwriter. This is a deliberate mispronunciation of ornithology, of course, which is bird watching. This pun is, in my opinion, a thing of absolute genius – the pinnacle of wit; but the problem was my lightwriter didn’t pronounce orthinology correctly. The damn thing said it as though there was a C in there somewhere. Needless to say I was extremely dischuffed, and spent about the next five minutes trying to get my lightwriter to say orthinology the right way, by which time all comic effect was lost. I suppose it just goes to show the chaps at Toby Churchill still have some bugs to work out, especially when it comes to things like puns.

Dispatches

Last night on channel 4 we saw the first open comparison between CaMoron’s ‘Big Society’ and privatisation. In a great programme, Dispatches openly likened the big society to opening the wealth fare state up to free-market economics. This is the first time I have seen the mainstream media declare what I, and I’m sure many others, have suspected: the big society is a con – a ruse. Far from empowering people, as last night’s programme made it clear, the big society simply hands services which should be controlled by the state over to big business. And what the Tories don’t seem to get is that does not work. Far from pushing up standards through competition, the free-market model pushes standard down: corners are cut, prices go up. Because we are marginal, the needs of minorities like people with disabilities are pushed to the back of the queue in the drive for profit. Things like schools and hospitals need to be controlled centrally by the state, or else we get falling standards and a two tier system. Because those people who already have wealth behind them are better placed to get involved with the big society, it will also maintain power in the hands of the few rather than empowering the many. In other words, it will help re-establish class divisions Is this the kind of place we want Britain to be? Or perhaps a better question would be, now the big society is being exposed for the lie it is, how long can the Tories stay in power? Anyway, go look dispatches up on 4oD

Japan quakes and tv debates

I was just watching ‘the big questions’ – one of these debate shows where a studio audience discuss the topics of the day. They were talking about whether the disaster in Japan was a reason not to believe in god. as anyone who has seen me watching such a thing knows, pretty soon I was hurling abuse at the telly: it gets to me that people can go on there, defend a bronze-age superstition and an invisible being for which they have no empirical evidence, and then accuse sceptics of being arrogant and aggressive. Even more frighteningly, I learned to day that there is a ‘centre for intelligent design’ in Britain – I thought that bullshit was confined to America, and had died out after Michael Behe took the stand in Dover.

This has, of course, nothing to do with the thrust of this blog, but it’s impossible for any blogger not to say how horrified they were at the images coming from Japan. I’ve never seen anything more terrible. Yet, it strikes me that, just two days after the event, we have a TV program with a studio audience discussing whether it was the work of some Sky Fairy or not. It’s crass, puerile, and makes me very angry…and somewhat scared.

apt joke

I may have stumbled upon this at random, but this joke strikes me as so fitting with my current thoughts to be worth repeating: ”A banker, a Daily Mail reader and a benefit claimant are sat round a table and have 12 biscuits to share. The banker grabs 11 of them, then leans over to the Daily Mail reader and says ”Watch out for the benefit claimant – he’s after your biscuit.’ ”

Very apt, don’t you think?

dirty little minds

Bit of a lazy post today: I think I ought to direct you here, to my friend Sally’s band. I know sally from university, where she did music and drama; she was also in the campus gospel choir, which I was sort of involved in. it’s good to see her doing something she loves, and I think they are well on the way to breaking into the music industry.

I realise my recent entries have sort of been all over the place; I really must get round to doing a proper entry. For one thing, I must do a properly researched article on how the cuts will affect disabled people. But spring is almost here and I have other things on my mind. For instance, this morning I watched quite a cool film called Chopper. My friend of the same name dropped it off for me to watch last night, and what I expected to be a puerile splatterfest turned out to be a very interesting portrait of quite an intriguing, if somewhat violent, man. This afternoon I’ll do some reading and then take the DVD back in a bit. In other words, I’m simply not in the mood for all this political doom and gloom.

Equals

I think I’ll just link to this today, not just because it mixes two of my prime interests – james bond and dressing up – but it carries with it a very important message. Sexism is a very real issue, and I have no doubt that all of what this advert claims is true. Frankly, though, I think something similar could be said about people with disabilities, although the discrimination people like me face is different. We are not beaten up by our partners, but we are often abused in other ways. Anyway, having the actor who plays one of the biggest misogynists in fiction help deliver a message about sexism is a stroke of ironic genius. Go watch.

”make it so.”

Thiis naturally caught my eye yesterday afternoon, althoughh I can’t find a link to it now. It’s about a new type of voice for communication aids, one modelled on a real voice. It was created by a guy who has motor-neurone disease, and who wants to be able to keep speaking to his son using his own voice. He recorded something like 2000 sentences, which are then broken down into their constituent chunks so the sounds can be used to create new sentences. It’s quite touching really, but it strikes me that we VOCA users could do with something like that too. Although voice synthesisers are improving, I have long wished for a more natural sounding voice. Quite an obvious idea occurred to me. What if we got actors to record the voice – actors like Daniel Craig, Judi Dench or Patrick Stewart? How awesome would that be? Mind you, I’d be forever asking my PA for ”Tea, earl grey, hot.”

cricket, libya and dishonerable *******

I was just trying to decide what I should write about today. The cricket is going well: we had a dramatic win over South Africa yesterday, and, although we lost to the Irish, we’re doing surprisingly well. To be honest I expected England just to give up after the emotional effort of winning the ashes. Mind you, how well we’ll do now Pietersen has come home remains to be seen.

I could also blog about Libya, where the situation continues to unsettle me. The bbc still refuse to call it a civil war, even though that is obviously what is happening. How much more like a civil war could it get before they call it one? I also don’t know what to make of the reports that members of the SAS were captured by rebel forces: the SAS are the most elite fighting force on earth – how could they have been captured by a militia? It just adds to my belief that we aren’t being told all the facts.

I could also blog about the Tory party conference. I didn’t watch much of it, having no interest in watching a bunch of arrogant toffs plot how they will fuck us all over, but I did catch the gist of CaMoron’s speech. It was the same old free-market nonsense we get from the Tories. What they fail to understand is it was freemarket economics that got us into this crisis, and it would have been even worse without the regulation put in place by labour. CaMoron may rail against the red tape, but what he doesn’t seem to grasp is that it is there for a reason: it ensures equality, transparency and a level playing field. Without it, the banks and business run amock, screwing each other and the rest of us over. If he were to remove this red tape, we will slip back into a recession which would make the current one look like a picnic. It’s clear that CaMoron and osbourne simply do not have the mental capacity to grasp the realities, and can only see the world through a right-wing distortion. Surely they cannot be allowed to remain in power.

But the biggest thing to get my attention is this: just as I was coming to the computer, I heard that the Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond has got a £6.5m bonus. This is at a time when the rest of us are struggling to survive thanks to a crisis created in the banking sector. How the hell can these bastards give themselves such bonuses, and, more importantly, how can CaMoron do nothing to prevent it and instead speak of deregulating the banks even further? If you ask me it is not only immoral but criminal; all of them – the bankers, osbourne, CaMoron – should not only loose their jobs but their liberty for it. Jail the dishonourable fuckers!