The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg should worry us all

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.

The Joy of Painting

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.

A huge threat to ‘our’ independence

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.

Crip Tales

I think this may well be worth a watch. BBC America is going to screen a series of monologues by and about disabled people. Fronted by Mat Frasier, Crip Tales will apparently be a series of fifteen minute shorts in which a person with a disability talks about life from their perspective. That certainly sounds interesting, although I suspect they’ll have to be very careful not to let it cross the line into either self pity or self parody.

Phosphene detected around Venus

At least today we have some incredible news to take our minds off all the other awful stuff happening on planet earth: scientists have detected phosphene in the atmosphere of Venus. They say it may be evidence of life there. On earth, the gas is associated with biological processes. I find that very exciting indeed. A few weeks ago, I heard similar speculations about Pluto, so it’s starting to look like life, in all kinds of forms, may be fairly abundant in our solar system. If that is true, think of the implications for the galaxy, and indeed the universe: could it be that the cosmos is, in fact, teaming with life?

To challenge or not?

What should you do when one of your old special school friends starts to write nonsense on their Facebook page about how we should end social distancing, stop testing for coronavirus, and about how more people will die from suicide than covid this winter if things don’t go back to normal? Do you try to convince them that they’re wrong, potentially upsetting them? Or do you just leave them be? They have obviously been hooked by one of the many lies and conspiracy theories now spreading rampantly across the web. The problem is, after over six months of social distancing etc, you can see how tosh like this might start to appeal to people, especially if they aren’t so familiar with the actual facts. But to let rubbish like this go unchecked and unchallenged surely risks it spreading, which in turn will obviously lead to the virus spreading more too.

Are we heading for a second lockdown

I just got in from my daily stroll. It’s quite a nice day, so I thought I’d take myself to woolwich to look at the river. The riverside there is developing quickly, and apparently hopes to one day compete with The South Bank as an arts/cultural centre. On my way there, though, I passed through General Gordon Square, and was astonished to find a carnival in full swing. There were stalls, rides, samba bands – the lot. I was flabergasted I must say – had nobody there been told about the pandemic? Very few people there were wearing masks. I don’t want to sound like a spoil sport, but given that we had to cancel the local film festival, it seemed rather unfair.

I didn’t stay long before rolling on, trying not to get within two metres of anyone there. It makes you worry, though: with the R rate rising again, and events like that cropping up more and more, could a second lockdown now be necessary?

A glimpse into disability music history

I just came across something very interesting indeed on my friend Mark Rowland’s facebook page. Mark was an old friend of Lyn’s from long before I met her. He’s a musician who participated in the Drake Music Project, which twenty one years ago appeared on the Jools Holland show as part of the Edinburgh Festival. As you can see, the video is a quite fascinating insight into disability music at that time; Adele Drake’s project was quite groundbreaking in finding ways for musicians with disabilities to make music. This short film, in a way, shows the very beginnings of a revolution which would eventually lead to things like the British Paraorchestra.

On Facebook Mark writes, ”I think that this concert showed true diversity of true musicianship with disabilities and able-bodied playing on a stage. I have not seen that since really. I think that is sad…” It is certainly true that concerts like this gave the wider audiences their first glimpses of what guys like Mark and Lyn are capable of; yet, rather than being a one-off, this concert was the beginning of something incredible. It may have been the first time musicians with disabilities were showcased on national TV, vintage computers and all, but things like this open doors to bigger, grander things (check this out for one). Thus I think this is a pretty awesome glimpse into the history of disability music.

Farewell Diana Rigg

What sad news to hear that Dame Diana Rigg has passed away today. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is still one of my favourite Bond films, and Rigg’s portrayal of Tracey – loyal to Bond, yet very  much his equal – helped make that film the masterpiece it is. Yet that was just one performance of a great many which secured Rigg’s place among cinema’s greatest actors. Alas, film has lost yet another great from it’s Golden Age.