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.

The return of cerebral science fiction

While I don’t think I can expand much upon it since I haven’t seen the films it references, I think this Guardian piece is definitely worth a read. Science fiction, it argues, is getting ‘serious’. That is, there is a wave of new films about time travel which go to some effort to engage with the philosophical ideas underpinning the notion. We therefore see things such as characters trying to get to grips with the grandfather paradox, and referencing thinkers like Nietzsche. As the article itself says, that sort of stuff can get rather heavy and off-putting pretty quickly, but I think it’s great to see the return of this kind of cerebral sci-fi, unafraid to play with difficult ideas and stretch audiences a bit. These days, there’s so much action-based, comic-book–derived dross saturating the genre, I think something a bit heavier would be quite welcome.

On the mend

Sorry my blogging has been a bit patchy lately. I take quite a bit of pride in the fact that I keep my blog updated. I blog every day if I can. Recently, though, the situation with my health has meant that my blog has taken a back seat: it’s rather hard to find a subject and write a blog entry about it when it feels like there is a great big hole in your tongue. I’m pleased to report, though, that I’m on the mend: while my last full night’s sleep was about two weeks ago. I can feel my mouth returning to normal. Perhaps soon I’ll be able to concentrate on other, more interesting, things, rather than moping around feeling sorry for myself.

Mum and Dad come to visit

My parents came to visit yesterday. It was the first time we had physically seen eachother for over six months, so it was great to at last have their company. We just spent three or four hours having coffee before going up to Eltham Palace for a walk. Mum and dad couldn’t stay too long before needing to get back to north London – they were concerned about the tube, and how few people were wearing masks. Nonetheless it felt great to see them: I’m still quite close to my parents, and being able to catch up with them physically felt good. It felt odd not to be able to cuddle them – it seems this pandemic has ruled out even simple, natural things such as hugging one’s parents – but let’s hope that that situation changes soon.

Another bigot running the country

=I certainly agree that our new trade envoy to Australia should not be a climate-change denying homophobe. We already have too many bigoted crackpots running the country, and according to this, I am not alone. My all-time favourite wizard, Sir Ian McKellen, has joined the campaign to oppose Tony Abbott becoming UK trade envoy. ”Campaigners including Sir Ian McKellen today sent an open letter to the Government claiming that former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is unfit to be a UK trade envoy…The letter, which has also been signed by former Doctor Who boss Russell T Davies and activist Lord Cashman, says: “This is a man who described himself as ‘threatened by homosexuality’, and vigorously campaigned against the ultimately successful referendum in Australia to allow same-sex couples to marry.” Surely the last thing the country needs right now is a bigot like that becoming involved in it’s international affairs. Mind you, one must also point out that the only reason we need to appoint a new trade envoy to Australia in the first place is because we’re leaving the EU. Now we need to make our own trade arrangements, guided by the Tories there is room for stuff like this to come into the picture. Another oh so glorious consequence of Brexit.

Old drinking techniques

I suppose I’m feeling pretty  sorry for myself at the moment. I have quite painful mouth ulcers, so I have not been sleeping well at all. The damn things make my whole body tense up in periods of intense tongue pain where my body becomes momentarily useless. The sooner my mouth has  healed, the better. Another consequence of the ulcers is that it make it nigh-on impossible to suck through a straw, so drinking anything  has become rather excruciating. I have been becoming more and more frustrated, until a few moments ago. Just now, getting rather pissed off that I couldn’t enjoy my morning coffee, I had an idea: years ago,  when I was growing  up, my mum used   to help me to drink by holding a teatowel under my chin and putting the cup up to my mouth. I drank like that throughout my childhood, but the method became redundant once I started to use straws. Obviously straws meant I could be more independent. Today,  however, straws getting nowhere, I thought it might be time to revive it.

The results, needless to say, were mixed: I managed to at last get a good quantity of coffee drunk; but Serkan quickly realised that it would be wise for him to put a pair of rubber  gloves on, and let’s just say that  it’s probably a good thing that I was about to have a shower.