Wednesday, 24 April 2019

The Equality Coin

"For the past 50 years and beyond, Canadians have fought for their right to love, marry, start a family and live openly as their most authentic selves. The Equality coin recognizes their triumphs and encourages all of us to build a better, more inclusive Canada – because like the coin itself, the more equality we have in Canada, the richer we all are."
Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance and Member of Parliament for Toronto Centre

Yesterday, the Royal Canadian Mint launched a one-dollar coin commemorating fifty years of progress in recognising the human rights of LGBT Canadians. Fifty years ago, homosexuality was decriminalised (via). Some advocates raise concerns about the message pointing out that "it mistakenly suggests equality has been achieved and largely as a result of the federal government's actions" but acknowledge that the coin is "fuelling a public conversation about LGBTQ history" (via).

photographs (London, late 1960s) via and via

Monday, 22 April 2019

Dream Crazier. Nike.

"For 30 years, the “Just Do It” mantra has been a motivational call for athletes nationwide, across all sports, and all levels of play. To celebrate that rich diversity, the second film in the JDI series, “Dream Crazy,” focuses on a collection of stories that represent athletes who are household names and those who should be. The common denominator: All leverage the power of sport to move the world forward.

Along with inspirational pros — LeBron James, Serena Williams, Odell Beckham Jr., Eliud Kipchoge — in this film, you’ll meet incredible athletes: 29-year-old basketball phenom and wheelchair athlete Megan Blunk, who took gold in Rio in 2016; Isaiah Bird, who was born without legs, and at 10 years old has become the one to beat on his wrestling team; Charlie Jabaley — an Ironman who made over his life by dropping 120 pounds, going vegan, and in the process, reversed the growth of a life-long brain tumor; and Michigander Alicia Woollcott, who simultaneously played linebacker and was named homecoming queen during her high school senior season. (...)

Narrated by Colin Kaepernick, “Dream Crazy” provides encouragement to everyone who has crazy dreams and goals that may seem unsurmountable."

image via

Saturday, 20 April 2019

The -ism Series (32) : Human Expansionism

"We have suggested that one of Star Trek's most central concerns is the question of how to define humanity. This is a double-edged project: on the one hand it is staged through the use of non-humans species who are designed to function as a foil against which human qualities become more apparent. On the other hand, these non-humans species themselves end up being progressively 'humanised'. (...)"

The tradition of what we might call a form of human expansionism - whithin Star Trek's own value system - tends to take it for granted that it is better to be human. One strategy here is for the alien beings to become progressively humanised - they are introduced as 'the other' and become steadily incorporated within a human value system."
(Barrett & Barrett, 2017)

At the same time, however, the Starfleet's Prime Directive is that "No starship may interfere with the normal development of any alien life or society" (via). In other words, human expansionism needs to be distinguished from colonisation. In addition, Star Trek may "unwittingly impart an unwarranted sense of anthropocentrism" when having "bilaterally symmetrical bipedal humanoids" playing aliens only because it is both easier and cheaper to make up actors as aliens instead of creating aliens (via). To me, Star Trek has never been about creating visually impressive alien beings. It is about the stories these alien cultures tell, their problems, their progress, and Roddenberry's vision of an inclusive society.

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- Barrett, M. & Barrett, D. (2017). Star Trek. The Human Frontier. London & New York: Routledge
- image via

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Quoting Vanessa Redgrave

"A conservative frame of mind is very limiting for an actor, and a human being, too."
Vanessa Redgrave

"Nothing I do is political. Nothing. I campaign for human rights based on human rights law. That for me is the be all and end all."
Vanessa Redgrave

"I was surprised when I was asked to play Miss Daisy and wondered if I could – only in part because she was Jewish but, also because she was a Southern woman who has hardly opened her mouth before she declares she's not prejudiced, and yet everything she does shows how totally prejudiced she is."
Vanessa Redgrave

"Politics is about divisions. Wherever you come in on the subject, there are divisions."
Vanessa Redgrave

"I've identified all my life with refugees."
Vanessa Redgrave

"I've been working for refugees for years and years and years."
Vanessa Redgrave

"I think everybody, including myself, are in danger of losing our humanity."
Vanessa Redgrave

photographs by Bert Stern (1967) via and via and via and via

Thursday, 11 April 2019

World Parkinson's Day

"Bob Hoskins's diagnosis is a reminder of how little we know about Parkinson's."
Jane Hill

More men than women are diagnosed with Parkinson's. When women develop Parkinson's, the age of onset is, on average, two years later than in men. There are also differences concerning the symptoms with, e.g., women showing a tendency to experience a higher rate of depression (via) and dyskinesias than men while rigidity and rapid eye movement behaviour disorder appear in men more often than women (Miller & Cronin-Golomb, 2010). Generally, symptoms such as tremor, rigidity, fumblingness, fatigue, sleep and writing problems are reported by men and women. In a study, women mentioned neck-pain and low back pain more often then men while men had to cope with writing difficulties, fumblingness, gait problems, speech problems, and lack of initiative more often. About 30% did not report having tremor and rigidity (Scott et al., 2000).

::: More: Parkinson's UK
::: More: Parkinson's Foundation

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- Miller, I. N. & Cronin-Golomb, A. (2010). Gender Differences in Parkinson's Disease: Clinical Characteristics and Cognition. Movement Disordorders, 25(16), 2695-2703.
- Scott, B., Borgman, A., Engler, H., Johnels, B. & Aquilonius, S.M. (2000). Gender differences in Parkinson's disease symptom profile. Acta Neurologica Scandinavica, 102(1), 37-43.
- photograph of Bob Hoskins (1942-2014) and Michael Caine via

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Not the Nine O'Clock News | Conservative Conference Speech

Not the Nine O'Clock News was broadcast on BBC 2 from 1979 to 1982 launching the career of Rowan Sebastian Atkinson and others (via).

"Our right honourable leader… and Denis. My, lords, ladies, fellow party workers, I am a golfer! [applause] But I am also a Conservative and the Conservatives are back in power! What a wonderful word! But with a new initiative and most of all, a new style. And we are mostly concerned with two main issues.
Firstly, immigration. Now, people really do get this party wrong on this issue every time, don't they? We don't think immigrants are animals, for god's sake! I know a lot of immigrants personally and they're perfectly nice people. They're black, of course, which is a shame. But honestly, some of them can do some jobs almost as well as white people... and we acknowledge this.
Now, a lot of immigrants are Indians and Pakistanis for instance, and... I like curry, I do! But now that we've got the recipe, is there really any need for them to stay? Conservatives understand these problems, you see.

Like we understand young criminals, another very emotive issue. This party feels that we've been just a little too soft on these... bastards. Mr. Whitelaw has spoken of the short sharp shock treatment, and his introduction of the 24,000V electric chair to Home Office detention centres begins next week... on a purely experimental basis, of course. If it doesn't work? Then of course we will be more than prepared to revert to old liberal wishy-washy socialist n***er-loving red left-wing homosexual commie ways of the recent past. But please, let's have a chance! It may be a tough road, we know, but don't forget, it is easier for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a camel to… [pause] ...than it is, for a camel to." (via)

"We all enjoy a great British curry, but what we want are curry chefs trained here in Britain so we’re providing jobs for people here in this country, and that’s what our immigration controls provide."
George Gideon Oliver Osborne (British Conservative Party politician) in 2016

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photographs via and via

Monday, 8 April 2019

The Future of Women Astronauts Seen From 1962

"When I was about 13, I wrote to NASA and asked what I needed to do to try to be an astronaut. And of course, there weren't any women astronauts and NASA wrote me back and said there would not be any women astronauts. And I was just crestfallen."
Hillary Clinton

In February 1962, long before Women@NASA, a woman  from Connecticut applied at NASA and received the following reply (via):

Dear Miss Kelly:
This is in response to your letter of February 20, 1962.
Your offer to go on a space mission is commendable and we are very grateful.
This is to advise that we have no existing program concerning women astronauts nor do we contemplate any such plan.
We appreciate your interest and support of the nations's space program.
O.B. Lloyd, Jr.
Public Information

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selfie of Buzz Aldrin in 1966 on the Gemini 12 mission via

Friday, 5 April 2019

Peter Falk's Eye

"Young man, for the same price I'll get an actor with two eyes."
Harry Cohn, Columbia Pictures

Peter Michael Falk (1927-2011) had a cancerous eye removed at the age of three. The navy did not take him because of his glass eye. "So I joined the merchant navy who allowed monocular crew, if you worked in the kitchens. You're not wanted on deck or in the engine room with one eye, but you're good to fire up the ovens and cook hundreds of chops." (via). Despite warnings he became an actor, and a very popular one.
As an aspiring actor, he was reportedly warned by one agent the false eye would preclude him from working in television. In fact, it became another endearing trait of his most famous character. (via)

images of Peter Falk and Leonard Nimoy (Columbo, A Stitch in Crime, 1973) via

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

The Digital-Native-Nonsense

"There are a number of labels to describe the young people currently studying at school, college and university. They include the digital natives, the net generation, the Google generation or the millenials." The concept of the digital native - "native speakers" of the digital language and computers -  is solely based on the criterion when a person was born. Supporters of this notion, such as Prensky, say that those born in the last two or three decades have always interacted with technology, that they "are used to receiving information really fast", prefer their graphics before their text than the other way round, and function best when networking.

Those born before 1980, on the other hand, are so-called digital immigrants. And it gets better: These digital immigrants somehow manage to learn to use technologies but cannot get rid of the past and remain "unable to fully understand the natives". Digital immigrants are, for instance, characterised by a tendency to read manuals before finding solutions online. Prensky draws parallels between digital natives and native speakers (Helsper & Eynon, 2009), the latter being another myth.
(...) linguists, applied linguists and language teachers all appeal to the native speaker as an important reference point and a benchmark for knowledge of a language. But who exactly is the native speaker? Alan Davies, The Native Speaker: Myth and Reality
The native speaker is "a scientific concept, rather than a flesh and blood creature", a social construct. In the 1980s, the non-native speaker was a deficient native-speaker. This notion was called into question in the late 1990s.
In sum, the attempts that have been made to describe the 'native speaker' in applied linguistics are inadequate, and based on unjustified assumptions drawn from flawed 'common sense' conceptions of speakerhood, or the misapplication of a reductive linguistic concept. Whatever the 'native speaker' might be, we have yet to reach a satisfactory scientific description that can be applied not only to concepts, but also to real people, with all their attendant inconsistencies and imperfections. The question Paikeday and his correspondents struggled to answer still stands, leading us to suspect that the 'native speaker' is not a scientific classification at all. Lowe

Back to the digital native, a term that is widely used in both public and political debate. It is, by the way, also frequently used in job advertisements as an obvious code for "we only accept young applicants". It is nothing but "a pretext for age discrimination" (via).
There is a growing body of academic research that has questioned the validity of the generational interpretation of the digital native concept. Those in support of this digital native / immigrant distinction tend to assign broad characteristics (e.g. a specific learning style, amount and type of technology use and / or set of learning preferences) to an entire generation (Bennet et al., 2008) and suggest all young people are expert with technology. Yet, while the proportion of young people who use the Internet and other new technologies is higher than the older population (...) there are significant differences in how and why young people use these new technologies and how effectively they use them (...). Indeed, a number of writers have highlighted the complexity and diversity of use of new technologies by young people which tends to be ignored or minimized in many arguments in support of the digital native.
The line between age and generation is blurred, digital native is about the year of birth rather than the amount of exposure, the experience or expertise with technologies versus the ability to post selfies on social media. This approach has serious implications as it also suggests that a "digital disconnect" between "young" and "old" is inevitable (Helper & Eynon, 2009).

Helsper and Eynon (2009) conducted a survey (n = 2.350) in Britain, analysed the data and came to the conclusion that it
is very clear (is) that it is not helpful to define digital natives and immigrants as two distinct, dichotomous generations. While there were differences in how generations engaged with the internet there were similarities across generations as well mainly based on how much experience people have with using technologies. In addition, the findings presented here confirm that individuals’ Internet use lies along a continuum of engagement instead of being a dichotomous divide between users and non-users. (...)
This research adds to existing research by showing that a generational distinction between natives and immigrants, us and them, is not reflected in empirical data. Therefore, the distinction is not helpful and could even be harmful.
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- Helsper, E. & Eynon, R. (2009). Digital natives: where is the evidence? British Educational Research Journal, 1-18.
- images via and via

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Why Can't We Be Friends?

I've seen you 'round for a long long time
I remembered you when you drank my wine
I've seen you walking down in Chinatown
I called you, but you could not look around

I paid my money to the welfare line
I see you standing in it every time
The color of your skin don't matter to me
As long as we can live in harmony
I'd kind of like to be the President
So I can show you how your money's spent
Sometimes, I don't speak right
But yet, I know what I'm talking about
(lyrics via)

::: Smash Mouth's version (1997): WATCH/LISTEN
::: Original version, War (1975): WATCH/LISTEN

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image via