Saturday, May 13, 2006

Cinema Watch - Week #3

Here I am again with my look at VUE cinemas in London to see if 1) my local cinema has bothered using it's Audio Description equipment this week ... and whether it'd be possible for me to travel to another London cinema in order to see a film.

Basically we have a situation where quite a few London cinemas have AD capability but don't bother ensuring that they put a described movie in the screen that has the technology.

So, my local cinema is Finchley Road VUE at the O2 Centre.

Here's how VUE are doing this week:

Acton: Mission Impossible 3 all week.

Croydon, Grants - Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week.

Croydon, Purley Way - Mission Impossible 3 all week.

Finchley Road - Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week.

Fulham - Ice Age 2 all week

Harrow - Mission Impossible 3 all week.

Islington - Ice Age 2 all week.

North Finchely - Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week.

Shepherd's Bush - Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week.

Staines - Mission Impossible 3 all week

Thurrock - Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week.

Watford - Mission Impossible 3 all week

West End - Scary Movie 4 sun/tues only.

There seems to be a little bit of a pick-up this week. And look, their flagship cinema West End are showing something this week! Hurrah. Is Scary Movie 4 any good? That's the one most likely to get me visiting the cinema out of the above choice of MI3, Ice Age 2 and Scary Movie 4 in London.

If you look outside of London you discover that many cinemas show 2 different AD movies per week. And that there seems to be a greater choice around the UK.

And you'll have seen that Finchley Road, my most conveniently close cinema, is again showing nothing with AD.

Is it a case of going to Blockbuster again? The latest DVD releases with AD on that look most promising, are: The Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Producers (2005), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Dr Who series 1 box set is also available but still haven't made my mind up about it and prefer David Tennant to Chris Ecclestone.

Check out VUE's AD and subtitled movie schedule for yourself.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Gary McKinnon

Gary McKinnon. Is he a dark hat or is he a white hat hacker cracker thing?

He openly admits to having hacked into the computer systems of the US forces including NASA. He did so over the course of 2 years from 2000 to 2002.

Today British courts have said that the US are free to extradite him.

What fascinates me is that he says he was looking for evidence of extra terrestrial space craft knowledge. Read: Hacker fears 'UFO cover-up' (BBC News). What's more, he found the evidence. Read the article. He also found evidence of suppressed technologies; i.e. that US scientists had backwards engineered technology found in capture alien spacecraft and worked out how, for instance, to create FREE energy (from matter) and antigravity.

But there are some rather big holes in what he says. He claims he kept no documents or pictures. Really? I know that I would have done.

That said, I really don't want to see him go to prison and his hacking exploits have helped the US Forces patch up security black holes.

keeping things

I used to throw things out of my fridge on the 'eat by' date. Now I keep them longer. What a scam!

Oh and fruit juice is only bad when it goes fizzy.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Monday Lottery

Just played the new Monday lottery.

The idea that it's fairer goes rather out of the window when you discover you have to gamble 5 quid to win up to a million. But more than that, you have to choose to play five lines all the same in order to win a million.

Each week there are two draws.

• Draw 1 could win you up to 100,000 pounds.

• Draw 2 could win you up to 200,000 pounds.

You can choose to play 5 lines, each line goes to a different charity. So that means you can pick and choose who you donate to this week - the charities are different each week with 70 in circulation (Born Free Foundation, RNID, Shelter and two that I've forgotten this week)

So if you play a pound for each charity (5 x 1 pound = 5 pounds) and then choose the same numbers in each of those 5 lines then in draw 2 you could win 5 x 200,0000 = 1 million quid.

There are lesser prizes for 5, 4 and 3 just like the regular old Lottery.

If you don't win a penny though, you are put into the losers draw where you could win 500 quid a month for a year!

So, basically, if you spend one quid you could win up to 200,000 quid. No more than that. Interestingly though I did find myself wondering whether I wanted to play all five because they weren't my favourite charities. I can imagine other people picking and choosing how much they play based on the chosen charities in a given week. So being able to choose who you donate to in this way is kinda nice.

I'll tell you how I get on tomorrow. I know it's crap and yes I know it's a tax on the stupid.

Have you seen the story about the housemates for the Big Brother house which starts next Thursday 18 May? (a Thursday?, you can't have a BB party on a Thursday) Look at Digital Spy for the latest BB7 gossip.

word verification on blogger?

We've previously discussed how word verification on blogger is inaccessible. Yet in the last couple of weeks it seems that they've added a new feature where you can click and listen to the numbers/words in the graphic and - at last - be able to post to blogs and be part of the blogging community proper if you can't see so well.

So far I've not yet got it working. Has anyone else? I've only been playing with it today though so maybe it's been working before today and is having issues at the moment. Thus far I've tried Goldfish's and Fang's blogs. NO others.

Anyone? Is it just me?

[Update] I was able to hear the audio verification by right clicking on it, saving it to my desktop and then playing it. I don't know why it's not streaming for me. It is suggested in the documentation that quicktime works well for playing their wav but why not any other player? Seems a bit weird to me. Anyhow, a solution now exists for me even if it's a little time consuming ;)

George Bush at the heart of UK politics?

Jack Straw potentially ousted by George Bush? That sickens me to the core.

In case you're not up to speed, or if you're American or something (same thing?), Britain had some rather big local council elections last Thursday. Tony Blair's Labour Party lost 300 seats, I think that translated into about 19 councils round the country in real terms.

On Friday morning, Blair presided over a big cabinet reshuffle. The beleaguered Charles Clarke went, the beleaguered Tony Prescot went and then oddly Jack Straw (now former Foreign Secretary, Condy's counterpart in the UK) lost his post too.

So, being as he hadn't apparently done anything wrong as per Clark (oops I let lots of foreign prisoners disappear off our radar, we forgot to deport them, they commited further crimes including rape) and John Two-Shags Prescott (I'm sinking to tabloid depths now) ... what led to his sacking?

Yesterday's Independent on Sunday carried the following:

Jack Straw's fate was sealed in a phone call from the White House to Tony Blair last month, according to the former foreign secretary's friends.

They say President George Bush was furious that Mr Straw said it was "nuts" to use nuclear weapons against Iran, an option reported to be under active consideration
in Washington.

Downing Street had already warned Mr Straw repeatedly to tone down his complete rejection of the military route as "inconceivable", insisting it was important
to keep all options on the table.

Read the article: The Washington connection: Did Bush stick the knife into Jack Straw?

So, Straw could've gone because of American politics? Because Bush still harbours a desire to attack Iran with real weapons. Killing weapons.

OK, so let me put a cool head on things for a sec, not too easy to do in the face of a potential muslim v christian war (I believe that's how it's seen on the world stage).

The game has set in. Clearly a war of rhetoric has started. You can plot the escalating language from the Americans. It's about seeking resolutions, it's about getting things done, it's about calling Iran's bluff if nothing else. The same happens in reverse with Iran putting their point of view. And, to me, in a world with an impending energy crisis, it makes complete sense that Iran would want to look into a nuclear energy solution. After all it's apparently what both Bush and Blair have seized upon as the best answer currently.

But Straw said it was 'nuts' to think we'd go to war. I personally agree with him. There's so much more at stake here. In our 'global village' we're seeing society break down with the post 9/11 cross cultural scism. And an anti-superpower anti-capitalism scism too. The effects are now very real and apparent.

But equally ... all options, I guess, should "appear to be" on the table right now. The language of diplomacy is actually quite facinating. It's the same language as media spin ... and we all saw how Blair subtly shifted his rhetoric on the approach to the 2003 Iraq war. Just the dropping of occasional words for instance.

Diplomacy and media spin have different goals though, clearly, even if there are similarities.

Hey, former Labour Party PR man Alistair Campbell said something interesting yesterday which puts the media attack on Blair into perspective. He said something like: "media will always be able to find people who are against the prime minister to fill air time'. And he's right. Media do create stories. It can give false impressions. Even if they do give an apparent balance in a piece headlined 'Labour Party on brink of civil war' - the seed is planted in the public consciousness. And that's all that's needed to bring satisfaction levels down, to make pollsters whoop with joy when the next results show a drop of 5% in support of the prime minister, etc. "I'm always facing my worst week ever" Blair said to the excellent Nick Robinson the week before last after the so-called Black Wednesday. It's just a headline. There's no great truth. But at least the media acts as a check and balance on the political system and its people. Where would we be without media?

God I'd be fascinated to be a fly on the wall of some cabinet meetings, wouldn't you?

Just how many of those apparently carefully thought out plans presented to the British public were thought up 10 minutes before they were announced in a press conference? Just how much are they driven by the desire, or need, to appease media and political commentators such as Richard Hitler Littlejohn ... spit spit spit.

Monthly press conference with Tony Blair at midday today. Meeting with his Mps this evening. A potentially interesting political day ahead but bound to end with little drama and I have no real doubt that the press machine will smother the 'Blair must go' momentum. Ministers and party people are practically throwing themselves at TV cameras, microphones and reporters today.

Just blogging, brainstorming into my computer. I'm off to watch Noam Chomsky's manufacturing consent now.

Week off!

Yes! Today is the first day of my week off. Hurrah! I'm sitting here in front of my PC with, oddly, KISS FM on (rather unlike me) but it's jogging me through the morning.

I had intended to spend lots of time this week writing. Remember that 'novel'?

Trouble is that on Friday afternoon at work the pain started. The G-word. Arthritic hell. My right arm started to really hurt. So I've stoppped myself from using the PC all weekend ... packed my arm in ice, took my sick-making drugs that keep me tied to the house for 2 days or more ... and I think I stopped it from becoming a massive attack. It's barely swolen but hurts.

I've stopped. But I'm really anxious that I now might not be able to write as I'd wanted to this week. I've been on the PC now for 20 minutes and keep checking to see if the pain is getting worse.

I've turned KISS off now and onto the far mor respectable tones of Today on Radio 4.

Gosh, Blunkett is on. Wait a sec. He's talking about the headlined 'pending labour party civil war' ... and that the leadership acknowledges the dismay felt by last week's local council election results. Interesting that he's been wheeled out as if he's a cabinet member ... he's no more than a back-bencher now. But he's a Blairite and an old stager.

Being a news junkie, and someone fascinated in the cut and thrhust of politics and the characters involved, I'm quite pleased I've got this week off because some real interesting politics could be starting to unfold this week. Tony Blair has a meeting with his MPs this evening where he'll be addressing the whole issue of his timetable to leave'.

Labour does need renewal, as Gordon Brown put it yesterday on Sunday AM. When I think back to 1992 and how Neil Kinnock lost that election. I was gutted. I signed up as a member of the Labour Party at the time. I was a member for about 3 or 4 years. Scarily my membership forms seemed to follow me round the country as I moved from house to house around that time. I have no idea how they did that. Even had knocks on the door about my membership! But anyway, I feel rather liberal through and through ... but beginning to realise more and more that you can't always just throw money at problems. Creativity and other structures need to be part of an overall solution, too. I hope that doesn't turn me into a Tory ... I do worry sometimes. They say you turn into a Tory as you get older ... I look at Tony Benn as my hero though, he's kept the faith, kind of.

God don't ya just love Rabbi Lionel Blue? He's a man who could give me faith. (he was just on Thought for the Day). Listen to him.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Cinema Watch week #2

Gosh, it's Thursday so time to look at the VUE cinema website to see if the Finchley Road cinema has got a) a decent film on with audio description or b) any film on at all.

I'm extremely surprised, though rather delighted, to report that my local cinema is showing '16 Blocks' with Audio Description from tomorrow.

What's going on? Have they been reading my blog? I barely even got into the stride of slagging them off! :)

Well, great, I'll be off to see it some time in the next seven days. I've got next week off work so I may even go alone while girlfriend toils in office.

I had mentioned in my last cinemawatch posting that I quite wanted to see 16 Blocks. Uh-oh, wait a second. On further inspection it's only on for a very limited period though. Why? Sun 16.40 Tues 19.10 . That's not all that good is it when you take into account the fact 8 out of every 10 films now receive the AD treatment. Where are the rest? Anyway, mustn't look a gift horse in the mouth must I. BE MORE GRATEFUL DAMON.

I'm gonna try a little experiment now ... ssshhhh ... hey I'd really like to see that Wal-Mart movie, or Enron or Davinci Code soon?

Lets have a look at other cinemas in London this week:

Acton - Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week. In other words: "we've got the equipment we just can't be arsed to switch it on"

Croydon, Grants - Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week.

Croydon, Purley Way - Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week.

Dagenham - Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week.

Fulham - Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week.

Harrow - Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week.

Islington - 16 Blocks. Sun 15.50 Tues 18.10 (just two performances, so at least I've got the choice between 16 Blocks and 16 Blocks this week in the north part of town)

North Finchley: Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week.

Shepherd's Bush - Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week.

Staines - Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week.

Thurrock - 16 Blocks. Sun 14.10 Tues 19.10

Watford - Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week.

West End - 16 Blocks. Sun 15.10 Tues 20.50. Why just twice? Why?

Jesus VUE ... wha'ts going on? This is appalling. All the above cinemas hav the equipment but have chosen not to show an AD film this week. And they complain no visually impaired people come along? That's cos you don't show anything! The above is London alone, metropolitan cool cinema-going London.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Cinema Watch - week 1#1

For months I've been looking at the website of my local cinema to see if A) they've got an Audio Described (AD) film on this week and B) whether it's worth going to see. The closest one to me is quite a big establishment at the O2 Centre on Finchley Road here in North West London.

Here is the page I look at. It details audio described what and subtitled movies are available at VUE in the UK.

If you followed the link today, you'd see what it says against Finchley Road VUE cinema:

"Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week."

I think they had a kids film on the week before last but most weeks of late I've seen the above apology.


* Approx 8 out of 10 films have audio description.

* Usually only one screen per cinema has the AD technology installed.

* This week VUE are showing films that definitely come with an AD disk ... but they're choosing to show them in the screens that don't have the AD technology that broadcasts to the headphones of visually impaired people in the audience.

Cinemas are kicking up that visually impaired people just aren't turning up. It's not surprising when they either show really crappy family oriented PG films every week in the AD screen (lowest common denominator and thus usually the most visual and less rewarding even if described) or don't show any at all.

How about showing 16 blocks? I'd quite like to see that.

Q: Hey Damon, what about traveling somewhere else in London, another VUE cinema perhaps?

Great idea! Only if you check the page you'll see that VUE have pulled the same stunt in most of their London cinemas this week.

Fulham - sorry no audio description

Shepherd's Bush - the website says they're showing CRAZY with AD ... but apparently Crazy doesn't actually have an Audio Description disk! Is the ice cream seller shouting out the missing narrative, then?

West End - Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week.

Islington - Sun 17.30 Tue 19.30 ... two opportunities in the week to go and see it. Why isn't there AD on all the time? Unlike subtitles you don't need special screenings because it's delivered via headphones and no one else is interupted. Maybe they've gone and mistaken AD for subtitles again? They do it regularly apparently.

Acton - Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week.

Croydon, Grants - Ice Age 2 is on Sun 13.55 Tues 18.05 ... just the two showings of a family animation? Is this real info or, as discussed, are they mixing it up with subtitles again? It's hard to tell.

Croydon, Purley Way - Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week.

Croydon is a bit out of London anyway ... but perhaps I'd have been willing to travel if they were showing a really good film? NO chance buster.

Dagenham - bit out of town but ya know maybe I could make it for a great film: Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week.

Harrow - middlesex but only half an hour by taxi ... they're showing Ice Age 2 just the once on Sunday at 14.30

North Finchley - Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week.

Reading - Maybe a trip via train but Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week.

Staines - Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week.

Thurrock - Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week.

Watford - Sorry, no audio description or subtitled screenings this week.

FOR CHRIST SAKE'S VUE CINEMAS! This is London. It was a Bank Holiday weekend. What on Earth was going on?

Looking at the choice of films showing around the rest of the country it was a bit pityful compared to the amount of films that have AD disks available.

Something is going very very wrong with the way this happens. There is no cohesive system. No one is thinking about AD customers in a logical way.

More next week in Cinema Watch week #2

Monday, May 01, 2006

Today is Blogging Against Disablism Day

Really impressive that over one hundred people are blogging against disablism today.

I thought I'd look for a definition via Google. You know how you tap in a word and it becomes highlighted meaning there is a definition if you click it? Disablism and ablism don't have definitions yet. But I guess that's why we're blogging about it.

Like racism and sexism and homophobia, disablism describes prejudice against disabled people. But the interesting thing about prejudice to this group (of which I'm one) is that oftentimes disablism is mistaken for kindness.

"I didn't give her the job because she's disabled and it'd be a strain on her geting into work every day." -- employers have been heard to say this kind of thing despite the fact that a very employable disabled person has presented themselves for an interview wanting to get some independence and a better quality of life perhaps. The employer sees her as hassle and believes she must be mistaken and helps her by not giving her the job. It's kindness not to burden her with that kind of strain?

I spoke to a local radio phone-in producer a couple of years ago who told me that a man with a stutter had called in to make a point on air. She said that she didn't put him on air because people listening might laugh or make fun of him and maybe he didn't realise. She thought she was being nice but she stopped him from being part of a public debate in a democratic country. She asked me if she'd done the right thing expecting that I'd say yes. The answer is: "well he called up, didn't he?" She was a bit embarrassed by him because she didn't have to deal with stuttering or differences daily.

I find this dangerous. Kate talks about it really well today in her BADD blog entry on her pages Everyone Else Has A Blog go and read it!

I struggle with disablism sometimes though. I'm not 100% sure how to define it ... plus still keep my mental health in so doing. Some things you have to let go. Maybe you shouldn't but you do.

I really wanted to work something in here about lack of access to books for visually impaired people. But is that disablism? Lack of a human right that could easily be solved because the technology is here and has been for some time now. Is it disablist that government recently refused to fund a pilot project that would make books accessible to the UK's 3.5 million print disabled? This is also about access to education too.

Maybe that's just politics though. A long hard battle to fight. Yet another. It's certainly someone else disabling me though and not allowing the easily-grabbable solution to happen.

I had a bit of a revelation a few years ago. Some people talk weirdly to me because they are confused about the eye contact I'm not giving them. They shout to be heard because I don't appear to be engaging in the way they're used to even though I may be listening intently with my eye footprints landing a few milimetres to the right
of where they're used to.

Not knowing that blind people can be anything more than piano tuners. Not knowing the oh-too-commonly used phrases bound to piss disabled people off. Not really understanding why parking in a disabled parking bay can mean no food this weekend at the supermarket. Can these basic little issues be down to the fact that we're in a disablist society? Whose media doesn't reflect disability experiences? Or, again, are these just things, stuff that happens, what's expected if you're in a minority group. And what can be done about this? The answer, of course, is that disabled people become more proactive. This blogging event is an example of how we can be more proactive.

Rambling a bit today but I'm gonna drag it all back to where I started. It's subconscious disablism that is most dangerous. Thoughtless 'not my problem' disablism which might be a small moment in time for the person disabling you but the rest of your life if you are the person being disabled. And it can certainly wear your self esteem away.

In 1995, 8 months before the DDA came in, I was arrested outside a nightclub by two police officers. The bouncers hadn't let me in because "you don't have a carer and we can't be expected to look after you". I was rightly pissed off. I stood outside the doors for two hours taking customers aside and telling them what the bouncers had done and urging them to reconsider going into the nightclub. I should add that I regularly attended other clubs - I was 24 after all.

Lots of people didn't want to talk to me. That was fine. A bit heartbreaking but fine. I was chuffed about the ones who said they would never go back.

But at 1am I was arrested "to prevent a breach of the peace". They agreed I hadn't breached the peace but were worried I might contribute towards something or or other. I was upset that my right to protest against the establishment that had just barred me for disablist reasons had been taken away from me. I was later enfuriated to learn that the police officers had arrested me to protect me. It was a double hit of disablism. I wept openly on the streets. I felt my life wasn't mine and control was not in my hands when the police bundled me into their van. It made me take to my bed for a week. It all happened at a time when I had applied for approx 50 jobs after leaving university and not got anything.

I quite like the word 'disablism'. It's a good solid word isn't it. I hate the phrase 'social model'. IT sounds like an essay. I think we should hurl out the social model v medical model term and just think of things as disablist or not disablist. It's far more understandable linguistically ... and it might catch on. Plus you wouldn't take someone to court for being "too medical model" would you? Doesn't disablism embody all these ideas?