Posts Tagged ‘‘Vision On’’

Aardman Animations Becomes Worker-Owned Co-Operative

November 11, 2018

I caught this interesting snippet on the local news here in Bristol the other day. It seems the owners of Aardman Animations, the studio that produces the Wallace and Gromit movies, as well as other films like Chicken Run and Early Man, are to become a co-operative. The two say they’re not planning to stop working just yet. However, they wish the studio to remain independent, and to make sure of this they’ve sold it to their workers.

Bristol is really proud of the pair and their creations. They started off making plasticine characters with Morph and his friends on the programme Vision On and then Take Hart. The studio takes its name from another character they created for these shows, who was a failed superhero. I’m really pleased that the two have done this, and are so determined to keep their company independent and separate from the massive conglomerates that dominate the media today. I wish them, their company and their workers all the very best, and hope they will continue to delight and entertain us for years to come.

Hammond Blames the Disabled for Fall in Productivity

December 7, 2017

This is another outrageous statement. But it really doesn’t come as a surprise, as it was mouthed by the current Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, a poisonous incompetent amongst a government of poisonous incompetents.

When Hammond was asked about the fall in British productivity, he responded by blaming it on the inclusion of various marginal groups in the workforce, such as the disabled. Mike over at Vox Political has posted a piece commenting on this stupid, insensitive and mendacious reply. He points out that if productivity has fallen, it might have something to do with a lack of motivation coming from insultingly low pay, poor nutrition, overwork, tiredness and anxiety due to zero hours contracts to care about profits or productivity.

He also points out that, thanks to May’s government fully supporting poor wages and precarity, employers now find it cheaper to employ people under these wretched conditions than invest in new equipment.

Mike also points out that Hammond’s comments follow the usual Tory line of blaming and demonising the disabled. But this doesn’t mean that they’re coming for them to throw them in the gas ovens just yet. No, they’re just content to let the stress of dealing with the benefit system either worsen their mental health, or force them to commit suicide. All while denying that people are being driven to take their own lives by the stress of their benefit reforms.

This is despite suicide notes left behind by those who have committed suicide, explicitly saying that this is why they have been reduced to taking their own lives.

And Mike also rightly notes how DWP staff are asking people with suicidal tendencies why they haven’t taken their own lives. Which sounds like a question from the infamous ‘Nudge’ Unit, the psychological manipulation department set up to manoeuvre people’s thinking so that they come to the decision the authorities want.

Mike also quotes Labour’s Debbie Abrahams, who has condemned Hammond’s comments, pointing out that disabled people are paying the price for the government’s failed austerity policy. This has included scrapping the schemes to get disabled people into the workforce. She states that we should be doing more to get disabled people into work, and definitely not denigrate their contributions. She went on to demand an apology from Hammond.

Abrahams also points out the contradiction that’s also hidden in Hammond’s statement. He states that there are more disabled people in the workforce, which we should be proud of, but the Tories have actually cut the programmes to get the disabled into work, as well as scrapping their manifesto pledge to halve the gap between the employment rates for disabled and able people.

You can’t have it both ways, so one way or another, Hammond is clearly lying.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/12/07/chancellor-blames-fall-in-uk-productivity-on-disabled-people-in-the-workforce/

Hammond’s comment is disgusting, but it is more or less standard Tory replies. The Tories’ entire economic strategy is to prolong the deficit crisis as long as possible, so they have an excuse for cutting welfare benefits, privatising whatever remains of the state sector, including education, and removing workers’ rights. All to create a cowed, beaten workforce that will accept starvation wages, for the benefit of ultra-rich profiteers, including the banksters, hedge fund managers and multinational corporations that are currently keeping their wretched party afloat.

At the same time, they desperately need a scapegoat. Usually this function is filled by the unions, who provide them with an excuse for taking away more workers’ rights while at the same time trying to dismember the Labour party by attacking its foundations in the trade union movement. But as no-one’s currently on strike, they can’t do it.

So Spreadsheet Phil has to blame the disabled.

As with everything else the Tories utter, a few moment’s thought can show that the reality may be the very opposite of what they’re saying. Let’s examine Hammond’s statement that the fall in productivity is due to too many disabled people in the workforce. Quite apart from the fact that, as Mike has pointed out, the Tories have actually cut initiatives to stop disabled people finding work, you can find reasons how disabled people in the workforce may actually be a boost to productivity.

Firstly, there’s the obvious point that just because a person suffers from one type of disability does not mean that they are totally incapable of work. One of the blokes I met years ago was a computer whizzkid, who was totally paralysed from the neck down. But he was very, very good at his job, and was earning a very high salary for his skill. Which he clearly earned and deserved. Despite the problems of dealing with this gent’s handicap, his firm clearly found it well worth their while to employ him. And he wasn’t the only one. I’ve heard of other, physically disabled people with mobility problems, who have also pursued successful careers in computing. Clearly, these peeps are anything but unproductive individuals.

Disabled people also act to stimulate innovation. I blogged a little while ago about how the robotics department at the University of the West of England in Bristol had set up a company to manufacture and sell their artificial hands, which are designed specifically for children. Never mind the hype and bullsh*t about self-driving cars: this is precisely the type of robotics we need. This technology is making it possible for disabled children and their parents to have more normal, better lives. It is positively enabling them, giving them the ability to do things that they otherwise couldn’t do, or would find more difficult. The technology is brilliant, and I’m sure will have other applications as well. And its effect on the children is liberating and empowering. If adults with similar disabilities also have access to improved artificial limbs, then you can expect that their productivity will also improve, as well as simply quality of life.

And this can be said of almost any technical innovation that improves the lives of disabled people, and gives them more independence and freedom, if only a little.

Then there’s the fact that disabled people, like everyone else, contribute to the economy. They have to eat, pay bills and the rent or mortgage. Getting disabled people into proper paid employment, rather than just subsisting on whatever benefits the DWP deigns to throw their way, means that they have surplus cash to spend. Which means that their purchasing power also pumps more money into the economy, and encourages manufacturers to produce more.

And the disabled have also contributed to British culture. Remember Evelyn Glennie, a drummer with one of our orchestras? She’s actually deaf, but that hasn’t prevented her from excelling at her instrument. And those of us, who were kids in the 1970s will remember the brilliant madness that was Vision On. This was a show for deaf children, so that the dialogue was signed as well as spoken. Much of it was silent, accompanied only by music. Among those on the show were Sylvester McCoy as a mad professor, a couple of young animators, who went on to form Aardman Animations, and the artistic genius that was Tony Hart. It also launched the career of another star, at least down here in Bristol: Morph, the mischievous plasticene man, who acted as a kind of comic foil to Hart’s artistic endeavours. The show brought joy to millions of kids, both deaf and hearing, and part of its legacy has been Wallace and Gromit, Creature Comforts and the other films to come out of Aardman. Vision On is remarkable because, by taking the job seriously and doing it well, it became more than a programme aimed at children with a particular type of disability, and was a massive source of TV creativity.

This makes me wonder about the possible potential out there for other programmes aimed at or with a disable audience, that could also do the same today.

But this is all too much for their Tories. Their whole philosophy is based around grinding their social inferiors down, and then blaming them for their poverty.

But this also shows how desperate the Tories are getting, and how they’re running out of plausible excuses.

Once upon a time, they would simply have blamed British workers, claiming that we’re too lazy, work shorter hours and go on strike more than our French or German competitors. But they can’t do that, as it’s notorious that we work far longer hours than them. In fact, the Germans even make jokes about how we work ourselves into the ground, but nothing in this country still works properly. So that excuse simply won’t do. You still hear though, occasionally, from the odd CEO windbag, who feels like giving the rest of us the benefit of his decades of ignorance. But it’s very definitely not true, and Hammond knows it. Thus he’s been reduced to blaming the disabled.

I’m sick of him, sick of this government, and sick of their lies and bullying – of the disabled and of ordinary working people. Debbie Abrahams is right: Hammond should apologise. And then I want him and his vile government cleaned out like the parasites they are.

Robots at the Philippe Plein Fashion Show in Milan

December 27, 2016

And Courtney Love, always assuming that she isn’t an android, of course.

I’ve got zero interest in fashion, but this is interesting as it’s stuff of Science Fiction today. I found this video of a fashion show in Milan for the designer Philippe Plein. This was based very much around robots. As you can see, Courtney Love and the models don’t come down a catwalk, but instead move along a conveyor. The music is provided by the German robot heavy metal band, Compressorhead, as well as a recording of Kraftwerk’s The Model, appropriately enough. Kraftwerk saw themselves as engineers of sound, and have performed with robots on stage themselves, or rather, with robotic versions of themselves, as well as cultivating a very robotic image themselves personally. A few years ago one of them published his autobiography, entitled I Was a Cyborg. As well as the robots of Compressorhead, there are big industrial robots moving about the stage filming the proceedings.

The Italian Futurists of the early 20th century would have really dug all of this. They were a militant artistic movement which celebrated war, masculinity, the new machine age and the speed of modern mass communication, like cinema newsreels, newspapers and radio. Their founder, the poet Marinetti, celebrated the motor car as ‘more beautiful than the Battle of the Samothrace’ in his Founding and Manifesto of Futurism, and declared that his movement ‘looked for the union of man and machine’. They dreamed of creating a world of biomechanical toys, designed ‘noise machines’ to be used in their musical concerts, and wrote pieces like The Agony of the Machine. One of their plays was about the love of locomotive for its driver. Plein’s fashion show clearly isn’t about aggressive masculinity, but feminine style. Nevertheless, the performance by the machines does take part in the spirit of Futurism as the art of the modern, industrial, machine age.

This fascinates me, as I think that there is room for the use of robots in serious art. Indeed, a feel that artists, musicians and choreographers have made all too little use of these devices in their performances. I know that at a time there was a vogue for people performing dances using forklift trucks to music. Many of these used to appear on children’s programmes, like the awesome Vision On. But this also shows that the artistic potential offered by machines really isn’t taken that seriously. These were amusing diversions for children, rather than serious art. But the potential to use them for high art is there, as the performance art and explorer of cyborgisation, Stelarc, has shown. His performances are, however, a bit too avant-garde for most people. I think, however, that it’s possible to use robots and cybernetics in traditional artistic forms, like music, drama and dance. A little while ago I blogged about a performance of Karel Capek’s robot play, R.U.R. in Prague, by an artistic group dedicated to exploring the implications of robots, using Lego robots. There are already machines like the British Robothespian, which act as guides in science museums. It should be possible to use robots like these in more serious artistic works. The only real problem with this, however, is the cost. These robots at the moment cost tens of thousands of pounds, which makes the use of more than two of them prohibitively expensive.

While I appreciate Plein’s artistic use of robots in his show, I also found them very slightly frightening. This points to a future, perhaps only a decade or so away, in which humans share the world with increasingly sophisticated machines with a great degree of autonomy. It is no longer a wholly human world, and people have to make their way amongst these sophisticated, and physically powerful devices. I don’t believe we’ll ever see a robot revolution, like R.U.R. or The Terminator, despite the pessimistic forecasts of Kevin Warwick in his March of the Machines. But this does seem to prefigure a future in which humanity has to share the planet with its mechanical creations, who have surpassed it in physical power.