“There’s something quite transcendental about making love with a dolphin”

Just because it’s the end of the world doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of stuff to laugh at. This, from the Mirror, had me in tears.

Man had sex with a dolphin called Dolly for a year – and claimed she seduced him

Almost every paragraph has a killer line, such as:

“At first I discouraged her, I wasn’t interested. After some time I thought ‘if this was a woman would I come up with these rationalisations and excuses’?”

A bag for life

This is my bag. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

My bag is an Animal, canvas and khaki. It was a present from my daughter nearly three years ago, a happy gift during a sad time.

Since then my bag and I have been inseparable. It has felt my nervous hands shake in doctor’s waiting rooms and seen me bounce around stages and dance floors. It has transported red wine into dry venues, sweets into cinemas and home comforts into hospital wards.

My bag has carried birthday presents and bottles of pills, iPads and injections, capos and co-codamol, hairbrushes and hand sanitisers, wine and wigs. It’s been to museums and to meetings, to parks and parties, to solicitors and salons. The badges it has worn so brightly, the rainbows and unicorns and statements and slogans, have brought me many Subway smiles, knowing nods and sour stares.

Like me, my bag has seen better days. Its back is threadbare from years against my hip, its khaki green dyed blue from a parade of new blue jeans. Its straps are worn and twisted, the little love hearts that hide underneath the fabric faded by friction. And like me, it has started to take shapes its creator surely never imagined.

I have another bag ready, another Animal. It’s like my bag, but it isn’t my bag. Not yet. But I know that it’ll soon be time for me and this bag, my bag, to say goodbye.

If my bag could talk, if it asked me, “was I a good bag?”, how would I answer?

I’d answer:

Yes, you were a good bag.

You were my bag.

So long, and thanks for all the fish

(Update: the dolphin photos were fake news: the images are from Sardinia where our marine mammal pals are regularly spotted. But the sentiment still stands)

I’ve given up trying to predict the things that make me cry these days. The latest ones were images from Italy showing the now-clear water teeming with fish and even dolphins.

The water has cleared up because there aren’t so many humans zooming around and churning up sediment, but the photos also reminded me of the satellite images of Coronavirus-hit towns and districts across the world: where previously they sat under a permanent cloud of man-made pollution, the pollution is gone.

It sometimes feels as if Covid-19 is Mother Nature giving us the mother of all hints: if this is how you’re going to behave, I’m better off without you. Coronavirus isn’t the end of the world; it’s a teaser trailer for the bigger, more frightening versions that are coming if we continue to pursue a model of economic growth no matter what the consequences.

The dolphins also reminded me of this, by the late, great Douglas Adams.

Curiously enough, the dolphins had long known of the impending demolition of Earth and had made many attempts to alert mankind to the danger. But most of their communications were misinterpreted as amusing attempts to punch footballs, or whistle for titbits, so they eventually gave up and left the Earth by their own means – shortly before the Vogons arrived. The last ever dolphin message was misinterpreted as a surprisingly sophisticated attempt to do a double backwards somersault through a hoop, whilst whistling the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’. But, in fact, the message was this “So long and thanks for all the fish”.

Murdoch and Netflix won’t do this

Earlier this week the BBC explained what it’s going to do to help during the Coronavirus crisis. The short version: a lot.

Here’s just one part of it, the education section:

In the event that schools are shut down, and subject to further work and discussions with the Department for Education, devolved administrations and schools, we are exploring:

  1. A daily educational programme for different key stages or year groups – with a complementary self-learning programme for students to follow, broadcast on BBC Red Button and made available on demand on BBC iPlayer.

  2. Expanding BBC Bitesize content, with our social media running daily troubleshooting Q&As focusing on a different subject each day.

  3. Increasing our educational programming on BBC iPlayer, bringing together the best from BBC Bitesize, BBC Teach and the wider BBC portfolio where educationally appropriate.

  4. Creating two new daily educational podcasts for BBC Sounds, one for primary and one for secondary.

  5. BBC Four and BBC Red Button devoting a block of programming each weekday evening to show programmes that support the GCSE and A Level curriculum. In Scotland, the Scotland channel will support the Scottish NQs and Highers in daytime.

I’m not privy to the internal conversations or plans of any part of the BBC. But I do know as a contributor there’s a ton of work going on behind the scenes to ensure that the output is relevant, necessary and useful to people during this very difficult period.

Imagine a world where the right-wing press gets its wish and the BBC no longer exists in its present form. Can you imagine Netflix stepping up like that? Sky? In the US, Murdoch’s Fox network is going to have blood on its hands for its Coronavirus denial: while around 70% of US news consumers are rightly worried about the crisis, that falls below 40 for Fox News viewers.

Like the NHS, there’s a lot to criticise about the BBC. But like the NHS, it still remains a national treasure.

Ice Ice Baby

There are lots of good causes hoping for your attention and your cash right now, and I’d like to mention one that’s close to my heart: The Ice Box arts and music centre in Glasgow. It’s struggling and without financial help it may not be able to re-open its doors.

They’re raising money here.

The Ice Box is special for all kinds of reasons. It’s not just a venue, although it’s a good one. It’s a non-profit that gets books and toys to kids who need them, runs special events on themes such as men’s mental health and women’s rights, helps local homeless people and provides an accessible, affordable and safe space for local artists. And it’s particularly special to me because it’s where I walked on stage as me for the very first time.

Bright SPARKs

I’ve become a little bit obsessed by the marketing for Positive Grid’s SPARK, a very clever guitar amplifier. In recent weeks I’ve been seeing a lot of videos like the one pictured below, in which really amazing women guitarists test the amp.

I’m not used to seeing women in marketing for musical stuff, which tends to be a boy’s club; musical marketing has often been appalling, with a particular low in the 1980s when Tokai’s “Tokai is coming” campaign placed full-page magazine ads showing a naked woman apparently masturbating with an electric guitar. We’re generally better than that now, but there’s a long legacy of sexism in the industry. Guitar.com has some other examples:

I volunteer and podcast for Scottish Women Inventing Music, an organisation dedicated to achieving gender equality across the music business, so I’m very interested in this stuff. The SPARK ads got me wondering: is this a deliberate strategy to boost the visibility of women musicians, thereby positioning Positive Grid as a forward-thinking firm, or is it just precision targeting on social media?

I’m not just wondering idly. Half of guitar buyers are women, and I recently spoke to guitar legends Fender about their marketing: this year will feature more signature models from women guitarists than ever before, and the marketing for the online Fender Play service has a good mix of people showing the variety of folks who play guitar.

Is Positive Grid doing the same? What are the boys seeing?

It turns out that the answer is boys.

I’m being shown women playing guitars but my male musician friends are seeing men in their ads. And that makes me wonder some more: is that because the firm has done testing and discovered that men won’t click on the link if the amp is being tested by a woman?

I fear that the answer is yes, because the frequency of the advertising indicates there’s a lot of money being spent on this campaign. You don’t make and target different ads for different genders if it doesn’t have a demonstrable effect on your sales.

I’m not picking on Positive Grid here. Seeing women in musical instrument marketing is still so rare that what they’re doing does feel like progress. As Guitar.com put it:

the guitar industry, and the music industry at large doesn’t accurately reflect the wealth of female talent out there. The fact that people have noticed this at last means that, hopefully at least, we’re finally starting to see some progress…

Please take part in the Scottish consultation, which closes at midnight today

I know, I know. I’m sick of it too and there are plenty of other things to worry about. But the Scottish consultation on gender recognition reform closes tonight and you can be certain that the worst people have made their voices heard.

I know of lots of people who’ve been meaning to do this but haven’t yet; after midnight those good intentions won’t be able to help a very marginalised community.

Please, take five minutes to complete the consultation. Everything you need to know is on the Equal Recognition website.

With excellent timing, an important study in The Lancet Public Health describes the importance of accurate documentation for trans and gender non-conforming people: it reduces psychological distress and saves lives.

the authors’ findings support the need to increase the availability of and streamline the processes to obtain gender congruent IDs. Gaining gender-congruent IDs should be easy, affordable, and quickly completed

Some people genuinely want us dead

One of the most incredible things I’ve seen in recent days is transphobes gleefully predicting that coronavirus will kill lots of trans women. They’re responding to Chinese stats that indicate a higher fatality rate among infected men than women; this, apparently, means those of us assigned male at birth will get our just desserts for whatever perceived injustice they believe we’re perpetrating. And the people doing this aren’t the lunatic fringe of Twitter. They’re the newspaper columnists and college professors who get to set the tone of supposed “legitimate debate”.

If you’re chuckling about the potential deaths of people, you’ve long abandoned “reasonable concerns”.

Many of these people and their followers have contributed to the Scottish Government consultation on gender recognition reform, which closes on Tuesday. If you haven’t already done so, please add your experiences; if you contributed to the initial consultation, please contribute to this one too. The first consultation was on whether gender recognition needed reform; this one is about how it should be done.

This article by Laura Waddell gives the lie to the claim that women’s groups aren’t in favour of the reforms.

Here’s what various organisations have to say about gender recognition reform in Scotland and what they hope you’ll say in the consultation.