New Movie: Blindness

This from TheStar.com: McKellar, 44, is the screenwriter and co-star of Blindness, theBlindness_2
Canada-Brazil-Japan co-production chosen to open the 61st edition of the Cannes Film Festival…

Directed by Fernando Meirelles (City of God), the film is
an adaptation of Portuguese writer José Saramago’s Nobel Prize-winning
1995 novel
about the panic and violence that follows an unexplained
epidemic of blindness. It was shot in Toronto and Brazil last summer.

It’s
the second time McKellar has come to Cannes with a high-profile film
about a global calamity. He was here a decade ago with Last Night,
his curiously upbeat directorial feature debut about the end of the
world. He admits it’s a strange fascination for a guy who had "a quite
placid North Toronto upbringing."

***

Blindness stars Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore in the lead
roles of a doctor and his wife attempting to come to grips with the
calamity. The supporting cast is loaded with Canuck talent, including
McKellar, Sandra Oh, Maury Chaykin, Martha Burns and Susan Coyne.

McKellar is hoping viewers will recognize Blindness as a film that deals in bigger ideas than just terrifying people.

"We
shouldn’t be scared of blind people. They’re not monsters. To me,
humanity is exposed when people are blind; they’re not dehumanized."

Blindness
is a more substantial film than the usual show-opener at Cannes, which
tends to be a lighter affair driven by stars who provide the desired
glitter on the red carpet into the Palais des Festivals.

"It’s a
good thing. (Cannes officials) are trying to change their image. I
don’t know how the Cannes audience will respond to the film, but,
hopefully, it still works on a commercial level or a thriller level,
while also having more to say."

It will certainly be interesting to hear what Steve has to say, now won’t it? 

~ Connie

LINKS:

Thanks to Beth Haller of Media Dis&Dat.  It was her post "Blindness" screenwriter says film doesn’t dehumanize blind people that brought this to my attention.

According to Pop Culture Buzz this movie is commercially scheduled for limited release in the United States on September 12, 2008.

A not-so-good review

Another not-so-good review…

Blind professor helping UI students, doctors see disabilities in a new light

Steve Kuusisto, an English professor at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, also has a joint appointment in the Carver College of Medicine as a "humanizing agent," helping educate doctors about disability issues. In this video, Kuusisto talks about his blindness, interacts with his students and discusses his current career ventures. GazetteOnline video by Michael Barnes.

LINKS:

Project 3000

UI contributes to gene therapy breakthrough for blinding eye disease

University of Iowa News Release

April 28, 2008

UI contributes to gene therapy breakthrough for blinding eye disease 

Researchers
at the University of Iowa played a key role in a landmark gene therapy
breakthrough reported Sunday, April 27, in an online article in the New
England Journal of Medicine. 

The study reported
improvement in vision following gene transfer to the retina in three
patients with an inherited form of blindness known as Leber congenital
amaurosis or LCA. The study was carried out at the Children’s Hospital
of Philadelphia by an international team led by the University of
Pennsylvania, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the Second
University of Naples and the Telethon Institute of Genetics and
Medicine (both in Italy), the UI and several other American
institutions. 

This is the first report of successful gene
therapy of an inherited eye disease in humans. Although the patients
have not achieved normal eyesight, the preliminary results set the
stage for further studies of an innovative treatment for LCA and
possibly other retinal diseases. Patients’ vision improved from
detecting hand movements to reading lines on an eye chart. 

Edwin
Stone, M.D., Ph.D., UI professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences
and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, led the genetic
testing portion of the study. Stone’s group developed a method for
distinguishing disease-causing mutations from benign genetic variants,
and this method was used to choose the patients who were treated in the
gene therapy study. The Iowa group also developed a highly efficient
nonprofit testing strategy that has allowed genetic testing for LCA to
be offered on a national scale. 

"This is a very exciting
day for everyone involved in caring for patients with inherited eye
disease," Stone said. "We are very pleased that the Carver Lab at the
University of Iowa was able to contribute to this important step
forward." 

Among those recognizing the breakthrough were
John and Marcia Carver, members of the family who donated $10 million
in 2005 to create and name the John and Marcia Carver Nonprofit Genetic
Testing Laboratory and the associated Carver Family Center for Macular
Degeneration at the UI. "We were very happy to hear of this
extraordinary scientific result and excited that the Carver Lab had an
important hand in it," John Carver said. 

The UI is also home to Project 3000 (http://www.project3000.org),
a philanthropically supported grassroots effort to find all 3,000
people in the United States affected with LCA and to offer them a
genetic test whether or not they have insurance coverage to pay for it. 

Project
3000 was created in 2006 by Stone, Derrek Lee, who is first baseman of
the Chicago Cubs, and Wyc Grousbeck, who is co-owner and CEO of the
Boston Celtics. Lee and Grousbeck have children affected with LCA.

Continue reading “UI contributes to gene therapy breakthrough for blinding eye disease”

Les Miserables, American Style

I begin with the premise that suffering is a commodity like everything else.

Now Wal-Mart wants their money back.

"Don’t kid yourselves, they wont make a ruckus in America," say the apparatchiks at Wal-Mart’s hindquarters.

She’s just a disabled woman who can’t go back to work and now that she’s won a minor lawsuit against the trucking company that left her brain damaged, let’s sue her to get that money since our corporate health care plan had to pay for her over the past three years. And what the heck, let’s sue the woman for more than she received in damages—who cares if she has to live in destitution. It’s only fair you see, because suffering is a commodity and we at Wal-Mart are always, always rolling back the prices."

I kid you not.

Wal-Mart trots out its public relations hacks. They have the hubris to argue that the solvency of their employee’s health care plan depends on putting this woman into bankruptcy.

Really.

Heck, this argument worked with the court.

What’s the difference between a Reaganite court and the Sermon on the Mount?

We no longer have to strive to alleviate suffering. We commodify it like everything else.

What’s my second premise?

It’s raining like mad in America.

Our ancestors stare mutely at us from inside every rain drop.

S.K.

LINKS:

Keith Olbermann Continues Feud Against Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart Responds

Wal-Mart Screws Up an Easy PR Problem

Latest on Shank Wal-Mart Story

Meet Debbie Shank…

 

[with]tv Launches New Radio Program for People with Disabilities…and everyone else!

A Different Perspective – Press Release

Coming Soon: a one-hour, weekly Internet Talk Radio Program entitled A Different Perspective set to premier on Webtalkradio.

A Different Perspective will be hosted by Howard Renensland, CEO of [with]tv: "a television channel of, by, and for people with disabilities…and everyone else" and PWdBC, a 501 c 3 dedicated to training people with a disability for careers in film and television.

To quote Mr. Renensland, “My experience of the past 23 years raising
and advocating for my daughter with disabilities has convinced me that
the single most debilitating factor limiting people with disabilities
is not their disability, but rather their image as portrayed in
mainstream media and the factors that contribute to that stereotypical
image. [with]tv will alter this situation by fully employing people
with disabilities in a mainstream media company where they, people with
disabilities, will control the medium and the message.”

A Different Perspective will present an
entertaining discussion of current issues from the perspective of
people with disabilities. Howard will, with the assistance of guests
and [with]tv volunteer reporters from the disability community, provide
this perspective intended for all listeners – not just those with a
disability. The ongoing progress of [with]tv, PWdBC, and the work of
the volunteers turning this vision into a reality will be discussed as
well.

Inquiries regarding advertising and corporate sponsorship are
welcome. A volunteer staff is seeking audio commercial placement along
with advertising and corporate sponsors for A Different Perspective, [with]tv, and PWdBC.  More information can be found on on Blog [with]tv and on the web site.

Cross-posted on Blog [with]tv.

Get Involved: Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities "Blog Swarm"

RatifyNow.org is "a
website to support the global grassroots efforts to ratify the
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities."  There you will
find this announcement:

Blog Swarm!

Calling all bloggers and writers! On March 30,
2008, the RatifyNow.org site will be host to the RatifyNow CRPD Blog
Swarm 2008! If you’re reading this page, chances are, you care
passionately about disability rights. This is your chance to get on a
soap box and tell the world what the international disability rights
treaty (CRPD) means to you! Learn how to get involved.

If you are not a blogger, you too can be involved.  Simply forward your essay/comments to a blogger, here for instance, to have your thoughts be heard.

Cross-posted on Blog [with]tv and Crimes Against People with Disabilities

Crimes Against People with Disabilities

Crimes Against People with Disabilities: A brand new blog and A Place to Tell It Like It Is 

In 2002, Professor Mark Sherry, then at the University of California, published an intriguing article about the grievous underreporting of hate crimes against people with disabilities in the United States.

The most important dimension of this piece resides in the FBI’s
suggestion that hate crimes against the disabled are statistically
negligible. The findings of an accompanying study by the UC Berkeley’s
program in disability studies suggest that police and law enforcement
officials are often reluctant to categorize crimes against people with
disabilities as hate crimes because officers aren’t sufficiently
trained to identify biased based crimes. Additionally, it is easier to
classify a crime as simple assault.

Alas, not much has changed in the six years since this article was
published even though disability rights advocates have continued to
point out the seriousness of this underreporting problem.

The aim of this blog is to give people with disabilities and their
fellow advocates a place to publicly record narratives of abuse against
PWDs. These narratives might be first person accounts or associated
stories drawn from the news media or the internet. They might be links
to blogs or links to announcements concerning public policy and law
enforcement initiatives aimed at addressing these problems. Other posts
might include articles or bibliographies about these issues.

Above all
else it’s safe to say that the gathering of this information will be
timely.

Cross-posted on Blog [with]tv

Al Qaeda's Latest Outrage

In case anyone has forgotten just how despicable Osama bin Laden and his followers are, we offer this brief news flash.

The BBC has reported that Al Qaeda strapped explosive devices on two developmentally disabled women in Iraq. Here is a link to the story and a brief excerpt.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7221639.stm

"The operation was carried out by two booby-trapped mentally disabled women."

The al-Qaeda terrorists and criminals are proud of this method," Brig Qassem Ata al-Moussawi, Iraqi security forces spokesman told the BBC, "The bombs were detonated remotely."

"Forensic and bomb squad experts as well as the people and traders of al-Shorja area of the carpet market have confirmed that the woman who was blown-up there today was often in the area and was "mentally disabled"… In the New Baghdad area the shop owners and customers of the pet market confirmed that the woman who was blown-up there was mentally disabled as well."

The US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, said al-Qaeda had found a "different, deadly" technique.

S.K.

Shame at The New Yorker

The latest issue of The New Yorker magazine features a poem by Marie Howe entitled "The Star Market". In the poem the omniscient narrator sees numerous disabled people in a supermarket. The poem’s narrator is disgusted by these deformed shoppers and goes on to speculate about the forbearance that Jesus must have owned to live among such people.

You can check out the poem yourself.

I am not an advocate of censorship, and in general I tend to believe that the world isn’t harmed by bad poetry. Howe’s poem is trite, rendered without wit, and though it tries to offer a speculative nod to the trials of Christian compassion, in point of fact the poet misses the mark even with this slow pitch Judeo-Christian theme. In short: the poem is just plain bad.

I don’t know Marie Howe. I do know a good deal about poetry though. Therefore I understand implicitly that the narrator of the poem is not precisely the poet herself.

I "get it". The narrator is a cultural figure just as the lame and the deformed are culturally suggestive figures within the proscenium arch of the poem.

But it’s a stupid poem. There’s an easy decadence about it. Contemporary American poetry is rife with this kind of thing these days. Wallace Stevens once wrote, famously, that "the world is ugly and the people are sad"—but he didn’t mean to suggest that he should earn "Brownie points" because he could see it.

And that’s the problem with Howe’s poem. The narrator thinks she’s smart. The reader is left to interpret that narrator’s degree of discernment and empathy.

At the end of the poem we’re told that Jesus, turning around to see one of these terrible unfortunates from the supermarket would likely have a problem himself.

And so the poem is execrable and it uses disability in all the clichéd ways that bad writing has always employed: these are the stigmatized and ostracized children, these cripples, who haunt the roads outside of Thebes.

Spare us.

I don’t read The New Yorker very often, and I seldom read the poetry there when I do pick it up. The magazine has never been famous for its capacities where poetry is concerned.

But now I will not read it at all.

Shame on them.

S.K.