The Sunday cat discovers the theremin and uncovers a controversy

First, an inexpensive version of the theremin in a sweet cat’s paws:

The theremin is a very early electronic instrument, generally said to have been invented by a Russian physics professor, Lev Thermin,  in 1919.  But here’s the first concert player of  the theremin, Clara Rockmore (1911-1998):

And according to a comment on youtube, her version is more complicated:

The low cello register of a somber, but beautiful heart, of an instrument she, herself, designed.
“I invented this sound; Professor Termin merely made the tone that I wanted, trial after trial, until, I knew, ‘that’s it!’.”

According to the wikipedia her contribution to the instrument is after its first version was developed:

Rockmore, as the mature musician she was, saw the limitations of the original instrument and helped to develop the instrument to fulfill her needs, making several suggestions to improve the theremin as a performing instrument. Such suggestions, like a faster volume antenna, wider musical range, and control over the instrument’s tone colour were incorporated by the inventor in later versions. She had a special theremin tailored by Léon Theremin himself to meet her unique requirements

She was a musical prodigy:

Born as Clara Reisenberg in (present-day) Vilnius, Lithuania, Rockmore was a child prodigy on the violin and entered the Imperial conservatory of Saint Petersburg at the age of five. She studied violin under the virtuoso Leopold Auer, and remains to this day the youngest student ever to be admitted to the institution. Unfortunately, bone problems due to childhood malnutrition forced her to abandon violin performance past her teen years. That however led her to discover the newborn electronic instrument and become the most renowned female player of the theremin.

The Sunday Cat always gets so worried when she hears about a brilliant woman being is lost to history, with her contribution absorbed into that of another.  How can this happen?

Gay rights in Africa

Here’s an article from Desmond Tutu about gay rights in Africa. As he says, there is a lot of anti-gay feeling across the continent, which is a bad thing. A big gold star to Desmond Tutu for speaking out. Whilst we’re at it, let’s not forget that the anti-gay movement in Uganda at least, has links with white Christian movements from the US, as I drew to your attention in an earlier post here.

Uk ‘ignoring’ evidence of torture

Asylum seekers who have been tortured must obtain independent evidence of this torture when they make their case for asylum. The UK asylum guidelines also state that someone who has been tortured should only be detained under exceptional circumstances. However, medical charities who carry out independent assessments of many torture survivors every year claim that the UK authorities are ignoring this evidence, detaining the asylum seekers, and then almost always sending them back to their home country where they were tortured. The Observer report is here.

More on Yarl’s Wood

I posted earlier here and here on the situation at Yarl’s Wood, where several women detainees had been on hunger strike in protest at the injustices refugees suffer under the UK immigration system. The women have suspended their hunger strike whilst the authorities investigate their complaints. The following related incidents have been recently reported:

Ms V has been released on bail. Ms V won her case a few months ago, obtaining leave to remain. However, the Home Office decided to appeal the decision, and detained her in Yarl’s Wood until the date of the appeal. During this time, Ms V has been separated from her children. She has now been released.

Two of the women on hunger strike have attempted suicide by drinking bleach and slitting their wrists.

Another hunger striker was refused healthcare, and then verbally abused by a guard, who spat in her face and called her a f***ing dog.

The police interrogated two of the hunger strikers who were identified as supposed ringleaders.

I will continue to post information about the situation as it becomes available.

Waterboarding for dummies

Salon has published this extremely upsetting article on torture guidelines developed by the CIA. The information comes from CIA documents that were made public last year. But it is only recently that anyone has combed through them to find information about torture techniques. They include detailed instructions on how to waterboard – i.e., partially drown prisoners by repeatedly dunking them in water – which states that a special saline solution can be used to allow greater amounts of water to be forced into a prisoner (if unsalty water is used, the prisoner may die from lack of sodium in the blood, as their blood becomes diluted from the amount of water they are forced to swallow), and recommends that prisoners be kept on a liquid diet prior to waterboarding, so that if they vomit (a probable occurrence during this form of torture), they will be less likely to die from inhaling their own vomit. The CIA documents also contain instructions for other torture techniques such as keeping someone awake for days at a time by bolting their arms above their heads (the documents suggest keeping the prisoners in nappies during this time), slamming a prisoner into a wall, cramming them into a little box, and using ‘stress’ positions, i.e., bending their bodies into uncomfortable positions, and restraining them there.