capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
I've not forgotten this series of posts, but random events have left me drained of spoons, and my momentum got rather scattered.

Instead of trying to figure out witty ways to write about how the theme of "parents and children", is the leitmotif of this play, I'm just going to quote all the lines where people of different ages are talked about, and let you see for yourself. In other words, I'm just going to back up the proverbial dump truck, and drop a load of quotes on you, in chronological order in the play... Mostly (I may not be able to resist giving an aside or two).

Anyway, here's the opening boilerplate, with links to the other posts I've made, so far (Please start with Part One, if you haven't already, Part Two is why I am so passionate about this play, and why I want to read it aloud in the town square, so I'd be happy if you read that, too. But you can save it for the end, if you want):

Part One: Synopsis ("Once upon a time...").

[Note: I've corrected a detail of the plot since I first posted this, and I've also added a footnote with Shakespeare's character and place names]

Part Two: Major Themes and Context, with quotes (Conflict between personal conscience and the law, women as the keepers of moral authority, and questioning the limits of an hereditary, theocratic, monarchy).

Part Three: Secondary Themes (The relationship between parents and children, the passage of time, and watching children grow up).

Part Four: Plot and Character Crafting

Part Five: Links to other people's interpretations

On to the Quote Dump! )
capriuni: half furry, half sea monster in wheelchair caption: Monster on Wheels (Monster)

First, I watched a video of literary critique of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, and spent far too long writing this comment in reply:

My 'Rationa-mantic' thoughts, let me show them )

I came back from that to find this new video from Signmark-- couldn't be more fitting:

The singing is English, but the sign is Not ASL (BSL? or suomalainen viittomakieli? Folks familiar with either... I'm curious) Anyway... another one that will be echoing in my head today...

Lyrics )
capriuni: multicolored text on black: "Quips and sentences and paper bullets of the brain" (paper bullets)
A cousin, perhaps, to the "Five Things" post -- for those pet peeves on your mind: "Three Three-Sentence Rants" (they may be long sentences; I'll try not to commit semicolon abuse).


1) "Flynn Rider," from Tangled, is a lying, greedy, selfish, emotionally manipulative, thief: an anti-hero who becomes a hero. But he's presented as the unadulterated, romantically ideal "Disney Prince" simply because he's charming and handsome. What's wrong with people us?!

2) IMNSHO, only historical and hard biographical context should be allowed in declarative statements about literature (especially poetry). Symbolic meaning should only be brought up sparingly, in the form of open questions. Many people think of poetry as "hard" and "snooty," but it's really the anthology editors to blame, not the poets.*

3) Watched the season recap of "Elementary," the other day, and couldn't bear to watch all of it, because Spoilers, ahoy! )

*This rant is brought to you by The Poetry Foundation, and its 'Learning Guide' for William Carlos Williams's To a Poor Old Woman.
capriuni: Text: If you want to be a Hero, be Good to the Storyteller. (Storyteller)
In the real world, the disabled have to fight for the right to safety, education, employment, freedom of assembly, and self-determination. So does the way disabled characters are portrayed in stories we tell really matter? I think of myself as a storyteller, so perhaps it is both unsurprising and self-aggrandizing for me to say I believe it matters most of all.

Human beings are a storytelling species – the ritual of storytelling occurs in every known culture and in every period of history. And if we take time to actually observe this ritual, we can get a sense of just how powerful it can be, and its great potential for shaping attitudes and prejudices.

First, the audience gathers. The gathering may be as small as one or two around the fireside or office water cooler, or as large as several million, in the case of commercially produced movies and television shows. Then, the social chatter ceases and is replaced by a sense of shared and focused anticipation, which sets the stage for the storyteller to begin. This dynamic (as far as I can tell), is unique to the human animal; lots of creatures gather in large groups for the shared activities of migration, mating, and the rearing of young, but the chatter and communication continues between small groups within that gathering: tweets and grunts, snorts, snuffles, and flashes of meaningful color. I've never seen a flock of birds, a school of fish, or herd of cows or horses become as still as a human audience. After the hush descends, the storyteller begins the tale. Then, if she or he is skilled enough, the magic (and that is really only thing I can call this) begins: the members of the audience fall into a trance-like state.

If you've been lucky enough to have ever been in the audience for a really wonderful story, you've felt this magic from the inside. You're no longer aware of the seat you're sitting in, or that scratchy tag in the neck of your sweater; the events of the story unfurl in your mind with such clarity it's as if you're there – inside the world the storyteller is creating for you. In a very real sense, members of the audience temporarily surrender their imaginations to the storyteller for the sake of a shared experience.

The fact that this ritual is both unique to, and universal within, human society is, I think, a sign that it is somehow vital to our survival as a species – and is probably connected to how we learn and how we understand our surroundings. My mother had a favorite saying: "When we read, we don't learn, we recognize;" she meant, I think, that everything we read is colored by the things we've experienced. But there's also a flipside to that observation: we tend not to notice, or give credence to, our own experiences until they are reflected back at us through stories. The Evangelist Christian who accosts me on the street with the promise to pray for me sees me not as I am, but as a character in the Gospel tales of Jesus. The "Santa's helper" in the elf uniform who thrusts a candy cane at me sees me, not as I am, but as a stand-in for Dickens' character Tiny Tim. And I could not easily contemplate writing disabled characters into my own fiction until after I joined in the disability community online – sharing my own stories, and perhaps more important, learning the stories of others; that's why events such as BADD are so powerful.

The question is, therefore: how should we judge the quality of the disabled characters in stories, either fiction or nonfiction? I think a good template to use as a starting point is the Bechdel Test, which has, in the last ten years, or so, been a useful framework for feminist critique of literature.

In 1985, Allison Bechdel introduced "The Rule" in her comic strip "Dykes to Watch Out For," a litmus test for judging the role of women in movies (and later, other forms of media). The power of this test lies in its simplicity, and also its broadness:

1) there are at least two named women
2) who talk to each other
3) about something other than a man.

This test makes no demands that the women in the story defy stereotype or are admirable in any way, and yet the fact that so few movies, comic books, and other mass media pass this test demonstrates how strong the bias toward male-centered narrative actually is.

So – I've been wondering for a while now: Is it possible to come up with a test to expose the common biases against the disabled in narrative? Simply pasting "disabled character" into the Bechdel test in place of "women" wouldn't work very well. The Bechdel test addresses the primary bias that women exist as accessories to men's lives. And, frankly, that doesn't really reflect the social barriers the disabled face. We may be a substantial segment of society, but we are rarely 50% of the population – often, we are the only disabled people within our nuclear families. So requirement 1 is out. And it is often assumed (whether rightly or not) that we live together in some sort of institution or group home. So requirement 2 is superfluous. And while it would be nice to have a disabled character with any speaking lines, whether they speak about their disability or ability specifically wouldn't necessarily counter any stereotypical beliefs.

And yet, whenever I'd see a disabled character pop up on a TV show, I could feel my jaw start to clench in anticipation of the same, tired, overused plot devices. So I knew there was something basic, and repetitive, going on… If only I could put what was bothering me into words.

Finally, this past winter, after watching one too many cop shows where a disabled character only appeared on-screen as the mute, and nameless, motive for a family member's crime, my personal litmus test crystallized in my mind:

1) there is a disabled character
2) who wants something
3) (besides revenge, cure, or death)
4) and tries to get it.

In the Bechdel test, having two women engage in any conversation on subjects other than men represents both the ability of women to form their own social bonds, and also a wide range of intellectual interests they are able to hold, all within the universal narrative element of "dialogue."

In the real world, we disabled often have to fight three primary cultural biases, each of which, I've tried to address in this test.

The first is the bias that discredits our ability for personal autonomy. That's why I want the disabled characters in my fiction to want something for themselves – it doesn't even need to be a big, powerful, plot-driving thing: even showing someone in the background of the crowd scene buying a newspaper, or flying a kite, would satisfy me.

The second cultural bias defines the disabled only in terms of being less than the culturally-accepted "norm." This is why I believe the third item on my list is important. So often in fiction, the disabled character is so embittered by their "lack" that they lose touch with their own sense of self-worth and moral compass – filled with rage and shame – and this reaction is almost always seen as "perfectly natural," and is never even challenged by any of the other characters in the story. So that the only "happy ending" can either be the erasure of the disability itself via cure, or the erasure of the character via death ("at least they're free from suffering, now").

The third bias in our culture is that the disabled are dependent, and in constant need of charity. And that's why the final requirement on my list is that the character makes their own effort to get what they want, rather than being there for an able-bodied character to rescue. This does not mean, however, that the character should be some type of super-Crip, and do everything themselves, but only that they take some initiative in getting their goals met, even if that's "just" to speak out and ask for help.

So… That's the test that I've come up with for evaluating the stories I create and consume. But I don't expect this to be a perfect litmus test – I do hope, however, that it's a useful starting point for discussion.

What do you think?


[E.T.A: Blogging Against Disablism Day 2013 archive ... So many articles to read! I hope to post a review entry sometime soon...]
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
Listened to:
From WNYC's "RadioLab" -- A a segment from a show from December last. The first five and a half minutes or so of this 33 minute segment is about the joy of a man at the end of a three-month solo trek across Antarctica. And then, from then on, it's the story of a Holocaust survivor who tried to invent a new communication system that he hoped would end all war... That, it itself, would have been fascinating. I was not expecting it to end up revolving around children with cerebral palsy living in an institutional home/school/hospital in the 1970's in Ontario, Canada... but it did (Content note-- it ends on a fairly tragic, ironic note):

Mr. Bliss

For something completely different, also from "RadioLab": Liev Schreiber reads Italo Calvino's The Distance of the Moon; written in Italian in 1965, and translated into English in 1968... i.e., before we landed there...
(Content note-- one of the main characters is written as Deaf for metaphorical/symbolic reasons as a sort of Magic!wild-man/Innocent-Primitive)

Found by way of "Rolling around in my head": Reclaiming memory: Searching for Great-Aunt Sarah (Content note: institutional life and death in the early 20th century)

From "Rolling around in my head" Directly: The Better Way (content note: neither tragic nor ironic-- includes a crying baby)

And a child shall lead them -- going-on-eleven year-old Stephanie leads a blue-grass band of adult white men... You can tell she's the leader in this particular set, because she sets the tempo for their playing, and signals the final chorus of the first song with a straight-leg kick (a standard signal in folk music):

(Content note-- precocious kid on stage and occasional out-of-focus camera).

This moved me not so much for the cuteness factor, but the aplomb and grace of one so young in front of an audience -- maybe that's her "un-cuteness"?
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
Online, here: "On Fairy Stories" by J. R. R. Tolkien

It took me several days; I consider this quite an accomplishment. I was expecting it to be about the length of a magazine article. When I copy-pasted the whole thing into Open Office and did a word count, it came out at over 22K words.

There is much in the essay I agree with (at that length, on that subject it would be improbable if there were not). But, if I were to sit across a table from him, over mugs of tea and a plate of bread and cheese, and this were a discussion, there would be many points where I'd be interjecting: "Yes. But."

However, here are seven of my favorite passages (Seven is a fitting number for the subject), where I find myself nodding in agreement:

(Quote 1 [from the section titled "Origins"]:)
The things that are there must often have been retained (or inserted) because the oral narrators, instinctively or consciously, felt their literary “significance.” )

(Quote 2 [from the section "Children"]:)
Children as a class —- except in a common lack of experience they are not one )

(Quote 3 [From "Fantasy"]:)
If men really could not distinguish between frogs and men, fairy-stories about frog-kings would not have arisen )

(Quote 4 [From "Recovery, Escape, Consolation"]:)
We should look at green again, and be startled anew (but not blinded) by blue and yellow and red. )

(Quote 5 [ibid]:)
The gems all turn into flowers or flames, and you will be warned that all you had (or knew) was dangerous and potent, not really effectively chained, free and wild; no more yours than they were you. )

(Quote 6 [ibid]):
Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? )

(Quote 7 [From "footnote D"]
I did not want to be quibbled into Science and cheated out of Faerie )
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
So, last night, between a long, hot, shower and getting ready for bed, the question of this whole test clarified (as happens), and this is the revised version that's circling in my head, now, after sleeping on it.

[personal profile] jesse_the_k. [ profile] lilacsigil, [ profile] kittenmommy, [ profile] elettaria, and [ profile] prydera all disagreed with my inclusion of the criteria that the disability be "Actual" and "have consequences," since that would likely lead to "disability policing." And I see that point -- I also realized that, since "A Quest for Cure" is irrelevant in this test, "Cause" is also irrelevant. So that part is simply out.*

I realized that what makes the Bechdel Test so strong is that it is completely free of jargon -- using words that even those who never studied literature or writing get intuitively:

Stories have people who talk to each other about... stuff. The Bechdel Test point out: Unless those people are women.

I (and many folks in my circle) are comfortable with terms like "Conflict resolution," "story arc," and "motivation," but these terms are still jargon to many (and they have lots of syllables). [ profile] elletaria also pointed out that it would be nice just to have random people with disabilities Show up in the background scenes whether or not they're actually part of the story. It's so rare that they're even in the background.

So-- this is the hot-water-drenched version:

1) There's a disabled person visible
2) Who wants something, and tries to get it,
3) Other than: Death, Cure, or Revenge.

(This might be the main character having story-type adventure, or it could just be someone in a wheelchair, in the crowd, buying a paper at the newsstand, while the lead couple make googly eyes at each other in the foreground)

*(Incidentally, I included "consequences" mostly as a note to myself. I originally wrote my NaNoWriMo novel as a script for ScriptFrenzy!, five and a half years ago, and back then, I only had my prince character suffer a missing eye and facial burns to break from the trope that the heroic prince is now and must always be "A Handsome Prince."

But, in revisiting the story this time around, I realized: "Oh, hey! having only one eye is going to change how he moves through his palace, isn't it -- especially all those steep, uneven, lit-by-torchlight, tower staircases? That's probably something I should address, and not have him capering up and down like he used to, when he was twelve..." [He's also relatively newly disabled -- within the last year -- and he hasn't, yet, gotten completely comfortable with his changed body])
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
(I've also posted this to [community profile] disability, where it is waiting in the moderation cue, and I mentioned this at the end of my most recent post about my NaNoWriMo novel [under a custom filter], but I also thought it might be good to open this question up to everybody, so... here it is [ETA: Also, I realized, just now, that I can cross-post it to [ profile] crip_crit, so I will do that]):

So, you know about The Bechdel Test, for evaluating certain aspects of gender bias and sexism in fiction, yes?

Well, there has been some talk in some circles, about how one could come up with something similar for depictions of PWD in fiction -- the discussions that spring immediately to mind are these two from Dave Hingsburger's Blog: "Rolling Around in My Head," from March of this year:

The Dave Test and The Rolling Test (I think he updated the name in order to honor all the comments to the Rolling... blog, not necessarily the little wheelchair stick figure).

Anyway, November is freshly over, and I'm still recovering from this year's NaNoWriMo marathon, and my head is still buzzing with my story. Cut for rambling about my story ) I realized I've created some disabled characters that do not embarrass me, and that feel as though they do reflect something of what I experience as a disabled person (even though I did not give either of these characters my form of disability). And, in the process, I think I've hit on my own "Disability Test" for fiction (movies, TV, books, etc.):

1) There is at least one character who has an actual disability (with consequences)
2) The character is in the story to resolve a conflict of his or her own
3) Curing the disability will not resolve that conflict.

notes with more rambling )

The thing is, the strength of the Bechdell test is in its simplicity: 3 points, 15 words. So-- any tips or feedback on how I can simplify this test? And, perhaps more important, do you think this test "covers" the biggest weaknesses in fictional depictions of disability?
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (question)
Imagine the following lines to be swirly and curvy, rather than straight across:

I've recently realized I haven't read any fiction that was written in the last twenty years.


I think this is, in part, because I haven't done much reading on the toilet since I moved to this house 16 years ago -- I rush to the toilet having to go, without turning on the light, then I'm stuck on the toilet with no windows, and all the light switches on the farthest walls away from me... It's a drag (In the house where I grew up, in every bathroom, there was a big window over the toilet, so you could read, or do the crossword, by natural light).

Throughout my high school and college career, there were several dystopian/horror novels I was required to read as part of the curriculum:

Fahrenheit 451
The Lord of the Flies
The Red and the Black (okay, technically, this is not a dystopian novel, but the whole message is society is F***ed up because people suck, and there's nothing you can do about it -- Oh, how desperately I wanted to NOT read it)

...I can't think of one Utopian novel ever discussed or assigned for class...

Why are dystopias considered more serious/realistic/worthy of study than utopias?

Why I believe dystopias are just as skewed and unrealistic as utopias:

Even in the darkest periods of human history, when life was short, and full of sickness, pain and death, people still put pretty designs on their dishes, and hair combs. If, even in the midst of the Bubonic Plague, people find value in creating art, then surely, no society could be entirely miserable.

So... yeah... Why? Why is warning against horror seen as more important and worthy of consideration than imagining what perfection might look like, if we could get there? We will never reach that spot (probably), but shouldn't we at least look in that direction, so we know where to start heading, so we can get a bit closer?

I'd also like to point out two things:

Roses come in all sorts of colors (except blue). And the slight pink tinge to these lenses I'm wearing is prescription (cuts down on eye strain from the computer monitor).
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
1) (Better get to this before the week's over -- it's from all over my circles, by now):
It's International Book Week. The rules: Grab the closest book to you, turn to page 52, post the 5th sentence as your status. Don't mention the title. Copy the rules as part of your post.

I have several books equidistant from me, in several directions, none of which I am actively reading right now. I chose two books, each reaching in a different direction:

Book one:

This great end cannot be achieved by treaties alone.

Book the Second:

"Well, here we are," he said.

2) I got my first "dislike" on one of my YouTube videos, this week. I also got my first "Favorite Added." I'll try to be more chuffed about the second than I am disappointed by the first.

3) How will these book memes morph when everybody has moved on to e-readers? If you have, essentially, 100 books all occupying the same geographical space, how do you pick "the closest one"?

4) A bit ago, I mentioned The Jim Henson Hour to [ profile] alryssa, because one of the kittens she's fostering reminds me of The Thought Lion. That sent me on a nostalgic romp through YouTube to find clips of the show...
The only clips I found were posted by someone who videotaped them off his television as they aired, and so the posted segments are complete with the commercials of the day (autumn, 1988). It's scary to think that I was already a college junior by then [fully adult] and yet everything looks so old and primitive. And yet, I remember watching that very first episode and being blown away by the Shiny!! Also, the humor in the Muppety first half struck me as being edgy and hip, but now, that, too, is clunky, and dusty, and slow. And yet, The Muppet Show which was set in an old vaudeville theater, still feels fresh and fast.

Moral: The more modern your style, the faster it ages (?).

5) Speaking of aging, last night, I watched a video about what exactly happens between the Moon and the Earth that causes the tides. And that put "We like the Moon, 'Cos it is close to us!!!" in my head... And someone mentioned in the comments that he remembered first seeing that back when he was in grade school...

capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
Even though "Geek & Sundry" is a professional, for-profit YouTube Channel, I have to share these recent videos of theirs.

Remember, how, yesterday evening, I was remarking how I'd turned into a gloomy, Serious Business so-and-so?

Well, G&S came to my rescue. Last night, they posted a bonus video of Felicia Day and Robin Thorston making candy versions of "sushi" ... and that prompted me to get into a brief exchange with another user in the comments about our favorite flavor combinations, especially around candy and ice cream...

Then, this afternoon, they posted this music video by Paul and Storm. I'm not even a Game of Thrones fan, and I still had to watch it four times in a row... and kept finding new things to laugh at.

And I know several people in my circles are fans of the series, so:

capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
1: My reaction to 'Hellboy: the Fury' (Motion Comics YouTube version -- no doubt abridged) )

2: The other day, while playing around with NoteWorthy Composer (a point and click music score/midi processor, for making up tunes), I held my headphones up to Trixie's ear, to see if she showed any interest at all in this thing I call "music." Absolutely zero reaction. I switched to the "bird tweet" instrument sound, and her ears perked up at that, a little bit (but she looked out toward my Great Room, 'cause she knew the bird couldn't really be inside that plastic thing). But it didn't take long for her to twig that it was fake.

And she gave me a Look that said: "Really. I have higher expectations of you, besides such foolishness."

And, with that, she turned and walked over to her napping spot, and went to sleep.

I admit: I laughed.

3: I've heard, a few times (the latest today, on a radio show about "Summer Reading") about a debut novel called Wonder, by R. J. Palacio. Every review I've heard or read has been a rave. My interest is piqued. It's a middle-grade chapter book about a boy with severe facial deformities, and how he learns to live with other people's reactions to him. What interests me most is that the protagonist doesn't describe what he looks like, only how other people react, which is an interesting way to handle and introduce, perhaps, the issue of ableism. And it's the age-group book I've also been most interested in writing.

However, I have misgivings as well. First, all the reviews I've seen call it "Heartwarming" and "Inspiring," and mention that all the teasing the protagonist endures is from his fellow classmates, but that all the adults in his life are supportive.

And second? my hope for being satisfied with this book is diminished because the Author's webpage about the book is inaccessible to screen readers (I checked).

Bah -- Humbug!

(But I might check to see if my local library has a copy).

4. Today, I learned that there is no vinegar in sauerkraut; it gets its sourness from the same bacteria in yogurt, and (in small portions) it's healthy for your gut in the same way as yogurt. Cool (Imnsho).

and (\o/):

5. Does anyone (besides me) find these two lines an example of chuckle-worthy wit:

When my love swears that she is made of truth
I do believe her, though I know she lies.

capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
Audrey picked up the computer this afternoon, brought it to my house, and plugged it back in. She forgot to plug in my headset speaker/microphone, however, and I can't clearly see or reach the outlets the plugs are supposed to go into... so I won't be able to watch videos with sound, at least until she comes back Wednesday afternoon -- woe.

Remember my post about how to add closed captioning to your videos? I wish everyone would do that. And I wish YouTube would let folks put captions on vids that aren't theirs (hello, PBS Kids' channel, and Harvard lecture series, I'm looking at you. I don't want to pirate your vids, and repost them on my own channel, but if you refuse to caption them, these are the actions people will be forced to resort to -- just saying).

Anyway, here's what I did over the last five days without you, in order to keep sane (relatively):

1) Came up with the idea of a "Bunny Bag":

Write out, in longhand (because I had no word processor, of course, but writing longhand also forced me to slow down and think deeply about my story, so I'd have a head start when the month of writing rolls around and take more time, so I'd have something to do) on one side of a legal pad page the idea for a potential NaNoWriMo/"Camp NaNoWrimo" story. Then fold said page into thirds two ways, and then fold into fourths (fold into thirds, as I normally would for mailing a letter, then turn 90 degrees and fold in thirds again, then fold that into quarters). And then, drop each "controlled wad" of paper into a brown paper lunch sack. A month before the challenge starts, I will reach into the bag and pull one of the them out, And that's the story I write ... of course, like the Doctor, I may decide to ignore the dictates of chance, if, in the moment, I hate what I have in my hand.

Some pages had more white space than others, and some pages had writing squeezed into the margins, but at least that limit helped make certain that each story idea had roughly the same average of detail. And of course, no single story page is folded exactly the same as any other, but close enough so that when I reach into the bag to pick my story for the challenge, I won't remember which is which just by blind feel.

There are eight "bunnies" in the bag. Not as many as the dozen John Steinbeck (allegedly) promised, but enough to make the final choice uncertain, and therefore interesting. Some are stories I've tried my hand at recently, so I'm giving myself a chance to take a second stab at them. But a few are brand new. Only one story idea (from a creative writing assignment from grad school 20 years ago) turned out to be "stillborn" -- got halfway down the page, and realized "There was no 'There' there" anymore.

2. Read Morality for Beautiful Girls, which Audrey lent me years ago, and I promptly forgot about. It's one of the novels in the The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that it had a major named secondary character who's a wheelchair user (the protag's adopted daughter), and who is not held up as an object of pity... although the depiction is not without its weaknesses, I still welcome it.

3. On Saturday night, I grabbed the scissors and gave myself a super-short (above the ears), one-handed haircut. My hair is about (probably) 65% shorter than it was on Friday... It ... looks not terrible.
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
From the Grimm Anthology of Household Tales:

Rapunzel (for the young king's period of blindness)

The story of the young boy who went forth to learn about fear (Popular [mis]understandings of Asperger Syndrome)

Cinderella (for the blinding of the two stepsisters going to and coming from the wedding [and also, possibly, the mutilation of their feet]?)

The Seven Ravens, and The Six Swans, and The Twelve Brothers (for muteness, as in Mary's Child [posted on December 15, 2011])

Goose-Girl at the Well (For the fear of disability that comes with age / the "use" of disability to test the hero)

The Gifts of the Little People (for Hunchbacks)

The Two Travelers (sacrificing eyes in trade for food, as in the Welsh tale The Squirrel and the Fox [posted July 15])

Thumbling as Journeyman (A different version of Thumbthick [posted April 24])

*sigh* making links is taking too long; will just post titles from here on out
From Hans Christian Andersen:

The Little Mermaid (muteness and painful walking)

The Ugly Duckling (?) [Not sure about this one, actually. Disability isn't actually mentioned in the story itself, but it's now associated with disability / illness because in the Danny Kaye musical biopic of Andersen, he tells it (sings it) to a sick boy to cheer him up when the healthy schoolboys tease him -- and it does highlight the issue, in any case, of being the "odd one out" in your own family]

The Cripple (a peasant boy becomes suddenly paralyzed [reference to polio before it was named as such?] and after receiving a book of fairy tales as a charitable gift one Christmas, spends his time reading it, and earns a scholarship at a prestigious university after showing his genius interpreting the stories for others. Really!!]

(can I just say I have a troubled fan-relationship with Andersen? I'm totally with him on the power of storytelling in general, and wonder tales in particular, but his ableism and misogyny (not to mention his Protestant obsession with sin and evil spirits) make me want to pull my hair out, sometimes. I'd love to borrow a TARDIS to go back and have a good sit-down debate with him about this. Perhaps over tea.)

Various and Sundry (literature):

Robert Browning's verse telling of The Pied Piper of Hamlin (for the lame boy who stays behind)

Clara, in Heidi

Colin, in The Secret Garden

Shakespeare's Richard III (and Sigmund Freud's literary/psychological critique of same)

Caliban, in The Tempest (yes, one popular interpretation of his character is that he represents P.O.C.. But he's also described in-text as a "moon-calf" -- i.e. someone born with deformities, and, like Hephaestos in one myth, attempts to rape the woman of his desire)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Dead-Eye Dick in H.M.S. Pinafore (Ambiguous, though; it's not entirely clear whether he's blind in one eye, as his name suggests, or if he's just ugly, and therefore despised by his shipmates)

To be continued....
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Writing up my old idea for a Mother Goose Costume, yesterday, prompted me to realize that I need a Mother Goose Journal icon (I'm thinking of using this image, which appears to be 19th C., and shows up everywhere via a Google search, but I can't find an attribution. Do any of you know, or dare to venture a guess?). And that brought up new information about the character that makes me feel quite chuffed and vindicated. So!

The Back-story:
One of my very first presents, ever, was The Mother Goose Treasury, illustrated by Raymond Briggs (of The Snowman fame), with the collection of rhymes taken from the research of Iona and Peter Opie. It was given to me for my second Christmas -- three weeks before I turned 3 years old. And I still have it (The end papers are covered with my beginning attempts to write my name and the number 3 [everywhere but the bookplate pasted to the inside front cover... heh])

This is the first rhyme/ballad/story in the tome -- taking up almost six pages ('cause every verse needs an illustration).

Mother Goose and the Golden Egg (As I learned it) -- cut for length ) [footnote below]

For the 2000 Holiday/New Year season I wrote and illustrated a novella/chapter book based on this witchy version of M. Goose, and tied her in with Christmas, the Winter Solstice, and Santa Claus. My premise was that the laying of the golden egg was an annual event at the winter solstice, and inside the golden shell was magic that M. Goose shared with Santa, so his reindeer could fly in time for Christmas Eve. I finished it up in the nick of time, had a dozen copies printed and bound by Kinkos, and slipped it into my neighbors' mailboxes as a Surprise!present. Not one adult even acknowledged my efforts... one kid did, though, so I know it was read by at least one of them.

Well, according to Wikipedia, that story was first created as a Christmas/New Year's Pantomime by Thomas Dibdin for the 1806-'07 Yule season -- 17 years before "A Visit From St. Nicholas." And she's even witchier in that original story -- raising storms and summoning ghosts, and I'd really, really, like to see that play, now!

So I was hitting close to a well-established tradition when I imagined her as primarily a Winter Celebration character. Can I sing "I told you so!" now?

[Footnote]: A slightly different (and to my mind, less poetic and more clunky) version is reproduced here: Mother Goose and Her Son Jack, with the additional information that it was first published (and perhaps written by) T. Batchelor in 1815 (but it's completely missing the "odd fish," so imnsho, it's not nearly as good -- and, as a warning: that Web page has an annoying and goofy-looking animated .gif).
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When did it become The accepted interpretation that Caliban = Native PoC, especially because "Caliban" sounds so much like "Cannibal" that that must be what Shakespeare meant?

I have a sneaking suspicion that that's a relatively modern assumption. But I'm not sure what keywords to use in Googling to verify or dispute that.

Any ideas?

Meanwhile, I'm rereading the last few chapters of Jane Austen's Persuasion, thanks to remembering that Mrs. Smith (nee Hamilton) -- the woman who reveals the truth to our heroine about the true character of her sleazy cousin -- is: "afflicted with a severe rheumatic fever, which, finally settling in her legs, had made her for the present a cripple." which gives me another entry topic for Plato's Nightmare / Aesop's Dream. ... Any afternoon I can spend with Jane Austen is a good afternoon, in my books. And furthermore, I have it as an etext, so I can copy and paste the passages I want to cite, instead of typing them in (*Gives the side-eye to the paperback volume that wouldn't stay open, and had no paragraph breaks on any of its pages*).

So it's all good... or -- mostly good.
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Warning: this sighing, shuddering, and kvetching is all about how a good book resolves its conflects with a (to me) soul-killing ending. So I will be spoilering it.

Found this book listed in my local library's catalog: House of Dolls, Francesca Lia Block (Harper, 2010), and since that's the genre I'm currently trying to tackle, I put a hold on it; Audrey dropped it off for me yesterday, and I read it in one sitting.*

And, well...

"Never has" is a phrase that stomps through the mind with two-ton lead boots, quashing all memory of past experience, but I'm sore tempted to use it here:
Never has such a finely-crafted work of literature
left me so depressed and demoralized.

I was not depressed by the dark themes of war, or grief, or living in fear of a fickle and jealous being you cannot control. I was ... confused (?) and slightly disturbed by the overt sexual overtones in a book aimed at pre-pubescent girls:

(Quote): "The first time Madison Blackberry lay them down next to each other in the white lace canopy bed and their arms brushed, Wildflower and Guy knew they never wanted to be seperated." (unquote)

But hey, I know that girls growing up in this generation are a lot more aware of sex and sexual pressures at nine than I ever was, so it makes sense that a girl of that age would play that out with her dolls. So that didn't depress me (much) either.

And I really liked how the author brought the dolls to life: Definitely Level 4: fully alive toys... at least, within the world of their Edwardian (?) dollhouse (built by a great grandfather for the grandmother) -- the dolls can even open and read all the books in the vast library (and the collection of Life Magazines from the 1970s), even though no human would have been able to make books that small with turnable pages and print.

And I liked the mix of dolls in the house: two from the Grandmother's time (a celluloid fashion doll, and a fairy doll) and three from the present day: (a small ragdoll with a wire poseable body, a G.I. Joe type doll, and a small jointed teddy bear). That sort of odd collection is how doll families come together.

Also, the author wrote in the Omniscienct Narrator voice really well, without a single wink or nod to the Reader, but quietly, in the background, so what you really noticed was the story, not the Author.

No, what did did depress me is how all this complexity and deep themes got resolved: with pretty dress (handmade by Grandmother) and Mother staying home to Be With Her Children (While Father is a strong, protective shadow in the doorway) for the human protagonist. And for the dolls: with pretty dresses, sex with boyfriends, and a baby in the cradle.

That's what it's all reduced to? That's the world we're painting for our nine-year old girls?

One Hundred Years Ago, E. Nesbit contributed to the Suffregette movement by writing ten-year old girl protagonists who wanted to grow up and explore the Antartic. And now, we're writing girls who want nothing more than a long silk gown, a War Hero Boyfriend (to play the hurt/comfort game with), and a baby??!

That's depressing.

*Granted, it's a slim volume, of small dimensions and wide borders to the pages (I guestimate < 9,000 words, since there are illustrations, too).
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In which I sing more praises of E. Nesbit.

I'm not certain it will be my default for long; it may be gone tomorrow.

I'm not sure I like it. I really should master animated gifs, so that I can do icons with readable words.

The words ('no aunts are likely to write 'How true!' on the side of the story) are from one of the opening pargraphs of Five Children and It. The creature is my interpretation of the magical being in that story. Towhit:

(begin quote)

The children stood round the hole in a ring, looking at the creature they had found. It was worth looking at. Its eyes were on long horns like a snail's eyes, and it could move them in and out like telescopes; it had ears like a bat's ears, and its tubby body was shaped like a spider's and covered with thick soft fur; its legs and arms were furry too, and it had hands and feet like a monkey's.

'What on earth is it?' Jane said. 'Shall we take it home?'

The thing turned its long eyes to look at her, and said: 'Does she always talk nonsense, or is it only the rubbish on her head that makes her silly?'

It looked scornfully at Jane's hat as it spoke.

(end quote)

According to the biograghies I read on Wikipedia and (which, admittedly, may have been quoting each other) Nesbit invented the genre of children's fantasy where the story happens in the here and now of our world (instead of, say, in a parallel universe that you reach through a wardrobe, or by making a running leap at a railway platform with a fractional number).

Which is, frankly, my favorite sort of story to get lost in, because it rather makes you look at the world in a different light after you close the book.

Even though one of her stories is about a "crippled" boy who chooses, in the end, to live the version of his life where he is "whole" (Harding's Luck), I have a feeling that if I were to invite her to my fantasy dinner party, I could talk to her about ableism and how the crippled don't really wish to be cured, because she demonstrates an understanding of the social constructs that contribute to happiness. And so many of her contemporaries who were writing for children seem stuck on the "people are inheriently good or wicked" trope.

So. Yes.

I seem to have run out of steam, and don't really have a snappy ending. Except "I really like E. Nesbit's books!"
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"And do you know what? I think I've thought a thought!"

(Thank you, Sesame Street of the 70s!)

The thought I've been thinking about lately is the fictional trope of "The secret lives of our toys," mostly from children's stories.

The oldest "modern story" I can think of is The Brave Tin Soldier (1838):

THERE were once five-and-twenty tin soldiers, who were all brothers, for they had been made out of the same old tin spoon. They shouldered arms and looked straight before them, and wore a splendid uniform, red and blue. The first thing in the world they ever heard were the words, “Tin soldiers!” uttered by a little boy, who clapped his hands with delight when the lid of the box, in which they lay, was taken off. They were given him for a birthday present, and he stood at the table to set them up. The soldiers were all exactly alike, excepting one, who had only one leg; he had been left to the last, and then there was not enough of the melted tin to finish him, so they made him to stand firmly on one leg, and this caused him to be very remarkable*


Here are others I can think of, off the top of my head:

Cut for TL;DR -- where my thinky-thinky thoughts go really rambly down the wendy-winding road )

It's thundering, here, and raining pretty hard, and if moisture gets into the outlet where my Internet is plugged in, I'll lose my connection. So I'd better post this now.

What other examples of this trope can you think of? Do you include "Android revolts" in sci-fi, as part of this trope?

*Bonus Inspiring Cripple trope, which I had forgotten!
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Many years ago, when I was in high school and college, many several a few people recommended I read Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Who... series, saying they were great, "inspiring" books about a heroine who's physically disabled, but it's not her body that matters, it's her brain ... But when the people went on in more detail about the stories, and their premise, I'd feel a little queasy inside. And I never could bring myself to read them.

Still, I'd smile wanly, and thank them for the recommendation. Because these people were my friends and classmates, and as an aspiring novelist myself, the last thing I wanted to do was harsh anyone's squee for reading, and yell at them for liking the "wrong" books... Especially since more than one of those friends would also compliment my style by saying it reminded them of McCaffrey's (I wonder if that's just because we both write fantasy, or something, though).

It wasn't until [ profile] haddayr posted a link to a writing contest being hosted by Redstone Science Fiction, and I read the essay that inspired the contest (The Future Imperfect) that I found my queasiness so well expressed by someone else. Susan Einstein writes:

(Quote) In this series, those children who are deemed worthy are turned into productized, commodified “shell people;” brains who manage the complex tasks associated with running hospitals, space stations, and even piloting starships. They can, if they are lucky, eventually earn enough to buy their own freedom but, until they do, their “bodies” are owned by the company which funded their development and implantation.

In other words, in McCaffrey’s world, disability is so depersonalizing that the very promising are rewarded with slavery and disembodiment; those who don’t pass the test for these rewards are put to death. (Unquote)

My friends who recommended this series to me were probably only thinking of the shiny, happy bits, and the "message" they took away from the books is: people with physical disabilities can still be smart enough to run hospitals, space stations and fly spaceships."

Meanwhile, in the back of my mind, while I'm smiling and nodding, I'm hearing this subtext: "It would be so much easier for me to be your friend if I didn't have to look at that icky, abnormal body of yours -- if we could just throw your flesh and blood into the trash, and hide your mind inside the walls, so I wouldn't have to think about how you're different from me. ... But we could still speak, and everything, and you'd still have your personality...."*

Later, Einstein writes about why this upsets her so:

(Quote) Larry doesn’t have my stomach for political debate. He’ll tell me that it’s only a story. I will tell him the stories we tell about our futures become our futures, point out that my phone looks a lot like an old Star Trek communicator, point out that the special mattress he sleeps on was developed by the space program. Over very old Scotch, we’ll agree to disagree. (Unquote)

Personally, I agree with her, in this argument. Stories are never "just" stories. They are the engines of our culture, and (probably) the first tools we used to create all the other tools that have carried us this far (before you cast your nets, and catch your fish, you have to tell the story about how the first net was invented -- even if you haven't invented it, yet). But... Um... that might just be because my brain is always making up stories (even when I wish it wouldn't), and I'd like to think my brain is Doing Important Work for Humanity.


Still, I have mixed feelings about the contest. On the one hand: "Yay! Maybe the promise of Money and Fame will inspire people to actually think about this issue." And also to notice the recurrent fail around so many fictional disability narratives (and nonfictional narratives -- a.k.a. "Human Interest Stories" on the news). After all (sad but true), money is often an istant way of getting something to be taken seriously, for real, true-biz, serious, important.

On the other hand, I worry that setting it up as a contest with only one winner sends the wrong message: That there is one right "Best Future" version of an accessible world, and that all others are "wrong." I know Redstone set itself up to pay professional rates for all the stories it publishes, and that it is on a very limited budget, having just started out, and all, and the publishers can't afford to publish more than one story. But I hope they at least mention that there are honorable mentions, or maybe include an article talking about different ideas and visions this contest inspired, even if they can't publish all the stories themselves.

And, frankly, it feels like another example of people with Able-Bodied Privilege saying: "Ooh! I never thought about that before! Here's our chance to do something new and shiny, and help fix the world! Let's have a contest!"

(Though, to be fair, I do not Know this to be true. There might be half a dozen PWD on the editorial staff of Redstone, who live with these issues every day, for all I know. But this is my fear).

In any case, I wish them well, both in this contest, and in their long-term goals as a literary magazine (even though a brief glance at their Guidelines makes me think they're not a good match for my writing). In the world of Literature and the Imaginative Arts, the More the Merrier.


*This is why my love of the Internets sits uneasy in my heart, and sometimes makes me just a bit depressed. :-/ It gives me access to wonderful friendships I'd never have otherwise, because the physical world my friends inhabit is so big inaccessible to me. But, on the other hand, it disembodies me, and hides my body and my voice behind a network of wires and plastic boxes.


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