Friday, November 28, 2008

Heroes, disabled

S * P * O * I * L * E * R * S

Hey, I'm going to talk about the show. I will reveal things that happened. If you haven't watched it, but plan to, and just hate having the plot revealed, Go back! Go back! Captain Kirk, go baaaaaaaaaaaaaaack.

Last Warning!

I got caught up on my favorite TV show, Heroes, yesterday. The Eclipse, Part I is something of a study on disabilty attitudes. Everyone lost their powers and suddenly became disabled, merely normal after they had gotten used to being supernormal. Each character reacted differently to their loss, with their reactions in keeping with their personality and values.

To some of the characters, the loss of powers is a relief, even though it brings them great pain. For the super-healer, Clair, the pain is what she cherishes most, since she had lost the ability to feel it. Even though she is shot in a botched kidnapping attempt, and can't immediately heal like she usually would, she is happy that she now has confirmation that she is human after all. Series all-purpose bad guy Sylar is also content with his loss of ability, focussing on his release from the constant hunger and discontent his super-comprehension had put him through. In comparison to what he was, he now has a cognitive disability, and he couldn't be more pleased. And Mohinder, who had mutated himself in the service of mad science, is thrilled to no longer be turning into an least until the heavies come around and threaten to beat him to a pulp.

Some of the characters are irritated with their loss and resistant to adapting. Nathan Petrelli, at the beginning of the episode, was chiding his younger brother, Peter, who had lost powers to their father earlier in the season, for being resentful over his relatively disabled state. Then he also loses his powers and begins lashing out at Peter for suggesting that they take his inability to fly into account in their travel plans, and his stubborness leads them both to a deadend. Psychic Matt Parkman, who had nearly given up on finding happiness when his superpower first began to manifest, again nearly gives up on finding happiness--this time with the excuse that he can't do anything to win his intended without his ability.

The most pathetic character, though, is the one whose loss of super-speed renders her disabled by TAB standards. Daphne is ridiculous. Tim Kring, why did you pull out the self-pitying disabled person stereotype? All this time, we were led to believe that Daphne was in thrall to the evil Papa Petrelli because of some super terrible feature of her pre-super life. And now we find out that the terrible thing is that she has leg braces and forearm crutches? And to avoid having her powers stripped by Papa Petrelli was willing to betray everyone she loved and act contrary to her own moral code? What kind of a person would rather be someone else's puppet than be unable to walk? This is a completely unbelievable personality flaw, and a libel against people with disabilities. If you had other characters who were traditionally disabled without their powers, then it would be OK to show one of them as being a self-hating cripple. But you don't. You are using one character to stand in for an entire class of people. You may as well kill off the black cast members on a regular basis. Oh, wait. You do that, don't you. Maybe you all need to think a little harder about your positions of privilege?   

The one character that I think best reflects the disability reality is Hiro. He refused to allow Parkman to feel sorry for himself, insisting that a real hero wouldn't need special powers but would find a way to save the day. He is confident that everything will be fine, that they must simply have a plan. Yes, right now, he has the mind of a child and is looking to get his own power back. But it is his basic personality that is leading him, and that views regaining both his adult mind and powers as simply a means to an end. And if he can't be a hero with his abilities restored, he will still be a hero. He's already saved Parkman's romance.

(Hiro is actually reminding me a bit of my mom right now. She has messed her leg up but good. Again. Maybe permanently this time. And she is irritated about not being able to do what she usually does, but chalks up her inconvenience to not having what she needs for the circumstances: a wheelchair, someone to walk her dog, handrails. She has a plan. She's going to get those things, and everything will be fine.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rudolph, redux

Way back in December of aught-six, I considered that perennial classic, Rudolph, the Red Nosed Raindeer from a disability standpoint. And now, in November 2008, Ces Marciuliano sends up the cantankerous, small-minded Santa of that stop-motion favorite.

Santa in 4 panels
To Donner: "Hey, if I didn't build Dasher an office ramp after the bus accident I'm sure not gonna put your handicapped son on my team, Donner..."­
To unseen elves: "'We are Santa's Elves'...Well, maybe next time, invest in an electric pump before committing musical abortion."­
At dinner, talking about the Misfit Toys: "They're misfits!!! I can't deliver misfits! Even blind kids would know they got fucked."
Angry, to unseen Momma Claus: "Do you think I wanted to hit you, Momma?! Do you?!"
Final caption: The not-so-endearing Santa of "Rudolph."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

On Beth's meditation: Falling

Beth uses her seizures and falling as a metaphor for the difficulties that people face, and enjoins her friends to see people's falls (in the sense of adverse circumstances) as an opportunity to be the hero we imagined ourselves as children.

I fall quite often. It comes free with the bad hips, bad knees, bad ankles and bad feet. What I have learned is there is no point to fighting it. When I feel me going down, I bring me down instead of trying to stay upright. People often think I just suddenly decided to sit. Indeed, I did. I decided that suddenly sitting would be better than suddenly slamming into the floor. Gravity is a harsh mistress.

It's peculiar who will stop to help and who will make it a point to not see that any help is needed. Some people are terrified to acknowledge that others are having difficulties, even small ones. To notice the needs of others would force them to have to consider helping. To refuse to help would make them Bad People. But to offer help would undermine their autonomous self-image, since in the act of rendering real assistance, the helper and the person being helped become one in their goal. And some people fear being helped for exactly that reason, that loss of the illusion of independence. I mean, it is an illusion. We are all interdependent, we truly cannot live without each other.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


I took a walk today. The wind was blowing hard, much harder than I would usually dare to walk in. But I learned from my TRF experience that I can walk almost as well as I used to if I use two canes, so I decided to try it out. And it worked great! I went almost the equivalent of three city blocks in a wind that would normally have knocked me down. Now I think I will try to do this every day, or nearly every day. Maybe I can develop a bit of muscle tone; that would be refreshingly different.

In other news, if making a recipe, make sure to know what country the recipe came from. Oh, yeah. England. Explains why these cheese biscuits are flat as cookies. They are cookies.

R!M goes to TRF

Pictures, at last! None of me or my daughter (I'm not photogenic and she is skittish about having her picture taken in the first place). But a renaissance festival is always filled with hams ready to cut it up for the camera. Especially if you hand them a prop.

First off is Lewis, of the Other Brothers Juggling Show, seen here about to take a bite out of Raaaaahr. They are always on our "must-see" list. 

And from the other side of the festival grounds, it's Shelby of Sound and Fury. R!M is very impressed with Shelby's facial imitation, perfectly capturing R!M's permanent expression of horror and bewilderment. 

Next we have a frightening encounter with the Bilge Pumps, as "Harvey the Corpsman" goes Lewis one better, actually biting into R!M's felty arm. See, there are reasons R!M never changes expressions. When you are a six inch monster, the world is full of danger, including ravenous pirates. Oh, if you are looking for pirate music for your next Talk Like a Pirate Day party, their inaptly named Greatest Hits v. VIII is probably the best buy for your boullion. R!M wants them to sell lots of music, so they can buy food and not be so hungry for monster flesh in the future.

At last, life is looking better for R!M. From Valentine's Academy of Arts and Armour. It's a bloodthirsty show, but not for monster flesh.

Here's one of the lady supporters of the program making bosum buddies with R!M.

Even the violent Hard John Thomas takes a shine to R!M.

By this point, R!M was getting a bit worn from the handling, so took a good long nap in my bag whilst I enjoyed the melodious bagpiping of Tartanic. And some other things about Tartanic.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Nothing about us without us

Courtesy of Frida, I learn of We Can Do's campaign to get people with disabilities to write the Obama disability policy team to take advantage of this historic opportunity to have our voices heard and have a part in the change to come:
But we cannot afford to allow the moment to end here. Whether we supported Obama, McCain, or another candidate, we all know there is far too much work ahead before we can say, “Yes, we have made real change for people with disabilities.”

It is time for people with disabilities, our loved ones, our neighbors, and colleagues to join together, across ideological divides, to reach out to Obama. We should all send an email to Kareem Dale, Obama’s National Disability Vote Director (at, WITH COPIES TO Anne Hayes, a volunteer on the Obama Disability Policy Committee (at

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Girl, with legs

For your viewing pleasure, a lovely cartoon of a young woman with prosthetic legs. And, also, a cat swishing a prosthetic tail. Click on the picture or click right here to go to the artist's site.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


This past weekend I went to Texas Ren Fest, camping Friday and Saturday nights. I'd show you pictures, but I think Carapace has the camera. OK, so I'll show you pictures later. I know what you are really wondering is, "how'd it go what with walking around the festival?"

Pretty damn good.

I took two canes, a knee brace and, of course, my orthotics. The combination kept me steady and took the weight off my legs and feet that usually has me done in after a couple of hours. I was exhausted and dehydrated and hurting at the end of Saturday, but a night's rest and plenty of water had me feeling much better Sunday.

Funniest line I heard at TRF this time was from a toddler who observed me and then told her daddy with great excitement, "She has two sticks!" Heh, someone is learning to count. I am glad to have been of service. Second funniest line was from a patron, in mock horror, on her way to the exit. "Someone stole all my money!" It's a fact that money seems to disappear unaccountably at ren fairs. Apparently many people were losing all their money this past weekend. I made a point of asking vendors how their sales were, and each one I asked told me the same thing, that this weekend people seemed happier, more willing to part with their money, than the week before. Almost like some major event had happened that left consumers feeling a bit more confident. I don't know about other business people, but the TRF vendors seem quite pleased with Obama right now.

I didn't buy a whole lot, being mostly kitted out already, but I did get a nice rucksack with a dragon design while I was there, relieving me of having to manage a shoulder-carried bag while using canes. And I got a few odds and ends. There was some beautiful artwork for sale that I would love to have if I had the room. But I don't. Anybody wants a bronze water fountain in the shape of a dragon or a green man, I know just the guy.

Other good things that made the weekend pleasant:

new Coleman propane stove with instant lighting. It was nearly as easy as using the kitchen stove.

new tent with 7' height and enough space for two twin air mattresses. Sadly, one air mattress wasn't worth the attempt to inflate it, but the good one left Carapace sleeping comfortably, as did her tall-sized sleeping bag.

my adjustable portable table! It's not just good for sewing; it also fits nicely into the back of my car and is light enough that even I don't struggle with it.

taking Monday off for recovery. I had a whole day to put things away, wash clothes, and sleep after I got back. And so I went back to work Tuesday happy and feeling good.

Next year:

Don't bring lounger. It never got used.

Remember jacket. Sure, I can just wear all my garb, but it would still have been nice if I remembered to bring a jacket.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

inflammation advantage

On the bright side, I'm the only person in the office today not freezing.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Disability denial

Drake, at Cloud Viper, talks about the trouble he has accepting that the body he has always known is a body with disability. One Sick Mother makes a really valid point (in the comments) about you not having had time to adjust after so many years of being encouraged to be in denial. Now you don't need to be in denial anymore; you can take care of yourself and learn to live in the body you have instead of the body that nondisabled people expect you to have. But all those years of denial are going to be a while in the getting rid of.

And even then, there will be times that you think to yourself, "Oh, I'm just a whiner. I'm not really disabled." I do the same thing myself. And then I get out of bed, like I did yesterday, putting my foot down to stand up, and I scream. And all day, people ask me what I did to cause my foot injury. And they look at me as if it isn't the most everyday thing in the world to injure yourself by standing up. And today? Foot is pretty much back where it is supposed to be.

Now, why, when you and I and OSM are so regulary reminded by our own bodies of just how unreliable they are, do we ever have a problem accepting that we are disabled? What difference does a diagnosis make? Nothing at all has changed in the way your body works since you got diagnosed. If a new doctor disputes the diagnosis, again, nothing changes. What's going on that we, and others around us, are resistant to the bleeding obvious?

I think there are at least a couple of factors. A very important one has to do with that damnable stick figure sitting on a half circle. Yes, that faceless, degendered symbol of disability the world over. Ever notice how s/he is always in the same condition, day after day, year after year? S/he never shows up for work with a foot working that didn't work yesterday, or eyes not working that worked only last week. And everyone knows immediately on looking that Handy Stickperson is Special. And, also, Handicapable. Good old Handy is completely healthy, just missing a part or two, or maybe with a nice injury that can be conveniently covered up under clothing. Handy plays wheelchair rugby or runs track. Handy does not need to spend weekends in bed, shaking from pain and in pain from the shaking.

You and me, buddy? We just need to snap out of it. Get with the program. See a shrink for Munchausens. Get right with God. Take a supplement. Stop being weak. But we aren't disabled, right? Because everyone's seen disability. And it is painted blue and uses a ramp and doesn't have people challenging its right to park in the disability spot. After all, those spots have the portrait of their owner, and we don't look like that.

People are always so helpful, screaming at us that there was nothing wrong with us other than being lazy, or stupid, or whatever the adjective of the day was. See how not-disabled we are when so many fine folks have taken it on themselves to call us fakers and complainers? And we agreed, didn't we? We accepted that we must be normal, since that seemed to be the most prevalent opinion. And then some doctor comes along and tells us that our normal isn't. So, who you gonna believe? Some doctor, or your third grade physical ed teacher?

President-elect Obama!

I am so happy. At last, I can once again hear a politcal speech without screaming. It's like Obama has reset the bar for public speaking. McCain's concession speech was good and unifying. And Obama's victory speech was fantastic!

And he gave us a shout out! In our language! In his speech importuning Americans to continue to work together to turn this nation around, he specifically mentioned those of us with disabilities:

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

Now, that may be a small thing, but when was the last time we were called to serve? Or included as part of the key to victory? When was the last time we were seen as part of the solution instead of a problem to solve?

Good start, Obama. Good start.