Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Five!

1. The response from having my Neil Gaiman essay published has been incredible! Professors from both universities I've attended have suggested the libraries order them for their catalogs. Old friends came out of the woodwork to like my announcement on Facebook! It's awesome! Also, it makes me want to get a fiction thing published all the more.

2. Got a rejection on a full MS this week. This is a subjective business. It's okay! I want someone who loves the book. I just hope someone will.

3. Yesterday, I had a very disappointing experience at the bookstore nearest me. It's an off-shoot of the Harvard Co-op, a store co-owned by Harvard and MIT, which is basically just a Barnes and Noble. The one I went to is there to provide texts for Harvard Med, but also has a decent children's/YA section thanks to the nearby Children's Hospital, Boston Latin School and (judging by some of the titles) my program.

They did not have a single book I wanted. I went in wanting to spend $20 on a book and the failed me. Bah. I ordered two from Amazon. With my Prime shipping, they came from a New Hampshire warehouse in about eighteen hours.

Alas, I ordered the second book in the Hex Hall trilogy instead of the third. And because I'm a "valued customer" I don't have to return it to get a refund.

*sighs at spare copy of Demonglass*

4. I have a job for the summer! I'll be working as a job coach for teens with disabilities doing internships sponsored by the Boston Center for Independent Living. Actual teens!

At least, I will if we ever find a roommate and get to keep the apartment. *wibble*

5. I reread The Name of the Star, finishing it yesterday. So. Good. And the teaser line on the next book is about Bedlam. Maureen Johnson writing about ghosts, you guys. Crazy ghosts! What more do we want in the world??

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Space Between

Watching one of John Green's videos the other day made me think (shocker). In the video, embedded below, he discusses the people he took a course on Ulysses with. They all became successful people. One of them was Ransom Riggs, author of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

I know a lot of people who are probably going to be big someday. In high school, college and grad school I was/am surrounded by talented, intelligent people. The kind who dream big and work hard. I have no doubt that many of us will make waves in our fields.

But there's this time in between the days of dream-creating and dream-fulfilling. In my humble opinion, this time sucks. We're scattered all over the world with goals that are visible but not yet attainable. It's isolating and it's hard.

Some of us are starting to break through. I had an article published. A friend booked a TV show. Another bought her wedding dress. We're fleshing out the shadows of our future selves. The difficulty is in finding a way to be happy in the in-between, and in working on that with the same voracity as you work on achieving your goal.

I'm just trying to believe that's possible....

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Mythical Dimensions of Neil Gaiman


My essay "The Problem with Bod: Examining the Evolution of Neil Gaiman's Response to C.S. Lewis's The Last Battle in 'The Problem of Susan' and The Graveyard Book" appears in the collection The Mythological Dimensions of Neil Gaiman, published on April 20th by Kitsune Books.

The forward to the book was written by Mr. Gaiman, and all the other essays are fascinating as well.

Neil didn't write the forward, but he has read the essays. We had a conversation on Twitter in January about whether I got the Mary Poppins bit right.

Somewhere in the world every professor who has ever taught me about intentional fallacy is cringing.

The book is here on Amazon if you're interested!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Blind Date

I am a huge fan of Mark Oshiro's Mark Watches blog, where he posts reviews of a series as he watches it and commenters get to laugh at how unprepared he is. Currently, he's in the middle of Buffy and Angel. I never finished Angel, so I've been haphazardly watching it with him. We had sort of differing opinions on Angel episode "1x21" so I thought I'd post my thoughts here, as spoiler free as possible.

Mark argues that the episode's villain, Vanessa Brewer is a total badass. This is true. She's a trained assassin. She's also blind. Angel should get points for this. My problem is that she is less developed than many demons on Buffy and Angel--but she's not a demon. She's a human who has chosen to blind herself.

I don't have a substantial problem with disabled villains if they're done right (see: Long John Silver), and she's at least cooler than Blind Pew. But I do have a problem with underdeveloped disabled villains whose sole goal is to kill three children (who are also blind. Not sure if this makes it better or worse) and who have their sob story made up by a lawyer (On the other hand, acknowledging this trope could be a point in Angel's favor).

I think I'd be much more okay with all of this if complimentary characters existed on the side of good in any show, Buffy, Angel or otherwise. The disabled villain exists because people tend to consider the abnormal to be frightening or unsettling. The skills the disabled gain to counterbalance their disabilities are mistrusted--something that's over-exaggerated on this episode of "Angel"--and there is nothing out there to point to to provide a positive image.

So, I would totally love this character, if she wasn't all that is portrayed on TV.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Five!

1. All the talk about the future of media that we've had this week has me coming to one conclusion: the answer is options. I like having the ability to get a book in print, from the library, a bookstore, on my kindle, as an audiobook--any way I want it. I want to be able to watch TV shows instantly, and to buy the DVDs if I like them. Which is why I don't understand why companies (such as Disney/ABC) keep putting shows up on Amazon or Netflix, then taking them down. I want to be exposed to Alias, and planned on watching it soon, but it's no longer on Netflix. Will I go through the ordeal of checking boxsets out of the library, one by one, and dealing with due dates on content that takes much longer to consume than books? Probably not.

tl;dr: all I want is TV on my computer IS THAT SO MUCH TO ASK?

2. It's Patriot's Day weekend. For those of you who don't celebrate (i.e. anyone outside of Massachusetts) this is basically the holiday that exists for people to run the Boston Marathon.  I know. I'm sure how they got a marathon's worth of distance out of Boston either. They have to run through eight cities to do it.  They can have fun with it, I enjoy the day off of class.

3. I may possibly go see Titanic this weekend. On my own. Ne me juge pas.

4. I bought this shirt from DFTBA records last week and wore it to my YA Realism class. NO REGRETS.

5. In the interest of cool media actually available online, Hank Green is producing a new webseries called "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries". It's something that's never been done before, to my knowledge. An adaption of a novel to the format of a vlog. It's really great so far, and the choices they've made to modernize it make a lot of sense. The first episode is here:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

They're Not Standing. Deal With It.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have never experienced an hour of television more full of fail, and I watch Ringer.

Glee has never done well with disability. I've posted about it here and here. I really thought they had the chance to improve now that they've put head cheerleader Quinn Fabray in a wheelchair, but in the first five minutes of today's episode, they managed to ruin all chances of redemption. The episode opened with Quinn and Artie--Glee's token character in a wheelchair--singing "I'm Still Standing." This maybe Glee wanted irony here, but their failure to deal well with disability up until this point means they haven't earned it.

They then ruined any chance of doing a newly-disabled story in a unique way by having Quinn explain right away that her spine will heal. Whether it does or not, Glee is embarking on a cliche. Quinn's attitude of "I will walk again!" is not unrealistic at all--but Glee's already dealt with this. Artie has spent three seasons longing to walk, making his lecture to Quinn about accepting her situation hypocritical at best. They had a chance to show something unusual for TV--someone accepting physical disability without associating it with their life being over--and they didn't.

Now let's talk about senior skip day, shall we? Again, there is potential here. Going to an amusement park IS difficult if you have a disability. More so if you're there with people who are able-bodied. And the scene with people using wheelchairs shredding it at the skatepark was awesome. Ostracizing Quinn and Artie from the excursion, whether by some plan of Artie's to get Quinn on her own or not? Ruins the potential. Intercutting the scenes and therefore highlighting how excluded the two using wheelchairs are? Even more not okay.

Does it happen? Yes. Does it need to be talked about? Could Glee have covered more ground doing something different? Absolutely.

They handled the storyline with Sue's baby having Down Syndrome well, if predictably. But Sue's character has been built around her acceptance of Down Syndrome. Glee didn't do anything new here, except make it a Very Special Episode by airing it in the episode with Quinn's storyline.

Also, whether Quinn and Artie date, or whether Artie is just crushing all this does is retract all the ground they made by having Artie date Brittney by pairing the two students in wheelchairs for however long.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Book Musings: The Wonder Show

This book is The Night Circus without the magical realism or Water for Elephants without the tragedy. It's the story of a young girl, Portia, who runs away from an orphan's home to work for a freak show at a carnival. Portia has an interesting story, but what interested me more was the freak show and the history it implies. The book is set in 1939, and it shocked me for a bit that the freak show was around that late.

Part of me is immediately against the thought of people--most of whom would be considered to have disabilities today--being on display. I'm generally pretty anti-staring (see my post The Gaze) but in a way, I've done it. I've been a guinea pig for doctors. And the "freaks" in the novel joined the show by choice, unlike some of their historical counterparts. Additionally, there's a camaraderie between them that I associate with the disability groups I'm a part of. The people in the show are supporting themselves, choosing to exploit a condition they can't control. It's liberating in a way some people with disabilities don't get to experience these days--of course they also have more chances to get typical jobs.

Reading the book, I wondered if I'd be strong enough to do the same thing. (Again, I'm pretty anti-stare). You'd get to travel, though maybe not to very interesting places. I'm glad the idea of people with disabilities being display pieces is generally gone along with the Ugly Laws, but as for as historical perspectives go, The Wonder Show puts a positive spin on a potentially controversial subject. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Book Musings: My Body Politic

I'm a little bit obsessed with some of the observations in Simi Linton's disability studies book Claiming Disability, and was very eager to get into her memoir. Linton is a disability rights advocate who has been a wheelchair-user since she was paralyzed in the seventies. I honestly expected to have a little bit of difficulty empathizing with parts of her story, because she had a "normal" body before she was disabled. However, so many of her words resonated with me and my own journey, potentially because she became disabled in her mid-twenties, the age I am now, and faced similar issues of identity.

She claims her disability in a way I'm not sure I've learned to do yet. She disgardes the people-first language I've been trained to adapt, preferring not to shunt disability to the side. She writes of leaning to own being a "disabled woman" in a time when curb-cuts weren't standard. Some of her experiences were incredibly familiar, like when she first went into the Center for Independent Living office in the 1970s. "CIL isn't a place, it's a universe. Entering the door that summer in 1975 I discovered a disability underground." I felt the same way walking into the Boston CIL offices forty-odd years later. Like I'd found a place where I could be reminded that disability didn't make me a patient. It made me a person.

 Sometimes it's hard to remember that the disabled life can be as enriching as it is challenging--and as challenging as it is enriching--and Linton's memoir does that. It's an importnat book, I think, to remind disabled people that we're not alone and to remind able-bodied people that disabled people are complex people. The disability community is widespread, sometimes too widespread, and it's in places like the CIL, and Simi Linton's book, that I can remember how many other people are out there encountering the world in ways similar to the way I do.

Here's the trailer for the upcoming documentary based on the memoir: