Thursday, December 1, 2011

Stewart is King

Caveat: This is a sci-fi piece I wrote after a dream on 2/28/08. I have no idea what some of the symbols mean, suffice to say it was a combination of experiences: German class, losing friends, dealing with death (a human, and a dog.), Star Wars/Trek, and a lonely cramped dorm with people always shouting at me about doing things, and how not to be so "introverted" and grief-stricken. Also, I should explain, this is before Avatar, and the attack on Mur is totally based on the Rebel attack on Endor. So there! Maybe a bit of Starcraft is in there, too.


Stewart is King:
My name is Jake. For six days, I served as a royal translator to the evil galactic emperor Stewart. I’m not even sure if that’s his name. No one knows. No one wants to know. All we can know is that he is Emperor of our galaxy, the Milky Way, and he will kill anyone who refuses to kneel to him. If it is a him. To illustrate the emperor for you, I have to relive those six horrible days.
Stewart’s chamber was a magnificent marble and plastic niche through which the light shone so brightly that the clouds looked purple and the sky red. I remember the first time they took me to him. The guards led me down a black tube-shaped structure after coming down an elevator that looked like a small burning steel cigarette. No sense of hope as the shadow soldiers poked me down the dark hallway that ate my soul and spat out only an evil black hole. Whoosh! The scary iron door opened.
There he was. The owl-wolf demon. He looked like a wicked tree stump covered in white mangled fur. He had blade-pointed dog ears and a pair of fiery eyes. Below that he had a set of rotten yellow human teeth, and he ended with a long row of slithering, slurping tentacles that he used to get around. I approach his pedestal sticking out in front of the purple clouds with caution because his disturbing form scares me. Then, I hear his voice. That horrible loud demonic murmur of arrogance and power that sent even the toughest of human slaves screaming in a fit. I ducked and covered my ears as the alien continued to talk. That, I was told later, was why I was needed. To translate its evil orders into a non-fatal form, non-earthquaking, understandable. For this, one of the best in Stewart’s court is to assist me. Adler, the chief of engineers. He had no choice, or the Emperor would suck his brains out through his tentacles, or make him explode just by thinking it; but over time, Adler and I became close friends.
I hopped in his ship and he took me to another dark cigarette tube niche, that he called his garage. Putting our brains together, we were to make a translating device. Before Stewart came to power in the Milky Way, I was a translator of various Earth languages. Adler was from Earth too, and spoke one of these. His tribe was German. A slender man with an enormous cranium and a bobbing mass of tall black hair and eyebrows. He looked like the old bride of Frankenstein. We were all the brides of Stewart. Soft jazz played in the garage, and together, amid blinking lights and bottles of cheap wine,we made a translating mask. It looked like half of Darth Vader’s mask with a long tubular snout, through which brain waves were transmitted, the latter being the brain wave receiver. It was a neural gas mask, protecting me from the emperor’s toxic rumbling. End of day one.
Day two; I was again summoned to Stewart and the shadow guards came and snatched us up forcibly. Not much we could do to resist, since they poked and tasered us with their dark laser rifles. Drones. What else could they (or we) do? We are lead back to Stewart’s chamber. The black wave of evil eats you up before you step foot inside the elevator tube. Stewart is king. He is waiting.
“Jacob!” He grumbles. “I will see you alone!” All sense of intoxicated security...I had leaves me. His translated voice is deep and scary, but his real voice scares me out of my brains and sinks in like a hook. That horrible grumbling was at least now translated into words. He told me, as I trembled, that he was to be known as Stewart. “The destroyer!” I broke out in sweat because I see that the walls are alive, with growling mouths. Did Stewart the Destroyer do that? I looked away and bowed, going away feeling like a helpless abused puppy. I take off the mask and hear the ear-shattering psychotic chortle. “HUH HUH HUH HUH!” Stewart the Destroyer reverberated with red demonic chatter. I put on the mask. From now on, for my own sanity, I decided I would always wear the mask. Sleep with it on if I had to. I went home to my honeycomb and sank into the sleeping casket, reflecting on the horror of my existence.
The blinking lights flickered on and off like my thoughts. Was this all my life was? Serving evil Stewart and then going back to bed in my casket like everyone else? Had humanity become Stewart’s bees, all crammed into honeycombs in the clouds? No. There was too much fear in it. Someone would revolt. But, not me! I thought. Maybe Dr. Adler. I hope I’m allowed to see him again. Maybe someday. I called up a hologram of my old dog by pressing one of the blinking green lights on the ceiling. These days, Earthlings did everything lying on their backs, because there wasn’t enough room to sit up or stand up in a honeycomb. The old yellow lab projected itself. Her name was Jessie. In fact, she kind of looked like Stewart, if compressed, twisted, and given teeth and tentacles. Stewart is Evil Jessie, I decide. Feeding time. A green pill was dispensed from the ceiling light. Uh oh. I think. I’m thinking too much. That was always when he fed you. And then, they’d close the casket. Darkness.
Day three; summoned to Stewart earlier than usual. This time the vertigo and fear was almost before I got out of my honeycomb. I must be in trouble, I think. Stewart is king. I nervously approach the marble pedestal where the all-powerful stump of white fur and tentacles, Stewart, sat.
“Jake!” He reverberated angrily. “Have you been having personal thoughts?
“Uh...” I started.
“Do not tell me! For I already know! Ha, ha, ha, ha!” Stewart the Destroyer chuckled. “In light of your recent views, I have a new mission for you! Ha, ha!”
“Y-yes Stewart?” I said.
“I will allow you to see Dr. Adler. You two are to work on a special project together. Access code D-S-G.”
“Oh,” I sighed. “Thank you, your majesty.” I bowed and started to creep away, as slowly as one often did in the presence of all-powerful Stewart.
“And then, I want you to kill him! Mwhahaha!” This shocked me. I turned around as if forced to by some body-contorting wind.
“N-No!” I stammered, half-unwittingly. I winced in preparation of the Emperor’s wrath.
“No?” said Stewart disappointedly, his tentacles lazily floating about to console me. “You see, Jake, you’ve become very valuable to me. And you will only stay alive so long as you are valuable to me. So little does humanity comprehend its new fate...” He seemed to sigh, then he took off in flight, revealing his evil white owl wings. He perched close to me on an elevated glass plane, blocking my view of the spaceships and purple clouds. He began. “Humans are entirely my subjects. You are my subject. I control humans so much as it suits my will. This you do not understand. You humans are ants for Stewart. As such, be glad I am allowing you this task, ant. I would not want to see revolutionary ideas in your head.” He stared at me with owl-wolf demon eyes. Slowly, I crept out of the palace and hopped back into my spaceship. I met Adler in the garage, since there was little sense in meeting in a honeycomb. I knocked, entered the access code, and identified myself. The door whooshed open vertically, and beeped. Presumably, this let my guest know he had been summoned, and was allowed temporary free will. The garage was filthy as always. The only pieces of furniture were two little wooden cabinets with tools spread on them. Adler appeared startled, but nonetheless, came to the entrance, as was the neighborly thing to do.
“Oh...Jake.” He said. “I had no idea you’d been summoned.” He lied. Poor old soul. Did he not hear the bell?
“Stewart has a new project for us.” I said.
“Does he?” said Dr. Adler. “Did he say what it was?”
“No.” I said.
“Well then...” he cleared his throat, apparently knowing his fate. “Whatever it is, I’m...sure it’s of the utmost importance. Let’s get to work.” He turned around and reached for the tools. Spasmodically, I reached for my laser pistol on the belt of my tunic, and lasered him in the back of the skull. A quick little zap! like a bee sting. I watched him die. Watched the steaming hole in his head. Watched him slouch lifelessly down to the ground. I mourn, and wonder if there is comradeship on other planets.
Day four; I’d had enough. Stewart had made me kill my best friend, and made me his ant. I am not an ant. When I was next summoned, I decided, I would kill him. I don’t care what happens. Maybe he’ll kill me, and I won’t have to work for him. The shadow guards came early as usual, and roused me from my casket to the spaceship. Evidently, the emperor had a big order coming. That’s why I was becoming more valuable to him. I was led down through the elevator, through the dark cigarette tube with blinking lights, and finally to the king’s chamber. The light was an assault on my barely opened eyes. Then it was pleasing, until Stewart’s evil aura filled the room and penetrated my being. This time we did not meet in private and the shadow guards surrounded him. But, I was going to do it. I was going to kill him. Translate for a little bit, I told myself. Never mind the screams. That would be the perfect disguise. Stewart grunted thus as I translated to the mass: “People! We are in a position to attack creatures most dangerous to us! You know them, for they are the forest creatures of Mur!” Mur was in fact a peaceful forest planet, and a great exporter of natural resources. They posed absolutely no threat. “For centuries they have kept their natural resources from us. But, victory is at hand! Tomorrow, we will attack the forest planet of Mur!” It was after the shrieking and crying that I pulled out my laser pistol. A fake applause came. I neared my hand to my holster.
“Now!” Stewart commanded. A lightening wall of stunning blue plasma smacked against my back. WHUMP! After the electrocution, Stewart forced back up me to my knees with a slimy adhesive tentacle.
“You see, you do not escape me so easily.” he grumbled. “I knew you would pull such a move. You’re hoping I’ll kill you; but I have something better planned for your insolence. Return to me tomorrow.” And I would, for the last time, return. I am led to Stewart for the last time. He appoints me as a squad leader for the attack force on Mur. The shadow guards lead me, in my breaches, from the chamber to a segmented hallway full of purple light, which turns out to be a shower. I get cleaned and dried and pick up a shadow guard uniform, still wearing my trusty mask so as to avoid Stewart’s full wrath. When I come back to his chamber for the briefing on the attack plan, he is less than cordial.
“The attack plan is this...” He said. “You will attack as I tell you!” He laughed. I quivered and leaned in on the pedestal. “No...” I said, then looked down at my shadow guard uniform as if I’d been marked. “The people of Mur are innocent; you know it!”
“Innocent?” He chuckled. “You are my soldier! You will do as you are told!” He yelled. With this, a big white tentacle knocked me in the head, and my mask fell to the floor. Stewart crouched and then leapt up from his seat and sat himself down with a horrible squish on top of my head. And there he stayed until his entire body started to spill over my head like hardened clay glue. My brain was on fire. This is what happens when he takes over your mind. “HUH HUH HUH HUH!” He jabbered on and on evilly. The sounding was cracking my skull, and I could only run around in panic and horror as he began to influence my thoughts and jabber away. I clawed at my face and finally sank down to my knees. Finally, I was loaded up into a spaceship, and the shadow guards caught their first sight of Mur. An untamed, peaceful wilderness.
Day 5: Spaceship landed in tall rich forests of Mur. Dragonflies buzzing. Birds singing. Small brown troll-like creatures played in the lush green grass made vibrant by the golden sunlight through the canopy. From the canopy, a plantling stretched out its neck to drink sunshine. Then, came the laser bomb that blew it all to bits. The shadow guards rolled out of the ship and gunned down the Murites. They ran and scattered in terror. It was my job to call in the heavy armor, but we didn’t need any. I did so only because Stewart, owl wings stretched out, was flying overhead of us all in his imperial robe, screaming as always. It was enough to make me kill even what was innocent and running away. Soon there came the thunder of laser tanks to join our rifles, and where there had been rich forests; only burning craters, fallen trees, exploding earth, and ghastly charred bodies. As we gain a foothold, I lie trembling in a crater, with only a tarp as bedding.
Day 6: From behind the trees, the trolls threw a net on me. Several missed and I blew them away. Finally, I stumbled back, and struggled to break free of the net. The trolls ran away, whooping in success, and from the trees, a plantling took aim at me with a mechanical crossbow. Thwack! the crossbow bolt struck me in the knee and I buckled over backwards, falling into a crater, entangled by the net. The trolls rushed in and tried to finish the job with their knives. One by one, their heads splattered onto the ground by laser fire. I was still unable to reach my gun, and I picked up the last troll in my fist, squished its face with my thumbs, and bit off its wild black hair through to its skull. Finally, I dropped it and stomped on its face. Stewart flies overhead, telling me to get up and kill everything, or at least, that’s what his growling makes me want to do. For a split second, I looked down at the squished face of the troll. A laser bomb hits the ground.
The force of the bomb knocked me into a nearby crater, sprawled out like a helpless kitten. And I looked into its bright eyes a long time; before they rolled back, and became blank. As I look back I think, “Was it worth it?” and take off my mask to breathe one last natural, oxygen-rich, Earth-like breath: I lost Earth, I lost my friends, I destroyed my surroundings, but I would no longer serve the Destroyer. With one pure breath, I closed my eyes, and left my wounded body to heal in the bombed out crater. End of day 6.
Day seven: Rest, and no noise. I will not translate hate, and Stewart's army cannot go forward. With no hold over them, and his demonic muttering now lost, the brownies tear him to shreds, and we leave the atmosphere in peace. One day, the brownies will travel with us. I can only hope, as I bow to the tribal leader and give a departing hand gesture, that they forgive us. And the leader looked back and smiled. Humanity was free again; but could I live without the Destroyer who hated me, and yet gave me the power of words...?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Serious Business


All right, so I'd like to return the blog back to a focus on Disability Rights. But, mainly I can only do that by asking what I think Disability Rights are, and how any conception of Disability Rights in the minds off people frames how others (including people who are disabled.) react and respond to it. I've already written a Masters Thesis on that subject, and I don't feel like doing it again. Even though I've posted essays here. Specifically, I think what I have to add to Disability Rights discourse is the Mythological viewpoint, which answers the "why?" question of disability.
     First off, myth is concerned with human universals. It doesn't make the claim that disabled people are "Just like you", (which assumes "we" want to be "normal".) but instead highlights the hero's quest and the struggle for the Greater Good, using what "we" have been given. It doesn't really set a standard for what "normal" would be, since heroes are defined by doing something that is beyond the normal range of human experience, which is to go beyond what we can apparently do. I consider this to be more realistic and empowering, since it speaks to Joseph Campbell's universal "Hero's Quest". All cultures have hero stories. The idea is to find something Greater than yourself; and then put the mind in accord with nature and the physical body. That to me is a lot better than grouping people and compartmentalizing disabilities.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Shatner's Turkey Fryer.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/16/william-shatner-turkey-frying_n_1097079.html Dingle dangles and turkey fryer safety with the prose of William Shatner. Happy Turkey Day.

Special Needs Girl Bullied

It's important that people know this stuff goes on. http://www.hulu.com/watch/300244/nbc-today-show-girl-bullied-by-her-own-teachers

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Kirk vs. Picard

  
Various sources have requested that I weigh in on the Captain Kirk vs. Captain Picard debate, which is currently raging over at StarTrek.com. Technically, this debate has been around since 1987, when The Next Generation first aired. I only got "back into" Star Trek around 2005; with The Original Series, while I was pre-occupied with pre-Star Wars science fiction. (Starting with Harlan Ellison, who wrote City on The Edge of Forever.) I remember TNG from my childhood, and certainly the Next Generation movies (First Contact, Insurrection, and Nemesis.) were more my time. But, The Wrath of Khan was a classic  tale of charming captain vs. equally charming genetically-altered crazy dictator with doomsday weapon. And who can forget "KHAAAAAAAAAANNNNN!!!" echoing off the dead planet? I can't. I suppose Picard had his screaming moment too, with the Borg. (NOOOOOOOOOO!!! as he shattered a glass case; that was awesome.)
Obviously, as I was pre-occupied with pre-Star Wars sci-fi during my college years, I grew to like Kirk's command style. He's assertive, cocky, and credible because he represents ethos in Roddenberry's allegory for the structure of a logical argument. (Aristotle's troika; logos, pathos, ethos.) Actually, I identify with the science officers more than the captains. But, I prefer Kirk because he is confident. That's his role in the troika. And also, he got the ladies and has many quotes about what it is to be human, which inspires Spock (who looks at the world the way I do; half-alien, half-human.) to be "more human", so to speak.
Given my background in Intercultural Comm. and the era in which I grew up, you'd think I prefer Picard. I do like him; I just prefer Kirk. I drink Earl Grey, and rent TNG discs from the library...and I like his command style, he likes to investigate with everyone (even his enemies, as his brief stint as Locutus shows.) before he reaches a decision based on democratic civility, not gut instinct. After Kirk violated the Prime Directive so much, Starfleet needed a captain to show that it's institutions were fundamentally good. For Kirk, rules were obstacles. I like that style. I don't hate Picard; he does what I do, he investigates, and he's cultured. I just have more fun with Kirk, because he's sort of wish-fulfillment for me; and as a trained Aristotlean/rhetorician, I understand his command model ultimately better than Picard's, strange as it may seem.
I could drag this argument out, but the fact is I wish the "winners" could be Data or Spock. Data was funny, and I identified with his quest to be more human and accepted. On the other hand, Spock's conflict was more subtle, and I learned the benefits and disadvantages of objectivity. And the fact is...in order that there be no doubt that my logic is solid in this argument, I need objective criteria, lest I be accused of favoritism. Google, I've found is the quickest way to gauage cultural relevance, because it ranks things top to bottom, and the results would be random. I conducted my experiment by googling each captain's popularity, combat, cultural knowledge, battle tactics, and greatest enemies. Granted, it still depends what I type in, but I can't decide the battle with completely uncontrolled elements.
The data are as follows...
Popularity:
Captain Kirk - 5,860,000 results
Captain Picard - 445,000 results
Winner: Kirk (By a reboot probably; or a surplus of quotes.)
Khan - 601,000 results (The Wrath of Khan)
Borg - 61,900,000 (Star Trek Borg)
Winner: Picard
Cultural Knowledge:
The Inner Light: 50,900,000 results
City on The Edge of Forever: 4,370,000 results
(episodes showcase adaptation, investigation, coping skills)
Winner:
Picard

Battle tactics
The Picard Maneuver - 17,200 results
The Corbomite Bluff - 48,300 results
(Maneuvers invented by the captains)
Winner: Kirk

Combat:
Captain Kirk Combat: 588,000 results
Captain Picard Combat: 1,170,000 results
Winner: Picard
Winner: Picard (By a grapple with Shinzon, apparently. And the hilarious ineffectiveness of 1960s TV fight choreography.)
Of course, disregarding the "joke reasons", let's analyze the raw data.

By this evaluation, Kirk "wins" in terms of wit and charm, even deception. (Kirk went behind the nebula to attack Khan; and invented the Corbomite Bluff.) But, it does reveal one character trait that gives Picard an advantage. Kirk's style of command works best when he knows he's in charge. Whereas Picard regularly places himself at the mercy of the unknown. (Kirk almost failed because he had to sacrifice a woman in City on The Edge of Forever. Picard adapts to his new family life on Kitan in The Inner Light, and thus fulfills the planet's memory; even becomes a Borg in another episode.)  Anyone who has watched an old Star Trek fight probably knows that, while Kirk would attack first (since he is the anti-authority captain.) he would probably be outmaneuvered by Picard who has grappled with Romulans twice his own size, and to my knowledge, never struggled so hilariously as Kirk did vs. the Gorn captain.
Although I prefer Kirk, I have to admit that much of TNG was simply done on a grander scale. Khan was an epic story of revenge, not threatening the fate of the universe as the Borg did. And when the universe when threatened in TOS, Kirk often solved it by fighting, or by quoting about humanism. Picard was driven to understand both sides, even at the temporary cost of his humanity. Kirk often aggrevated the cold war between Klingons and the Federation (by referencing Earth's Cold War, and TAKING ACTION.) Picard appears to have all respect for the Prime Directive, but loses his cool when his friends are pushed, and so would win in a fight with Kirk, defending himself.
To summarize this eternal debate, it could be that TNG is just better in American cultural memory right now because of the grander scale, and better special effects. (7 seasons vs 3 seasons with universe threatening battles.) However, there's been a resurgence of Kirk in American cultural memory, because (ultimately) people need more philosophy in sci-fi than just the Star Wars religious allegory; and Kirk has the style to do that. He holds to his values while investigating and understanding others. Whether it surpasses Star Wars (at least, the prequels.) remains to be seen. Hey...Phantom Menace was 1999. Star Trek was 2009. 9s are good years for reboots. Maybe in the reboot, they'll reinvent some TNG characters, too. I can't see Paramount just dumping that. If Google is any indication, TNG lives on!

Monday, November 7, 2011

BATGIRLS VS. PROFESSOR X: DISABILITY BATTLE

VS.


Professor X vs. The Batgirls:

Both Professor X and the Batgirls (Cassandra Cain and Barbara Gordon a.k.a. Oracle.) are disabled. My task is to analyze their skills, disabilities, and fighting styles to discover who would make the toughest disability advocate. For Professor X, I have a variety of sources including animation, comics, and the recent movies. My knowledge of Batgirl lore is a little spottier; though I have sources from comics, including Batgirl, Birds of Prey, and from Batman. Let's begin with their philosophies toward advocacy and backgrounds.
Professor X, a paralyzed man, runs the Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters in upstate New York, which is the undercover base for The X-Men. It's unclear at what age he recruits youngsters to the school (it is variously shown as a high school, a university, and a private school.) But, it's been said that the mutant gene activates by the onset of puberty, and he tracks them using Cerebro. His fighting style is mostly limited to non-violent resistance (as he is a Civil Right's leader.) but when provoked, his psychic abilities have taken down Magneto, The Hellfire Club, and even his own X-Men (When possessed.)
He holds numerous degrees in biology, and teaches ethics at the school. If Professor X were to survive, he would have to rely on his wit, technical skill, psychic ability, and morality. Furthermore, he often speaks of being confined to a wheelchair; he would have to thus have a very good moral reason to put his physical body at risk, unless his powers become unstable, at which point he would be evil.
Barbara Gordon is the daughter of Commissioner James Gordon. She has likely learned combat skills from both Batman and the Gotham police. Her technical skill is unsurpassed, as she uses both Batman's tech and her resources at the Gotham Public Library (which she runs: PhD in Library and Information Sciences.) to hunt and track criminals. Though she is paralyzed from a gunshot wound, and uses a wheelchair, she isn't afraid to attack. Her one weakness (that I can see...corrections appreciated.) is that she often feels she should be doing more to protect her friends. In combat, Professor X would be likely to use this against her, either to get her to avoid confrontation psychically, or just talking her out of it non-violently.
       Their tech is at least evenly matched, but a provoked Professor X could become formidable. Her athletic-improv style martial arts would require her to get close.Babs could knock Professor X around if he tried to talk her out of it, perhaps using her wheelchair to leap off of and back, ninja style. However, once provoked Professor X would exploit her fears and guilt, and telepathically knocking her around; psychic energy has also been known to rip people apart, (a.k.a “mindblowing”) so depending on how far he's pushed, he could destroy Babs unless she had psychic protection.
Cassandra Cain is another Batgirl. She's the mute daughter of the deadliest assassin in the world , David Cain. AKA The guy who trained Batman. Her father devoted all her life to ninja training at the expense of her education (Batgirl: Fists of Fury) but she can speak via telepathy. Her mind would likely be enough to overcome psychic attacks, as her father taught her how to resist mental pain by shooting her when she made mistakes. Since she was taken in by Batman, she has shown anger and frustration towards her disability, and even nearly killed Joker after he made a wisecrack about “picking on the handicapped.” (Also Fists of Fury.) Also, she has no qualms about killing, and would likely aim to kill or maim Professor X if Babs was attacked. Her skills in martial arts and ability to resist mental pain would likely give her advantage over Professor X, but she is as unstable and sensitive about her disability as Professor X; the exception being that she turns to anger and violence, instead of reason; but by this point Professor X would likely be violent as well.
In conclusion, all these combatants have a kernel of guilt and anger associated with what they can't do, and it is what they do with that that would determine the outcome of the battle. (True to life!) in some cases, they use their disabilities to adapt (Xavier's ethics, Cain's martial arts, or Oracle's Information Science.) but ultimately it is how they deal with their maladaptive qualities that determines their success. They have to be able to adapt to situations where they are unable to act properly. Having lived this way for quite some time now, I can relate and I understand these comics better now.
     I predict the battle would go something like this. Professor X would defeat Babs when provoked, Cassandra Cain would take out the “evil Professor X”, and Babs would convince her (because she's her friend.) not to kill him because he's a brilliant and morally good man. They're all tough advocates regardless of experience and method, because they all truly believe, one way or the other, that they can use their abilities and disabilities for justice! Possibly, they would even agree to work together. What a comic book ending!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

MUNCH TO MOZART

video
A video I made a while back of Edvard Munch's art set to Mozart's 7th symphony; a good fit that speaks to the frantic struggle to produce art from terror as well as beauty. Also, I think Munch himself had a mental illness, so this speaks volumes for his life experience. Be inspired!

Disability as Love and Passion

 1.) Disability as Love and Passion:
“What takes place out of love is always beyond good and evil.” (Nietzsche 1886/Zimmern 1907 p. 98)
  • Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
“To be injured by speech is to suffer a loss of context, that is, not to know where you are.” says Butler. (Butler 1997 p. 4) But, if one is strong, and can make one’s disability a vehicle of love, transcendence, and freedom, then it is a great blessing not to know where you are. New art and new ideas are only born from strange unknown places. The injurious speech seeks to make disability a limit rather than a passion and strength. As Nietzsche says of reactionaries: “A little more strength, flight, courage, and artistic power, and they would want to rise - not return!” (Nietzsche 1886/Kaufmann 1963 p. 17) Any attempt by a State or injurious speech act then, to define or execute hate speech is reactionary because it robs the person with a disability of the power to fight back against the injury caused to him or her.

2.) Fighting for Transcendence:
To fight back linguistically is to begin, like Judith Butler, with the idea of linguistic trauma: “That such language carries trauma is not a reason to forbid its use.” (Butler 1997 p. 38) In fact, the linguistic wound increases one’s will to fight and state one’s case. It is the perceived wrongness of the action which drives us to defeat it and manifest the will by passion: “Out of life's school of war: What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.” (Nietzsche 1895/Kaufmann 1974 p. 469) Out of this passion comes our agency and goal: to extend beyond the physical body by no will but our own.
As Butler notes, the instatement of laws to protect others attempt to define the conditions of combat, but instead they disarm our power altogether as such laws are mistaken for natural by “turning the universal against itself, redeploying equality against its existing formulations, retrieving freedom from its contemporary conservative valence.” (Butler 1997 p. 93) Or said in my own words, what was once an active force of passion now works against transcendence and one’s own strength. One submits to the law as the highest authority; justice has no sense of empowering tragedy. It always turns one back; it cannot set the tragic will on a path. Only the will of the law becomes the last word. “The regulation, as it were, will speak the part of the one censored as well as the censoring voice itself, assimilating the drama as one way to establish control over the utterances.” (Butler 1997 p. 131)
Because justice establishes itself as the last word, it has no sense of transcendence, or something that was not created by itself. It reverses tragedy, and instead of using it as an extending force of strength, recreates and confirms the very stereotype the law seeks to protect persons with disabilities from: “as dependent, socially introverted, emotionally unstable, depressed, hypersensitive and easily offended especially with regard to their disability.” (Braithwaite and Harter 2000 p. 19) While it is in some cases that the law has establishing extending forces for disability, the law attempts in the same cases to define disability; under the pretense that “we” cannot define ourselves; disarming people with disabilities of the right to define their life conditions. In the words of Butler: “to describe oneself by the term is to be prohibited from its use, expect in order to deny or qualify the description.” (Butler 1997 p. 105) Who is more injurious here? It would appear that the State is actually assisting the harmful act in allowing people with disabilities to be defined not by extension but by weakness. Put simply: To say that the individual with a disability is strong, amounts to a denial of power to the State.

Friday, November 4, 2011

DISABILITY RIGHTS AND SECRET IDENTITIES

      
 
DISABILITY RIGHTS AND SECRET IDENTITIES:
   
So far, I’ve been reading enough Batman to keep me occupied. I had a weird dream that the X-men joined Occupy Wall Street again. I watched Season 1 of Star Trek: The Next Generation (Weird to see a baby faced Jonathan Frakes.) I’m trying to put more of what was important to me back into my life, so I’m not just a bored directionless college graduate. And I think that what was important to me was “foreign language” and storytelling as forces of individual expression. Which is to say, I need to define for myself, through my experience what “disability rights” are, and how they apply to my goals.  Frankly, I’ve heard enough about “disability rights” coming from the government. That’s a monetary issue; it’s not to be given, but to be bought, or fought for.
     But, now I know I can fight. I have found my own voice. I think it’s primarily a matter of making people aware of how their presumptions are limiting. Or downright oppressive. And there are well-meaning people who do this. They use their position as a way to avoid what they are afraid of. In a way, I am the night. For those people, I’m a kind of German-speaking Batman. A Luke Skywalker. But, the important thing is to not hold myself back because of unconscious goals or expectations others have set for me. Well, in that regard, I’ve gone back to doing things I like. I’m visiting the OSU German department, and getting back my old confident alter ego. Which brings me to another point that has come up many times recently: What is an alter ego?
      I’ve heard many people (around Creative Living and even in some comics and films now.) say that alter egos are just ways of hiding from what you can’t face. It’s the quickest way to inform others that your beliefs (according to this definition; hereafter “argument a.”) are meaningless because you can‘t deal with your own incompetence. And certainly, alter egos are secret identities. Spider-Man in particular is a good example of someone who wrestles with “masking” himself. I view it more as allowing the impossible to take over reality for a bit. Because if you don’t dream the impossible, then you’ll never try it.
    And anyway, how far do we want to take argument a? It’s no secret that people have obstacles in the way of their desires. We cannot all go naked and self-sufficient. Are cops hiding? (Even they wear a costume, and play a part.) That depends on the person. What’s important is what’s done in the uniform or on stage, so to speak. So, I take argument a to be one definition of alter ego; the other, which I mean, is the actualization of all the creative powers (and even superpowers) within the individual. In that case, my alter ego would be someone who isn’t limited by my disability. But, that doesn’t mean I’m hiding it; in fact it informs how I see myself, and hopefully helps others to see beyond my disability. From this point of view, one can even be weary of those who claim argument a. And it becomes exposed as another structure of power in and of itself, by focusing on appearance instead of consequences. It only appears that such people have nothing to hide.
    The question remains though, of why a superhero (or regular person) needs an alter ego. But, I think by now we’ve returned to a discussion of the need for fantasy. It’s true that one can confuse fantasy and reality. The point is to reach beyond the fantasy and make it real. This scares the pants off of those who claim to be hiding or running from nothing; who have no connections to a power structure. For such “realism” can often be revealed as a sadistic fantasy. Villains, those who have nothing to hide, and no one to protect, can be unmasked too. Especially, if they don’t “look” like villains. If they’re only trying to “help”. It’s the heroes that make sacrifices for others behind the mask, and the villains’ mask lets them abuse their power because “that’s the way the world works.” I think my job is to express my story, the way I see it, and protect those who don’t have voices, even if I have to protect others who don’t agree with me to do so. The task is to unmask those who impose on and limit those who can’t defend themselves; who claim to have the “natural order.” And that’s what I’m being called on to do.    
    

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Arabic and the process of language

    So I was helping a friend of mine with her Arabic studies today, despite the fact that I have little to no knowledge of Arabic. I simply applied what I knew about intercultural communication,  my experience as a foriegn language student, and a bit of storytelling. Told her that when I learn a language, I imagine myself as a member of that culture just having a conversation, so that I don't focus on the complexity of the sounds; more the ideas, then the sounds. If I have to, I break words down to whatever I'm having trouble with, and learn how the other parts of it interconnect. So for example, if I'm having trouble with a word, I try memorizing a sentence and then come back to what you don't know. I was glad to have helped. She said it helped. To help her get in the right mindset, I asked her to imagine she was in Egypt, and that she was with Batman even, if we got into trouble. I had no idea what she was saying, but she assured me I helped and that my imaginative methods helped.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hopefully short rant

It is not usually my place to rant; I usually try to keep an academic voice. However, I have a blog. As such, I reserve the right to rant. This is one such moment. It is funny how I've spent most my life looking at disability from the outside. By which I mean, my family didn't focus on it, and I was for the most part accepted into a culture that was inclusive of those with disabilities (School, friends, places in town, etc.) Most of my friends weren't disabled.
When I was growing up (whippersnappers!) I knew I had to fight for this thing called Disability Rights, but that was about it. I wasn't prepared for other people's interpretation of what that might mean. As a kid, I simply thought it meant the right not to notice your disability. Now, I see disability rights "advocates" advocating all sorts of things. The right to "accessible apartments", the right to use and not use certain words to describe disability ("Handicapped" is okay in my book, since that's what I grew up with; "disabled" too. Not cripple; implies oppression.) Then, as I grew older, I actually began to see the movement doesn't just have one voice. One demand. It has many, accessibility only being one. The other, if I were to take what I want, and call it "Disability Rights", is inclusion. Right now, I have the constant feeling of fighting; or that I'm a burden to others.
        "Everything I need" so "they" say is right here; but only at certain hours. And the other staff can only do certain things. Even then, I feel like a burden sometimes, particularly when aides or staff are angry or tired. (and it makes me mad that they get paid to do so little, sometimes.) What I'm getting at is, I feel burdened by an intense awareness of my disability. An "us vs. them" mentality has rooted itself in my mind, that doesn't serve me as a cultural investigator. I'm still trying to get everyone's story here. I have a feeling that I'm not the only one who feels this way, particularly in the apartment; which is why sometimes I have to take a break and get away from it. Try as I might though, a free-floating anxiety, an edge of quarrelsomeness, has crept into my life that was not there before.
   It may be the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche, Foucault et al, in my Comm studies (seriously, conflict theory does help.) It may be that I'm away from my family. It may be that I meet people without disabilities who are now not interested in being friendly, and the only social bond between us is the $$ that I give them. It could be that I feel the need to prove myself. It could be all these things. I just get tired myself of other people's fear of me, and I feel it these days even in the store. I feel in many ways, corralled into a bizarre petting zoo. The disabled people barely come out, and clamor for human interaction. In some ways, I was less fearful when I had lower expectations.
Back to the point. Accessibility means nothing if you don't have inclusion. That is the drive that I have, the drive for inclusion, that keeps my spirit thirsty for adventure. But now, against this, I have the dark forces of my nature. And others' dark natures. Do I miss the times when I didn't feel a thousand eyes on me? Sure. But, it's with me, and I have to act against it. As I have before, when the shadows of ability vs. ability were far behind.    

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Note

I just read that in the 80s, Frank Miller redesigned Daredevil. I think he was behind the movie, too. I usually hate Frank Miller. Too much red. But, who knew he redesigned Daredevil?

ADDENDUM: Okay, so a lot of people probably know that! Just keeping my eyes on pop culture and communication.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Random Thoughts on The Superhero Daredevil

                                                                           DAREDEVIL:

    Daredevil (Matt Murdoch) is a blind lawyer. He can see using his heightened senses. To me, Daredevil is a proper disability advocate. (If not a living metaphor of blind justice.) However, his background is a little sparse, so much so that Ben Affleck swore off superhero movies. And I don’t know whether to be thankful or sad. Background aside, Daredevil knows kung-fu and he has a nifty cane, which in edition to helping him see, while not giving away his sonic sight ability, can be a weapon, a pole vault, or a grappling hook a la Batman. His archenemy is The Kingpin, who evidently is a criminal mastermind, and former fat nerd who takes his aggression out on his goons and society.
    I’m saying Daredevil’s background is scarce because my knowledge of him is mostly secondhand. From the awful Ben Affleck movie to a handful of Spider-Man team-ups (2 comics…), including the inaccurately titled “Daredevil vs. Spider-Man” 2002 animated movie, wherein Spider-Man and Daredevil team up and only fight for about 60 seconds, during the whole thing. Daredevil’s backstory is as follows: His dad was a boxer who threw a fight and became a bagman for Kingpin. He was so overtaken by sight of his dad as a criminal that he ran off and got hit by a truck carrying chemicals. He was blinded, but gained sonic sight. He can hear hearts beat, it’s so accurate. I wish there were more scenes in Daredevil (comics, movies, et al.) that showcased his sonic sight not just during battle. Though his kung fu is impressive, and he can take “leaps of faith” and always land on his feet. He’s essentially a kung fu movie translated into comic books, but I can’t think of which one. (Anyone?) I‘m a big fan of kung fu movies.
     And the kung fu allegories don’t end there. He also has a ninja girl partner named Elektra Nachios. When I first heard her name, I laughed for about 10 minutes. What happened? Did Stan Lee have Taco Bell one day and the deadline got to him? Nachios. Anyway, he’s also hunted by Bullseye, a bald Irish assassin, and also some guy named Smythe, who I believe is also disabled, using a wheelchair. He works for Kingpin in the hopes of seeing his father again, who he kidnapped. (God, he’s basically Daredevil already!) I think he’s a weapons expert or something engineer-like. And he wasn’t in the Ben Affleck movie. I don't remember.
    I think by this time Stan Lee was out of ideas, or else profiting from the kung fu movie craze of the Bruce Lee era. Unfortunately, disabilities are a rather convenient plot device when searching for a  dramatic Aristotlean “fatal flaw”. Which is the mark of Marvel Comics, and quite possibly why I read them. Because they are flawed heroes. I’d just rather not see the disability exploited as a flaw. I do like Daredevil though.  He kicks butt, and he’s a lawyer representing blind justice, kung-fu style with X-ray vision. He does good credit to the old myth that disabilities heighten the other senses; with a little help from super chemicals! I give his character 4 stars. But, the story, as far as I’m concerned, is all held together by the threads of kung fu, and occasionally, Spider-Man! Gotta get me more Daredevil comics, though before I can “star” the stories. Anyone have a recommendation for a good Daredevil story? (I've read a  neat story about him vs. a guy named Shotgun...who's pretty much a combination Rambo and Mr. T. So, pretty much every '80s era super-soldier.)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Professor X's Evolution

Professor X's Evolution

“Are mutants the next link in the evolutionary chain or simply a new species of humanity fighting for their share of the world? Either way, it is an historical fact: Sharing the world has never been humanity's defining attribute.”
  • X-Men 2: United
      Professor X has always been a role model of mine, as the first disabled superhero I had ever seen. Mainly from the first animated series in the 90s. But, although he embraces his power mutant power as a gift, insisting that they are “not a disease”, he seems to be more ambivalent towards his disability than I remember. Growing up as a disabled person during the 90s, I had a lot of hope that the future would be more accessible to me, and I projected that on to Professor X. After all, in the 90s animated series, he had a hoverchair, (Later, a powerchair, like me.) he was the one who taught the mutants to use their abilities for good, and followed a Civil Rights model of tolerance, with mutants and non-mutants sharing the world.
      I had always believed (and still do.) that Professor X's tolerance of humanity  should be extended also to his disability. Yet, I see time and time again that he refers to himself as “confined to a wheelchair”, often using that as an excuse not to face Magneto. As a Disability Rights advocate, I'm somewhat disappointed. He teaches his students about peaceful co-existence, and that their abilities are only curses if we look at them that way. I think that should extend to his disability; even if it serves to just remind him of his dependence on others.
      Throughout Professor X's history, (in his various incarnations.) his disability is always shown to be an accident, whether in World War II, or in the 1960s, as more recent incarnations show. I know many people who have been in accidents, who talk fondly of their walking days, but I think a stronger stance on his disability would make him a role model to more people, and more in line with his philosophy of peaceful co-existence, and ethical use of power. After all, why doesn't he fly all the time? (as he can, with his mental powers.) Because he teaches self-control, and acceptance.
      However, given his backstory, and the many episodes where he flies or walks through some miracle, it can mean one or two things. 1.) Professor X hasn't come to terms with the trauma of his disability, and is using his hubris and power to shield himself from self-doubt. Or 2.) he is not as altruistic as he lets on. I root for the former, but the latter seems the case.
      Option #1 is completely understandable, as he is dealing with a world that not only doesn't accept mutants, but is even struggling to share the world with people who are not disabled. That he would have self-doubts, and cling to memories of his walking days, and high ethics seems almost heroic. Yet, it undermines his philosophy (That is, acceptance of one's abilities.) if he doesn't come to terms with his disability as a strength.
      And I'd like to see him in more of a command role, in a position of strength, even when he's not miraculously ambulatory, because I see my disability as just part of who I am; and acceptance of identity is a struggle every X-man must go through except him.
      I fear Option #2 seems more likely. In the late 90s, it was revealed that in him was the psychic “seed” of the evil mastermind Onslaught, that when combined with Magneto created the most powerful villain the X-men have faced. In my view, he could not have been created were it not for his self-doubt and dissonance. Even when he faces Phoenix in X-men 3, he expresses self-doubt, and is easily destroyed. The worst scene in the franchise, in my opinion. Furthermore, if he is psychic, than he's deliberately using his disability as an excuse to put the team in danger. Of course, I find this all very upsetting.
               I still look to Professor X as a role model, because he's the first disabled superhero I ever saw. However, I think his attitude towards his disability should change to match his views on mutant-human relations. You might say that's easy for me to say, because I was born disabled. But, Professor X inspired me as a child to help accept who I was. The evolution towards acceptance of power and ability is a constant theme of the X-Men. It can extend to disability. It's part of who I am. Disappointed as I am, I still have hopes that Charles Xavier will take on a more active leadership role as a strong disabled person who learns to share the world with his disabled body. But, that has never been his defining attribute.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Comedy And Tragedy

    I think that images have a power to force an out-of-body experience. That’s why I look to art to overcome my disability. I think what I’m trying to do is create stories that speak to the human spirit; the force that doesn’t limit myself. Whatever that extension is called. I think it’s called fantasy. But, it’s more than fantasy as one might use the word to mean amusement. Specifically, I am interested in making those dreams real to provide direction and humor; a touch of magic in life. Art imitates life; it is the act of magic itself.
     When I look at really good art that “speaks” to me (we do say language speaks, but it is in the language of feeling.) I feel a sense of striving. And sometimes it fails. I think the failure of the imagination…in other words, the knowledge that we can never pull ideas and thoughts out of a person’s head, that we can only interpret words, is where tragedy and comedy begin. Art has it’s roots in the imperfection of humanity, because my experience will never be completely understood. In my mind, art is one expression of that feeling, whether we mean comedy or tragedy. In my case, I have an overwhelming desire to improve my disability through comedy, and a need to express my…unique life experience, which separates me as an individual from the rest of the world through tragedy. The comedic and tragic media I see available to me are: Language, art, and spirit.
    Language is of course part of what I seek to create. And you can say that since art deals with tragedy and comedy, art is near universal for a language. Ever since I watched my brothers play videogames, I knew that looking up at the screen my brothers were trying to get into the game somehow; or at least they somehow acted with the images on the screen like they could get into it. As far as films, I’ve found that laughter really is the best medicine. Sometimes as I watch a good comedy, I laugh and then forget about all my physical troubles. The same is true of Art (Done by Artists, capital A.) In each case, I feel that we are trying to get beyond myself in some way, because it either shows people as better than they are (the tragic hero) or worse (the comedian.) So, we relate to this. In other words, what’s universal about it is that it provides myths to follow, and a social bond that is a human need. The Art  provides this need in the form of an understanding of the human condition, whether as better or worse than it truly is…
       For example, in my life, I’ve met people who have called my disability tragic or tried to joke about it. Both these methods are ok, if they address my situation in a manner I would approve of. I.e. adding me to the human condition. The question is always how to communicate tragedy and comedy. And for that answer, I think you need to be able to play with words and images. Because words and images imply rules, and playing with them is extending my limits. After all: It has been said by communication theorists that language has us, we don’t have it. And the same is true of tragedy and comedy, which come from human experience. In this respect, it would be much better if I showed my life through using tragedy and comedy.

    “Art is the highest metaphysical task of this life.” - Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Old short story from 2005: 9-U

For anyone unclear, this story is about a scientist who develops an international AI weapons system for peace, and is now tormented by visions of Holocaust. I wrote it in 2005. After my intro to morals class. I edited it to 665 words for microhorror.com, but was rejected. (666 is the limit, haha.) I'm publishing it here. I guess it's not horror, but it's psychological horror. Gaze at my young sci-fi mind grappling with morality!
Happy Halloween!

9-U:
The usual blasé smile of a workman faded away from Albertson’s face as the forklift began its sluggish ascent upward with a calm drone. The moments between his elevation always seemed to drag by slower than the whole of his life at work. It was during this time when he always sought to ponder his innermost thoughts. This time, he cherished deeply because his thoughts were even more his product than half the robots produced here in this steel alcove one now affectionately called the Albertson Installation. (Formerly designated only space station 9-U, United Nations.) It was true that his idea of mechanical warfare had become widespread, with only a few developing nations remaining to foster it…yet there was something shady about the concept. His concept, he felt, had been turned afoul by the world powers.
The sudden hiss of the air-compressed lock startled him as the forklift jolted to a stop and his mind returned to Earth. Staggering out towards his steel goliath with the potent reek of electronic fuel fresh in his nostrils, he turned to face a torrent of flashing digital cameras.
“Dr. Albertson!”
“A few questions, please!”
“Over here!”
Albertson collected himself and spread his hands wide to silence the barking of the press, while his zombified factory contently kept about in its forced slavery, crooning away with blissful ignorance. Gathering all the courage he was now capable of, and raising his vocals to the top of his lungs so as to mimic the sound of God Himself; he spoke.
“THIS IS THE FUTURE OF COMBAT!” He screamed. All,robots and homo sapiens alike, stood stunned and speechless at the sight they now beheld. Even Jacob, who had started quite a rant against the further humanization of warfare, was paralyzed with an almost divine sense of awareness as he stared eye to eye with his creation. No. The doctor reflected briefly upon the thought of the word eye. It never really had one. It was simply designed to appear outwardly human. Every “joint”, every “bone”, and every “muscle” of the machine was built precisely replicate the ideal Herculean war hero of humanity. The rest was all just an illusion! This was merely an enormous bulk of steel equipped with the latest in killing technology…built to look like something that we humans can easily, albeit falsely, conceptualize.
“Yes sir?” The troubled scientist’s voice cracked noticeably.
“Dr. Albertson,” The fat man barked as if he were hungry. “Many genetic ethicists claim that your program violates anti-cloning laws. How do you respond?”
Jacob’s retort was one worthy of a king renouncing his simple pages from the royal court. “If you will recall, gentlemen, that the United Nations has reviewed this claim many times over, and it is currently assembling a new amendment to previous cloning restrictions which will allow cloning to be used for reasons exclusively military,” he huffed defensively,“Furthermore, I think cells are no obstacle to protect all of the human race from the horrors of war. Forever and for certain.” Applause sounded from the box of pressmen surrounding the cage from which he spoke, even scattered gasps. A smirk cut into Albertson’s cold, weathered face. True, it was a dangerous statement. In particular, “for certain”, but then again, war crimes were often celebrated in parts of the world. His creation, global advanced combat AI, could get him an honor here, or hanged for heresy in the Third World. Would a machine know an innocent? No, he decided. It would not. It would only know the enemy. Just like us. He began to laugh hysterically as floods of war drowned his mind. Hitler. The My Lai Massacre. I have done absolutely nothing. He thought. I am both God and Satan…for nothing. He burst out with mad laughter as the machine grounded him to step off towards his clean, bright, plastic floor as if a welcome to his divine power.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Star Trek: Troublesome Minds by David Galanter

     This is the nearest thing I’ve read to an Original Series Star Trek TV episode translated into a book. It begins with an alien visitor to the Enterprise. Telepathic, naturally. Spock is intrigued when he learns the aliens communication system is telepathic and by hand signals; as if they are deaf. Additionally, this leads Spock to display emotion as the non-verbal aspect is more essential to their communication. The crew discovers  that the alien (named Berlis, or at least the UT says.) They learn that Berlis is a criminal sentenced to be killed. This harkens back to moral dilemmas in the 60s show (Such as Spock’s trial, Khan’s arrival, or Klingon negotiations or any episode where the one rule MUST NOT BE BROKEN; and the crew must decide the proper course of action.)
     However, as it is Spock who first deciphers and learns Berlis’s communication methods, it is his story with Berlis and his female counterpart Chista that most intrigued me. Chista explains to Kirk on the Isitiri (Berlis’s species) homeworld that Berlis is a Troublesome Mind; since the Isitiri communicate telepathetically, their minds are linked, Berlis’s power has grown so strong that he is able to dominate the will of the linked, including his entire planet and Mr. Spock. Berlis’s mind is still fragile. He equates the psychic company of others with comfort, but he’s selfish, like a child. In true TOS fashion, his power grows to become a telepathic dictator. He decides to arrange for Spock to sabotage (“sabataage“?) the ship, and uses his own planet’s fleet to invade their neighbors. As the man who makes the critical decisions, this next part of the book mainly deals with Captain Kirk preventing an interplanetary war. Which he does, in true TOS fashion, by making a Cold War reference.
       When the Soviets wanted to copy the B9 bomber, they shot it down. They feared Stalin’s disapproval, so they copied it, every flaw included.  So, he deliberately places himself (I.e. the Enterprise) between the two battling fleets, while Spock, psychic guards up, searches for Berlis with an off-world Isitiri rebel. He even shares with her that he loves his mother. Once they land by shuttle on the homeworld, they knock out Berlis, who’s too busy controlling the planet to direct his mind elsewhere. From then on, it’s an ethical drama with Dr. McCoy, which climaxes as Spock heeds Berlis’s command to euthanize him with a phaser. It does raise some questions such as how Berlis is a criminal, if he knows what he’s doing dominating the planet, or why a race of aliens would develop such a fragile form of communication, independent sign language and culture aside. Which (as revealed by the author.) is an allegory for deaf culture.
3 STARS. I enjoyed its loyalty to the TOS formula, the recycled episode plot (“Where No Man Has Gone Before”) and I enjoyed the Spock scenes, which served to explain the aliens’ sign language, as well as for him to expose a little emotion.
    My main problem is the fragmented narration, which like the TV show, seems to change depending on who’s on stage. Great for TV, not for books. The POV changes though, are a dramatic device. But, how am I supposed to know whose POV until the scene totally unfolds? Keeps you on the edge, at least. I could almost hear the music from the TV show before a commercial break between scenes! In sum, the only problem is that the formula is almost too tight. But, once you get used to the recycled episode points, it’s good. It’s what it’s supposed to be. A recycled plot, with a little Spock story in-between.  


  

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Ugly Little Boy by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverburg



This story is about a Neanderthal boy who gets time warped into the 21st century as a museum attraction. The story alternates from Neanderthal times to the 21st century. In the Neanderthal times, the tribe is shown to be at on the brink of war with homo sapiens. (They are called Other Ones by Neanderthals.) The Neanderthals are shown as having a Goddess-centered culture, and the tribesmen have names like Red Cloud and She Who Knows. The book is really about Nature vs. Nurture. The boy, Timmy, (whose name is Skyfire Face, because of a scar on his forehead .) is brought into the 21st century and is the subject of an ongoing human rights battle. However, Timmy is not technically human, as a Neanderthal.
    But the human rights lawyers and media circus are the least of Timmy’s worries.
Because he was brought into the world via time displacement, he is never allowed to leave his self-contained environment. He learns to speak eventually; “a very pronounced Neanderthal accent.” And even makes friends. However, the only one he can really be sure is his friend is his nurse, Miss Fellows. The others could be just there to help the time displacement museum gain press, or scientists and historians there to poke and prod him. I was reminded of Franz Kafka’s A Report To An Academy (Ein Bericht Fuer Eine Akademie) where a monkey learns to behave like a human, but can never gain acceptance in the modern world, which leads to loneliness. The book succeeds in making the world we think we know strange and lonely through Timmy‘s eyes and dreams. 
    On the other side of loneliness, we have the Neanderthal story, which takes place in between chapters, so that in essence, the reader is experiencing time displacement. We are introduced to concepts of Neanderthal religion and tribal organization. The Neanderthals worship a Goddess who made the Earth for them. They believe their language and their way is the only way, and the Goddess made the homo sapiens as punishment for abandoning old rituals, passing on leadership of the tribe. Red Cloud is described as an old man, having seen 40 winters; he refuses to pass leadership because they are at war with the Other Ones. That part of the story has to deal with whether old rituals or independent thought will guide the tribe, I think. And it never really does give you an answer…although I suppose the ending, which is open-ended, sort of does.
    The story of Miss Fellows has to do with her desire to treat Timmy as her son, even though he is not human. In a way, she raises him in the 21st century. She is there to teach him language, to comfort him, and to feed him. By all accounts, to “civilize him”.  In the end, she realizes that Timmy must return to his time to make room for more museum attractions. But, she can’t bear the thought of Timmy being torn to shreds by the Neandethals. He is a civilized 6-year-old, and now could neither survive the wild, nor the 21st century. Finally as Timmy is about to be replaced, she steps into the time displacement device with him, and is mistaken for the Goddess returning Skyfire Face by the Neanderthals and “Other Ones” who lay down their weapons in peace. How long will it last? The book never answers; Miss Fellows changed history. It’s said that this story was began by Isaac Asimov in the 1950s, co-authored into a book with Robert Silverburg in the 1990s, and finished by Silverburg in 1994. While the book has an “Asimovian” tone, so to speak; the ending seems to be (like the book.) a result of time displacement; of an altered time, existing not in Asimov’s time, nor existing without it, and belonging to both in isolation. 4 stars, were it not for the tacked on ending, which like Timmy, vanished too soon; left many questions.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

In Memory of me in 1999: A Review of Neuromancer in 2011

Neuromancer by William Gibson
    Perhaps my first real glimpse into what the 21st century could be like, a computer AI seeks to be liberated from a corporation and become an independent program in cyberspace. Published in 1983, when the term cyberspace was dubbed. It’s tough to say what I discovered about myself in this one. A sense of adventure, for one; and a new way to overcome physicality -  digitally. The AI uses “meat puppets” to talk to people in cyberspace, it downloads these bodies from memories. (Hence, Neuromancer.) The main character is a 24 yr old “cyberspace cowboy” (hacker) named Case. He seeks to liberate the AI because his nerve system was damaged in his last big hack, and the AI and his female cyber ninja partner have the cure.  
    It’s basically a story of survival. Perhaps, I even related Case’s nerve condition to my disability. And the idea that technology could enhance the body. I first discovered the story in 1999, re-read it several times. It also gave me some insight into the culture of the 21st century; even as seen from the 80s. Many of the things mentioned in the book have come to pass. People do live most their lives surrounded by digital worlds. People aren’t yet led around by a “meat puppet” AI, but we’re close to it. And there is no middle class here.  The only thing that hasn’t happened is for AI to rebel against mega corporations. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Comparing Star Trek 2009 with Wrath of Khan/Star Wars

I think the first time I watched the new Star Trek I was blown away by it, and happy to see those characters back in action. The second time, I was a bit more critical, especially about parts ripped from Star Wars. By the third time, I realized I was basically watching Wrath of Khan with Star Wars references thrown in. Don't get me wrong, I love the new actors. Kirk was spot-on. Egoistical rebel. I liked Spock being all conflicted and angsty as well. But, cut him some slack. His planet exploded. Also, he beat up Kirk again, which is awesome, and a nice tribute to the actual beat-downs Shatner (As Kirk.) got from pointy-earred Nimoy in the 60s. That said, let's compare:

The villains are similar. Both Khan and Nero are named after emperors. Both want revenge for the destruction of their planet. Khan strands Kirk on a dead planet. Nero strands Spock on a snow planet (which is where Luke meets ghost Obi-Wan; here Kirk meets old Spock.) Also, both movies were about reluctant farm boys who fly into Space after going to a bar. Khan had Genesis, which once injected into a planet, blows it up. Nero had Red Matter, which once injected into a planet, blows it up. Wow. Princess Leia was forced to watch her planet blow up. So was Spock. As in The Wrath of Khan, Kirk accidentally sent Khan to a dying planet. (Space Seed) Spock accidentally blows up Romulus with Red Matter. (Star Trek)
Finally, Spock jumps into a fighter, and trusting in his emotions, destroys the Doomsday weapon. Finally, Luke jumps into an X-Wing, and trusting in the Force, destroys the Doomsday weapon.

In conclusion, I loved the actor portrayals of these classic characters. Spock's backstory especially. But, the movie did borrow a lot from Wrath of Khan and Star Wars. Khan is the most iconic Star Trek villain, and J.J. Abrahms is "more a Star Wars kid" in his own words, so the result is logical. Although, the Star Trek movie did borrow a lot from the greatest villain in Trek+Star Wars IV formula, the actors re-created the characters perfectly and everyone involved made it a good movie with great special effects. This movie can stand on its own as almost unrecognizable from its sources. Everything comes from somewhere, and this was a good starting point, I think. Where else to start but from great movies, with great new actors?

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Need For Fantasy

THE NEED FOR FANTASY:
   
“Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?” 

(Nietzsche 1885/Kaufmann 1974 p. 124 The Portable Nietzsche)

Overcoming Man in my experienced means  that disability should be a positive force other than the desire to be normalized or to be an ordinary man. I see myself as having had one foot in one world (around the able-bodied.) and another foot in another world. But, of course I want people to see me for my unique experiences. And if I am to let them see that, I need the truth. If on the other hand, I want them to see what I am capable of however, I need fantasy.  Fantasy is what drives me beyond the body…which, I fundamentally believe is only a shell for what we accomplish.
Because I’m confronted with this shell every day, I am driven that much more to get beyond the limitations of disability. And that’s how I see most people these days, actually. Striving to get past immediate impressions, and harsh judgments. Longing for something deeply personal, meaningful, and unique out of what “appears” to be. And I know this because I’ve seen people’s coping mechanisms.Coping with negative images has been a struggle that I’ve seen intensify throughout my life. I’ve seen people who are lost, and I’ve seen people discover who they think they are. As Joseph Campbell says:  “Wherever you are -- if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.”  (Campbell and Moyers 1988 p. 113)
 And that’s what I think I’m looking for in myself. That one thing that leads to my bliss. The sharing of inner experience, that comes from my interpretation of events, not because someone else tells me this is what your disability means. In my experiences with other people with disabilities, I always find that the inevitable topic will be something about what we can or can’t do. I always find this talk so deeply depressing and superficial, because I am, and we are, more than our disabilities and limits. We are filled with hopes and dreams, personalities, histories, more than what we appear to be here and now: and I want to materialize that.
It’s not that I don’t identify with being a disabled person. I love describing the experience, and I recognize it as a personal and meaningful one. Perhaps that comes from my twin experience as well. In that, I like being with people, so long as I am not judged presumptuously as dependent; even though I am. It’s the presumption I take issue with. The idea that “You have a disability because…” (any number of reasons.) No! I don’t even understand why I have it, or what it is! But, I will tell you what I think. And like a good dream, I may never fully understand it, but I will let the mystery and power of it inspire me to do something great. And that to me is why we as humans need fantasy. Because without looking for what is possible, we never discover what “appears” to be impossible, and give it life and meaning.