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.