30 December, 2009

AV: So, are you like meeting your goals with the political book you're reading?
AT: Yeah, I'm almost done with my last chapter for today.
AV: You're so much better at everything than I am.
AT: (contemptuously) You're really racing through "Invisible Sight" or whatever it's called.
AV: Don't be mean. Anyway I finished it.
AT: Well, you actually are a faster reader than I am.
AV: Well yeah but only when I read books that are for babies and girls.
AT: Well, you are both of those things, so it makes sense.

Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements

This was the book I read and it only took me four days and I wasn't even spending that much time reading, so it was a pretty good experience. My excuse for why it was okay for me to read a YA book is that it is disability-related. Things Not Seen is about a 15-year-old boy named Bobby who wakes up one morning and realizes that he's invisible. His dad is a scientist who gets excited about investigating Bobby's condition. Bobby's parents want him to stay inside so the media doesn't find out about what happened, but Bobby gets bored, so he starts figuring out ways to go outside without people noticing that he's invisible.

The book doesn't do inconsistent things like the Animorphs and Twilight books, which have people morphing into animals while wearing cutoffs or leotards or underwear. If your body developed a weird property like morphing or invisibility, clothes would not be included. So Bobby has to either cover his whole body with scarves, sunglasses, and gloves, or he has to walk around naked. Large sections of the book describe how Bobby learns to manage his condition, and how he feels about it. He likes being able to spy on people, but hates the fact that he can't talk to anyone or pick anything up.

One day Bobby is wandering around naked and he feels lonely, so he decides to talk to a girl who is blind. The girl, Alicia, soon figures out that he's naked, so he has to tell her the truth. Alicia's dad is a scientist like Bobby's dad, so the two dads pair up and do research on Bobby. Bobby and Alicia get bored of this and do some sleuthing around. This is basically the plot (surprise surprise, Bobby becomes visible again at the end) but it feels like background. There's more focus on Bobby's coming of age as he fights to be in charge of his life despite his difficult condition. But it's mostly a love story. We get the impression Alicia is Bobby's first close friend, and besides, he has a crush on her before he even talks to her. The friendship develops, but the crush just slow-burns until the loose ends of the plot have been tied up. The book ends before they officially become a couple, but we know that Alicia and Bobby really like each other and are going to get together.

I don't know anyone who's blind, so I am not likely to be sensitive as to whether this book is a cliched or offensive portrayal of blindness. Alicia's major personality traits are a)bitterness/sarcasm, b)easy-to-read facial expressions, and c)sensitivity (both good and bad). I guess these are probably stereotypical traits. Bobby talks about how he loves watching Alicia ride in a cab because he can see her react to all the sounds she's hearing. If I was blind I would probably think this is like intellectually disabled people meeting every new day with wonder, or ASD people being really good with computers. From the perspective of someone with very little experience, I thought it was a nice detail and Alicia was a good character, but I can see how someone might view it as trope-y.

We learn a bit about the assistive technology Alicia uses, which is cool.

Something that was sort of good and sort of bad is the whole theme of the book, articulated in the title. Much is made of how Alicia "can't see herself" doing the things she aspired to before she became blind. She is scared of "disappearing." Obviously Bobby's invisibility is sort of a metaphor for how Alicia feels about being blind. And also, while he is invisible he feels some of the same things. In the last chapter of the book, Alicia sends Bobby an email expressing her love for him and her insecurity that maybe he won't like her anymore because he is no longer disabled. She says, "I liked being able to help you because usually everyone helps me." Alicia calls Bobby her "invisible mirror" because, through helping him and falling in love with him, she has begun to "see herself" again.

I guess it's probably bad that not being able to see yourself because you're blind is equated with feeling like you have no future. But I'm glad that they portrayed Alicia (and Bobby while he's invisible) as having that kind of anxiety and inertia. I've struggled with similar issues, mostly related to being gay. It's overwhelming to know that your life is going to be different from other people's lives, especially if you don't know adults who are like you. In one scene, Alicia kills time while Bobby is stealing information from Sears (it's a long story) by inquiring about employment opportunities for blind people. She ends up talking to a Sears employee who is blind, and some other people who are very comfortable with blindness. This is obviously a big deal for her, and she seems both happy and upset about the experience. Even though it was couched in weird disability-as-metaphor language, I really liked the "seeing yourself doing things" aspect of the book, and was moved by the way Alicia came to feel, once again, like a real person with abilities and a future.

First, how I stopped reading

When I was a kid I used to read books constantly. It was a problem. When kids bullied me they would call me "Bookworm," which I know sounds like something out of an adorable after-school special, but it's true. Anyway, I don't read books very much now, especially novels--which is kind of weird, because of my supposed desire to write them. I think part of it is maybe just that I process things a little differently, or that when I was a kid I didn't really think about the social context of reading and tended to approach it more loosely, reading the last half of a book first, or reading the same books over and over. Now I can't seem to get away from thinking of books as work, and I read a lot slower because I am concentrating, which makes me less inclined to start books because it's more of a commitment, etc.

Also, there's just the fact that I am an adult now and I'm not supposed to read novels for children and teenagers, and there's a huge stylistic difference between young adult and adult, I think. Adult books never just say what they mean unless they're really trashy. It's hard to even explain what I mean by this, but I just finished reading a young adult book (the first book I've finished since September) and it is an intelligent and thoughtful book, but the narrator just tells you what he's thinking and what's important. Whereas in adult books--well, I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but they're always trying to do something else. They move slower, they hold more back, or something. This takes me a lot of work so the book has to be worth it.

This is one of those things where I don't know if I should tag it as "asd" or not because maybe it's not related. Maybe I'm just a slow reader. But I don't think this is true because I was reading the New York Times on the computer over A.T.'s shoulder, and I asked her to scroll down, and she was surprised that I had already gotten to the bottom. I think I read fast on the Internet. And I can read magazine articles and stories very fast. It's just different with books, which makes me think it is some kind of anxiety or compulsion or difficulty processing a particular kind of writing. I don't know.

26 December, 2009

Done



I love You but I hate what You've made of Yourself

The road to salvation is as narrow as shit, and you're not invited to any of it
The road to salvation is as narrow as shit, and you're not invited.

If I had loved You I'd still hate what I've done to myself
If I, if I could love You, wouldn't be enough to keep me hanging

On to the rafters in the sweet hereafter where I'm always waiting and always fading
Never bruising, never losing, but it doesn't matter because I'm not going

If the road to salvation is as narrow as shit, then I don't want it, any of it
If the road to salvation is as narrow as shit, then I don't want it
If the road to damnation is as easy as shit, then go on touch me, I just might want it
If the road to salvation is as narrow as shit, then I don't want it

If I can love You while I hate what You've done to Yourself
If I can't love You does it mean that I'm done with this place
If You can love me and You hate what I've done to myself
If You can love me, well I guess it's an awful waste

23 December, 2009

One Stop Disclaimer Shop

1. ABA works. Sometimes if a person is very far into their own world*, it's the only thing that works. Especially with kids who are very difficult to communicate with and understand, I think you need to take dramatic, systematic action so that they can have a variety of life experiences and be able to ask for what they need.

I am religious. Lots of religious organizations and people do things that I think are bad. If I write a post illuminating some of these things, I am not making a post about how religion is bad. I shouldn't have to bend over backwards saying that I think ABA is good, if I am writing a post about a particular ABA therapist doing something that I think is wrong.

2. *I know this is a politically incorrect thing to say, but I've experienced it myself and I'm not the only one. It's nice to have my own world, but I don't like to fall into it unintentionally, or spend more time there than I'd like to. It seems to me that this is what happens to some severely autistic people and I can only imagine that a lot of them are frustrated by it because it frustrates me when it happens to me.

3. Here's what I think about passing:

A. "Sometimes you have to lie. But to yourself you must always tell the truth."--Harriet the Spy. Passing should not be about making anyone feel ashamed of being disabled. It should be a tool that the disabled person uses to avoid discrimination. If you're teaching your kid about "bad behavior" instead of "behavior that can make people treat you badly," you're doing it wrong.
B. Some people literally can't pass, because they have Down Syndrome, or they're not verbal, or they can't modulate their voice right. You have no excuse to be bullying that kid about things like stimming, because it doesn't matter. No one ever decided not to attack a developmentally disabled person because the person wasn't stimming.
C. Some people can't pass because it's too much work and stress and it leads to exhaustion depression shutdown fury etc. If your kid is like that, you should not think that looking normal is more important than feeling okay.

I know what happens when you don't pass. I know better than you do, so quit telling me. If you feel the need to do something as counterintuitive as telling disabled people about ableism, it makes you seem pretty shifty, like maybe you're just pulling out that excuse to justify treating your kid in a messed-up way.

4. Just like I don't think it is good for an ABA therapist to treat a kid badly, but I still support ABA, I don't think it is good if a person's stim involves bashing their head against a brick wall, but I still support stimming. If you don't understand these things, you just shouldn't have arguments because you don't know what logic is and you are making other people tired for no reason.

22 December, 2009

I love this picture



This is what I usually look like when girls are trying to kiss me. At this point they've more or less stopped trying, which is too bad because that's not what I want.

Why doesn't our society care about things that are actually important, like similes?

The summer before last, when I worked at a drive-in/flea market and practically had a nervous breakdown because they would occasionally send me up to work at the movie theater they also owned, where everyone was sort of an asshole and they did things really fast, this guy would come through the line to my register at the flea market, and when I pressed the button that made the cash drawer come shooting out of the counter, he would say, "Whoa!" and make a show of being concerned for my safety.

I thought this was pretty cute and enjoyed my interactions with him. One day he put two dollars in my tip jar and he had only bought a drink, which was probably one or two dollars. "You shouldn't give me that much of a tip," I said, taking out the money and giving it back to him. "You didn't even spend that much money."

Then he came back around again and stuffed like five dollars into my tip jar, while I protested and tried to give them back to him, which he responded to by stuffing them back in. I asked why he was giving me a tip and he said for being a nice person. I said that wasn't a reason to give someone so much of a tip. He laughed at me. After a while, I thought that I was being sort of a jerk by acting like it wasn't his decision to give someone a tip or not. He was obviously having a good time flustering me so it didn't make sense for me to think I was actually the more capable person in our relationship. So I stopped trying to make him take the money back.

And indeed, he continued to be friendly to me in the future, but he never tipped me, or he just gave me change like most people; so in the long run, he wasn't spending any more money on tips than anyone else, he had just chosen to spend it differently.

Last summer, I was sitting and writing in the gym my mom goes to, while she was taking a yoga class. A guy who worked at the gym made his way over to me and asked how I was doing. He asked if Diet Coke was my favorite drink and I said yes. Then he went to talk to an older couple who he was obviously on friendly terms with. They kept telling him that he was too skinny and needed to eat more ice cream. He said, "I don't want to be as fat as a stress ball."

What the FUCK? I've never heard anyone say anything like that in my whole life!

Also, I assume that some people think it's stupid or a problem that I have blue hair, but the only person who has ever told me this is a guy who lives in Oberlin named Mike, who said, "What is WRONG with you? Why would you do that? What does your mom think?" the first time he saw me. He also took a picture of me to show to his dad.

Later, Mike stormed out of the room because my friend and I were asking him questions about his mom and it upsets him to talk about his mom. I followed him and said I was really sorry and that I'd been being rude and not listening to him, and he hugged me and said, "Don't worry, I like you." Because Mike has no problem being mean, this meant more to me than any other time a person has told me that.

Also, the first night that I worked at the awful movie theater, the other employees were being really nasty about this teenage boy who kept coming out of the movie and announcing "I need to stretch my legs" and talking about how great he thought the movie was. When he went back into the movie, they looked at me and said, "That boy--he's special," and then they repeated all the things that he said.

Later he came out of the movie where I was sweeping the floor, and we were talking about how good the movie was (it was Iron Man, which I think is worthy of most levels of exuberance), and I said, "So you like movies a lot?" and he said "GOD YES!"

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I think profiles of cognitive strengths are really boring, and I know anecdotes are not politics, but I would really like to spend the rest of my life hearing about people being as fat as stress balls, and having Mike tell me how he hates his workshop director (who he calls "the boring boss"). I enjoy having some anxious reaction about how I shouldn't let someone give me a five-dollar tip, and then realizing that the person in question thinks my anxiety is hilarious and is perfectly capable of deciding how to spend his money. I seriously do not care to have anyone display their engineering genius to me, I'm just not very interested.

When I'm talking about how people with disabilities are all interesting and have valuable lives, I'm thinking about all the disabled people I know, but once the conversation starts being about "disabled people's unique strengths," Mike and all these other people disappear because I don't know that anyone could make a chart showing what is valuable about them. I feel like the only way to explain that they're valuable is to make a post like this, or a show like How's Your News. I feel like you need examples.

And now I feel like I sound awfully patronizing like I think intellectually disabled people are Unique Bunny Rabbit Snowflakes of Jesus, but at the same time, what is life but a collection of moments, and look at all these awesome moments that I wouldn't have experienced if science had progressed a lot more in making everyone have "cognitive strengths." That would be a horrible life even if you couldn't make a study explaining why.

sorry I just had to express my Jeremy Vest crush some more

soon he will need his own tag.



I like Susan too but Jeremy is definitely the win: "Hey ladies and gentlemen, this is Jeremy Vest in a store the name of I don't know, we got our prom outfits and we're ready to rock and roll tonight." I wish I talked that fast.

Also on a serious level, I feel incredibly nervous for them going into a prom like that, it's like disabilities + high school = why would you do that if you don't have to, but it seems like no one's being a dick to them at all, which is pretty great.

(Is it okay to use the intellectual disability tag for Williams? I don't know anyone with Williams but a lot of the reason I have so much interest in it is that it seems to be kind of like ASD in that it's less of a straightforward impairment--hopefully after my previous post, this doesn't come off like I think people with Williams are better than other intellectually disabled people because "they're good at music" or something, but just that I think it's a different kind of experience and I'm interested in meeting people who have it. When people post How's Your News videos on YouTube, there are often some comments from people who are confused about the nature of Vest's disability--"what does he have, ADD?")

21 December, 2009

ASD Savants/Disability Redemption transcript

Hey, so I wanted to talk about the idea of redemption--I'm not trying to convert you to Christianity, it's a completely different kind of redemption. I think the idea of redemption is around in the conversation about Asperger's and high-functioning autism. And what I mean by redemption is the idea that if someone has a disability, if they're good at something else, it's okay that they have a disability.

And the kind of things you can be good at, it's a very narrow thing, it's the kind of things that are considered to be good by, like, intellectuals or something. Or I shouldn't say that--like, let's say you're really good at playing soccer, that would probably be okay. Or if you're really good at killing cows, or music criticism. Anything like that. If you have an ASD but you're good at something like that, then it's okay that you have an ASD, and you shouldn't even call it a disability, because all the trouble that you take up is canceled out by the fact that you do such and such good thing.

Well, this just isn't a point of view that I want to be part of, because I think it's kind of messed up and offensive. And the whole idea that people who take extra work to take care of, or people who have a disability--even people who are just kind of different and need a different thing from the world--we live in a culture that sees that as such an awful thing, like such people are such a huge burden and you should be really freaked out about them. And into the middle of that come people like Temple Grandin who will try to argue that people with Asperger's and HFA are, like, super special smart at certain things, and because of that, it's not really a disability, or it's okay, or "a dash of autism creates a genius" or whatever stupid recipe thing she's been saying lately--I just think that's really ableist. If you think, "well, it's okay to have this, because it creates a genius"--I mean, the whole idea that being a genius is such an important and valuable thing--well, it's not the most important thing in life and that's not the only kind of valuable people that there are.

It's weird for me, because I guess I'm a "high-functioning" person, but really, the reason I think of myself as a high-functioning person is just because people don't perceive me as having a disability most of the time. But it's funny because I don't feel that I'm a genius or that anyone perceives me that way. I definitely don't feel like a fucking savant--I mean, I'm good at some things, but it's not anything big, and I think when people meet me, there's very little sense of me being a genius--I mean, to the extent that anyone thinks anything about me in terms of disability or difference, it's probably that I'm kind of out of it, or that I seem like kind of an asshole, or just that I'm kind of stupid. So I don't relate to the genius thing. I guess I relate more to people who are intellectually disabled, because I feel like people give them the same kind of impatience and weird looks that they give me.

So those are the people that I feel the closest to, and it's upsetting to see other Asperger's people, like, throw intellectually disabled people under the bus--I just see so much writing by people with Asperger's, who if they see themselves grouped with people who are 'retarded,' they'll be like, "Oh, I'm not retarded, it's not the same thing, people think it's the same thing!" and it's like, okay buddy, it's not exactly the same thing, but there's some overlap, just calm down, there are similar things about the way retarded and autistic people move, and the way we sometimes process things, and the way people treat us.

Like, okay, I get that it's not exactly the same thing, but don't fall all over yourself trying to distance yourself from another group of people with a disability because it just makes you look like an asshole. And I really feel like this idea that people with ASDs are valuable only as long as we have these particular amazing talents is just kind of bad in the long run. And I feel bad when I think about any particular person who's achieved some measure of success because they're seen as being so super talented and their ASD is some adorable quirk because they're so talented it's okay--what if that person goes through something really bad and their speech kind of shuts down? Or, like, I used to be really good at reading and now I have a lot of trouble reading--that skill is just not really there for me anymore. And, if you've spent so much time arguing that you're okay because you're so good at such and such, what do you do if you stop being good at such and such? What does that make you? Does it make you not okay anymore?

I don't think that it does. I don't think anybody should have to redeem themselves for their disability by being a genius, you know?

I think people can act like this with all kinds of minority groups that make them uncomfortable. I mean, you can see it so much in Queer Eye for the Straight Guy--the whole fact that all the gay guys in public and on television are guys who have these particular skills that are supposed to be useful for straight people (I know, and they don't have any lesbians because we're not good at anything, I guess) but it's just like, they're trying to say, "Look, you have to accept gay guys--yeah, they're gay, and it's weird, but look at this other stuff they can do! Look how they can help YOU!" and it's like, why do you have to be so fucking selfish and think that other people only matter if they can contribute something in a way that you think is an appropriate way to contribute? I mean, what's wrong with someone being just a regular gay person who's kind of mediocre? You'd be okay with a straight person being mediocre.

And like, the average nondisabled person that I meet, I don't usually think that they're super great and they're going to cure cancer or something, but all of the sudden you're supposed to think that people with Asperger's are okay but a person with Down Syndrome isn't okay because a person with Asperger's might cure cancer?

Kind of stupid, and also, most of the time, not true. Lots of people with Asperger's, like me for example, are pretty dumb, not particularly great at anything, and I don't think that affects my value as a human one bit. That's all. I just wish that people wouldn't talk about ASDs this way, because I feel that while it may enhance the social status of a small group of people with ASDs who have special talents, it really insults and hurts a lot of other people with disabilities, and in the long run can even have a negative affect on the people who are considered to be savants.

OF COURSE I UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF PASSING

Today my dad brought me to meet his friend who is on the board of a Down Syndrome organization and a music school for people with developmental disabilities (mostly Williams, I am sort of obsessed with Williams thanks to my crush on Jeremy Vest from How's Your News). It was really great to talk to her about disability stuff, and as with most things that are great there's not much to say about our conversation.

However, one thing kind of struck me (not really her fault, but it just struck me and made me think about a particular DD strawman). Basically I was talking about my experience at The School and how alienating it was for me as a person with ASD to see kids being corrected for stimming, talking weird, etc. I wasn't censoring myself because she mostly works with intellectual disability stuff, and that culture is much more comfortable with people looking and acting weird. (I think this is tied in with the whole privileging of ASD among developmental disabilities, and is an interesting example of how having higher status can make things worse for you in some regards; but I have a thousand words to say about that topic, so I'll save it for another post.) My frustrated spiel about The School kind of built and culminated in, "So, the thing is I'm interested in ABA, but if I'm applying to work at a school, how am I supposed to tell if they stop kids from flapping their hands or if they care about things that are actually important?"

My dad laughed. "Well, you certainly have an opinion," said my dad's friend.

She didn't seem offended or anything. But then she started telling me how they work on teaching the students at the music school to behave in a socially acceptable way. She said for example that when they have jam sessions at school, it's okay for the students to clap their hands and cheer for each other in the middle of performances; but when they go and play in other venues, they're not supposed to do that. The school tries to train DD people for careers in music and that kind of behavior will get in their way.

This seemed legit, but I didn't know how to process it as a response to what I had been saying about The School. Finally, I said, "Well, I feel like there's a difference between teaching someone to self-monitor, and just saying, 'You're not allowed to do this thing that you like to do,' because that just makes them dependent," and she said "exactly, self-monitoring is really important."

Right.

When I was at The School, I helped organize this directory of New York autism resources that they were hoping to give out to parents. When I printed out the final document (as Danny would say), I put an image on the title page, something I had found on Google which represents a computer term I don't understand:



When I look at this picture, it makes me incredibly emotional. It's so beautiful and that's just what I want for Danny and myself and other people with DDs. This picture makes me think of a time this summer when I got really lost in the subway system at night and I ended up having to ride all the way out to the Brooklyn Bridge and then come back. (I live in Connecticut so I was trying to get to Grand Central or 125th Street so I could go home). My phone was dead so I couldn't call my mom, and every stranger who attempted to give me advice made things worse, so I stopped asking and just gave up and decided to do things the longest way possible.

So I'm waiting for the train to take me back to Grand Central, and it's been a really hot day and I haven't had much water and in addition to screwing up my processing and getting me lost in the first place, this is causing me to have a headache. And I'm just standing on the platform at eleven or twelve. And I start moving my hand down by my side, back and forth, hard, really swinging it around. And the pain in my head goes away.

And I am thinking of Danny of course, because I saw him today; and I've been thinking how Danny will never get lost in the subway system because he knows it all. But also, as the pain stops, something I've only learned recently, that it really is okay to move my hands sometimes, and that it helps me a lot--I just think, shit, I hope that Danny figures out that it really is okay to move his hands, no matter what they tell him.

I don't have time to finish writing this and it's kind of fucking me up but basically the thing is, I'm a passing person with a DD so it just doesn't make sense to imagine that I don't understand the value of learning socially acceptable behavior and that I think it's a cool idea to encourage DD people to go around vocalizing and rocking back and forth in job interviews or at the movies. If/when I have a kid with a DD, I will of course advise my kid on what is prudent behavior.

But telling someone not do things that are good and/or fun for them, things they usually end up sometimes doing anyway, is just sort of ridiculous! And mean. And impractical. And if you have a school that is built on the principle that completely ordinary but odd-looking things are a Big Problem, then I have to imagine that you just don't think about developmental disabilities in a very practical way, and I have no idea what you would make of a person like me.

19 December, 2009

ha ha

presently I am watching Dandelion which is a movie where VK has horrible Video Game Pete Campbell hair and hooks up with some girl who looks about 30 years old and he strangles a bird for her? I don't know!!

VK: I think love is something we create to make ourselves feel better.
Girl: That's pretty bleak.
VK: Well, it's how I feel.

It is a little depressing to be obsessed with VK because all of his movies usually end with him dying or committing murder (sometimes both!). A way to cheat this is to just stop in the middle of the movie. Unfortunately, this movie outsmarted me because the entire movie is VK's flashbacks while he's killing himself and they show him killing himself about 400 times.

18 December, 2009

I Kissed Someone Who's Normal Now



This is a picture of me as I wish I looked all the time...but at present, I'm afraid, I usually look quite different.--Anne Frank

Crime and Punishment in Suburbia PART TWO

QUOTES and/or summaries of delightful incidents:

Vincent Kartheiser wears big owl glasses while giving himself a tattoo that says "por nada" while voiceovering about how he doesn't have any reason to be in love with this girl, he just is. The best part is mostly the glasses! I hope that someday a movie is made where Vincent Kartheiser wears owl glasses in every scene. I might attempt to become a producer just so this could happen.

(The girl's boyfriend understandably pretends to run Vincent Kartheiser over with his car and then jumps out of his car and starts shaking Vincent Kartheiser by his tiny, tiny shoulders.)
Vincent Kartheiser: Don't touch me unless you love me.
The girl's boyfriend: Are you some kind of faggot?
Vincent Kartheiser: Think about it--if I was, would I really tell you?
The girl's boyfriend: (although I don't think this was intentional by the writer or actor, this comes off as SUPER gay) I don't know. Maybe you want me to know. (remembers he is supposed to be straight) Just because Roseanne likes you doesn't mean you can act like this.
Vincent Kartheiser: She cares about you a lot. That's a big responsibility. You have to give her lots of love.
The girl's boyfriend: What?
Vincent Kartheiser: (all enraged and kicking his tiny feet around) FORGET IT!
The girl's boyfriend: (strangely infuriated) Forget what? You forget it! (starts beating up Vincent Kartheiser, who can't really do anything, being roughly the size of a kitten)

THE BEST SCENE
(The girl is in science class and the teacher asks her a question.)
Girl: I don't know.
Teacher: Why don't you know?
Girl: Uh...
(All of the sudden, Vincent Kartheiser bursts into the room wearing a giant wreath of garlic around his neck.)
Teacher: Excuse me, you can't just walk in here like this.
Vincent Kartheiser: I had a dream last night about evil, horrible things. I'm using this garlic garland in order to ward off the evil spirits of that dream. Do you need this? If you need it, it's yours.

(intensely, while trying to hug the girl or put the garlic on her or something) LET ME HELP YOU.
(The girl jumps up and runs out of the classroom while Vincent Kartheiser and the teacher yell her name in a bored fashion. After a minute, Vincent Kartheiser puts the garlic back on.)

Girl: Well, if there is a God or a Jesus or whatever (LOL like the two are mutually exclusive), I think He sucks.
Vincent Kartheiser: I think you expect more out of Him than I do.
Girl: Well, He sure takes shitty care of the people that believe in Him. Look at you.
Vincent Kartheiser: (attempts to snort jadedly) What do you expect me to believe in? The police?

HA HA HA HA

THE MOST HILARIOUS VOICEOVER: We kept passing motels. I wondered if she'd go into one of them with me if I asked her. But I never did. I didn't have any money anyway.

Girl: You knew.
Vincent Kartheiser: What?
Girl: You knew what I did. You knew that I...
Vincent Kartheiser: That you murdered your stepfather? Of course I knew.
(I don't think you can even imagine how great this scene is, the thing to remember is that VK is being incredibly mellow and cheerful and looking at the girl adoringly, as if they're talking about stealing a puppy from the pet store.)
Girl: You're insane.
Vincent Kartheiser: (smiling) I followed you. I took a lot of pictures that night.
Girl: Why didn't you take them to the police?
Vincent Kartheiser: Why would I take them to the police? I hate the police.
(He even sort of stutters as he is saying this because he's so confused by the idea that you might turn someone in to the police after they kill someone.)

Crime and Punishment in Suburbia

Crime and Punishment in Suburbia is one of those movies about a cheerleader who has to decide if she wants to date a football player or an edgy loner. This particular edgy loner distinguishes himself by being played by Vincent Kartheiser from Mad Men, who is my favorite actor and in my opinion the most attractive person who ever lived. The girl is really cute too, and I say this as someone who never thinks girls in movies are attractive. She's also mean, which is hot.

Unfortunately, this movie isn't content to just be an archetypical high school romance. It tries to be a modern update of the book Crime and Punishment. So, the girl's stepfather rapes her and she murders him with the help of her football player boyfriend, and then she has to deal with the guilt when her mom is accused of the crime. The problem is that whoever wrote the movie is way more into the romance storyline than they are into the rape and murder storyline, and it shows. The rape and murder just seems like it's a device to get the girl to fall in love with Vincent Kartheiser, which is sort of offensive.

Also Vincent Kartheiser basically acts like a serial killer, masturbating to pictures he surreptitiously took of the girl, giving himself tattoos in his room, and inexplicably peeling carrots for hours at a time. He's also supposed to be super moral and hopeful and preternaturally wise--which is actually sort of endearing in its incongruity, but what's the point of creating such a charmingly nonsensical character if you're going to toss him aside for long stretches of Rape Murder Guilt Plot? Come on!

A good way to watch this movie is on mute with strategically placed fast-forwarding:

















Dear filmmaker, good job hiring actors who are attractive but in the future you could let the audience enjoy that, maybe?

17 December, 2009

I was cleaning my room and I found this

January 25, 2007

This stupid crush on this stupid girl who I don't even know drives me crazy. I really depress myself. I guess it has to be psychological. I keep noticing things she does that I do which makes me like her more but I have gone to school with her for three and a half years and this has never happened, so obviously I am crazy. If we really had so much in common I would have felt like this before.

My theory: she is sort of like me in some ways (well okay just the constant writing mostly) and maybe I wish I was her because she's kind of mean and she seems to cry or freak out about things all the time but she has a lot of friends and she has Mrs. M. who she is so close with. And I guess it upsets me because I don't have many friends and I sure don't have teachers fucking adopting me and and when I'm sad I just have to deal with it. I don't sit around emitting rays of sadness and making everyone within a mile radius feel bad and my stupid fake mom teacher has to come put her hand on my head because my brain can't take care of itself. (Can you tell I wish Mrs. M. was my fake mom? I really do. I think she's awesome but I didn't even like her until 11th grade and she's not my advisor etc. etc. You can't just make a person care about you by wanting them to and I know I have my own advisor who likes me a lot but I don't see her very much. So meanwhile I go to playwriting and try not to be an advisor thief. Everyone loves Mrs. M., she's like a celebrity so I don't have any right.) Anyway, I don't think ______ has any excuse to be sad. I guess she probably has something wrong with her so that's not fair of me.

well look. I have barely any friends but I do have some and some people have none. I am not bullied. My teachers are all nice to me and seem to like me. Some other person probably has a psychological crush on me and thinks I'm a moron for not being happier.

One thing though: SHE'S SUCH A GOOD WRITER. Fuck. Even though she has a million friends and doesn't like me even in that capacity etc. etc. it's really hard not to want to know her better when she unleashes one of her things. They're just so fucking sad and they make it seem like she's not a person but a big aching consciousness that understands people in some inside way. That understands the undersides of people. In fact it makes me feel bad that I am such a bad writer and can only write about nervous people after ten years. So maybe she deserves all this.

I have to pray a lot I guess. Even though this has only been around for a few weeks I can't imagine being without it. Which is REALLY WEIRD. I really might be going crazy.


February 2

I stopped being sick + she was out for a few days + Mrs. M. told me I was a good writer = my crush is in remission. I still like her but it's not so weird anymore. I AM SO RELIEVED.

later?

what I wanted to say was: just look at me. Just look at my hormones, just look at my nerves. Just looked at my love for you rushing out of me, my face like an explosion, my heart snap snap snapping like fingers with a fast song, my hands more like a little animal hidden away in an underground den because I jam them in my pockets all the time to keep from reaching out for you. My memory is not photographic but where you're concerned it's pretty damn close. I could take a test on you. I could say what you eat, what clothes you wear a lot, like I imagine you're so excited when your mom takes them out of the wash and you have to wear them right now, right today. I could talk about your hands, the sentences structures you favor, your nervous habits. And then oh snap extra credit, your posture, the way your face looks when you sing, the shiny sharpness of your voice onstage. I'd get a hundred on the you test, more than a hundred, the Paw of Perfection[1]. But it wouldn't matter. I don't have a penis so I'm disqualified[2]. It's like I didn't bring the right equipment to the race up the steep rocky cliffs. I can love you as much as I want but I'm wrong, it's just wrong, and I need to stop.

1. The Paw of Perfection is what my high school Latin teacher would give you if you did really well on a translation, because she was obsessed with her dog.
2. BWAAHAAHAHA

In conclusion, I can't decide if I'm glad I'm not this unintentionally hilarious anymore, or if I sort of miss it. I don't really have romantic feelings for anyone at this point. I think this partly comes from having a really specific type, and partly as I've gotten better at functioning I feel things less strongly. Although, maybe this is just me realizing that because my type is so specific, and because most people are straight, it's more practical not to have these feelings, and just shutting them down. When I really think about it, it's hard to imagine that I'll ever have a relationship.

16 December, 2009

15 December, 2009

11:36 AM

I missed my flight which was really terrifying because I didn't have my key or my sheets or anything, so I couldn't go back and live in my room for a few more days which is what it was seeming like I'd have to do. I love the Reason for the season but I sure hate the season. But with help from my parents and people at the airport it has come to pass that I'm going through Dublin and then turning up home only seven hours later than was planned. I'm not upset about this at all; actually I'm sort of glad because I love airports so much.

Maybe when I'm older I could work in an airport kiosk. I think people are nicer at airports, in fact I think there's a romantic comedy focused on exactly this phenomenon, but more than that, I just think it would be nice to be in an airport. Also, my relationship with all the customers would stay at the same level so I could act the same all the time because they'd always be different people.

I know I shouldn't act so jolly when this is a major fuckup. I basically left my room something like two hours later than I should have, and didn't realize this would be a problem, which isn't appropriate behavior for a 21-year-old and isn't even appropriate behavior for whatever my developmental age is. As I said in my first entry, my developmental age has been increasing mega quick in the past few years, and it's a point of pride that I always have a supremely easy time flying to Oberlin and can fit all of my stuff into a backpack so I don't have to check anything. So I'm really disappointed in myself. It's true that I asked about a million strangers for help today and if I hadn't I'd be in much more of a fuckup than I am now. Actually, I would never have even made it to the airport in the first place because I had trouble finding the bus.

I love being able to ask people for help. It's like a superpower. Also, I found out the best script: "Is it possible for--" It sounds sort of arcane which calms me down and it also makes you sound like less of an asshole.

There is the most wonderful little boy flying to Dublin today. The whole time he was waiting to check in he walked in circles, feeling the walls and pillars and ropes, and fitting his feet into the patterns on the floor. Then he sat down and hugged his knees and looked at everything for a while. He's very sweet with his mom but I've barely heard him talk and he must be at least seven or eight. He also has earbuds in his ears which is a common thing to do when you are traveling with a kid who has sensory issues. But whether he is a kwd or a kw/od, I think he's awesome as can be and I want to be just like him.

Now it's time to watch some more Crime and Punishment in Suburbia. So far, Vincent Kartheiser has given himself a tattoo while wearing giant owl glasses. Probably the most fantastic movie I've ever seen.

(presently: actually home. Xander couldn't remember who I was and wouldn't kiss me but then I kissed his nose and he totally got it. His mirror neurons are off the hook. Crime and Punishment in Suburbia was like holy shit amazing and so are my parents and my dogs and the New World.

)

14 December, 2009

Preemptive movie review

So, on the plane tomorrow I'm planning on watching Crime and Punishment in Suburbia. GUESS WHAT IT'S ABOUT.



This girl has a lot of problems. And guess who fixes them? Vincent Kartheiser, that's who! He constantly follows her around taking pictures of her so he already knows what all of her problems are and he helps her kill the people she doesn't like! I'm so excited!

I also found this quote on IMDB:

Girl: What's wrong with you? Why are you always giving people a reason to laugh at you?
Vincent Kartheiser: I'm sorry, was I not fitting in?

SO GOOD!! That's right up there with "You laugh because I'm different, I laugh because you're all the same." Which was probably actually cool in 2000, when this movie came out.

By the time I can post about the movie, I'll be home. And by the time I'm home, I'll have lots of other stuff to do like talk to my parents and animals, and call my friends on the phone, and annoy A.T. when she gets home. But on the other hand, I'm really looking forward to posting about the movie because I know it's going to be amazing. So I'm just posting about it now, because how could it not be amazing? It's like, people always say that J.K. Rowling isn't that good at dialogue or plot, but her books are amazing anyway because she's so good at world-building. That is how I feel about Crime and Punishment in Suburbia, because no matter how bad it turns out to be, any world where Vincent Kartheiser stalks you and kills your enemies is a world I want to be part of. So, in advance: it's my new favorite movie. Watch it.

Sorry this blog has degenerated into being about my love for Vincent Kartheiser and other stupid stuff. I've been really depressed while I've been in the UK and the only way not to feel it was to develop some obsessions and keep myself in a manic state about them all the time. Once I get home and am able to actually calm down and read and hang out with people, etc., I'll probably only post here when I actually have something to say. Thank you for reading.

Vincent Kartheiser circa 2003

You're wearing a beard right now. Is it for an upcoming role?

No, I just said that to shut them up at the convention. Everyone kept wanting to put makeup on me at the convention, which I don't mind--they were very nice people--but it's not like I looked at any of them and said, "Hey why don't you put a wig on your head and dance around."

13 December, 2009

OH MY GOSH

The best conversation ever

So, I was walking to a cash machine and just before I reached the cash machine a guy passed me on the street, jerked his head back towards me, and called something that sounded congenial. I shrugged because I don't know anyone but maybe he thought that he knew me or else he liked my hair. I looked down and saw that the guy was wearing pinstriped trousers tucked into boots, causing him to sort of resemble a clown.

When I reached the cash machines there was someone at one of them and I started trying to engage the other one, taking a while to realize that it didn't work. The pinstriped guy was standing there. "How're you doing, babe?" said the guy, who was wearing not just pinstriped pants but an entire pinstriped suit, under an army jacket. He had pale skin and soft-looking dark hair. He was, in short, the kind of guy I would want to make out with if I wanted to make out with guys (although, by the end of the conversation I was ready to hand in my gold star).

I said I was okay. "Confusing, aren't they?" the guy said. "Cash machines. Money enslaves us all."

At this point I knew that I was supposed to parse him as someone who had a mental illness and/or had ingested a bunch of drugs, so I did some wallet-clutching as I tried to say something about how it's true that money isn't very good, but at the same time what would the world be like if it wasn't organized by something. But I didn't get very far. I was still trying to insert my card into the machine because I hadn't realized it was broken yet; the guy was already using the machine next to me, which had been vacated.

"The thing about Athens," he said--Edinburgh is supposed to be the Athens of the UK, or something--"everyone says it was such a great civilization. It lasted fifty years! And besides women couldn't vote, and most of the population were slaves!"

"Yeah, they weren't very nice people," I said.

"We're no better. We still have slaves now. They're just called 'workers.'"

"Is your machine working?"

"Is it working?" the pinstriped guy repeated. He leaned down, looked into the screen of his cash machine, and asked it, "Are you working?"

"What happened to your hand?" I asked when he took his money out of the machine. His right hand was stained black.

"I'm an artist," he said as I took my place in front of the machine.

"And you were painting an all-black painting?"

"No, no, I was working with inks," said the guy. Then he slapped me on the back and ran away. As I was walking home, I wondered what was wrong with him and wished it was wrong with more people.

And when I got home, I realized that if the cash machine had been located on the Oberlin College campus, I wouldn't have even done any wallet-clutching because it's within the range of my experience for people at Oberlin to act exactly like that. So the experience seems strangely significant and touching to me now, and I'm more excited than ever to think that I'll be back there in three weeks.

12 December, 2009

Quid Pro Quo

"OMG CONNOR LOOKS LIKE HE'S GOING TO SHIT HIMSELF LIKE HE JUST SAW A PYLEAN OR SOME SHIT OMG"
--ontdmadmen "Shut the Door, Have a Seat" thread

This quote is actually not related to my post which is about another boy I have a crush on, Nick Stahl!



I am just being lazy and using a picture I already uploaded to Photobucket in July when I was obsessed with Carnivale. Nick Stahl has this facial expression in almost every minute of every episode of that show. But in the movie Quid Pro Quo, which I watched last night, it turns out that he can make other expressions, too.

Quid Pro Quo is a movie about a guy who works for a euphemism for NPR. He wants to do a story about able-bodied people who would prefer to be paralyzed or amputees. (In real life this is called Body Integrity Identity Disorder.) He meets with a woman who claims to know someone who has BIID, but she's really talking about herself, duh. He has paraplegia from a car accident when he was a kid, so the woman kind of has a crush on him and asks him for advice about how to use a wheelchair and stuff. Also he has a crush on her too? And they have sex? And he finds this pair of shoes that un-paralyze him when he puts them on, and he starts walking with braces and then a cane. And the woman is more and more mysterious and depressed and tells him that she wants him to help her become a paraplegic.

Yeah. The very end of this movie has a twist that really annoyed me because I thought it was cheap and just not necessary and unbelievable. I think the thing about the movie is that because it's kind of a genre film--magic realism/noir/ish--the disabilities become thematic elements, if that makes sense.

It's hard to explain what I mean by this but basically, if you have read Fingersmith or Affinity by Sarah Waters, or seen the movies, they're both gothic thrillers centered on lesbian relationships. Because of the genre, and the way that lesbianism has historically been used in that genre, I think the lesbianism comes off as kind of creepy and gothic itself in both stories; it comes off as something that adds to the theme. And I can see how some people would think this is offensive, because you could say that lesbianism is being used as a trope or a symbol. But personally, I really like it, because when lesbianism is being used a genre thing, it means that you get more interesting lesbian stories, and you get lesbian stories that aren't issue stories about coming out or something. Another example of what I'm talking about is Mullholland Drive.

Anyway, in Quid Pro Quo I feel like Isaac fits better as a noir hero because he looks different from other people when he's going down the street, and because he's experienced discrimination. And then later, disability moves around in a dreamlike way--as Isaac becomes physically better, Fiona becomes mentally worse--general art movie stuff, not trying to do a realistic portrayal of bodies and brains, but kind of messing around with bodies and brains to say something about the human condition, or just create a strange story that's aesthetically pleasing. Quid pro quo, this in exchange for that; the idea that there's some kind of cosmic bargain, or some symmetry, where people like Isaac wish they could walk and people like Fiona wish they couldn't, and it's possible to tap into that pattern, somehow. This is how I would like to think of the movie, and although I know some people just 100% wouldn't like the fact that disability is used as an aesthetic thing or a metaphor, and I understand why--well, I think it's a more interesting story about disability than the straight issue movies that usually get made. And also Isaac is just a cool character because he's basically nice and competent without being boring or "inspirational," and he's allowed to complain about ableism without being an "angry" character.

But okay, would you like to hear the end? SPOILER:

Isaac figures out that Fiona is the person who paralyzed him and killed his parents, because she tried to run away from home and was driving her mom's car when she was like ten years old and she crashed into Isaac's family's car. Also, he always remembered seeing her, but he blocked out the memory? Whatever. I'm not sure that this is a realistic reason for someone to develop BIID, but okay, the ridiculous part is: Isaac confronts Fiona and she tells him that he's not actually a paraplegic and he just has a hysterical condition because he felt guilty that his parents died. Isaac gets really mad and tries to jump out of his chair and attack her, and falls down because he's not used to walking, but as he's lying on the ground Fiona sees his legs moving, and the movie ends with Isaac (presumably now ambulatory) on fake-NPR telling the story and saying how he never saw Fiona again.

This bothers me, because I think I can only accept the disability-as-metaphor thing (instead of finding it weird and offensive when Isaac is "cured" by the shoes) if the movie is not supposed to be realistic. If the shoes are actually magic, then I think the story can be a fairy tale or a parable or something. I think it would be cool if the movie ended with Isaac paralyzing Fiona and then being able to walk without a cane. That kind of thing.

But instead, the surprise ending is that it's actually not magic. First of all this just bothers me because it means that in a movie that uses paraplegia as a symbol and a theme, there are no paraplegic main characters. I don't like this because I think that if you're going to use a minority group like lesbians or paraplegics to enhance your genre movie, you should acknowledge that we/they actually exist outside of genre. Does that make sense? I feel like the movie is offensive if Isaac isn't actually paraplegic because it's acting like paraplegia is just a distant theoretical thing.

And also, I just thought it cheapened the story and was a Big Surprise Ending that wasn't really supported by any previous events or by anything we knew about Isaac.


So, in conclusion, there are some reasons to think that this movie is offensive and/or dumb, but I am glad that Nick Stahl is so good-looking because I probably wouldn't have watched it otherwise and I mostly enjoyed it, and thought it was more interesting than most movies about people with disabilities.

11 December, 2009

A bit more on Glee

Seriously I think this is what Ryan Murphy knows about intellectually disabled people: they're inspirational or something! But they're not good at anything and they live in hospitals waiting for us to come and read to them! But we have to pretend that they're good at things to make them feel better, but then we'll yell at them for being bad at those things, because we don't want to discriminate!

I could write a million essays on how weird the portrayal of characters with Down Syndrome was. For example, the joke about Brittany cheating off Becky's math test. Obviously the joke is, Brittany's so ditzy she thinks people with Down Syndrome are good at math, or else, Brittany's so bad at math that a person with Down Syndrome is better at math than she is. I don't necessarily mind this, because people with Down Syndrome usually aren't good at math; I can imagine a show making fun of disabled people's impairments in a blunt, dark-humor kind of way, that I wouldn't find offensive.* But this particular joke is just so weaselly, you can even pretend that it isn't a joke about Becky's disability if you want. In a previous episode Terri said she didn't want a baby who was a "Mongoloid," and obviously this was supposed to be shocking-funny, but I bet that no character would be shown using that word to describe Becky. And I think that's because the writers of the show aren't willing to face the fact that they are insulting actual people when they use words like Mongoloid.

They want to be seen as shocking and offensive in a daring and funny way but they're not willing to own it. And that's what really annoys the hell out of me about that episode, and the show in general. And also the show's fans who claim that offensive elements of the show are "satire." If it was satire, it would be funny. Mercedes's constant complaints about the music are not supposed to be quotable one-liners, nor are they supposed to be a parody of stereotypical black characters. She's just a badly written character whose creators rely heavily on stereotypes when they write her dialogue.

*I'm not especially fond of the Retarded Policeman videos on YouTube, but at least they're not weaselly; most of the offensive material is performed by an actor with Down Syndrome. The videos make fun of intellectually disabled people, but in the end I think it must positively affect viewers to see an intellectually disabled actor who is talented and funny. When Glee makes fun of deaf people they're not as brutal as the Retarded Policeman videos are about intellectually disabled people--but they imply that deaf people exploit their deafness for personal gain and can only be successful because of others' pity. The makers of the Retarded Policeman videos actually know that intellectually disabled people can be talented, which makes them automatically better than the creators of Glee.

eta: okay this one is kind of good



but I still think How's Your News? is a million times better (actually, it's a million times better than just about anything):



this is my favorite:

1x13 Sectionals

So, Thursday morning before my exam I was like, do I want to watch Glee, and then I was, like, no, that's hardly going to get me in the mood to take my exam. For the next day and a half I would occasionally think, hey, do I want to watch Glee now? It's so super annoying. It's not even worth hate-watching.

But I finally started the last episode of the year, and I guess it will be my last ever because once I'm back in America I won't need to distract myself all the time anymore, so I am writing about it as I watch it.

This episode started with all the characters who are actually likable--Artie, Tina, Mercedes, and Kurt. The whole sequence before the title card was A+. Also, I think it's really dumb that gay people are shitting themselves over the Brittany/Santana thing. It was obviously supposed to be a joke about how dumb Brittany is.

I can't believe they would have Mercedes sing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." I actually can't. Is it weird for me to feel like that? It's a good song but she's such an one-note character it's astonishing.

The Finn thing was okay, blah blah blah, Artie ramming himself into the wall.

Oh no, I'm absolutely sure that Finn is going to inspirationally change his mind and there's going to be a romantic-comedy-esque scramble to get him to sectionals. I'm going to throw up. WHY DOES THIS HAVE TO HAPPEN?

Why are they saying Rachel is better than Mercedes? She's not. This makes me so mad.

I'm really biased because basically the most important thing to me in pop music is that the person not have a "singing accent" where they pronounce words differently when they're singing than when they're talking. I would rather someone be off-key than do the accent. So because of that, I'm bound to like Amber Riley's singing better than Lea Michele's. But I'm pretty sure, when I try really hard not to think about the accent thing, that they're objectively equal, right? They both have super good lung capacity or whatever is considered important by mainstream society. And unlike some of the other actors, Amber Riley has never intentionally messed up notes or sung badly, so I don't think it makes sense to say that the character Mercedes is a worse singer than the character Rachel. Regardless of it being racist or whatever, it's just annoying as hell to watch every character on the show accept as fact that Rachel is a better singer, when she obviously isn't.

SARAH NEWLIN I LOVE YOU SO MUCH
HOW DID YOU END UP ON THIS TERRIBLE SHOW?

10 December, 2009

My second-favorite VK interview

I think happy is a weird word, you know? When I think of happiness I think of happenchance...

Well, I think heroes are really the tragic ones, don't you? You know, usually, especially in real life the villains win. There's nothing tragic about Dick Cheney, I mean--

But, um, you know, I don't really look at life that way so it's hard for me to look at acting or characters or even books or anything, like, good or bad, or, like, villain or hero--

(Seriously you have to watch this, it's here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6C8iay4EMNc&NR=1 It's just so funny because like he's actually smart and he gets really excited about what he says but every time he opens his mouth he accidentally talks like he's 14.)

Why I don't like ASD memoirs, and other stuff

Someone sent me Tim Page's piece about having Asperger's in the New Yorker. I read all of it and it kept my interest on one level but at the same time it was really, really boring. It's funny that I should say this when my blog is so incredibly self-centered, but it was too self-centered for me. I should mention, I'm sure Tim Page is a really nice person and all, I just don't like this genre of ASD memoirs or maybe I just don't like ASD memoirs.

I don't see the point of writing a piece (and now I guess a book) that just seems to be a list of all the weird things you did when you were a kid. Is that weird of me? It's funny because I write so much about having ASD, and when I write fiction it's always about people who are off in some way or another, so it's not like I'm avoiding the subjects of ASD or weirdness. But when I write stories I guess I'm trying to wrangle some kind of beauty out of weirdness or find new things to say about it. And when I write stuff about ASD I am interested in either expressing my opinions about disability or talking about ways to deal with specific impairments. I guess the Tim Page stuff bores me because I feel like there's no movement in it.

As I say about a thousand times a day, my favorite book about ASD and possibly my favorite book ever is Send in the Idiots by Kamran Nazeer. I guess it's technically an ASD memoir, but what's the difference between it and this? I think I like Send in the Idiots because it is about functioning. Some of the subjects of the book are "lower-functioning" than Tim Page, but while Page focuses on all the stuff he did wrong while he was growing up, Nazeer talks about how he, his friends, and their families find ways of getting around what's hard for them. One of his subjects committed suicide, but Nazeer tells us how she taught herself to ride a bike when her parents were at work, to surprise them, and how she learned to read a bus map through trial and error.

Also, when Nazeer talks about how people made fun of Elizabeth at the mall or Randall's boyfriend didn't respect him, I don't get the impression he thinks That's Just How It Is For People Like Us. He says he wanted to kick Randall's boyfriend in the shins. Nazeer launches into long, beautifully pedantic explorations of what a conversation is (with the implication that ASD people are missing out), but he also beautifully, pedantically explores what a dick Randall's boyfriend is for treating Randall like an okapi instead of a person.



completely unnecessary visual aid because okapis are rad-looking

Nazeer's book doesn't focus on his experience like Page's New Yorker piece does, but I don't think that's really the big difference. I think it's just old social model vs. medical model, after all. And that is an inaccurate way of talking about it because medical model means freaking out about how bad a disability is. But I think freaking out about how interesting a disability is, if less dangerous, can be just as annoying to read. I don't feel like looking at one person by themself. I would like to hear some opinions, about goodness or life or love or something. Page's piece is informative if you don't know anything about AS but Send in the Idiots altered my brain. I reread it at least once a year, I love moving my mind through those beautiful squares, if a book can be a home it is my home. It changed what I wanted to do with my life. And also, what I thought my life was.

I never had a blog with tags before and sometimes I get carried away. I like "kartheiser is magic" and I got excited when I realized I kept posting about The Sound and the Fury so I could make a "faulkner" tag. But my favorite tag is "how to be human" and I don't know exactly what it means but all of my posts that I think are worth reading are tagged "how to be human." Sometimes they're about how I try to work around certain aspects of ASD, sometimes they're about things that I think are ableist, and sometimes they are just about my attempt to figure out and implement a moral course of action in some situation. I guess I think those are the interesting things about ASD and ASD in the middle of nowhere is kind of boring. If a disabled person lives in the middle of a forest they're not even disabled, unless the trees think they're a disabled version of a tree.

In conclusion I will just tell you something that's only mildly related and maybe it isn't clear why I think it is. Today when I was walking back from my horrible exam, I thought about how I would visit my friend in his room last year and the year before that. Often he was asleep or not there and I would feel like a creepy stalker; many people have that effect on me, but him more than anyone else, because I just long for him like I long for Send in the Idiots and the particular kind of sneakers I have gone through ten pairs of. Anyway, when he was there, sometimes he was doing physical therapy exercises with his jars of putty. He had all these jars of putty that were different colors and the different colors indicated that the putty had a different consistency and was appropriate for a different time, or different exercises, or something. All I know is that I would sometimes start playing with the putty without thinking about it, and my friend would get mad.

When I came by and my friend was doing his exercises, he would often be watching anime on his computer and he'd always be embarrassed about it. It was always really bad anime about ghost hunters or something, and my friend is kind of a snob, but sometimes he wouldn't be too embarrassed to let me lie down or sit down and watch anime with him. He'd try to explain the plots to me, sometimes.

Then sometimes my friend would go to the vending machine. When he walked around school, he would always sing. His voice has a crystalline quality and he always sang folk songs and show tunes with the result that the words, slightly smudged, ended up sounding ghostly and sweet as he moved through the halls. On his computer, checking Facebook, I'd know my friend was coming back when I heard the heavy uneven sound of his steps trudging under the clean white verse.

Manners

I just finished my Latin exam. Having done the math, I think it's pretty likely that I just scraped by. Literally, like I got one point above failing. Does this matter? Not at all.

It's time for another edition of Kartheiser is Magic, but in this case, it's a segue into an actual disability-related topic! Hooray!

[In response to the statement that he seems younger in real life than he does on the show] "I actually have been through a lot more in my life than Pete has. I think Pete is less of a man than me. The difference in the visual is that Pete had a finishing-school upbringing. I'm an actor, so part of my job is looking like a bum. So I think manners and age are being confused here."

YES VINCENT KARTHEISER! THANKS FOR BEING SO FUCKING COOL ALL THE TIME! Manners are not age. And the fact that people think they are smacks me in the face about a million times a day.

I sometimes have very Pollyanna-ish reactions to things. This is both because of ordinary ASD sensitivity to details, and because of the nature of my scripting. As I think I've previously said, it used to be very hard for me to do things like buy candy bars, ask for directions, or, well, anything. I felt overwhelmed by the task because I knew that as well as the stated task there were lots of other secret implied tasks about my tone of voice and the way my face should be looking. (If you think this isn't true, you're just stupid. Go to a sandwich shop and use nonstandard tone and body language and have trouble processing and making decisions while you are ordering your sandwich. The people at the sandwich stop will be super happy to point out, verbally or with body language, everything that's wrong with what you're doing. Or, if you have a very serious, tense expression on your face because you're trying to make decisions fast to not inconvenience them, they'll ask if you're okay.)

Anyway, everything was such a big challenge that it was hard to do anything, so I figured out the solution of acting really excited and optimistic and young and innocent. This is a very simple persona that lends itself to easy scripting. When you are buying a candy bar you just think to yourself how excited you are about the candy bar and focus on expressing that. When you are asking for directions you try to be cute and make a joke out of how young you are. Suddenly, in the space of like a year, the amount of things I was able to do increased a huge amount.

Previously, I had found it very hard to talk in class or ask teachers for help because I didn't know how to talk or look. Now, I approached teachers with a persona of being young and adorably baffled--a persona that was partly sincere, but could also be used to humorous effect if the teacher was the joking kind. I had an easier time talking in class because if I had trouble understanding something, or if I was expressing a lot of ideas and my script broke or wasn't properly set up, I could giggle and make a joke out of it. Once I started scripting, my grades, and my comfort with my teachers and classmates, improved enormously.

I am a bit more academically impaired at Oberlin than I was in high school. Even though Oberlin is a very small and laid-back school, it is not comparable to my high school which had 50 kids in a grade and had a high population of students with learning disabilities. Besides, there's just the fact that for most of the time I was in high school, I was legally a child, and even after my eighteenth birthday I might as well have been. It seemed more natural for my teachers to have a motherly or fatherly relationship to me. In college, I am expected to some extent to behave like an adult, and if I come to a professor's office hours acting ditzy and young, they might think I am annoying, unmotivated, or manipulative. So at Oberlin, I have to be doing pretty badly to go see a professor, unless they have a very casual, accepting attitude (like most of the classics professors). The only professor I am actually close to in an admissions brochure sort of way, like I've been to her house, used to forget to come to class sometimes--so she's someone I can feel completely safe with. All in all, I still do a lot better than was expected of me.

Sometimes people say that I am immature or use words like "crazy," "insane," "annoying," and "obnoxious" to describe the way I am. Also, when they notice that I am apologizing a lot or putting a lot of concentration into figuring out how to do something right, they tell me not to be so nervous, to have more confidence, or not to be so insecure. All these words imply that I am an unfinished person. Either I am unpleasant or annoying, and I should improve myself so I won't bother people, or I am incomplete on a deeper level--inappropriately anxious and self-hating. If I stop being a person who can be described with all these words, then I will be an adult.

While I have been in the UK, I have not made very much use of the Pollyanna persona. I feel that I don't know the culture well enough to know if it will be appropriate or if it will be annoying. When I am buying things, I mostly make use of something I taught myself to do at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, where people are always staring at my hair:



If there is any downtime while I'm waiting for my sandwich to be made or my groceries to be rung up, I simply mentally remove myself from the situation and try to stim out on some band posters or ceiling lights. That way no one thinks about me at all. The only problem is when the other person tries to be friendly. Niyatee was trying to explain to me that when the lady at the burrito store guesses what kind of burrito I'm going to order, she isn't trying to a)mess up my script and b)make me feel guilty about my repetitive eating habits. I still feel scared about going to the burrito store, though.

I don't ask my professors for help because it might be annoying and as a result I got very behind in two of my classes and will be very close to failing them if I don't fail completely.

I haven't struck anyone as crazy, obnoxious, immature, adorable, otherworldly, or any of the other things I am called, because I barely talk to people at all and when I do I am nervous and blank. I say what I'm required to say and then feel it wasn't good enough.

It is hard for me to go anywhere or do anything because I don't feel I have a system for how.

When I go home, when I pick up a lot of jangly exclamations and interrupt myself in the middle of my sentences, when I raise my hand and preface my question with, "I know this is really stupid, and maybe I shouldn't even be in this class if I don't know this, but," when I stick out my hand towards people to say hello to them, when I skid around and call everyone "kids" and act incredibly delighted about yogurt-covered pretzels at the student cafe, when I eat snow and lie down on the floor because I have kyphosis and accidentally start stimmily running across campus because I feel hopeful and happy coming out of my ExCo on a cold starry night, I will be a person who is accomplished and capable in a lot of ways. I will be more of an adult when I am a quirkfest than I am now that I am paralyzed by a desire to be unseen. To be inoffensive. I feel calcified here, but with worse manners I can really make something of myself.

Morning has broken

09 December, 2009

The truth

I have an exam tomorrow, and if I'm very, very lucky, I will get a passing grade. I'm incredibly unprepared. But because it's in another country, as long as I pass, it doesn't matter.

What I don't understand is why I came to this fucking country in the first place. That's the strange thing. I literally don't remember ever feeling excited about this. I visited this city once, for a week, and liked it. I mistakenly thought there were going to be some medieval studies courses that turned out to have been courses from 2008. And that was enough to go away from the only place I've felt completely happy and accepted and competent? Most of my friends didn't want to study abroad. Why did I do it?

I spent the summer freaking out about applying for a visa, so I could have a job, but I didn't finish in time. The day I got here, I didn't feel good. I never started feeling good; sometimes I imagined it was starting, but it never lasted long. For a few days in early October, it got really bad, so I started burying myself in fandom, writing, and music, which was better than the alternative, but made it hard to get any schoolwork done.

When I was first thinking about studying abroad, I asked my favorite professor at Oberlin if she thought it would be hard to make friends, and she said no, that she'd had students who went to Edinburgh and were fine. So what happened to me? I didn't make enough effort, I guess. Is that it? I guess I just get too tired and scared and I can't make myself try anymore. And the people here are different. But I could have done things differently, they're not all different, there have to be people in this city who are the kind of people I can understand.

When I get home--please, please, please let me live long enough to get out of this country--maybe it will hit me how much it sucked here, how much I've genuinely been Somewhere Else--my brain skidding along while I walk down unrecognizable streets. What will it feel like to reenter my body. What the fuck was I thinking?

this is old news but I'm just writing it out for myself

I call myself ASD both because I have multiple diagnoses (PDD-NOS, Asperger's, and Nonverbal Learning Disorder) and because I don't believe there is a quantifiable difference between PDD-NOS, Asperger's, Autistic Disorder, and NVLD. This is not to say that there aren't vast differences between ASD individuals; there are people who are verbal and people who aren't, people who are prone to violence and people who aren't, people who are extremely upset by loud noises and people who don't care that much. I could go on forever--obsessiveness, form or presence of stimming, executive function, feelings about being touched. And passing, of course. Plenty of these differences are super important when you think about the kind of help the person might need. But calling these differences NVLD, Asperger's, PDD-NOS, and classic autism (or, more commonly, Asperger's and autism) is messy and impractical. If every ASD person is just one of those four things, then why do I have so many diagnoses, and how come people often call themselves (or are called) a different diagnosis than they actually have?

If you aren't familiar with this, it often comes in the form of verbal people with autism or PDD-NOS diagnoses being called or calling themselves "Asperger's," or nonverbal PDD-NOS people being called "autistic." Also, I have noticed that when people with Asperger's do things that seem "low-functioning," like what Francisco Hernandez did, they are more likely to be referred to as "autistic" in articles. Because Francisco doesn't talk much and his problems are more about anxiety and dissociation than they are about the stereotypical idiot-savant obnoxiousness, he is not being called Asperger's as much as he would if he'd, say, been kicked off a subway for talking nonstop about calculus. I took a class on ASDs and the TA described Asperger's as "active and odd" with classic autism as "passive and aloof." These different labels divide ASD people into verbal, obsessive, active, annoying, gifted (i.e. they don't really have it so bad?), and nonverbal, "without skills," passive, blank, violent, etc. But it should be obvious from how much everyone fudges these labels that one label is almost never enough to describe a whole person.

Like Francisco, I'm pretty passive; I struggle with executive dysfunction and shyness more than I exhibit grandly inappropriate social behavior. (Although I guess this hasn't always been the case.) But of course I'm verbal, and (I think) I pass very well. I guess passing means I'm high-functioning so I should be called Asperger's. But Asperger's makes me think of someone noisy and argumentative; actually, Asperger's makes me think of someone male, someone cold, someone confident, lots of things I'm not. So I then want to fuck around and say "developmentally delayed" or "I'm young for my age" or "I have a processing disability" or "I have a brain disorder that does such and such" (and then I just list whatever symptoms are relevant right then).

But fucking around is tiresome. But Asperger's sounds wrong. But PDD-NOS is maybe an exaggeration because I was so young. And NVLD seems like dodging the issue by using a term that isn't associated with ASD (in fact, I'm pretty sure it was invented just because people didn't want to admit their kids had ASD).

And besides, why should I have to fuck around? What would be so bad about just saying I'm an ASD person who is verbal but has some speech processing issues, a lot of executive function problems, some social anxiety, a lot of stimming, no big sensory issues anymore, and decent if atypical social skills? Isn't it stupid to even indulge the idea that some people are Lower Functioning Across the Board (with functioning meaning about eleven different things), and aren't all these labels kind of stigmatizing to Kanner/some PDD people and simultaneously implying that AS/NVLD/some PDD people aren't really disabled, and are just sort of cute and annoying, and don't need that much help? And that we shouldn't care about each other? Whatever. So anyway, I call myself ASD to avoid inaccuracy and to express my loyalty to all kinds of different humans.

08 December, 2009

AMAZING



Purple

This light keeps hitting me in the eye and I realized that a person who has a window across from mine is taking pictures of the sky. Maybe they're going home too and they want to remember, because the sky doesn't look especially different tonight. It always looks beautiful though. It's one of my favorite things.

It's weird to think that in a week I'll be home. My Latin test is going to be odd; I've translated less than half of the material. Maybe I'll be lucky. More than anything I'm terribly, terribly excited to go home.

Last night I wasn't able to fall asleep until four or five because I'm so sick. Once I finally fell asleep, I stayed asleep (with small breaks) until 1:30. And now at 4:15 it's getting dark, so I'm having a very short day. But I feel finally happy and peaceful about being here, because my being here is now contained, not a stretch to stand, but just a few more days with the purple:

07 December, 2009

Some reasons I love Mad Men

by AWV, age 8

(Also, I just want to apologize for this blog. What a mess. First I was just writing it because I thought I should write a blog, and then it started being about Disability Things and I was so excited and felt like I was writing something that was actually worthwhile unlike most of the things I write to distract myself, and I just feel bad because I've been posting about such dumb things lately. I think the approximately four people who read/were reading the blog were probably reading it because of my previous posts that were actually interesting and about things that matter. So I am sorry. On the plus side, I'm going home on December 15, and once I'm home I won't need to distract myself, so I will probably only post here when I actually have something to say.)

Anyway, here are some reasons I love Mad Men, by AWV, age 8.

1. PETE. Except, my reason isn't actually Pete. I think that Pete is just the best example of my favorite thing about the show, which is the fact that no one is used as a device and every character is developed as a real person. People (including me) are always complaining about how offensive Glee is, but in addition to being offensive, it's offensively lazy. There are a few characters the writers actually care about and treat in a realistic way, but a lot of them are just devices. The way Terri acts doesn't make sense. The way Mercedes acts doesn't make sense. But worse, they're boring because you can see that they aren't being written with love.

Every major character on Mad Men is written with love. Pete is not a nice person and in the first season he is the antagonist to the "heroes," Don and Peggy. But he is written with so much love that he could never be just a villain. He's funny, sad, mean, tender, devious, and inappropriately genuine. People love this character.

Because I can't stop at just one example, I give you Sal. A fun fact about offensively lazy writing is that it is often the regular kind of offensive, too. Using gay men as devices is a trope with a long history, and at first Sal seems like yet another example of a gay character who exists to provide comic relief--in this case, he is funny both because of his campy snarkiness and because he doesn't know he's gay, but we can totally tell, and we can see him trying to pretend he's not gay, but it doesn't work on us, because we're so smart!

"Except," says Mad Men, "if you were gay, and you didn't know you were gay, or you did know but you were afraid to act on it because everyone you knew hated gay people, and you knew you could be fired or even arrested--well, that actually wouldn't be funny, would it?"

Well, no.

2. PETE AGAIN. And Paul. And some other people. This reason is about how the show is super funny without being a comedy. Because it's funny in a diegetic way. Pete and Paul are characters you can laugh at in a mean way. And you can laugh with almost all the characters, because they're witty people. Diegetic humor is super rad because it means you can enjoy the humor on a deeper level than you can in a comedy. My relationship with the characters is serious at the base, so when they are funny, I feel so warm towards them, like I do when my friends are funny. It makes everything funnier.

3. Peggy. Peggy is the actual reason and not the microcosm. She is a girl who doesn't do girl stuff! She seriously didn't understand that she wasn't supposed to be genuinely interested in being a copywriter. I guess this also ties into #1 about all the characters being real people. Even the woman characters are real people! I know!

4. The period stuff is (as far as a baby like myself can tell) really good, and it's used as a setting rather than a plot. For some reason it seems more like science fiction than historical fiction, maybe because it doesn't feel educational. It's a world where things are really different, in an interesting way. Pete and Trudy get married for no apparent reason, and never seriously consider getting divorced even though they make each other miserable for the first few years. Joan thinks she wants to be a housewife even though she obviously doesn't. The way the characters think takes the plot in directions that would never happen on a show set in the modern day, because it just wouldn't make sense.

Are those all the reasons? I guess. I feel a little bad that because the show has such an obvious hook ("it takes place in the 60s!") it is kind of reduced to that, when the realism and love are really more important, and are the main reasons I like it so much.

ETA: I'm not 100% sure, but I think that this article borrowed a phrase from one of my Wikipedia edits. Which is SO COOL. Another cool thing is when you're really obsessed with a band, and they play a song live, and you listen to a video of that song 400 times and try to type out the lyrics as accurately as possible and put them on songmeanings.net, and then when you search for the lyrics a few years later, all the lyrics sites are using a version that is obviously yours, because you were the first to post lyrics for that song on the Internet.

06 December, 2009

me: I can't wait to see my dogs I bet they won't remember me
me: especially my dog Xander he NEVER remembers me
Liam: oh man!
me: he forgot me after I went to college
every summer he gets to know me again
he's kind of stupid
Liam: maybe itll be like odysseus returning home
I bought a package of cheese that says, "Delicious in sandwiches and burgers, on toast, or as a snack."

Like, thanks for explaining.

OLD PEOPLE ARE HORRIBLE

My grandmother, who loves Scotland, sent me an email yesterday asking all these questions about the good times I'm ostensibly having, and I put it off because I know I'm going to have this conversation with a million people and it's just going to be really awkward. Maybe I'll be able to plan out some lies with my parents. It's just horrible to think about; it's the only bad thing about going home.

Anyway, I just checked my email and my grandma emailed me TWO MORE TIMES. The same email. She, like, forwarded it to me twice. Does this mean she thinks I didn't get it because I didn't answer right away? She can't possibly think that. She doesn't answer emails right away either. How incredibly uncomfortable for me.

SO TRUE

I am at the University of Edinburgh Library Cafe and unfortunately I have two mince pies sitting sadly on a plate in front of me. This is what I get for not scripting.

05 December, 2009

Nonstandard



You are nonstandard and I love you for it
You are my dream, you are the things I haven't seen
You are nonstandard and I love you for it
You are my dream, you are the things I can't believe

Drive me away from here in your car

I wish I could possess your boundless rage
Shaking from place to place inside your frame
It sneaks up on me like the Holy Ghost
Breaking me apart when I don't suspect it the most

So drive me away from here in your car

What do I do now, where do I go now
Someone like you can always put down roots and thrive
But I never boil past my boiling point
I should have figured out by now you can't drive

Drive me away from here in your car

My favorite forever



Tell me where it all went wrong
Maybe I could make it better
Tell me where it all went wrong
'Cause you know that you really upset her

When you act like a man who is cross with every woman he's never had
If it's true looks could kill, then you would be the first to make me mad
Then you've gotta go
Maybe you've gotta go

Is this the kind of fate you could contemplate
A breakdown at my very sight
Oh I promise hidden words of tenderness
In every single line that I write

Still you act like a man who is cross with every woman he's never had
If it's true looks could kill, then you would be the first to make me mad
Then you've gotta go
Maybe you've gotta go

Tell me where it all went wrong
(Tell me where it all went wrong) You've gotta go
(Maybe I could make it better) Tell me where it all went wrong
(Tell me where it all went wrong) You've gotta go
(Maybe I could make it better) Tell me where it all went wrong

'Cause you act like a man who is cross with every woman he's never had
If it's true looks could kill, then you would be the first to make me mad
'Cause you act like a man who is cross with every woman he's never had
If it's true looks could kill, then you would be the first to make me mad
Then you've gotta go
Maybe you've gotta go

If it true looks could kill
If it's true looks could kill
Is it true looks could kill?
Yeah, it's true looks could kill