attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
I got a comment last night on Quiet Shadowed Places (The one where Zuko is blind):

An interesting idea. It's a little odd, though, because unlike with Toph, this story doesn't really explain how Zuko would compensate for being blind, as I don't see how he could possibly track down the avatar while being blind without some other factor in play. Still, a good little story.

Anybody want to tell me what’s wrong with this comment? (Other than the utter patronization inherent in calling it a “good little story” Because really, wow.) )
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
So yesterday, I came out of the shower to find that my mom's dog Teddy had gotten into my bed, and pulled my comforter up to my pillows, and had put his head on my pillow and tucked himself in under the covers.  It was so cute I snapped off a couple pictures to send to my mother at work:

When Suzy realized I had the camera out, well that was it, how dare I take pictures of her brother and not her!  She might have no idea what a photograph is, but she knows the camera is something special, and she was going to be part of it, and that's all there was to that.  So she scuttled over on her short little Suzy legs and lay down on top of him:

She's not actually glaring, she's in the middle of blinking because of the flash, but that doesn't mean she's in any way being nice here.  After she er, spoiled his closeup, he figured out that he probably wasn't going to get his comfy nap all tucked in, and he tried to wiggle away.  She took her paw and shoved him back down.  Because she's such a sweet sister.  Suzy somehow knew that if he left, the camera would go away too, and she was going to do everything she could to keep the camera out, even if she has no idea what it actually does.  This is why we call her Miss Piggy.  My mother's dogs, everyone.
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
You get ice cream!  And yes, part of this is the political scientist in me wanting to pretend that the Republicans haven't shut down my government, but still, ice cream!

Chocolate Strawberry Ice Cream

4 cups cream
1 cup milk
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 pound strawberries, frozen or fresh

Cut tops off strawberries, if they have them, and stew whole until they have released their liquid and/or melted.  Add sugar slowly, stirring until it resolves.  Add cocoa powder, and stir until thoroughly mixed.  Stew for one minute.  Take it off the heat and put it in a blender until pureed.  Put in the refrigerator to cool.

Mix cream and milk together.  when the chocolate strawberry syrup is room temperature, add to milk and cream and mix until homogenized.  Beat the mixture until it begins to rise and become just a little fluffy.  put into ice cream maker and make as the manufacturer instructs.

Feeds one cranky political science student, or four to six normal people.

Keep in mind, this ice cream has a really unpleasant brown/red color, so it might not be best for company or picky children.

attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)

This is Teddy.  Some of you might remember him.  When we got him, he was so skinny, and his hair was so thin that he shook like a leaf with the cold even in the middle of the summer.  So the first thing we did was buy him a tee shirt and feed him.  He's in much better shape now.  His hair has come in much thicker, and he has some weight on him, so he isn't cold all of the time, though he still has some more weight left to gain.  The problem is, his tee shirt has become his security blanket.  Most of the time, he's okay without it, but when he gets anxious or stressed, he asks for his tee shirt, and we put it on him.  He has some anxiety issues, and when he gets too stressed, he gets sick to his stomach and can't eat.  We're worried about what will happen when his tee shirt wears out.

This is his tee shirt:

The Petsmart website sells it here, but they only have it available in x-small, and we need a small.  It's a Petsmart exclusive product, so what I'm asking is if you can, please look through your local Petsmart for this Captain America shirt in small.  I am willing to pay for the shirt and the shipping.  We would like to have at least two extras.

This would be a really big help.  Thank you.

attackfish: Discretion prevented me from saying that I thought she was a fiend from the underworld (Lin Bei Fong MWT quote)
I don't usually like writing meta in the middle of a season, because I'm an insecure person who hates it when the show publicly destroys my theories, but here goes...
Spoilers abound )
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
I always seem to be late to these things.

Anyway, I'm bisexual, which most of you reading this probably know.  Bisexual people are in a very strange place, liable to suffer both homophobia, and also biphobia.  Both homophobia and biphobia are of course prevalent in the straight community, but biphobia is also very prevalent within the queer community.  It takes many forms, from the fears many lesbians have that bisexual women spread STDs, to the idea that all bisexual people are promiscuous, or that we need "one of each" (before I go on to other topics, I would like to note that this stereotype can fall especially heavy on people who are both bisexual and polyamorous, where the two become conflated, and the person who is both is shame for them.  There are plenty of monosexual that is gay or straight, polyamorous people, and plenty of bisexual monogamous people and plenty of people of all stripes who like one night stands), or that we are either gay and halfway in the closet, or secretly straight and doing it for the attention, or what have you.  But one of the most insidious is how the queer community pits two of its most marginalized communities against each other.

I mean of course, genderqueer people, who are themselves often treated horrifically within the queer community.  There is this idea that bisexuality as a sexual identity reenforces the gender binary.  This feeds off the idea that bisexuality is a somehow less valid sexual identity, and also serves to hold us up in opposition to genderqueer people, who do not fit in a gender binary world.  This puts enormous pressure on bisexual genderqueer people, obviously, as well as helps keep gays and lesbians at the center of the queer rights movement.  After all, if we're busy fighting each other, we can't demand equal shares in the movement that claims to represent us.

Worst of all, this supposed reinforcement of the binary that we bisexual people supposedly engage in by existing while bi is built on a single false assumption, that bisexual means attracted to both men and women.  This is absolutely not what it means, just as homosexual doesn't mean "attracted to men" or heterosexual doesn't mean "attracted to women."  Homosexual means "attracted to the same gender as one's self" and heterosexual means "attracted to a gender or genders different from one's own", and so bisexual means "attracted to the same gender as one's self and also a gender or gender different from one's own."  Bisexual as the attraction to both men and women is a definition forced onto bisexual people by non bisexual people, first by doctors, who themselves believed in the gender binary, who used the label bisexual for people they considered sexually deviant, and somewhere between homosexual and heterosexual.  They also considered us psychologically intersex, just as they thought gay men were psychologically women, so taking their word on our sexuality is more than a little ridiculous.  This definition is also used by people who buy into the gender binary and don't acknowledge the existence of other genders, and now sadly, within the queer community as a weapon against bisexual people.

The people who assert that bisexuality as a sexual identity is somehow automatically oppressive against non gender binary people frequently hold up the identity "pansexual", meaning "attracted to people of all genders and gender presentations independent of gender and gender presentation"  to us as a substitute term.  For many people, pansexual is the right term for them, and they wear it proudly.  For me, and many other bisexuals however, this is extremely unsatisfying.  Firstly, since it is much less well known, I would have to define the term for almost anyone I happened to use it with, which is exhausting, more exhausting than most people realize or understand.  However, I would be willing to do it if not for the fact that the term doesn't fit.  Like many other people who identify as bisexual, I am not "attracted to people of all genders and gender presentations independent of gender and gender presentation".  Gender and gender presentation is very much a part of the attraction process for me.  I am, for example, more attracted to women then to men, and more attracted to people who present masculinity and femininity simultaneously than I am to people who eschew gender signifiers altogether.  There is no room in pansexuality for this difference of attraction.

The people who assert that bisexuality as a sexual identity is somehow automatically oppressive against non gender binary people also ignore the fact that the terms gay, lesbian and straight do in fact rely on the gender binary to derive their meaning.  A genderqueer person who identifies as neither male or female attracted to people of the same gender as their own would be homosexual, but not either gay or lesbian, for example.  A genderqueer person who identifies as neither male nor female attracted to another gender, man, woman, different nonbinary gender from their own, would be heterosexual, but not straight.  Also, I as a bisexual woman, when I am not attracted to a specific gender, am seen as devaluing the gender identity of the people of that gender, when monosexed people, especially gays, lesbians, and straights, aren't usually seen to be doing the same.  For example, a gay man is probably never going to be accused of devaluing the gender identity of a woman by not being attracted to her.  This insistance that I should be pansexual, should be attracted to all genders equally, because I am attracted to many genders posits implicitly that my sexuality is somehow a choice, one of the very ideas the queer community has been against, at least when it comes to monosexuality.

There is of course bigotry against genderqueer people within the bisexual community, just as there is within the straight community, and within the gay and lesbian community.  And when a bisexual person says that they aren't attracted to "fake genders", this is a devaluing of the gender identity of non gender binary people just as it is a devaluation of the gender identities of trans* people when a lesbian woman says that she is not attracted to trans* women because they aren't "real women".  We within the bisexual community need to stand against this.  But bisexuality as a sexual identity is not somehow inherently binariest, and oppressive.  It simply is.

I leave you with the definition of bisexuality given to us by bisexual activist Robyn Ochs:

"I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted - romantically and/or sexually - to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree."
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
I have just realized I will not be able to watch the Legend of Korra premier because I will be at the temple for Yom Kippur.  This is... Nooooooooo!

One an unrelated note, any word on when Book Two will be on iTunes?
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
Yes, I know it's a little late, but on Thursday, I was busy alternating between throwing up and shivering in bed, watching The Prince of Egypt, and yesterday, my grandmother's dog passed away unexpectedly, so I think I can be excused.

Anyway, Happy New Year, to all my fellow Jewish people!

attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
This is what our dogs do everyday at noon (we've been trying to get a recording of it four months, but every time we brought out the phone, Suzy shut up and started posing):

attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
My air conditioner has broken.  It's too hot to sleep.  I haven't slept in two days.  I'm melting.  I am the Wicked Witch of the West.
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
So last night I helped out with Tot Shabbat, and we were getting the kids ready for the High Holy Days, and explaining to them about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and then there was a little party, and it was nice, and sweet, and I was feeling really pretty good about the world as I was driving home.  Then, on my way home, on my local classic rock station, which has no stated Christian leanings at all, it's a normal, nominally secular classic rock station, had a DJ on there going on about how she had this Jewish friend, who read the New Testament, and now, of course she's a Christian, and the Word of God will get you every time.  Then, she goes on to say she thinks the only reason more people aren't Christian is that Jesus has become a dirty word, and the country is against Christians, and if more people just knew what Christianity really taught everybody would convert.  And I'm sitting there thinking, I shouldn't have to deal with this, not on Shabbat.  This shouldn't be seen as neutral and normal, and uncontroversial programing on an apolitical areligious station.  And it would never be allowed if it were a Jewish woman, or a Muslim woman, or a Hindu Woman, or any other religious woman talking about how if people just knew more about their faith everyone would convert.  And I bet this woman would be outraged if anyone told her what she said is anti-Semitic.  And guess what.  I know the tenants of Christianity.  Every Jewish person I've ever met knows the tenants of Christianity.  We have to; we're surrounded my Christians.  Most of my Jewish friends have read the New Testament.  We're not Jewish because we don't know about Christianity.  We know all about Christianity.  We're Jewish because we're Jewish.  I've heard Christians talking about their Jewish friend who read the New Testament and was instantly converted for a while now, and I have never met such a person.  The story always sounds really familiar too.  It's almost always a Jewish woman, her name is never given, either no reason is given for her reading the New Testament, or the reason is because her Christian friend gave it to her, or because she wanted to read it to mock it and see how wrong it was.  And then, she is overcome by the true Word of God, and now she's a Christian.  No other details are given, this friend is never talked about in other contexts...  I don't think she's real.  I think she's a story Christians tell.

And then, I get home, and our air conditioner is broken.  In August.  In the Deep South.
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
A couple of days ago, an eighteen year old college student called about our Daisy girl, and Mom grilled her, and grilled her, and she was just perfect.  A few years ago, her parents both died within a year of each other, and ever since, she and her brother have lived with their aunt and uncle, where she will be living until she graduates.  Her aunt and uncle are just as happy as she is to be getting a dog.  She plans to become a social worker, and her cousin is a dog trainer.  And when Mom took her to their house, Daisy bounded right over and cuddled into her on the couch.  We couldn't be happier with the home we found for her, even though I miss having her around.

It's very nice though not to always keep her and the rest of the dogs locked away separate from each other, and not to have to worry all of the time that we'll slip up and someone will be killed.

Also, I have two new cockatiels to keep Sully company.  They're sisters from the same clutch that their owner wasn't able to keep.  I've named them Rhyme and Reason.  They've finished their quarantine and are settling in beautifully, and I'm working on hand taming them.
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
When I was a little kid, I used to stay over at my grandmother's house a lot, and when I was there, I would sleep wrapped up in one of my mother's nightgowns, because it smelled like her, and when I was at home, I would sleep wrapped up in one of my grandmother's nightgowns, because it smelled like her.  Right now, Suzie, my mother's Maltese is sleeping in my room while we find a home for Daisy (who has started hunting the other dogs.  It's not normal aggression.  She actually goes after them like they're rabbits and she wants to eat them.  But she's a wonderful, sweet, loving dog as long as there are no other animals or small children around.) She's been wrapping herself up at night in my mother's nightgown that I brought upstairs for her.  And that's when it hit me, I was raised by wolves, little fuzzy, adorable wolves.
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
There are two ways I wanted to start this essay, and both of them sounded like such little things.  Which is the point, I guess. This essay is about the little things that add up, and how deeply unhappy I am living in the South, and why I am out of here like a shot as soon as I am able, in spite of the fact that the family I dearly love is here.

I grew up in California, and it wasn’t until I was twelve that I even heard the word “Kike”.  The girl who called me that would end up spray painting it across another girl’s house when they were in high school.  There was no question that her feelings and her prejudices were not shared by anybody else.  The school bus on Tuesdays dropped a load of kids off at the orthodontist’s office, and on Wednesdays, dropped another load off at the Synagogue for Hebrew school.  There were always plenty of Jewish kids around.  It was something that just was.  In California, I was discriminated against, and very badly, because of my disability, but my Judaism, my Jewishness, was never even something to comment on.  It never made me feel afraid, or under attack, and I thought about it when and how I wanted to, the weight of history seeming to be light on my shoulders.

Then I moved to New Mexico, where all of a sudden, nobody wanted to chase me out because of my disability.  I couldn’t believe it.  It was almost like paradise.  Except that in paradise, there wouldn’t have been swastikas everywhere.  I’m not talking about the nice friendly ones on the city’s pre WWII architecture, or in Indian restaurants.  I’m talking about the ugly, black Nazi swastikas drawn in sharpie on the backpacks of nice white Christian kids, or between the pages of my high school textbooks.  The year before I moved, Elie Wiesel came to speak at my school, and the night before he came, students broke in and spray painted swastikas and anti-Semitic slurs all over the school.  Special care was taken to make sure that the lockers of every Jewish student were particularly well adorned.

So yeah, that wasn’t a whole lot of fun.  And now I’ve moved again, to Alabama, and I haven’t heard the word “Kike” or seen a swastika outside of a documentary since I got here.  It should be really great, shouldn’t it?  I should feel really safe.

I don’t, which I’m sure surprises none of you, since I’m writing this essay.  This spring, when I was trying to decide whether I was going to try to teach the Passover story myself, or let my students watch “The Prince of Egypt”, I was at the grocery store, buying the things for Seder dinner.  And I got a Passover card for my mom.  The cashier took the card, looked at it, and with a really big, sweet smile, asked if I was holding a Christian Seder.  I smiled back and told her I was holding a just plain Jewish Seder.  It took me a while to figure out why I was so bothered by this, or why it stuck with me.  There have been a lot of little things like that since I moved here.

(I hate Christian Seders anyway.  I hate that I’m supposed to be flattered that someone wants to get to know my culture better by celebrating our holidays without a single Jewish person around, and oh it was so authentic, we sung all the right prayers.  You know what, don’t sing my people’s prayers if you aren’t singing them to our God.)

In Huntsville, where I live, and where my father and brother and sister grew up, there are dozens of buildings and landmarks scattered all over named after Wernher von Braun.  It’s rocket city, and he’s a hero.  But I can’t help but think every time I drive past something with his name on it that the skills he used to help the Americans into space were the ones he learned building V2 rockets for the Nazis, using Jewish slave labor.  The city I live in honors a member of the Nazi party who participated enthusiastically in the Holocaust and the murder of millions, so long as he could play with his bombs and wring out every drop of usefulness out of my people before they went to their deaths.  And no one talks about it.  No one acknowledges it happened.

I’m starting to understand in this small way at least, what it must be like to be black in the South, where every monument and city park is named after someone who made their wealth from the bodies of black people, or fought to uphold slavery, or killed blacks for voting, or fought to keep black kids from going to school with white kids, where the suffering of black people is celebrated in a thousand little ways.  And where you know if you say anything about it, you’re told to stop making a big deal about it.  It’s such a little thing, and anyway, it’s history.  I used to get angry when I would hear that there was say, a state park named after the founder of the KKK, but I didn’t realize the raw, sickening pain it brought until it was against my people.  And I have only gotten the smallest taste of it.

And already I’m sick of living here, and would rather go back to New Mexico and the swastikas, because here, instead, it’s okay to be Jewish, but you know, don’t say a word against a man who helped kill millions, and really, everybody would feel more comfortable if you were just appropriating Jewish culture, instead of being a part of it.  And it’s all these stupid little things that don’t stop.
attackfish: Jet and Zuko fighting in the teashop, text "Obviously this is the place to come if you want to get murdered by lunatics" (Jet Juko TDL quote)
Since "The Search" part two is coming out soon, I've been seeing an uptick in writing about it, and how it's awful, and wrong, and how dare they make Ozai not Zuko's biological father, and this teaches the children of bad people (who are often their most convenient victims) that they will grow up bad no matter what.

This is all true, if this was where the writers were going, and it's a common enough reveal, but there are three reasons I'm not worried at all, and fandom, which is full of smart people who love to analyze things, is for some reason not talking about any of these things.

Firstly, if Zuko were not Ozai's son, he would lose his claim to the Fire Nation throne. We know that he rules until he abdicates late in life and passes it to his daughter. Now, it's conceivable he could hide his heritage, and destroy all records, and remind everybody not to listen to his sister, because she's crazy, but this is Zuko we're talking about, who not only hates to lie and has an overdeveloped sense of honor, but is also really bad at it. It would eat at him inside until it came out, and then he would have civil war. That would make it really difficult to accomplish all the cool things we know he accomplished as Firelord, wouldn't it?

Secondly, Bryke have openly said they modeled Ozai on Zuko and what he would look like as a grown man. The physical resemblance is extremely strong between father and son. You cannot tell me that this man:

is not the son of this man:

Heck, in "The Promise", when Zuko clearly wasn't eating right, and his cheeks were sunk in, the resemblance was even stronger.  Young Iroh in Korra has an even stronger resemblance to both of them, being in the middle of their two ages, and we know he's Zuko's grandson.  No, there is a strong genetic link between Zuko and Ozai.

Thirdly, it makes no sense to have the big reveal about Zuko's parentage so soon.  If Zuko really were illegitimate, I would expect to find out in part two or three of "The Search", not part one.  That says to me that it is set up. 

What does make sense, however, is that Ozai thought Zuko wasn't his.  It would certainly be a reason to show such blatant favoritism, and why he went from favoring Zuko just as much as Azula, as shown in "The Promise" to completely disregarding him so quickly.  I bet he nearly had a heart attack when Zuko came home looking just exactly like him.  I bet Ozai suddenly having time for him in season three had as much to do with that as with Azula telling him he brought down the Avatar.

It also sets up a further contrast between Ozai and Iroh.  Ozai sees a loving, eager to please boy he believes is not his son, and mistreats him and casts him aside.  Iroh sees a resentful, sullen, defiant teenage boy he knows is not his son (yes, he's his nephew, but I doubt their relationship is predicated on Zuko being Ozai's child, in fact it's probably a strike against it) and takes him in and cares for him, and does his best to raise him into becoming a good man.

And it gives Zuko an oppertunity for a little more character growth and some closure.  Zuko is still desperate for a father.  He has Iroh, but there is still a little boy, who desperately wants his dad to love him, and if that dad isn't Ozai, so much the better.  It gives Zuko the chance to hope that Ozai isn't his father, before making him accept that yes, Ozai is his father, Ozai is a nasty horrible human being, and Zuko doesn't have to be.  Funnily enough, that would address directly the cultural narrative that many fans are so afraid will play out in "The Search", and it would very much be in the style of Bryke and A:tLA thus far.

What I would love to see (though doubt I will) is for Ozai at the end of this to act like "Well, now you know why I treated you like garbage, and now that I know you're my real son, you should forgive me," and Zuko being all "No, you're a horrible person, rot in prison."
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
I have many many thoughts about the US Supreme Court's decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, most of which involve profanity.  I find myself so angry that I am unable to coherently argue why this is a horrible, horrible thing.  I will however say this.  One of the arguements that Cheif Justice Roberts used to claim this provision was no longer fair was that Black voter turnout was higher than White voter turnout now in many of the areas affected by Section 4.  This is equivilent to someone getting new glasses, looking around at how well they can see everything, and deciding their vision problems have been cured now and they don't need their glasses anymore.
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
Last Monday, my mother's beloved boy breathed his last , surrounded by his pack and his family, at home.  Our Solo, who walked down our street and into our lives, lived long, happy years before succumbing to cancer.  He was a daddy to all of our strays, and a partner to Amy, Alpha male to her Alpha female, doting father to her protective mother.  He taught my Ziggy boy how to be a grown up, and taught Amy how to play, and loved everyone unreservedly.  Named by my brother after Han Solo from Star Wars, he never once lived up to his name, with his openness, kindness, and near supernatural ability to be ever underfoot.  These last few days, as I laid out to food dishes, absent one that will never be filled again, and walked across the floor without him bumping into my legs, I have missed him so much.

Rest in peace, my beautiful boy.

attackfish: Jet and Zuko fighting in the teashop, text "Obviously this is the place to come if you want to get murdered by lunatics" (Jet Juko TDL quote)
So that charity meme was a bust, huh?

...I hate all of you.  It's still open, btw.

Okay, so anyway, I was watching the Avengers with my siblings, and yes, it did take me this long to watch it, shoot me for being late to the party.  And I don't exactly feel fannish about it, but I have this one plot bunny that just won't leave me alone.  A couple of years after Avatar: the Last Airbender ends, and Zuko's got a good stable grip on both his throne and his sanity, somehow Loki gets sent to the Avatarverse for punishment, or Zuko puts the reigns of the Fire Nation in Mai's very capable hands and finds himself in the Marvel movieverse, and he sets himself to hauling Loki onto the path of the righteous by pulling out his most obnoxious Iroh impression:

LOKI: You will die, puny mortal, you will...
ZUKO: *unimpressed face*
LOKI: When I get my powers back, I will put an end to your pathetic little world.
ZUKO: Hey, chill.  Trying to conquer the world to get Daddy to notice you never ends well.  Trust me.
LOKI: He is not my father, and I'm not-
ZUKO: Tea?
LOKI: *Ragefoam*

Oh come on, you know you want it.

ETA: The "I hate you" at the top of this post is not in any way meant seriously.  I'm joking, and I don't hate any of you, except on days ending in "Q".

attackfish: Jet and Zuko fighting in the teashop, text "Obviously this is the place to come if you want to get murdered by lunatics" (Jet Juko TDL quote)
Because I have this little tiny netbook, and it's awesome, but I can't vid.

1. Ursa and Ozai vid to Sara Bareilles's, "King Of Anything", tell me that wouldn't just be so cool. The one problem is, I'm not sure there's enough Ursa footage for this.

2. Azula and Zuko (and Ozai) vid to Bryan Adams's "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You", because it's sappy, overwrought, and melodramatic as a love song, but it really really works from the viewpoint of two abused kids trying to earn and keep their sadistic father's love.

3. Ty Lee/Azula breakup vid to Christina Perri's "Jar of Hearts", I think it would be cathartic.

4. Azula, Zuko, and maybe Ty Lee and Mai vid to Simon and Garfunkel's "I am a Rock".  The song would go better with an earthbender, but they, in their own ways fit the meaning of the song, trying to protect themselves through emotional isolation.

5. Sokka and Katara sibling love vid to Pat Benatar's "We Belong".  Their relationship needs more love from fandom.

6. Zuko (and maybe Aang?) vid to The Eagles' "Learn to Be Still".  I'm still deciding how I want to do this one.  I really want to do one to go with Kindle the Wind, with Zuko as the Avatar, but that seems a little self indulgent, not to mention possibly technically impossible.  I might do a straight up Zuko character growth vid, or I might do a Zuko and Aang parallels vid.  Heck, I might do this one as a Korra vid, depending on how the show goes.

Thoughts, folks?
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
I am here today, ever so slightly late, for Blog Against Disablism Day to talk about two storytelling devices (yes, this means I’m linking to TV Tropes, you have been warned) that are astonishingly popular for how blatantly offensive they are with regards to how they depict disability, or more accurately, the lack of disability.  Obfuscating Disability and Throwing Off The Disability are sister tropes, and I can’t decide which one is worse.

In the modern West, there is this undercurrent of thought, rarely outright stated, that people with disabilities somehow have it easy, and that there’s a bunch of not disabled people trying to get one over on all of us by pretending to be disabled.  I know it makes no sense when I say it out loud, but yes, it is there, I promise.   I have written about this phenomenon before.  As a person with disabilities, the moment I mention my disability, or have to use assistive technology, or in any way become visibly disabled, people, not all people, and not all of them able bodied, start, consciously or not, watching me for any kind of sign that my disability isn’t real.  And since like many people with disabilities, I have good days and bad days, there is usually something for these people to hang their suspicions upon, and from then on, they treat me like a liar.  I am forced to constantly justify the existence of my disability and any accommodations I need because of it.  I have had people secretly contaminate my food or my belongings with things I’m severely allergic to, believing that I wouldn’t react, and they could hold that up as proof that I’m not really sick, that I am a fraud.  It’s extremely unpleasant, and it’s exhausting.  And it makes no sense.  People with disabilities do not have it easy.  Society does not give us a free pass and a cupcake for being disabled.  We don’t get pats and sympathy.  We get irritation, derision, and invisibility.

This is the world in which the fictional character Obfuscating Disability has become common. )

This trope’s heroic sister is when a character throws off their disability, and there is so much wrong with this trope I honestly don’t even know where to begin. )
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
Or, this really should have a wittier title, but I can’t think of one.

I have broken my foot five times, and both my elbows, and one of my wrists, and my nose twice.  So I consider myself something of an expert on how broken bones feel.  And I have a few things to say about the things that most writers get wrong.

Unless a break is really really bad, and something’s visibly crooked, or you have an x-ray machine, you usually can’t tell a bone is broken right away.  Those little bone cracks feel just like a sprain or even a pulled muscle at first.  My mom walked a mile home on a freshly broken ankle (which I don’t recommend, as this led to multiple surgeries).  I paced around my neighbor’s living room for several hours on a freshly broken foot, and when I was four, I broke my heel and ran from the back of the yard into the house.  And my heel was a particularly bad break that permanently deformed said heel, and is the reason for three of the other four times I broke my foot.  I’m no wimp, and my mom is no wimp, but that’s not the reason we did what we did.  New, relatively minor breaks just don’t hurt that much.  Give it a few hours, or overnight, and suddenly your foot hurts when you breathe.  This is because of swelling.  Most of what hurts about a broken bone is the swelling, which takes time.  The injury itself usually hurts at first because of the soft tissue damage you sustained at the same time you broke it,  in other words, sprains and pulled muscles, which is why they feel the same.  In fact, depending on the severity of the soft tissue damage sustained at the time of the break, a break may hurt less at first, than a sprain or pulled muscle.

The only way you can tell without an x-ray is time.  The next morning, if it hurts worse, it’s not a pulled muscle.  After a few days of ice and elevation, if it still doesn’t feel better, it’s probably a break or a severely stretched or torn muscle.

So, in short, pain, mobility, and ability to walk on it minutes afterwards is not a good way for a character to know if it is or isn’t broken.

As a side note, a pulled muscle can be much much worse than a break.  If you pull it so badly that it tears, you may need surgery and intense physical therapy to repair, and you will almost certainly be much more likely to tear it the same way again in the future because it has been weakened.  Writers, and non-medical people more generally, like to talk about breaks like they are the worst thing that can happen to an arm or a leg short of amputation, bullet holes, and stab wounds, but this isn’t so.

As for broken noses, they don’t hurt that much at first either, but mine at least bled way, way more than they usually do in fiction.  The first time I broke my nose, I ran across my math class to the door, and by the time I got there, I had a full mouthful of blood, which had run down from my nose, down the back of my throat and into my mouth, to spit out.  There’s still a stain on the sidewalk there, and I’m told teachers tell new students that stain is what becomes of students who forget their math homework.  Actually, it’s what happens to students who face plant on concrete floors while wearing forty pound backpacks, but oh well.  The point is, broken noses bleed a lot, and a lot of that blood comes out of your mouth instead of your nostrils.  But it didn’t really hurt at first, and it never put me in agony.  It kind of felt hot and numb until the next day when it just felt very bruised.  The second broken nose went much the same way, except I managed to get to a sink before I started spitting out blood, so there’s no cool stain with an absolutely untrue story attached.

So severity of injury has little to do with immediate pain, and broken noses make you bleed profusely from your mouth.  Any questions?
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
Amy is my seizure alert dog... kind of.  First off, she's my dad's dog, and second, she has no formal training, she just alerts.  She was wild for about a year before we got her according to our vet, and she doesn't handle change or surprise or other big dogs well enough for me to take her anywhere.  Even though I can't take her with me, however, our big, black, grumpy old lady chow/akita mix has  been a godsend, and a lifesaver.

I'm having some trouble with one of my medications right now, so I was trying out a new one last night, and it touched off a huge seizure.  I staggered out of my room to tell my mother it was coming, and Amy bolted up the stairs, pushed me to the ground, and refused to let me up until my emergency meds kicked in.  My seizures make me run, and Amy, amazing girl she is, knows this and didn't let me put myself in danger.  She refused to leave my room and go to sleep with Mom and Dad, and instead watched over me and woke me up when my meds wore off and I started having another seizure, and kept watching me until this morning, when the danger had passed.

This is only the latest in a long line of times she has told me a seizure was coming so I could get my meds earlier, or sat with me until they kicked in, or whined until my parents came.  She is a wonder.  I don't know what I would do without her.

Amy, our big, beautiful black dog, in the snow
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
To everybody in Boston, or who has someone they care about in Boston today, my heart, my thoughts, and my prayers go out to you.  Take care of yourselves.

(Oh my God)
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
It turns out that I have more to say about Yom HaShoah, or about all of the days that are not Yom HaShoah, and it starts again with my preschool Torah students and the love I have for my people and my culture.

Since the Holocaust, it is no longer quite so acceptable to be openly anti-Semitic in the West.  In many ways, the Holocaust was the pogrom to end all pogroms.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not dead here.  I saw my fair share of swastikas and had Kike and Jew Bitch yelled at me more times than I can count.  But in polite society, it’s no longer fashionable to be anti-Semitic.  This has led to a new form of prejudice that I call the “I love the Jews!” phenomenon.  I see it a lot especially with Evangelical Christians who treat us like the senile grandparents of their own faith.  To them, we are a curiosity, a remnant of the world before Christianity, and somehow, they feel almost possessive of us and our culture.  To them, we’re Christianity without Jesus.  We are not Christianity without Jesus.  We interpret our shared holy texts in ways absolutely foreign to the Christian understanding of those same texts.  It’s ignorant and condescending, but at least they aren’t setting fire to our houses or rounding us up and shooting us, so I smile and grit my teeth.

A lot of the “I love the Jews” people only really know two things about the Jewish people, we aren’t Christian, and Hitler tried to kill us all off.  As large as the Holocaust looms in the consciousness of the Jewish people, it looms larger in the perceptions of non-Jews when they look at us.  When it’s the only thing they ever really learned about us, it becomes the One Fundamental Fact of Judaism in their minds.  I remember, a few years ago, a friend of my mother’s from work took me to what she called the “Jewish museum”, which was of course the Holocaust museum.  I’m not much of a crier, but I started crying and shaking as I tried to explain to her what was wrong.  I never did manage to make her understand the distinction between a Jewish museum and a Holocaust museum.  Never mind that millions of non-Jews died.  Never mind that we were Jewish before the Nazis.

I’m sick of my people and my culture being reduced by well meaning outsiders to something done to us.  We have more than five thousand years of history as a people, of stories, songs, poems, languages, and faith.  There’s a reason I choose to live a Jewish life and pass our heritage down to the next generation.  There’s a reason I love who and what we are so fiercely, and that reason can’t be found in the Holocaust.  I find it in the stories I tell my students and the ones I don’t, in the songs and prayers I sing, in the hamsa around my neck and the menorahs my mother and I have made, in the literature, the plays and poetry my people have produced, in our distinctive humor, in the food I eat, in the way I’ve been taught to think.

It has been two thousand years since Christianity split away from Judaism, two thousand years during which we too as a people have grown and changed.  We are no mere remnant of some historical Jewish people, untouched by change and time.  In our own way, we’re as removed from the Judaism of two thousand years ago as modern Christians.  In the last two thousand years, we have written the Talmuds (yes, there are more than one), spread throughout the world, seen our temple destroyed, and learned to live without it, been chased and hunted, built synagogues and taught rabbis.  The Holocaust was a piece of Jewish history, not the sum of it.

And so, I’m going to share with my students my love for my people long before they ever hear about the Holocaust, and most of all, I will try to teach them that there is something to love, something different, and unique to us before they ever have to learn about what was done to us.
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
I’ve started teaching Torah school, which for the preschool age kids I’ve got means glitter, glue, scavenger hunts, and the occasional Torah story, edited so as not to terrify the poor kids out of their wits.  I love it.  I love children, I love teaching, and I thrive on a certain level of chaos, which the kids give me in overabundance.

And I love Judaism.  I love my religion, I love my culture, I love my people’s history, and I love sharing them with people who could come to love them too.  Today, Yom HaShoah, is a remembrance of a part of that history that I do not love, and do not wish the children I teach would ever have to learn about.  But they do have to learn about it, and they will.  Not yet, but someday.  It is dark, it is horrible, and it is a hard, cold reminder that there are people who would kill these children for our Jewishness, for this thing I love so much, and that I am passing this Jewishness down to these children, who if the tides turn again, could die because of it.  Because Yom HaShoah is the day we remember the Holocaust.

I think every Jewish child remembers the first time they learned about the Holocaust.  I certainly do.  I was older than most because of my childhood neurological difficulties, ten-years-old, and reading everything I could get my hands on.  One of those books was the Diary of Anne Frank, which I had borrowed from the Rabbi of the congregation we belonged to in California.  I asked her why it just ended the way it did.  And she explained.  I remember feeling as if I couldn’t breathe, and I remember just asking why?  What made this group of people so different that that one wanted us dead.  I couldn’t grasp it.  I still can’t quite.

We of the Jewish people bear a terrible burden from the Holocaust, even those of us who came no closer to it than hearing the stories of others.  We as a people survived to love in a world where millions upon millions of us have died.  The weight of our duty to them must be borne.  And yet, we don’t own the memory of the Holocaust alone.  We were not the only ones to die, or to be burdened so with the duty to remember.  The Nazis killed millions of people who were not Jewish, Romani, Slavs, Jehovah’s Witnesses...  I am disabled and bisexual as well as Jewish.  My name would have been three times signed on my death warrant for each.  I am also German.  My father’s gentile family is German and Austrian.  My beloved stepgrandfather’s father was a Nazi.

There are parts of the Holocaust history that I love, that I am glad for, and want to share, just as I want to share all the history of my people.  There are stories of incredible self-sacrifice, of people who lost their freedom or died to save others, of people who clung to life and to hope in spite of the misery around them, who fought, people who lived because the hate the Nazis tried to spread didn’t penetrate the hearts of their friends and neighbors.  There are stories of kindness, or bravery, and of love, and there are stories of survival as well as death.

We didn’t have Torah study for the preschoolers this week.  They’re too young still for the lessons of this day.  Next week, we’re learning about Moses.  I’m taking them hiking around the synagogue garden and pretend we’ve been in the desert for forty years.  I have a baby doll that is going to be Moses in the bullrushes.  Passover was not that long ago, and Purim was not that long before that.  Yom HaShoah comes in the spring, as the weather warms up, the leaves fill the trees, and the flowers bloom.  And in truth, the story of Yom HaShoah is not all that different from the story of Purim or Passover.  We often joke that every Jewish holiday goes the same way: “They tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat.”  What makes Yom HaShoah different is not what happened.  People have been trying to kill us off for as long as we have walked the earth, but how very close it is to now.  Someday, Yom HaShoah may join Purim and Passover, and Hanukah, and we may celebrate that we are still here, and the Nazis did not manage to kill us all.

But not yet.  For now, the wound in the Jewish people is too raw for us to claim victory in living.  There are still people who carry the memory of the camps inside their minds and on their bodies, who survived hiding, and slavery, and starvation and disease, who saw the smoke rising from the crematoriums, and the ashes of their fellow human beings scattered like dust.  There are still people who grew up with parents or grandparents with haunted eyes and numbers on their arms.  Someday, the time will come that on this day, we celebrate life, but for now, it must serve to honor the dead.
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
Sully had his two week checkup, and the vet says he's doing beautifully.  All of his bruising is gone, his wounds are closed, and his feathers are growing in.  The foot and wing we were worried might be broken weren't, and we're letting him perch for a few minutes at a time to build up his foot muscles.  We've moved his hospital tank down into the room with the other birds during the day, and oh, he's so excited to be with his buddies!

On the other hand, we're not sure we can keep Daisy.  She has started attacking Ziggy, and even Solo, our great big lab mix.  We have her on a leash with my mom, and we're doing obedience and everything with her, but she just won't quit.  She cornered Zig Sunday, and went for his throat while we were right next to her.  We've had her for almost a year now, and she has always been a challenge, but this, this is new.  She may have to be someone's only dog.  We're talking to the vet and a behaviorist, but...

We've never given up a dog before.
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
An adorable puppy wrapped in a blanket

How can you stay mad at a face like that?  How?

attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
Sully is home from the vet's now, and in an isolation tank made out of a clear Rubbermaid container with holes drilled in the lid for ventilation. He has a heating pad under half the tank in case he gets cold. He's walking around, and asking for cuddles, and he takes his antibiotics like a champ. I have him in my office with me, and when I gave him his breakfast, he dove right into the scrambled eggs, so he's eating and drinking well, and getting plenty of protein.

Anyway, I have pictures! )

He will have to be in the tank for up to eight weeks, and until his wounds are fully closed, I have to clean them every day and put antibiotic cream on them, which he hates, but he lets me do it.  He has a lot of bruising, and is in a lot of pain, and my brave boy will have battle scars, but he's on the road to a healthy recovery.

attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
My mother's puppy, Daisy somehow bit my cockatiel, Sully through the bars of his cage, puncturing his wing and his body, and "de-gloving" his leg, which is to say removing all of the skin and rolling it down to his foot.  He is being cared for round the clock by the local bird vet, and may well not survive the night.  If he dies, he may lose his foot.  I sat there with him in the car while my mother drove with him tucked into my chest and just...  I'm terrified for him.  He's my baby.  I'm hopeful, because he started to perk up and come out of shock on the way to the vet, and headbutted me every time I stopped scratching his neck, but I really really could use some distraction right about now.

ETA: He survived the night, and when I went to see him, he chirped at me, and looked at me like, "Wow, last night sucked, Mom, can I go home now?"  The vet thinks he'll be fine, but she's not letting me take him home yet.  Unfortunately, the reason I was at the vet was because his mate, Archie, it turns out, had also been injured.  Daisy got her leg.  In the middle of the night, it swelled up, and she started biting at it, and when we uncovered her this morning, she had gone into shock.  The vet is not optimistic about her chances.  She was much worse off than Sully was, and I was terrified she was going to die in the car.  We now think Daisy got Archie's leg, and Sully and Beni (my lovebird boy) came over to defend them, and Sully was injured in the fight.  Beni has a bruised nare, and spent last night trying to feed Archie.  Archie is drinking apple juice and is being treated for shock, and the longer she lives, the more likely she'll come out of it okay.  All we can do is hope.

ETA2: Archie passed away.  Aparently, she also had head trauma from the attack, and was having seizures.  One of them killed her a few minutes ago.  She was six years old.
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
We just found out that my mother's dog Solo, who is a sweet old lab/border collie mix with kidney disease and failing joints, has inoperable cancer of the mouth. Well, actually, we already knew he had cancer, but yesterday, we found out that there was nothing we could do. The only "good" news, if you can call it that, is that the vet says that it's a fifty-fifty chance that his kidneys will go first. This is on top of my grandmother's puppy dying last week while she was being spayed. Her heart just stopped. She was eleven months old, and otherwise perfectly healthy. Plus, she was the daughter o one of my grandmother's other dogs, who had belonged to a breeder before my grandmother got her. So my grandmother dragged us down to a little town a couple hours away to adopt another puppy from a local rescue, who she gave the same name as the one who just died, Shu Shu. Which is a little morbid, but she's Grammy's dog. Mom and I have taken to calling her Shu Shu Two, or Goody Two Shus.

So needless to say, I'm a little bummed, so I recorded this video of my mom's maltese/dachshund, Suzy closing her eyes every time I rub her belly and opening them every time I stop.

Forty-five secons of cute )
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
Or, the only thing that could make me want to go through an election night is nine months of presidential campaigning.

Don't get me wrong, I love politics, the political process, voting, our democracy, yeah.  But my nails are chewed down to nubs.  Four years ago, I was trying to cheer for Obama and my country while crying for my childhood home, California at the same time.  This morning, I am all smiles as the hateful misogynistic Republican senators and house members went down, three states voted to legalize same-sex marriage, a fourth voted not to make it illegal, we elected our first openly gay Senator (and she's a woman, too!), first Asian-American woman Senator, and our first disabled woman legislator, and we reelected Barrack Obama!

I can relax now.
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
My fellow Americans, by now most of you know I'm a Political Science student, and I have a responsibility to tell you, your vote does count, damn it!  Unless you don't vote.  Unless you don't cast your ballot.  Unless that ballot is tossed aside or suppressed.  There are efforts right now, undertaken by the mos cynical of political operatives, by politicians and campaign workers to suppress voting for the poor, for blacks and latin@s, for the disabled, for anybody more likely to vote Democrat.  This doesn't make me sick to my stomach because it's cheating.  we're used to that.  This makes me sick because it subverts the very democratic process that we have bled for.  This erodes what the United States, that great idea our nation was founded upon, is.  And the only way to fight it is to vote.  We need to vote in such force, in such a tide that they cannot catch all of us.  If anything should tell you how important your vote is, it's how much they are trying tos top you from voting.

(Sorry non-Americans, it'll be over soon, I swear.)

And, in case there's any doubt who I'm voting for, (or for that matter, what my favorite musical is), here you go!  It's okay, you can laugh.  It's funny.

One Term More - With Subtitles
from One Term More on Vimeo.
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
I want to preface this by saying that I don’t have anything wrong with Spirit Day.  I think it’s a very good thing to show that there are so many people who think it’s okay to be queer when so many people are trying to say the opposite, and the only reason I didn’t participate this year was because of the move and the fact that I spent the day inside unpacking.  Nor do I in any way want to say that queer kids don’t suffer from homophobia on a daily basis, an I don’t want to appropriate that experience for any other cause.  Lastly, I am not trying to say that bullying happens to everybody, so it isn’t a queer problem.  I’m trying to say something a hell of a lot more nuanced than that.  As a bisexual woman who was badly bullied throughout my public school experiences, I hope you will cut me a little slack.

You hear a lot about queer kids and bullying.  You hear how horrible it can be, about how it drives some kids to to suicide.  You see things like the “It Gets Better” campaign, and it’s easy to look at all of this and say that bullying has become a queer problem.  Bullying has become associated with the queer community the way AIDS was, or the way teen motherhood has become associated with poor black women.  It’s a way of keeping it out of the nice safe homes of the parents of straight kids.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that as the voices talking about bullying as a real and serious problem instead of as some kind of inane rite of passage or minor annoyance are finally being heard, society is finding a way to cast it as a problem only certain people will have to deal with.  This both turns it into a problem for the queer community to solve, and silences people who are bullied for other reasons than their sexuality.

Most importantly, doing this means that bullying will never be addressed as it must be addressed if it is to be stopped, as a pervasive cultural norm that has been tolerated and tacitly encouraged for far too long.  Initiatives to protect queer victims of bullying, and end the bullying of queer kids because they’re queer only chip away at the problem.  Saying that it’s wrong to bully somebody because they’re queer is not the same as saying it’s wrong to bully.  They say, in effect, that homophobia is bad, but bullying is okay.  And that’s at the heart of the problem.  The bullying of queer kids is two separate issues that are coming together and blending into one, homophobia, biphobia, trans* phobia, and straight privilege, and what I call bully culture.

Just as feminists talk about rape culture, the prevailing norms in most societies that ensure that while said societies nominally condemn rape and sexual assault, actual rapes and sexual assaults are minimized, their victims discounted, blamed, and silenced, and their perpetrators unpunished, so we need to talk about bully culture, the prevailing norms in many societies that ensure that while said societies nominally condemn bullying, actual bullying is minimized, bully victims are blamed, and bullies go unpunished and often rewarded.    Just as with rape culture, your position in society effects how bully culture impacts you.  The more “strikes” against you you have, you’re a child, a girl or woman, queer, not white, poor, have disabilities, not neurotypical, not Christian, whatever, the more likely you are to be bullied.  The more strikes against you, the less likely you are to be supported if you try to speak up about being bullied.  And depending how many and which strikes you have against you, what you hear when you try to come forward changes.  For girls being bullied by boys, “Well, he just likes you and doesn’t know how to show it,” or “You’re a very pretty girl, you’ll have to get used to it.”  Girls who aren’t pretty hear that one all the time too.  For nonneurotypical kids and socially awkward kids, it’s “Well, if you would just try to act normal...” or for people with mental illnesses, “You’re just imagining it.  You’re crazy.”  we must without a doubt fight the prejudices and privilege that make these disparate groups more vulnerable to being bullied, but we must also fight bullying, and the idea that it’s okay to treat people who are less powerful than oneself like playthings.

Bully culture doesn’t just live in schools, where we hear about it most often.  It lives in workplaces, where adult bullies continue to do what they have always done.  Sometimes we call it sexual harassment, but usually we don’t talk about it.  We see it on television and in popular culture, were brilliant assholes get away with bullying and star in shows, books, and movies as beloved characters.  We see it when the hero of a show stands up to the bullies, and all of a sudden they stop, like that’s all a victim would have to do, and if they were strong like the hero, they wouldn’t be bullied.  Hell, we see it in politics when men like Rush Limbaugh nakedly bully young women who have the nerve to disagree with them.  Bullying has saturated society.  We are marinating in it, and it is poisoning us.

I was bullied, and bullied very badly, first because I have a disability, then, because I was socially awkward, then, because I am Jewish, and then because I am bisexual, but most importantly, because the bullies could. They were not punished, none of them, and nothing I did made it better.  Being bullied, and being bullied marked me out as vulnerable for my stalkers, and for many people, being a bully victim means that abusers will seek them out.  We need better rules against bullying, and we need those rules enforced.  We need to ensure that no one is punished for coming forward, and we need to make coming forward safe for everyone.  And for God’s sake, we need to stop treating bullies like they’re cool, and like bullying is nothing.  The victim is not the problem, the bully is.  The victim’s queerness, disability, poorness, race, appearance, sexual activity, none of these are the problem.  The problem is that somebody or many somebodies see this as a reason to bully them.  This is homophobia, ableism, classism, racism, sexism, and it is also Bully Culture.
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
The move is over, and my family and I are settling into our new house in Alabama.  I’ve never lived in Alabama, or for that matter, the South.  My mother is a dyed in the wool Pennsylvania Dutch Yankee, and my roots are as different from this as it’s possible to be.  But somehow, this is the most members of my extended family are gathered, including two of my three siblings, one of whom is the father of my nephews.  This is where my dad’s from, and this is where my sister and one of my brothers grew up.  It feels really weird.

That means they drop in on us, regularly, and it means we have a standing monthly dinner date for Mexican food at our house.  Because we can’t just get the real stuff at any local restaurant here like we could in New Mexico.  Noooooo!

Anyway, my nephews!  I’m sure you’re all dying to hear about my nephews, because I just can’t imagine anything more interesting than my nephews, and... Oh wait.  Okay, so my nephews are probably not as fascinating to you as they are to me, too bad, I’m writing about them anyway.  They’re six year old fraternal twins, and one off them wants to be a race car driver, no a fireman, no a baseball player, no a... And the other one wants to be an interior decorator.  He has been telling us so for a year.  A few weeks ago, my brother went to the store with them, and one nephew bought some toy cars, and the other bought candle holders, because he thought they would look good in his daddy’s living room.  His taste is... questionable, but he’s six.  Given that my brother used to have fits when the boys played with pink toy cars, he’s been dealing with this really well.  (Not well enough that I would feel comfortable coming out to him, but progress!)

Meanwhile, Suzy, the six pound maltese/dachshund mix my mom adopted after Liam died, and she just couldn’t take not having a little follow-me-around dog, has fallen in love with the idea of dresses.  We started putting sweaters on her, because when we adopted her, it was winter, and she was bald and skinny.  Then she started wearing teeshirts when it got warmer.  Then the first time I took her to the pet store, she ran over to the clothes (I have no idea how she knew where they were) and jumped all over this one dress.  Reader, I bought it for her, and a monster was born.  It’s all my fault.  She dances in circles when we get out the dress box, and once she has the dress on, she acts like it’s Superman’s cape, like she’s ten feet tall and bullet proof, like she isn’t an anxious little fuzzball.  She even has a favorite dress.  My mom’s dog has a favorite dress.

So we put a dress on her before the boys came over, and our future interior decorator looked at my mom and asked all excited, “Does she have a princess dress?”  And when my mom said no, he insisted, “Well she should!”  And now he’s begging my brother to let him buy his grandmother’s dog a princess dress.

He is so cute!

For everyone curious about what we actually ate on Mexican night (and keep in mind, we’re keeping it heat free at least until we can ease my siblings into spicy), we had Mexican wedding cookies (for some reason called Mexican wedding cakes in the book), which were from Best of the Best from New Mexico Cookbook, only I cooked them at 350° F for 27 minutes instead of 375° for 20 minutes,  fajitas, chopped salsa, and refritos (refried beans).


I don’t have amounts for this one, because we mostly just throw in however much we have lying around.

Olive Oil
Bell Peppers
Other Vegetables (optional)
Meat (optional)

Stir fry the bell peppers, onions, other vegetables, and meat, serve on the tortilla.

Chopped Salsa:

4 avocados
4 tomatoes
1 sweet onion
1/2 a lemon’s worth of juice

Cut the avocados, tomatoes, and onions up, add lemon juice, mix together.  Add chopped cooked shrimp for ceviche.  Salt to taste.


4 cups dried beans, left to soak overnight
2 medium sized sweet onions
1lb butter
3 or 4 pieces of bacon

The last two are because I couldn’t find anywhere selling organic lard. *sniff*

Anyway, drain the beans and put them in new water to boil until soft.  This should take several hours.  Dice the onions and cut up the bacon, and fry both with the butter until the onions are mushy.  Try not to let the butter get hot enough to separate.  When the beans are good and soft, mash them with a potato masher or a ricer, mix in the onions, butter, and bacon.  Salt to taste

I find it tastes better after a night in the refrigerator, because all of the flavors have had a chance to mingle.

attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
Faith -- or even the considered rejection of faith -- is an area often overlooked in world-building for speculative fiction in spite of the impact it's had on our world (for good and bad). How does faith affect the world view and formation of a fictional world?

The first thing you find out about writing a novel is that you know the way you thought you had everything planned out?  Not so much.  the world that feels so detailed and vivid in your head is full of holes.  As you start writing, a few thousand facets of your world get filled in and polished, and these things you didn’t think about before become important enough to ride around in the back of your mind all the time.  For me, the consequence to this is that I keep finding potential [ profile] bittercon  panel ideas and saying to myself, yes, I have to write this post, because I’m doing things with this in the Novel.  Bear with me.

In my novel, the main character is deeply religious.  Her religiosity is important, though never central, to the story both politically, because she belongs to a faith that is a somewhat oppressed minority in the country she’s just beginning to rule, but she comes from a nation of people who had only just recently conquered the country she rules, and in that nation, her religion is the dominant group, and also emotionally, to her as a character.  Her beliefs also don’t line up perfectly with the standard doctrine of her faith.  She’s no radical heretic, but like may of us, she’s a little heterodox.  Other characters in the story have their own religious perspectives, either as fervent believers, or as people whose belief is a small part of their lives, or as people who just haven’t thought much about it (actual disbelief being much more difficult in a pre scientific revolution society).  And as I’ve been writing, and comparing other books to mine, I’ve noticed that all of those things I just mentioned are rare in the genre.

Which isn’t to say that religion is thin on the ground in the genre, not at all.  An author’s religious beliefs, or passionate lack of belief, and a wish to  inspire others to share those beliefs has even been the foundation of some of Speculative Fiction’s most popular works.  C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia and Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass series are allegories for Christianity, and against religion entirely, respectively.

Gods and Goddesses frequently populate fantasy worlds, real, substantial, and willing to grant their followers power.  Fantasy reflects its connections to mythology in this way.  Mythologies, by their very nature have divine forces acting on the world.  The followers of these gods and goddesses have ample proof of their existence, which changes the importance of belief, and makes the gods, for the purposes of the story, another form of functional magic.

In Science Fiction settings, there is a tendency for religion to have fallen by the wayside as science has progressed further.  A character in such a setting need never consider a rejection of faith, because society has already done that for him.  A lack of a religious belief is as taken for granted as belief in the local gods was in early societies.  Or religion doesn’t show up at all.  It is just absent all consideration.

The most perplexing treatment religion in Speculative Fiction can receive, at least to me, is the one most often found in Urban Fantasy.  The traditional remedies against vampires, and many other evil monsters are religious in origin, and in stories where religion is not otherwise even mentioned, those remedies show up, crosses and holy water for vampires, baptism for fairies, hallowed ground for the risen dead, can all be invoked against the supernatural without anyone seeing this as evidence for Christianity.  Characters in on the hunting, even using these symbols may themselves belong to other religions, and no one seems to see a conflict.  Even when other gods appear, no one notices a contradiction.

Religion in Speculative Fiction is dealt with in many, many ways, but strangely, enough, just as religion, as an expression of culture and unprovable belief.  This is what I’m trying to do, in my novel, and the lack of it in the rest of the genre makes me wonder if I’m just the one odd duck who likes that kind of thing, and if I should scrap it.  And this lack makes me wonder, and not just because of my perpetual case of authorial insecurity, why?

What do you think of religion in Speculative Fiction?  Any specific examples you like?  Dislike?  Think it shouldn’t be in the genre at all?  Think it should be in the genre more?  Do tell.

Written for [ profile] bittercon the online convention for those of us who can't make it to any other kind, on a topic adapted from a panel at the 2012 Chicon, the text of which is quoted at the beginning of this post.
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
Based on our genre, there aren't any. Why not?

I am tempted to just to leave this question alone and see what discussion it prompts in everyone else.  This is something I have noticed in a vague, background kind of way, but I never really thought about it (though I probably should have).

Part of it, I know, is that literature and other media as a whole don’t portray a lot of people who aren’t skinny.  People in fiction are usually skinny unless there’s a reason for them not to be skinny.  A side character may be fat and jolly, or bustling and fat, or lazy and fat.  A villain may be fat and greedy, or fat and stupid, or fat and dirty.  A character is fat, much like a character has a disability, or is nonwhite, because the author chose for them to be that way.  Skinny is a default in fiction, and fat is a deviation.  Nowadays, there are more fat main characters, especially in Romance and YA novels, but fat people in fiction are a tiny percentage compared to fat people in real life.

Part of this also has to do with the space program, and the visibility of astronauts as the Science Fiction genre was coming into its own.  Astronauts, as most of us are aware, have to be incredibly physically fit, and have to pass a physical examination before they even begin training that tends to weed out anyone not of slender build.  A lot of Science Fiction involving space travel has an understandable tendency to draw on this.

Some of it has to do with Science Fiction’s aspirational roots.  Science Fiction is most often about imagining a future for ourselves, and from the start, many of those futures were better than the presents from which they sprang.  We would have peace and plenty.  We would travel the stars.  And we will have conquered disease and disability, and everyone will be healthy and beautiful.  And not fat.

Even in horrible futures, skinniness is predominant.  Many dystopians posit a food shortage, and if people are starving, they certainly aren't fat (okay, in real life, that’s not strictly true, but...)

None of this changes the fact that there is a lot more room for fat characters in Science Fiction than are currently there.

So, fat Science Fiction characters: why not?

Written for [ profile] bittercon the online convention for those of us who can't make it to any other kind, on a topic adapted from a panel at the 2012 Chicon, the text of which is quoted at the beginning of this post.
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
Where are the female villains in our stories today? We often speak of writing strong female characters, but what about strong female villains? The villain is often the hero/heroine in his/her own story, yet we rarely see strong female villains portrayed in SF&F. An examination of characterization that moves beyond the ever popular rape scenario that is often given as a primary motivation for women seeking revenge. Sometimes, women are just mean. Let's look at them.

Oh female villains.  There are just so many angles to take this topic from, and so many things written about this topic, and so, so many ways to actually write a strong female villain, along with a whole pile of ways to write a weak one.

The lack of female villains in literature and media is a new phenomenon.  Once upon a time, nearly the only way a female character could be strong was to be a villain.  Female strength was a sure sign of, and could only be expressed through, evil.  With the license that being evil gave her (or more accurately her creators) a female villain could be so much more fun than a mood killing mother or shrinking damsel in distress.  The villain got all the best lines, all the best props, and all the best songs.  (Oh Maleficent, you are the only thing worth watching in Sleeping Beauty.)  And to modern eyes, looking back at these portrayals, they can feel almost like a breath of fresh air, next to our dearth of fascinating evil women.  Of course, in their own time, they were reflective of their own period’s particular brand of sexism, a sexism that said that a good woman could only fit into a certain set of small boxes, and interesting, wonderful villainesses were often paired with innocent, beautiful, and utterly uninteresting heroines for them to menace.  This is the evil stepmother, and the wicked witch.

Another type of old villainess is the femme fatal.  She was weak physically, but beautiful and manipulative, and most of all, a sexual threat to a main male protagonist.  She is a reflection of the fear society held (and holds) of female sexuality.  She won’t be virginal, and she won’t settle down and be loyal to one man, but of course, women don’t enjoy sex, or at least not like men, so she must be using sex for something.  She uses men.  This is what makes her evil, any true evil action she undertakes is secondary.  She is less of a breath of fresh air.  In fact most modern villainesses share something with her in that they are sexualized, and their sexuality is a weapon they wield against the heroes.

Many female villains, past and present, especially femme fatal types, are the sidekick to a male villain, Harley to his Joker, Bellatrix Lestrange to his Voldemort, Azula to his Ozai.  Many of these villains, like the above, are either in love with their master, or their master’s daughter.  Like many forms of media sexism, individual examples of this trope may be fine, may even be fantastic villains in their own right, but in aggregate how we view women and female villainy, as something lesser, as something that can be blamed on an evil man.  Related to the above, and also only a problem in aggregate is how often these sidekick villains turn good verses their male counterparts.  This is often the fate of the less evil femme fatals.

There is smaller female villainy too, the mean girl concept, subtly referenced in the topic summary, the stereotype, true or not, that girls are more manipulative and subtly mean than boys which is becoming more and more popular.  Mean girls are almost a force of nature in fiction.  Any gathering with a lot of girls in it will produce them.

And there is ever that combination of racism and sexism that produces the Dragon Lady, a vicious South East Asian femme fatal, common in “Yellow Peril” stories, and other female villains meant to embody their race.

So okay, there are many many ways of doing female villains wrong, but as I said before, there are a lot of ways of doing it right.  Unfortunately, it’s much harder to codify the ways to make a good female villain.

Some authors go the route of making a fascinating villain who could be male or female, who is not sexualized,and not evil in any of the stereotypically female ways.  Azula, who supposedly was originally going to be a boy, is manipulative and devious, physically intimidating, and brutally sadistic.  Although she is far from physically unappealing, she is rarely sexualized, and the one time she tries to seduce someone, she’s inept and terrifies her target, and it’s played for comedy.  She might be the obedient daughter of her father, but she has more development and more screen time than any other villain.  She is the terrifying creature who harried the Avatar across the Earth Kingdom came closer to killing him than anyone else, and she is the scariest person on the show, bar none.  Avatar: the Las Airbender also has Hama.  Tortured and brutalized in prison, she holds he whole Fire Nation responsible and sees no reason not to do to Fire Nation civilians what was done to her, and every reason to force Katara to follow in her footsteps.

Another great villainess in this mold is Tsarmina Greeneyes from the Redwall series (what, is this Redwall week, or something?)  Tsarmina is the leader of a military dictatorship in which she uses her army of vermin to keep the local woodland creatures under control.  At the beginning, she kills her less monstrously cruel father and frames her brother so that she can take power.  She likewise is a powerful physical threat, a cat to the main character’s literal mouse.  There is nothing sexualized about Tsarmina.  She takes the usual role of a masculine villain and comes close to triumphing over our beleaguered woodlanders.

Then there are wonderful, horrifying villains who could never be anything but female.  Mother Gothel from Disney’s Tangled is not only an evil woman, but an evil mother, and deftly manipulates the societal picture of an ideal mother to manipulate her victim and the audience.  Unlike the evil stepmothers of old, Gothel doesn’t become overtly cruel until the very end, when she fears losing Rapunzel’s magic hair.  To defeat her the heroine had to first realize she even is evil.  Gothel is such a realistic depiction of the common everyday evil of an abusive mother, that many of the grown children of such people started talking about how much she reminded them of their own abuse.  Equally important, she has a completely understandable motive.  She wants to live.  Losing Rapunzel’s magic hair means rapid aging and death for her, and like all of us, she wants a little more time.  It isn’t her goal that’s the problem, it’s her methods.  It’s that she kidnaps a little girl, holds her captive, and manipulates her into loving her.  Were she male, Mother Gothel would lack the punch she has as a twisted mother figure.

What are some of the other challenges of a good female villain?  If you have a male hero, do you run the risk of him losing sympathy fighting her?  How are her actions judged differently because she’s female?  What about male characters that fall into a typical female villain role, a male version of a femme fatal?  An evil stepfather?  And do you have any favorite female villains to share?  Come on, you know you do...

Written for [ profile] bittercon  the online convention for those of us who can't make it to any other kind, on a topic adapted from a panel at the 2012 Chicon, the text of which is quoted at the beginning of this post.
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
Do authors pay enough attention to the practical constraints of their created worlds when describing what their characters are eating? Does anyone want a bug butter sandwich - or vat meat?

Is it wrong that one of my first thoughts upon reading this description was all of those magnificent feasts in the Redwall books by Brian Jacques?  Once upon a time, these feasts caused little me a great deal of consternation and longing, because while my elementary school teacher was reading those books to us, my immune disease was forcing me to subsist on turkey, rice, scallions, and grapes.  I was also terribly hungry all the time then, because I was busy growing nine inches in one year, after which I was still one of the shortest kids in the class.  So those lurid descriptions of piles of wonderful food made quite the impression on little me.

I love food.  And I know my food.  I’m a very good cook, or so I hear tell, and I’m notorious among my friends for always knowing the best restaurant in town for ny given genre of food.  My childhood unable to eat almost anything left me an extremely adventurous eater, and barring things I’m allergic to, I will try almost anything once.  More relevant to this topic, and to Redwall, I know what goes into what, because thats what keeps me from eating anything I’m allergic to.  Even at ten years old, when I was not the most inclined to thinking worldbuilding through, I noticed that a whole lot of the food at the Redwall feasts needed milk, cream, or butter, or eggs, which compels the question, where did our abbey mice get such things?  Do they have a pasture somewhere with cows that they tend to (and am I the only one imagining green habit attired mice clinging to a cow’s udder, trying to milk it?) is it milk from the lady rodents themselves?  Some of the food could be made with chemical substitutes, but do our utopian low tech woodland creatures have a full industrial chemical laboratory beneath Cavern Hole?  And what are the ethics of eating eggs when birds can think and talk just like the abbey creatures?

Then there are books where I just can’t figure out where any of the food comes from at all.  In Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series, for example.  When Tally and Shay leave the settlements and go zooming across the countryside, there is no visible agriculture.  The population is deliberately kept stupid, docile, and less than productive.  I can’t figure out how most jobs necessary for society to function at a basic material level are performed, much less food.

This question seems more relevant, at first glance, to Science Fiction than to Fantasy, because after all, most fantasy either exists in an expressly agrarian society, or takes place in a modern city.  The means of food production don’t need to be spelled out, because they’re apparent at first glance.  There are still things that should have been thought through, such as the Redwall example, or foods eaten wildly out of season, or crops unsuited to a climate, that sort of thing, though, and in Fantasy, it’s usually forgotten.  Food doesn’t matter until it gets to the table and can be an expression of culture or personality.  Discussions of food in fantasy often revolve around how it can add realism to a narrative, how taste and smell should be added to descriptions of a world.  Sight and sound, the senses most often used, can be appreciated at a distance, but taste is visceral.  It is literally in your face.

In Science Fiction, the “where does the food come from” question can be much more blatant.  Depending on the environment involved, food might have to be shipped in at great expense, or manufactured artificially.  The stereotype from the middle of the last century is the food pill.  There’s alien cuisine to be considered.  There’s what foods a character might miss in any situation that takes them away from those foods.

The description of this topic mentions types of artificial food and asks the question of whether anyone would want to eat it, which I think is a strange question to ask, and completely beside the point, given that in most cases, writers don’t want us to look at artificial food and think “ooh yummy.”  As to whether it would be realistic for characters to eat it, I can safely say that my own childhood food experiences and the ability I possess to imagine what it is like to be desperately poor and hungry have convinced me that if it’s what’s available, that’s what humans will eat.  Turkey, rice, scallions, and grapes got very boring very quickly.  I came to hate the sight of all four, yet every day I ate them without even salt, because they were all I could eat, and I had a body to fuel.  Starving people the world over probably ate their usually monotonous diets more enthusiastically than I did, because hunger really is the best sauce, and I was fortunate to know that I would always have three meals to look forward to.  Enjoyment doesn’t enter into it.

Part of the reason, I think, for the above pointless question is that many, but certainly not all of us, though probably a healthy majority of the people sitting around talking about food in Speculative Fiction at a convention, in the modern developed world are lucky enough to never know true hunger.  When food is always available, and in wide variety, and always has been for a person, enjoyment is one of the only questions about food left.  We’re free to choose our food based on what we feel like eating.

Equally important to why so often in Science Fiction I can’t figure out where any food comes from is that in the modern developed world city dwellers and suburbanites, rich, poor, hungry, or well fed are also by and large isolated from the means of our food’s production.  It’s easy to forget that food doesn’t just come from the restaurant and the grocery store, and since we take it for granted, it’s easy to forget about in worldbuilding.  This raises the question whether this is important in some way outside of simply telling a good story.  Is our societal tendency to forget about food until it’s in the kitchen or on the table somehow going to lead to the kinds of failures of imagination that could harm us in the real world?  Or is food in Speculative Fiction one more thing that some writers pay attention to and others don’t or in different ways?

Written for [ profile] bittercon the online convention for those of us who can't make it to any other kind, on a topic adapted from a panel at the 2012 Chicon, the text of which is quoted at the beginning of this post.
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
Why have castles in the same world as dragons? How would having magic actually impact a feudal society? What roles would sorcerers really occupy in such a world?

I’m told this is a well worn topic, so I will begin by saying I’m relatively ignorant of the discussions that have already taken place.  Most of the takes on this topic that I have seen have been primarily from a military angle, if you have dragon riders, what good is a high walled, unroofed fortress like a castle?  If your average wizard can kill at a glance, what good is armor?  Intentional or not, this is the direction in which most of the genre guides us.  Much of fantasy is concerned with war, epic battles being one of the favorite topics, which makes military inconsistencies like these more obvious.  As much as I love a good adventure, I’m more of an anthropology buff and politics buff than a military tactics buff, so I intend to take a slightly different tack.

Magic can be seen as an analog not only for military technology but for technology more generally, which has always been segregated by class.  A feudal system, with its rigid class divisions, can only survive if technology, and infrastructure are distributed in such a way as to support it and make it necessary.  If a kingdom has a strong communications network (scrying mirrors, long distance telepathy...) and a quick way to move people around (flight, teleportation...) then that kingdom’s king doesn’t need a bunch of lords and knights around to help him control his kingdom.  In Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books, because of this, though Valdemar has lords and Ladies, and relatively little modern industrialization, the political system is highly centralized, with the monarch holding most of the power, and her own band of highly mobile magic users circulating through the country to keep control.

And what about worlds where peasants are constantly being born with magic?  How long would an inherited hierarchy last when people on the bottom rungs so frequently find themselves in possession of that much physical power?  Does the system have permeability for magic users?

There are a number of ways to make magic reenforce a feudal hierarchy, if a writer decides that’s the direction they wish to go in.  Magic could be born only within certain bloodlines, like in Robin Mckinley’s Damar books, where kelar is born only to members of the royal family.  Magic could be something gained instead of inborn, either through some ritual or through long term study.  Magic users could themselves become another form of nobility, much like the Medieval Catholic Church.

Authors could also start with a magic system and see where it leads them.  Maybe magic being born unpredictably throughout the population leads to magic users each becoming small-time warlords, controlling villages and city-states.  Maybe the authorities make a successful go at finding and killing magic users before they can use their power to uproot the system.  Maybe nobody has magic inside, and power is centralized around rulers who hold magical artifacts.  Maybe magic has made fields and crops so fertile that the bulk of the population no longer has to farm, and almost everyone lives in large cities.  Maybe magic users have become godlike figures.  Maybe one country has magic and another does not.  Fantasy in no way binds us to historical accuracy, or even to drawing on the past, although fantasy writers often do.

How do yo think politics and culture would be shaped by magic?  What kinds of magic systems would you like to see the consequences of explored?  What books or series have you seen tat dealt with this topic well?

Written for [ profile] bittercon the online convention for those of us who can't make it to any other kind, on a topic adapted from a panel at the 2012 Chicon, the text of which is quoted at the beginning of this post.
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
Sometimes, activism, or even just being a thinking, caring human being, grinds one down.  There are days when I think, no, I really wish I hadn’t heard such and such offensive thing, because I should do something, and damn, I’m just too tired to deal with jackasses finding excuse after excuse to keep doing what they’re doing, and keep telling me that really, complainers like me are the real problem.  And then there’s today.  Today, I was flipping trough radio channels on my way to class, and I hit on the morning talk show of our local classic rock station.  Since they usually pay music after the talking instead of commercials, I hung around.  The host and her colleagues started talking about the woman who tried to ride up an escalator in Boston on her motorized scooter.  Apparently, at the end of the clip, the woman involved got up and walked, and our lovely radio host quoted a hilarious comment from the internet, “Oh look, fatty can walk.”  Yeah.  That would have been enough, but they started talking about people who use the motorized carts at the grocery store, those obviously not disabled people who walk in, and just take them, and maybe if they waked around the store, they would lose some weight.  Oh, and they go down the middle of the aisle, too, how dare they?  The host even mentioned the time she sprained her ankle, and how much not fun those carts were for her to use, and aren’t those fat-she’s-sure-they-aren’t-disabled people stupid for using them?


So that’s the bad part.  The good part was, after class was canceled, I used my extra time to run down to the radio station and talk to the program manager.  I outlined why I thought the segment had been offensive, and said I wasn’t blaming anybody, because we all have unexamined prejudices, and that the important thing is that we learn from our screw ups.  He listened to the segment, agreed with me, and told me exactly what he planned to say to the radio hosts, and that he was very glad I came in, because frequently, when people are offended by these kinds of real, serious, hurtful things, they don’t come in, and if he doesn’t personally realize they’re offensive, then he can’t do anything about it.  His apology was genuine, and his wish to do better seemed sincere.  All and all, one of my better experiences as a person with disabilities interacting with ableism.

It was also a personal victory for me, because I stayed calm, smiling, and non-confrontational even though I was very offended by what I had heard, and absolutely furious.  This is a skill I have difficulties with, and I’m working hard on it.  And look, good results!  Positive reenforcement for me!

I also positively reenforced myself with ice cream when I got home.  I think this learning technique should be more widely applied.

Since I know a lot of the people who read this journal show up to my disability posts to learn something, I’m going to unpack, in brief, what was wrong with the above radio segment.  Those of you who know this already, bear with me.

1. Anybody who can walk for a few steps isn’t really disabled.

Not everybody with a mobility impairment is unable to leave their chair.  Some of them, can *gasp* walk, or even run.  Some people who have to use a wheelchair or powered scooter on some days, can run laps and bike ride on others.  Some can walk short distances, but aren’t up to strenuous activity.  This attitude is symptomatic of a general doubt people with disabilities live with, and the way many people are constantly checking for signs that we’re somehow faking our disabilities.

2. Most people who use assistive technology like motorized scooters and those carts in the grocery store are just lazy and overweight.

Many people who use assistive technology are overweight.  For many of these people, their disability is a direct cause of of their weight.  Firstly, most of us have no idea how moble we are until that’s taken away.  No longer being able to walk or run (or walk or run far) means that we burn fewer calories, bat aren’t necessarily less hungry, and so gaining a mobility disability can cause an increase in weight for that reason alone.  Also, a number of disabilities just plain cause weight gain.  Hypothyroidism, for example, can make weight gain nearly inevitable, and nearly impossible to get rid of.  (Hypothyroidism is far from the only one, but I know more about it, because I’ve got a family history of it).

There are people who are overweight for reasons other than their disability, of course.  But being overweight doesn’t mean they also don’t need or deserve to use assistive devices, even if their weight exacerbates their mobility problems.  For example, say someone has arthritis.  Their weight puts more pressure on their joints, and cuts down on how far they can walk.  In the long term, this person may be trying to lose weight, but in the short term, they still need to buy food, and that means getting around the grocery store in a motorized cart.

3. Fat people are disgusting, lazy slobs, who deserve to be shamed.

There’s a word for this: fat-phobia. I know this isn’t strictly a disability issue, but there’s a lot of intersection, and it’s worth talking about.  Many people are overweight because of genetics, or as covered above, illness.  Many people are fat because they don’t have access to good food.  Many people are fat because they don’t have the time or mental energy to exercise.  Many people are fat because it’s their body’s reaction to stress, and their lives are extremely stressful.  You and I can’t magically tell why someone’s fat, and it doesn’t really matter why someone is fat.  Nobody deserves to be treated like dirt because of their physical attributes.  And before anybody starts the “but theyre a drain on society!” spiel, sorry, no, their weight affects them a heck of a lot more than it affects you or me, and most fat people, just like most not fat people, contribute to society.

4. People with disabilities get special privileges/think they can act however they want.

This is why people are on the lookout for people faking their disability.  The idea that a disadvantaged group gets special privileges, or wants special privileges relative to the population is a common one.  It’s a belief held about Native Americans, Black people, immigrants, queer people, people with disabilities... It is an unconscious way to soothe the collective conscience with regards to any mistreatment the disadvantaged group faces, and a way to justify the status quo.  “I’m not oppressing you, in fact you’re oppressing me with guilt.”  It isn’t true, and I doubt there are swarms of people eager to fake a disability.  I was a little astonished that the radio host didn’t even acknowledge this possibility when she talked about her own experience using the motorized carts.  If one is used to walking everywhere, the carts are miserable to bother with, and almost no one would use them by choice, as I am reminded every time I break my foot (five times now.  Aargh!).

5. People who use motorized carts are horrible people for driving down the center of the aisle.

Those things are really really hard to steer, and if you try to stay near the shelves, you end up playing bumper carts with the cereal boxes.

We talked about all of this (except the bumper carts) and I talked a little bit about invisible disability, and I think I gained a lot of credibility when my invisible disability decided to rapidly become visible in the middle of the conversation when my hands and feet turned blue, and I started to shake, which is my body’s way of saying get thee to an oxygen concentrator.  I did, I swear, put it into more personal, emotional terms than this.  It was interesting to find out how dificult it was for me to put these consepts into informal, non-accademic language, because aside from this blog, when I talk about this stuff (asside from filthy-mouthed venting) mostly in clinical, impersonal, accademic terms, in class as a Sociology and Political Science student.  Damn you Social Sciences education!

My God, I feel good today, even if my body clearly hates me.
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
It’s time for another post on fiction and disability. Oh goody, I know you’re all really excited, but oh this trope! This trope hits close to home for me, because I am sickly, I am neurotic, and I’m a geek, and it was easy for people, as I grew up to slot me into this stereotype and disregard me accordingly. So this is a story of how the storytelling tropes we use hurt real people.

The first time I was aware of this trope, I was ten. I had only just woken up from the fog the neurological effects of my until then untreated immune disease had kept me in since birth, and I was watching some stupid Disney Channel kids’ show (Even Stevens for anyone interested) and there was a guest character who was portrayed as a health-obsessed hypochondriac with not-real allergies and asthma, and encouraged the audience to laugh at him for this. I was furious, so furious that I got my mother to rant on the phone about it to some poor beleaguered soul at Disney. At this point, I’d already had to deal with everybody from students, to teachers, to friends’ parents refusing to believe my illness was real and putting me in danger or calling my parents and me liars to our face. I didn’t realize it yet, but the annoying, demanding hypochondriac who pretends to have allergies is a stock figure of mockery.

This trope is an example of a phenomenon called ableism, which is the prejudice against people with disabilities. Also called disableism, especially in the UK, ableism includes a set of common beliefs held consciously or not, that people with disabilities should act a certain way, or that people with disabilities are somehow worth less than the able-bodied, or are somehow to blame for their own condition, or are leaching off society, or any number of other attitudes about people with disabilities that are false and damaging to the people who face them. I’ve written about a lot of this before, but what I haven’t talked about is the specific type of ableism experienced by people when they are unable to convince the people around them that their disability is real and legitimate. This trope exemplifies those attitudes. Because I am geeky, and anxious, and because my illness is autoimmune based and includes allergies, people who have been seeing this trope play out in popular media since they were children assume that I am faking my debilitating, terrifying, and occasionally life-threatening illness. They feel justified in denying me services and accommodations that I need and am legally entitled to, in mocking me for something I can’t help, and even to try to “test” me by committing forms of assault like exposing me without my knowledge to substances that could trigger a seizure, an asthma attack, or other unpleasant allergic response, because obviously I’m not really sick.

To make this trope especially painful to me, my geekiness, mental health issues, and illness are related, and part of the reason they are is ableism itself. First society made me fit a stereotype, and they it derided me for it. The idea behind the trope is that the geeky neurosis causes the “sickliness”, whereas for me, it was the other way around. There are two ways my illness led to my mental health issues, directly, and indirectly through the responses of people around me. By far the less important of these is the direct version. For a person with an illness like mine, where exposure to ordinary innocuous, common substances can cause severe injury or death, avoiding those substances is critical, and the mental effort spent avoiding such substances becomes habitual, and lends itself to developing OCD. Also, being at risk and unable to fully control that risk, leads to a certain level of perfectly reasonable anxiety, but our bodies and brains become used to that, and the anxiety can bleed over into non-illness related areas.

A much bigger part of the way my illness led to my mental health issues is the way everyone around me treated me because of my illness. Keep in mind, I grew up in a town particularly cruel to people who did not fit what they saw as normal. I was blamed for my disability, as were my parents. My first memories were of extreme brutality at the hands of my peers. You see, my seizures are frightening not only for me, but for the people around me, and because I don’t fall down, but instead run and hide, and attack anyone who tries to stop me from doing that, a lot of the adults insisted that they were behavioral problems, and not a medical condition. When I got treatment, and stopped having seizures every day, the kids around me felt like they had to prove they weren’t afraid of me anymore by taunting me and beating me up, and some of my teachers encouraged this. Parents didn’t want me around their children, and I was made to feel ashamed of being sick. The constant bullying led to me switching schools, where I met my first stalker. The reputation I had for being a liar or delusional, as well as my desperate need for approval after being tormented for so long, made me her perfect victim. After I moved and was able to get away from her, ableist attitudes contributed to my vulnerability to a second stalker. It shouldn’t surprise anybody that I’m anxious, and I have trust issues and difficulty interacting with people. My illness and ableism are also a large part of why I’m a geek. Because I had no friends, I took refuge in Fantasy novels. I doubt I would love them as deeply as I do if I hadn’t been so badly bullied.

The fact that this trope is especially prevalent in media aimed at children means that kids learn early to view people like e this way early, and children with disabilities learn that society will never treat them as quite as valuable as their able-bodied peers.

Sadly, this isn’t just a problem for flat characters, or even unlikable ones. One of my favorite characters, Mozzie, from White Collar, has definite shades of this. Although he is well developed, complex, and easy to identify with even at his most morally ambiguous, he is also a high strung geek whose allergies are treated by the writers as a personal eccentricity instead of an illness. Mind, I have a theory that he’s faking at least some of his most out there behaviors, including his hypochondria, but that takes him into the arms of several other kinds of unfortunate implications, which I hope to write about eventually.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this trope was cooked up by a conspiracy of people who hate people with disabilities and what to make us all thoroughly miserable. That’s not how these things work. This trope in particular most likely has its origins in the self depreciating humor of Jewish comedians who really didn’t mean to say anything about physical disability at all. For me, this means some of the crap I face is due to latent anti-Semitism, especially where I live now, where anti-Semitism is fairly prevalent. Oh come on, we know how many Jews are hypochondriacs, she’s Jewish, that must be what’s really going on. Of course this goes through very few people’s heads consciously, but the closer a person comes to looking like a stereotype, the harder it is for them to convince others that they really don’t fit it.

Very subtly, this trope says that someone can’t have both a mental illness and a physical disability. If someone has a mental illness, not only do they have to deal with the other sets of prejudice society throws at them for being mentally ill, but their physical disability is immediately assumed to be all in their head (unless they’re missing limbs or something unavoidably obvious... I hope). It’s not like you ever see a tough guy character, a grizzled cop, or a martial arts master, or even a sexy woman with allergies. This trope says that if I were less of a geek, I could lose the oxygen concentrator, the mask, the shots, the endless work, the complex diet, and be just fine, and I’m just being silly not to, that I’m just too weak.

This trope drives salt into many many wounds. It contributes to the way people treat me and people like me, but it also just hurts to know that the closest people like me ever get to being represented in media is as caricatures and objects of ridicule. I am sick of it. I’m beyond sick of it, even if it’s just one more insult in a long line of insults people with disabilities face every day.

There is nothing wrong with writing characters who have disabilities including allergies and asthma who have issues with anxiety or other mental health difficulties, and who have geeky interests. In fact, in one of my planned novels, the main character shares my illness, and has plenty of reasons to be neurotic (I havent decided whether or not he will have geeky interests, but it’s a strong possibility) and personally, I would love to see these kinds of characters done well by anyone (a moratorium on hypochondria-based fake allergies and asthma would be nice, however). Just everybody, think about the tropes you’re using.
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)

Allergy Face Mask by ~Attackfish on deviantART

Not only was the mask I talked about in my previous entry ugly, it was really uncomfortable.  It had a seem right under my chin that rubbed all the skin off, and the elastic irritated some old scar tissue of mine behind my ears. So I bought a bundle of cotton fabric, nylon thread, and some cheap beads, and made this instead. It holds the same carbon filter as the mask I bought, and I cannibalized pieces of that mask, such as the metal nose piece and the buckles for the ear straps, for this one.

I'd like to thank [ profile] penguin_attie for suggesting I make my own mask. It's the perfect solution. I didn't like the idea of hiding my assistive equipment for a number of ideological reasons, but the other mask was ugly, and kind of frightening (and uncomfortable) so now I still have my visible assistive device, and it gets to be pretty too.
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
It’s fire season, folks, which means that I’m sick, I’m trapped inside (on bad days, in my room, with the windows taped up and the door stuffed with towels, and no air conditioning), and very very bored.  This year, at least, I have a new tool that lets me go out of my house on good days:

Isn’t it beautiful?  Yeah no.  But it might make it possible for me to make it to summer classes, at least on good days, and leave my room on bad days.  On the other hand, I am on a quest to find ways of disguising my Equalist leanings hiding my frightening looking but necessary assistive technology that isn’t horribly culturally appropriative (seriously, headscarf or paper bag is all I’ve got).  Part of me wants to say “screw how other people see it, if you can’t handle my visible disability, that’s your problem!” but the rest of me doesn’t want to look weird.

Since my people watching has been curtailed, the house animals seem veeeeeeery interesting (I’m BORED, people!) so you have to listen to me ramble about them, muahahahahaha!  Or you could click away, I guess...

But anyway, due to my mother’s conure, Chile developing a deep love for Alphie Boe singing Nessun Dorma, which has expanded to a fondness for Italian opera more generally, right before my mom read an article about the beneficial effects music can have on pet birds’ quality of life, we’ve been trying to find out our flock’s musical tastes.  The results thus far are hopelessly mixed.  Chile hates all other music, and attacks my mother, who has a lovely voice, when she tries to sing, which is why we always thought she hated music.  My ring-neck parakeet, Pepe rocks out to Queen and the Monkees, but my cockatiels figured out how to pause my iTunes just to make it stop.  Meanwhile, the lovebirds don’t care what music is on as long as they can eat my sheet music.

Hmmm... I think we’ll leave the bird room free for bird calls, at least for now.

We did have two important events in the Social Interactions of the Fish House Humans, and Other Animals of Various Species this week.  Last night, Chile came down from Mom’s shoulder to say hi to me.  Chile and I get along really well for the most part, but when Mom’s there, I’m chopped liver.  Now, she’s opening up to being friendly simultaneously with both of us.  She’s very neurotic, because she was left alone in a cage for a year just after leaving her clutch, and this is progress.

And this morning, Amy, my seizure alert dog and my dad’s beloved chow/akita mix, got out this morning.  I freaked out, yelled for reinforcements, and dashed into the street.  And there Amy was, next to the mailbox.  I called her name, and went “Oh crap, now she’s going to bolt!” and she just sat down, wagged at me, and waited for me to take her home.  You got to understand, she was wild when we found her.  She just walked into our yard one day and we dragged her inside.  when we first got her, she made some extremely inventive and nearly successful escape attempts.  Now seven years later, she wags and says “Okay, you caught me, let’s go home.”

And then I get sick because I left the house without my mask.

In other news, I now have an AO3 account. I feel so behind the times.
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
I woke up on Monday to moths.  They trickle in every year, in twos and threes, until there’s a swarm several thousand strong around every light fixture and window all over he state, and the first moths always bring a groan, and the sinking feeling that they’re going to be there for months.

Of course, they usually show up in June, so this year, the dread is a little worse.  June is when the bats wake up to eat the fluttery, fuzzy, home invading monstrosities which means the moths didn’t trickle in this time.  They’re swarming, and dropping dead all over our house.  I think my grandmother’s going to have another stroke.  Yesterday, she walked outside to find hundreds of them hanging upside down underneath her bench, and screamed the rest of us awake.

Yo Yo’s happy.  He’s been catching them out of the air and eating them.

It’s not like they’re a big deal, but they’re a little frazzling, and my grandmother is frazzling the rest of me.  Stupid little things, my friends, stupid little things.

And to cap it all off, I have this absurdly strong urge to just sit down and write.  This is the kind of urge that has lead to me polishing off six thousand word fics in two days, and pounding out two to three thousand word chunks of fic in an afternoon.  Great right?  I’m inspired.  It’s the opposite of writer’s block.  Only none of the things I’m chomping at the bit to write are the thirty thousand word White Collar slavefic I’m two thirds into.  Gah!  It’s not just that I’ve lost enthusiasm for this particular fic, but I sort of ran out of steam on the whole fandom, which I knew was coming, given that I was there for the people, not the canon, but oh well.  Must finish fic.  It doesn’t help that Legend of Korra came back and sucked me right back into Avatar.  I mean, not that I ever left Avatar, but it’s like the first bloom of infatuation all over again.  Damn it.

Things I want to write:

My Original Novel!
The rest of Ice Flows Through
Meme of Zenith and Nader (Yue and Zuko switch places)
Meme of Bannerverse (The Avatar!Zuko AU)
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
Now that Legend of Korra has officially premiered, at least in my location, I have more Highly Important thoughts to share on shipping.  It says something about just how special our fandom is when the shipping, and even the shipping wars began way back when all we had on most of these characters was a name and a picture (it’s like a dating site but more animated...  See what I did there?) And really, I can understand why, I mean, our particular fandom has a reputation to maintain as the shippiest fandom this side of a navy base, but really, the half-hearted, meta joking shipping going on right now?  It’s a mockery to the noble tradition of shipping!

It’s not entirely our fault, I know.  Bryke and crew have been encouraging this by giving us ridiculous, thinly veiled copies of the popular ships from Avatar: the Last Airbender.  It’s sad how obvious it is that Mako’s scarf/Amon’s mask is the new Zutara, and Korra/pro-bending is the new Iroh/tea.  I mean, the Korra/spinning gates people are already starting to act like the Iroh/lotus tile people, and the scarf/mask people are already calling the Mako/scarf people immature canon slaves.

I suppose I should be grateful for the lull.  After all, we are a passionate fandom, and already, as I described above, the rumblings of true fannish feuding are beginning to be felt.  At least the lighter, joking unheated shipping is all in good fun and unites us rather than divides us.  For once, we are all one fandom.

Perhaps my dissatisfaction with the way things are going is because I know what’s coming.  I will see friends and siblings in fandom torn asunder.  The cracks that our anticipation of Korra have only papered over will grow wider.  The wounds will open up and bleed anew.  The ship wars are coming my friends.  Scarf will be vilified by the Mako/Korra people, and Mako will be vilified by the scarf/mask people.  The Korra/pro-bending people will call the Korra/spinning gates relationship abusive, and there will be no more common ground.

But I swear to God, if Amon’s mask joins the good guys, I will quit this show.  It’s just too predictable.


attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)

October 2017


Avatar: the Last Airbender


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