Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Kinda Dorky Grammar Nerd, Artiste Demi-god, Founding Emperor and worthless General, worth more than my own car as a corpse

Killing time, clearing out bloglines, that sort of stuff. Haven't done quizzes in a while. Not likely to do them again for a while. Hiatus continues.....

Your Score: Orpheus

0% Extroversion, 66% Intuition, 72% Emotiveness, 71% Perceptiveness

You are an artist, an aesthete, a sensitive, and someone who has never really let go of that childlike innocence. To you, all of life has a sense of wonder in it, and the story of Orpheus was written about someone just like you.

When the Argo passed the island of the Sirens, Orpheus played a song more beautiful than the Sirens to prevent the crew from becoming enticed. When his wife died, he ventured into the underworld to charm Hades but, in his naivete, he looked back becoming trapped there.

You can capture your unique world view and relate it to others with the skill of a master storyteller. Your sensitivity and creativity make you a treasure to the human race, but your thin-skinned nature and innocence can cause you a lot of disenchantment and pain. What's doubly unfortunate is that, if you try to lose those traits, you never will, and everyone will be able to tell that you're putting up an artificial shell to prevent yourself from being hurt.

Famous people like you: Hemingway, Shakespeare, Mr. Rogers, Melville, Nick Tosches
Stay clear of: Icarus, Hermes, Atlas

Link: The Greek Mythology Personality Test [via]

You Scored an A
You got 10/10 questions correct. It's pretty obvious that you don't make basic grammatical errors. If anything, you're annoyed when people make simple mistakes on their blogs. As far as people with bad grammar go, you know they're only human. And it's humanity and its current condition that truly disturb you sometimes.


You scored as Augustus, You are Augustus! First emperor of the Romans and one of the greatest statesmen in the ancient world. You brilliantly eased the old Republic into the Principate and set the path for an empire that would last for centuries and form the underpinnings for all western civilization. Hail Caesar!

Antoninus Pius
Marcus Aurelius

Which Roman Emperor Are You?
created with QuizFarm.com [via]

You scored as General George McClellan, Beloved by your men and respected by your peers, you are the architect of the grand Army of the Potomac. Too bad you don't like to let it, you know, fight and stuff. I'd be lying if I said I knew where your head was at.

General George McClellan
William T. Sherman
General James Longstreet
General Ambrose Burnside
General Jeb Stuart
Robert E. Lee
General Nathan Bedford Forrest
U.S. Grant
Stonewall Jackson
General Phillip Sheridan

Which American Civil War General are you?
created with QuizFarm.com [via]

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Art or Garbage? A Photo Essay

What is public space? What do we have a right to do in public space? What is art?
Art or Garbarge? This lovely bow was planted firmly in the middle of a parking lot. Accidental, I'm sure, but somehow charming, as though someone tried to make the parking lot pretty as a birthday present.
I've seen people work on cars in auto part store parking lots. I've seen bright, colorful packaging on green grass before. I'd never seen evidence of car servicing in a University parking lot before.
A subtle adjustment to the environment can create mystery, a sense of adventure. In this case, I still wonder what the story is. How did the traffic cone end up under the river? Was it flung from the bridge? From the bank? Brought there just to see if it floated? Removed from a despised repair site?
One of the things I love about the camera is the way in which you can look places you'd never be able to see otherwise. This is looking down an old pipe, probably a defunct water or sewer pipe, which stands open to the sky in a small downtown are. It never ceases to amaze me, really, the creative ways people find for hiding their garbage. It never ceases to amaze me now lazy and unthinking people are about their garbage: there are garbage pails all over downtown....
This was stencil painted on a downtown traffic signal control box (At least, I think that's what it was; it was near a traffic signal, anyway), and it's a clever little piece. The three masked and big-haired women on a three-person bike, how well-armed they are, the money bags in the bicycle's wire baskets at the back. Again, there's a story here, this time a much more deliberate one. Traffic control boxes don't usually tell stories.
I found another interesting piece of graffitti here (mildly risque), demonstrating another way to apply art to public spaces quickly: it's drawn on to a sticker (a US mail address label). The two layers of drawing seem to have nothing to do with each other, artistically or thematically (nor do either of them speak to the medium of the address label).

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The ark was soundproof?

Continuing our visual series, here is something I saw in a public park playground recently:
Let me repeat, this was a public park, county operated. The text reads as follows:
(upper right): Once there was a man named Noah who was warned by God of a great flood. Noah began to build an ark that was 450 feet long, 75 feet high and 45 feet wide.
(upper center): The ark was built with cypress (gopher) wood that was coated, both inside and outside, with a tar-like substance to make the ark waterproof and soundproof. The ark had three levels with one door.
(upper left): Seven days before the flood came, Noah began to stock the ark with food and he led the land animals, birds, reptiles and his family two by two into the ark.

(middle right): It rained for 40 days and 40 nights and the whole earth was covered with water. With water from the sky and from inside the earth, the flood waters rose more than 20 feet above the highest peak.
(center): Living creatures outside of the ark died from the flood but all that were in the ark were safe. [picture of ark]
(middle left): Once it stopped raining, the ark floated 150 days and nights. Then the ark came to rest upon a large mountain top.
(lower right): After living more than a year inside the ark, Noah sent a raven and a dove out to see if the earth was dry. The dove returned with an olive branch and Noah knew that soon it would be safe to return outside.
(lower middle): When Noah, his family and all the animals left the ark, a large beautiful rainbow appeared in the sky. The rainbow signified God's promise that the earth would never again be destroyed by water.
(lower left): Noah took about 100 years to build the ark. Noah was 600 years old when it was completed and 950 years old when he died.
Separation of Church and State, anyone?

I'm trying to figure out some of the odder details. The conversions of cubits to feet is a little haphazard, but not surprising in a child-oriented setting. I don't remember ever hearing about the ark being soundproof before, though, nor that Noah stocked the ark in seven days, after spending a century building it (My JPS version of the text suggests a bit less than a year inside the ark, not a bit more, though). There seems to be some particular tradition here that I'm not familiar with, or else it's both unconstitutional and incompetent.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Pictures: Family Quilts

I thought I'd try something a little different this weekend, and do a series of visual Open Threads over at Progressive Historians based on my own photography and experience. I thought I'd lead off with something I promised I'd share a long time back: some family quilts.

Quilting has a long distinguished tradition in the US, though not as distinguished as some think, and is a fantastic medium. There are a few quilters in my spouse's midwestern family, and a few quilt traditions, as well as interesting innovations.

The first quilt (on the right) was a hand-embroidered (but machine-quilted, for you purists) bedspread given to us for our wedding by my spouse's grandmother. All the siblings in that generation got one, with unique designs. Definitely a family treasure.

The second quilt (on the left) was made by one of my spouse's great-aunts, a lively lady who haunts dollar stores and made quilts incessantly (still, I think, but we haven't visited the homestead in a while) with fabrics that catch her eye. A visit to her home invariably involved a quilt-showing, and if you like something, odds are pretty good that you can take it home. She calls this pattern an "Indian Blanket" though it's obviously a loose interpretation. The bright colors and black/white sections make it a perfect baby quilt, actually, and it still graces our child's bed sometimes. The third quilt (on the right) is another of her productions. I don't think there's any deep meaning to the pattern -- the basic design of triangular pieces is supposed to represent a windmill, I think -- but it's very typical of her tendency to mix and match things that aren't conventionally used in a patchwork.

The last quilt (on the left) was made by my mother-in-law. The print pieces from the Three Bears/Three Pigs stories are from a commercial kit, I'm fairly sure, but the borders, etc, are hand-pieced. If you click on it and look close, you'll see that the words have been embroidered extra-thick to allow my blind spouse to tell which picture is which. We told these stories over and over, of course, using this quilt.

Any interesting quilt stories in your family?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Progressive Engagement With Disability

Penny Richards reminds me that -- as Tom Lehrer so memorably put it long before a disabiilty rights community existed -- the annual "make fun of the handicapped" event is going to happen again. For the last few years, there have been protests against Jerry Lewis and his Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon, and they are going to continue.

I'm something of a neophyte in the area of disability theory, though I have a personal interest as well as a historical one. Scholars who study disability distinguish between three models of disability: charity, medical and social. The Charity model is the oldest: the disabled are seen as being a burden, less than fully human, objects of pity, and their survival and lifestyle is determined by the sufferance and generosity of others. The Medical model is more recent: it defines the disabled as imperfect humans, deviants who should be fixed, to the extent that it is possible. "Find a cure" is the cry, and anything less than a cure is a pity. Perhaps the epitome of this view in recent culture is Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby (spoiler alert) in which an athlete chooses death over a disabled life.

The Social model is most recent, and it is at the heart of the disability rights movement. The Social model sees disability in a much more nuanced fashion: disabilities do not affect the whole person (usually), but are part of a continuum (multi-dimensional) of abilities. The "challenge" of disability does not come from the disability itself, but from the ways in which society structures living spaces and habits of interaction with the assumption of ability. That normative assumption of ability is, of course, terribly flawed, because not everyone who's considered "able bodied" is equally so, and the vast majority of the population will experience at least temporary mobility, sensory or cognitive restrictions over the course of a lifetime -- thus the term "temporarily able-bodied." The Social model seeks access, adaptation and accomodation: technological and medical tools to solve problems; architectural, educational and employment changes to increase access for everyone; educating the broader public on the specific nature of disabilities, the essential and full humanity of the disabled, and the general utility of accomodations.

There are two other significant strains within the disability rights movements. The Social theory described above informs a pretty wide swath of disability civil rights activists, but not all of them. There are two other notable positions, each predicated on a negation of an older model: Overcoming/Passing and Separating.

Within the blindness community, activists centered on the National Federation for the Blind approach blindness as an inconvenience equivalent to left-handedness

The real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight. The real problem is the misunderstanding and lack of information that exist. If a blind person has proper training and opportunity, blindness can be reduced to a physical nuisance.
That sounds a lot like the Social model, but it's really an inversion of the Charity model: with technology (though the NFB has qualms about it, often pushing traditional low-tech solutions) and good education (emphasizing fully-blind mobility: NFB training centers insist that students with low vision wear blinders and guide dog users abandon them for the duration), the blind can overcome their blindness so they are not at all dependent on the sufferance of others. This extends to an actual philosophical objection to aggressive pursuit of Americans with Disability Act (ADA) "reasonable accomodation" changes, on the grounds that it compromises the independence of the blind to rely on sighted society adapting to their needs. I've heard the organization described as trapped in the "denial" and "anger" stages of grief.

There is also a long-standing tradition, most common among people with limited forms of disability (partial hearing loss, partial vision loss, some mobility issues, etc.) who are the children of "able-bodied" parents, of adapting to the disability by hiding it as much as possible, and "mainstreaming" as many activities as possible. You don't hear it as much any more, but there was a time when it was common for hearing parents of deaf children to refuse to learn sign language, forcing the children to focus on lip reading and vocalization. There was a time when visually impaired children with some sight, or with degenerative conditions, were not taught braille, on the grounds that they should use the sight they have, as much and as long as they have it. In both cases, the families are trying to help -- there's no real malice here, most of the time: we're talking about well-meaning people with flawed ideas -- by keeping their children from acquiring the markers of disability: "passing" instead of adapting. Again, this is an inversion of the Charity model, arguing that the disabled should aspire to emulate ability and eschew adaptation, as though one could "build up strength" and "avoid contagion" and therefore improve one's lot.

Then there is the "Deaf Community"/Pride model: arguing that ASL, etc., constitutes a distinct culture, smaller and different but no less legitimate than the Hearing Culture that surrounds it. This is an inversion of the Medical model: instead of seeing disability as a flawed version of a normative body, disability is a new norm to be celebrated rather than cured. I might include the Paralympics in this model as well, but I'm open to other arguments: my spouse seems to think that it's a reasonably healthy Social model adaptation. (Special Olympics definitely falls in the Charity category) Disability Pride activists strive for separateness: their heroes are the ones who focus their attentions primarily on the disability community itself, who articulate new artistic and cultural forms (or at least themes [or at least identities]) for and about disability. Deaf Pride activists have been known to refuse to authorize cochlear implant surgery which could restore partial hearing; it becomes controversial sometimes when Deaf parents of Deaf children decide to forego the surgery to keep their children within the community.

As a social historian with more than a touch of post-modernism in my system, I suppose that I'm kind of predisposed to see the Social model as "right": Ability and Disability are abstract categories, and the new medical, engineering and digital technologies are blurring the distinction even more than ever. The rising tide of aging Baby Boomers is going to make adaptation to sensory and mobility loss considerably more necessary, common, and economical.

The Medical model, all-or-nothing, cure-or-doom, is grossly outdated. "Lifestyle drugs" and "five-year survivor" and "living with the virus" are the new medical models anyway: everyone needs maintenance and we're still gonna die. The Charity model is just premodern: it's unrealistic and psychologically unsound for everyone involved. The converse positions -- passing/denial and separatism/pride -- are understandable reactions but inflexible and of limited utility to a very small portion of the relevant population.

As an historian, and as a progressive, the Social model and the disability civil rights movements are the key components of the future. If it requires raising loud objections to grossly outmoded public displays of self-indulgent do-gooding, so be it.
[Crossposted to Progressive Historians]