shaving

What is it about me, razors and dad? My dad just gave me a shave – at home, I don’t shave as often as at uni, but we’re eating out tonight so I thought I’d better have one. I’ve noticed that I get more tense when my dad shaves me. When the home help ladies do it at university, I am usually perfectly relaxed, but when dad does it, I tense up. My father, mind you, shaves me a lot closer than my Pas do – probably because A he’s had more practice, and B isn’t afraid of cutting me. I guess dad doesn’t have to worry about me claiming damages: he could simply stop funding my various addictions.

Lyn’s blog

Today I’d just like to send you guys here to lyn’s new blog. Lyn Levett is one of the most unique people I know, and it’s good to see her blogging. We’ve been talking online for a while, and we’ve met once or twice, so I think its high time you guys (metaphorically) met her.

how to improve the olympics

I was just watching some of the Olympics, and reflecting upon how stupid it was to have two of them. The Paralympics always occurs after the main event – why? I see no reason why disabled and non-disabled people can’t compete simultaneously, if not together.. and before you write to colemanballs, there is a difference.

To have events running simultaneously is fairly self-explanatory. Instead of having the Olympics and Paralympics, you just have the Olympics with extra events which disabled folk compete in. that way, in a typical day spectators might see a running race, then a wheelchair race. All points would go into the same table.

But why not go further? Why can’t we, say, have athletes in wheelchairs competing against bipeds? I have no idea of the comparative speeds, and leaving aside the possibility of a crash, I see no reason why this can’t happen. Things like archery might be more suitable, and things like gymnastics might be difficult to converge, but surely this is better than two separate events.

As for myself, I would like to see electric wheelchair racing and the-chasing-of-one-eyed-cats become an Olympic sport.

dickens not dahl

If you want evidence that my allegations against the special school system aren’t just the rantings of a cynic, just go here. At 16, these kids should be into such wonders as Harper Lee or bill Shakespeare, not being read kiddie books. If we are ever going to achieve true equality, I say again, this must stop.

hbd sparticus

August 11. this date rings a bell…is it time to have a bath? Time to feed my pet dinosaur? The day on which to be nice to grandma? The date has something to do with the colour orange and very hard sums. Oh I remember. Its mark’s birthday.

I last saw my older bro a few weeks ago in Paris when we met up for a meal with my uncle, aunt and Kat. Hopefully, I’ll see them on Wednesday, if I’ve been paying attention at mealtimes. It’ll be great to see them, as for the first time in, must be over six months, we’ll be all together as a family. I can’t wait.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARK!

het up over handbags

Suzi digby knows absolutely nothing about music – fact!

I just tuned into the Sunday screening of ‘last choir standing’. I don’t usually watch such programmes, but I wanted to see how ‘a handbag of harmonies’ was getting on. Mrs j. sings for them, and I wanted to support them. But there was no sign of the handbags or their pink boas, so I came up here and found this article.

I’m not happy at all. As far as I can see, the handbags were the best part of the show, and digby’s comparing them to a primary school choir is a crass insult betraying a gross lack of musical knowledge on her part. She has no sense of fun, and neither it seems do the British public.

I know I shouldn’t get so protective of a choir I barely know, but nevertheless it upsets me.

noncoformity rules full stop

Quite what Stuart the barman thought when I first walked into brandies in my bunny girl costume four years ago I know not, but I loved it. I loved the reactions people gave, the surprise people gave. It was the first time I’d worn feminine clothing ‘out’ properly, and from that moment on I was addicted.

While I love the feeling of the clothes themselves, I also love the sense of nonconformity it gives me. That frisson of excitement one gets when one causes controversy. I suppose this stems in large part from the fact that I have cp. Like the Spanish inquisition, nobody expects to see a cripple in a fairy costume or full ball gown, at least not a mail one. for me, it draws attention to my subjectivity, my uniqueness.

We are all unique, the one fact which paradoxically unites us all. But there’s something about having a disability which makes one stand out that bit more. In a way this causes a problem for how can we achieve equality if we stand out? This is why I have been critical of nonconformity based on disability in the past. Yet recently I have began to think that this is not the problem at all, but the very solution. By drawing attention to our uniqueness we draw attention to the fact that we are all unique and therefore all the same. How one does this I now think does not matter, as long as one is ‘out there’ stirring shit up, turning heads and making people talk. Some people do this by deliberately donning disability paraphernalia – harnesses, helmets etc – while others are less overtly focussed on disability in their nonconformism; others show their indeviduality by dying their hair pink. I just dress up in outlandish outfits. Unlike the sentiments I expressed here, there is no real difference between the various methods. What matters is that one is out there, having fun, expressing themselves in whichever way they like.

disney symbol

Now that I’m home from uni, I can watch a bit of t.v again; I was just watching tool time downstairs with dad; I haven’t seen that programme since I was ten. At the end, a very strange thing happened – I saw the Buena vista logo, with the walt Disney castle, and a warm glow came over me.

It felt a bit like I was ten again; or perhaps I remembered for a moment what it felt like to be ten. I felt the same feeling when I saw the castle again for real in Euro Disney, which is probably what triggered it. I remember going round the park with charlotte and this feeling of great warmth and security, of fun of friendship, of innocence; at the same moment I remember being a kid of eleven being pushed around Disneyland California and feeling the same thing. I’m supposed to deride that symbol as one of high capitalism. No doubt Alan F would point out the consumerist fairly right-wing values of Disney films, but I do not care. I realised tonight the power that symbol holds for me, for it will forever be synonymous with friendship and love, uniting two of the best experiences of my life.

I know this is strange coming from a guy with a degree, but I can’t seem to help it.

rethinking culture

Perhaps the only way one can determine a culture is a culture, independent of other cultures, is by what it produces. That is to say, the only way one can differentiate between cultures is through it’s art, and the same applies to subcultures. I’ve been reading Henry Jenkins’* seminal work on fan culture as part of my research into cinephilia, and I naturally started to reflect on disability culture.

In cultural studies, as with anthropology or archaeology, a culture can be only be viewed through it’s art,, as this is what it leaves behind (and this includes religious artefacts). The only way we can know anything about, say, Neolithic man is by examining the artefacts from the ground; when we study a modern foreign culture, we similarly view it through the prism of what it produces. We can learn so much about the German psyche from watching the German TV programme Heimat, for example. (in relation to the accompanying texts, of course)

Thus, in a way we can tell a culture or subculture is there by what it produces. As Jenkins points out, fan fiction and fan art point to a thriving subculture; one which has ‘poached’ the original text and expanded it to make it something else. New ideas are being produced; new art is being made. There can be no doubt that this is culture, and that fans can be said to have a subculture.

But this got me thinking again about the old ‘us and them’ dichotomy. If fans can be said to have a culture, why can’t disabled people? I still reject the idea that disabled people are a subset of humans, and I still think that to see ourselves as systematically and maliciously discriminated against is too simplistic, but the fact remains we do generate our own art. I mean, look at the bbc ouch website, look at the band boys on wheels, look at the theatre group DV8. just as fan fiction and fan art is an articulation of a type of love, these groups are an articulation of the experience of being a person with a disability in western culture. Indeed, the same applies to this very blog – although it is not solely about my disability, in part I aim to describe the thoughts of a young man with cerebral palsy. I could, I suppose, have called it the ill-informed ramblings of a student, or ale-drinker, or cross-dresser, but there’s no escaping the fact that my cerebral palsy is a central part to my experience of life.

I suppose this constitutes a re-think on my part. Disabled people do have their own culture in that they produce cultural artefacts specific to their experience. I think this is as it should be. Yet I worry that this culture or society has become too bogged down in a politics of difference and antagonism; where people have to worry about which words they use; where people get accused of being ‘disablist’. This mindset becomes self for filling – the more we shout our heads off about how we are discriminated against, the more we will be. This is why in the past I have tried to rethink the concept of a disabled subculture, framing it only in terms of an antagonistic paradigm. However, I now see this way of thinking as blinkered and too extreme. We are a subculltuure, just as trekkies are, or any other minority. What we as a community should be doing, I think, is articulating our experiences: our thoughts, fears, likes and dislikes, just as any other human being would. We need to continue to produce those cultural artefacts: to write, to compose, to dance; we need simply to be ourselves, not a steriotyped amplification of ourselves intent on showing people how wrong or ‘disablist’ they are. Only then can we, individually and as a subculture, achieve equality.

*never to be confused with Karl or Keith

brooding

For a while now I’ve been brooding over something, unsure whether I should blog about it. A few weeks ago I was having an argument online over the contents of one of my blogs, and I put it to her that I had just as much right to comment on the subject of disability as anyone else, that the fact that I have cerebral palsy gave me as much authority as her or anyone in the subject. She said I didn’t.

I found this comment both hurtful and inane. I know I don’t get everything right, and I frequently change my mind on certain issues, but I resent the idea that some people have more authority on this subject than I do. Is there some kind of hierarchy of crippledom, now? They may have spoken to more politicised crips, and read a few books, but I grew up around disabled children; I saw, first hand, the consequences of special school, and I bloody well know what I’m talking about. I find it ironic that the two people who have in the past made such remarks to me were the products of inclusion, for it seems to me, quite frankly, that despite their rhetoric about the oppression of disabled people, they had the better deal. I might be wrong, of course…