Whatchoo lookin’ at?

Yesterday Jacob got the results from his Breathing Cert. He scored a double A for his lungs. Crystal clear, said the doc with the x-ray vision in Temple Street, while his mammy exhaled in delighted relief.

We’ve been told by the smart folks at St Michael’s House that because of his history of aspiration/pneumonia/lung infection that it was important for Jacob to drink his bottle in as upright a position as possible, and also to remain in a sitting position for a half hour after feeding. No more last bottle of the day and straight to bed. The top brass in Temple Street reckoned that this was pretty good advice. And so do we.

On a separate note, a big congrats to Sesame who has just qualified as Senior Big Boots Professor in Children With Special Needs. She now Officially Knows Everything™ so scoot on over and ask her something really hard, like what the capital of Bolivia is.

Tree of Happiness

A non-DS related post for a change. Today I’m listing six things that float my boat because Hammie told me to. Then apparently I’ve got to nominate five others who have to do something similar. Hmmm. Is this what memes are? (Incidentally, if you haven’t yet been hammified, you should.)

I’ve tried to avoid the obvious things that I love like family and world peace and completing my collection of Horst Bucholz movies, and apologies in advance for dragging those linked below into this. The least you can do, dear reader, is call in on them and offer some sympathy and have a rummage in their wildly different but similarly excellent drawers of stuff.

Anyway. Happiness. It’s easy.

1. Music.

Can’t imagine life without it. I worship good lyrics. Get tickled when I discover a new meaning after listening to an album for ten years. Sometimes, with particular favourites, I can listen all the way through but only to a specific instrument, or just the harmony voice. R&B (what a ridiculous hijacking of a name) and metal are out. Other than that it’s open season, from The Blue Nile to Marvin Gaye to Schubert to The Red Hot Chilli Peppers. I’ve read that 80% of sensory input comes in through the eyes. Hmph. Feed your ears here or here or here.

2. I like to run.

The sound that ten thousand running shoes make is a sort of high speed schlup-schlup-schlup, like a caterpillar on fast forward, and it’s eerily quiet and solitary to be in the midst of that sound. I love it. I also love the heat that bounces off the wall of Glasnevin Cemetery, even at 11.30 at night, if it’s been a warm day. Did you know that poet Gerard Manley Hopkins lies there? So does Jonathan Swift, and Brendan Behan, along with the usual round ’em ups of Irish history – Devalera, Collins, Pearse, Daniel O’Connell… They must have either great parties or seriously boring yakkfests. Now what had this to do with running again?

3. Patrick Kavanagh’s poetry.

Boorish, thick-fingered and brilliant, this man died the month after I was born in October ’67. My sensibilities were formed in rural Cavan, a grey Monaghan stone’s throw away. Yeats had the little people, but Kavanagh had the muck. When I now read that great man’s words, it seems as though he walked the lanes just a short bend ahead of me. Nothing is ever constant, but the moments he captured a generation before mine resonate deeply in me. They can bring me directly to a simpler time I witnessed when I was growing. From the 1970s we were hurtling into the future, but looking back maybe we were doing so with two feet in the past. I remember visiting cousins in Donegal before the rural electrification scheme had reached them. It always seemed quite cosy to be going to bed by Tilley lamp. I can remember too other cousins in Cavan getting the colour telly in. My God! Dan Tanner’s car in Vegas was red! And his denims were blue! I was enraptured, but I’d have to wait until August 1979 before the ‘colour’ reached our house. Thank God for his magnificence Pope John Paul II! We’d lived in monochrome until the Popemobile sashayed into town in a riot of colour (mostly Vatican yellow and white, it has to be said, but everything hitherto had been black and white, so we were transfixed anyway.) Come hell or high water, by Jesus Mam was going to see JP 2 in glorious technicolour. Fine with us, Mammy! Anyway, Kavanagh didn’t have Vegas on colour tv, but he had a Christmas Childhood, breath plumed by frosty starlight, calves born in the wee hours in cosy, hay-smelling byres and he had a love and a hate for his loam-clogged boots. He got the point of a whin bush, and so do I, even yet when I’m cast adrift in a metropolitan landscape of constant bustle and no darkness and nothing but foxes to tell day from night.

Luke Kelly and the Dubliners give a great rendition of his words here.

4. Raising Arizona.

The Coen brothers have made by now an impressive list of fine, fine films. Thoughtful, different and engaging. Always ultra-professional productions. You might choose Miller’s Crossing over Barton Fink, or claim that Fargo was wayyy better than The Big Lebowski, and nobody can argue really. For me, it’s their second one that is the greatest. A perfect little gem of hilarity that ought to be the textbook for how to write a proper screenplay. No wrong note, funny as Mother Teresa in Paula Radcliffe’s running vest and perfectly, perfectly cast. Yes, that includes Nicolas Cage. He’s not wrong in everything he does, you know. I’ve seen it somewhere between 25 and 26 times, and hopefully some more too. I can’t believe this was 21 years ago.

5. Crows

Can’t explain this. Don’t want to anyway. If I see crows flying in any kind of appreciable numbers, my heart skips and I cannot suppress a smile.

Crows know stuff you didn’t know they knew. Loads of stuff. Don’t stone the crows, ok?

6. My iMac

I’m not techie, but I am an utter Mac snob. I love how it goes about its business and how dang fine it looks even when it’s asleep. I can’t understand why anyone uses a PC. Just don’t get it. But I’m not sure I want everyone to have one of these swift beauties either…

Next!

Tell us some stuff what floats yer boats, peeps…

The most beautifully titled Raptureponies

The magnificent McAWilliams

The mother on the hill: Sesame

By the seat of her pants: Chris

By the light of the moon: Jo the Mama

Have at it, me hearties.

Seriously. You are guaranteed an Oscar if you play a mental.

Let’s have a heated debate! Opening salvo in the Irish media on Tropic Thunder. I spoke to Newstalk early Thursday about my problems with the movie. You’ll have to overlook the nasty case of cotton mouth I got at the start of the conversation. I ain’t no media-savvy talker. But I think I covered what I wanted to say. Eventually.

Newstalk 106 on Tropic Thunder

More here from Lisa and from Peter on Newstalk

As I suspected, there was a barrage of ‘Well don’t go and see it then’ type comments, but the funniest for me had to be when an emailer with red hair likened schoolday name calling (Rusty? Ginger? Dunno. S/he didn’t elaborate.) to the ‘Never go Full Retard’ conundrum. Even to the point of saying they were ok now, and what’s the big deal exactly? I know that’ll be a huge comfort to those who have Down syndrome. When they eventually grow out of it they’ll laugh and hoot at other ‘retards’ and there’ll be cotton candy for everyone and-

But how will they defend themselves without the right tools? Oops, pics of right tools included.

Oh enough sarcasm. My head is tired with this yin-yang. I want to thank two people tonight. Firstly Hammie, who’s been hammering home all the pieces of the debate that I dropped (and there were lots) on forums all over the place. Secondly rock on to Sharon who made some superb points across a few forums. Not only is she concerned and vocal, but she’s also thorough. (She posted this at her place and I’m hijacking it.) Here’s where Stiller got the inspiration for his inspired and inspiring send-up of Tinseltown, actors and egotism:

And more news reports :

And on the other hand…

From the fully informed perspective, Tom at Narrow Ridge has seen, and has written a very balanced view here. He also has a son with DS, Ian, and so his perspective is relevant. Read part 1 here…

And from Suzie Smith in Utah, first hand opinion on the movie here.

Taking this retarded fight to the national airwaves

Tomorrow morning between nine and eleven, national Irish broadcaster Newstalk 106 will debate the upcoming Ben Stiller movie Tropic Thunder. It ought to get lively. Opinions will be sought, including mine. The film opens today in the US. Its premiers have attracted crowds of protesters who wish to ban it.

I haven’t seen it, and I’m not in favour of banning it, or proscribing the words used in it for that matter, although the ‘R word’ (as the US euphemism is known to the disability lobbyists) has much more weight there than it does here. More on that at a later date. What I do have a problem with is the way that DreamWorks has manipulated the content of this movie, to the point of making a dedicated website, trailer and even merchandising for the fictitious movie within Tropic Thunder called Simple Jack. Its strapline read ‘Once there was a retard.’ References to it on the web have pretty much disappeared. Step up and take a bow, US Disability lobbyists.

(In my utter naivete, I know) I see studios as being a type of moral barometer in these issues. Or at least I want to see them that way. The tone they set will in turn be adopted by the more impressionable, especially the young. The fact that a stellar cast of great comedic talent is involved makes this all the more likely. Fourteen year olds don’t give a flying monkey’s about the scriptwriters’ determination to lampoon Hollywood. They’ll think ‘retard’ bashing is an open sport, and vulnerable people will be hurt. That’s the point for me. Just that. And I want to make my point known. Thanks to people who have opened up the debate so far, including here and here. Apologies if I left you out.

If you want to voice your opinion for Newstalk’s debate you can email yourcall@newstalk.ie and mark the subject Tropic Thunder.

Major thanks to Hammie for the push on this one. She is queen of everything, you know.

Been there, done that…

This is the taste of mini-victory, troops.

Our friends at CafePress, having made the egregious but short-lived error of putting up a t-shirt with an intellectually challenged message on it, have bounced back with the ultimate vindication. Whoop it up for a minute, then get back to work you lot!

And well done CafePress. I’m keeping the link. Next time do the thinking before the duhing, huh?

Never go full retard

Sept 19 sees the Irish release of Tropic Thunder, starring Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr and Matthew McConaughey. Apparently Tom Cruise is in there somewhere too.

I’ll be washing my hair. It’s a pity, because the assembled cast has given me quite a few chuckles over the years. It’s a bridge too far this time however.

The movie is about a bunch of actors who are researching for a Vietnam-era war movie. It’s a send-up of actors and studios and the whole Hollywood pancake in theory, but unfortunately the makers of the movie, DreamWorks and Paramount, have stirred up a hornet’s nest with the US disability lobby.

The actor character played by Ben Stiller, Tugg Speedman, has key scenes in the movie which recreate a character he has played called Simple Jack. Jack is a ‘retard’. This element of the movie gives rise to a slew of objectionable phrases slanted directly at the disabled. Take the following, a conversation between Downey Jr’s character and Stiller’s, revolving around Stiller’s decision to play said ‘retard’:

Stiller: There were times when I was doing Jack when I actually felt retarded. Like really retarded.

Downey: Oh yeah. Damn.

Stiller: In a weird way, I had to sort of just free myself up to believe that it was okay to be stupid or dumb.

Downey: To be a moron.

Stiller: Yeah.

Downey: To be moronical.

Stiller: Exactly.

Downey: An imbecile.

Stiller: Yeah. When I was playing a character.

Downey: When you was a character.

Stiller: Yeah, I mean, as Jack. Definitely.

Downey: It’s like working with mercury. It’s how science makes art form.

Stiller: Yeah.

Downey: You an artist.

Stiller: It’s what we do, right?

Downey: Everybody knows you never do a full retard.

Stiller: What do you mean?

Downey: Check it out. Dustin Hoffman, Rainman, look retarded, act retarded, not retarded. Count toothpicks to your cards. Autistic. Sure. Not retarded.

You know Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump. Slow, yes. Retarded, maybe. Braces on his legs. But he charmed the pants off Nixon and he won a ping-pong competition? That ain’t retarded.

You went full retard, man. Never go full retard.

You know what I find most interesting (in the I really mean disappointing sense)? That Ben Stiller co-wrote this. He wrote out the word retard or retarded eleven times, just in those few lines quoted (and a whole lot more, believe it), and it never occurred to him that he was training a bazooka on an incredibly large gathering of relatively helpless people? I can’t believe that. He’s a funny guy, he plays to his strengths, he’s not afraid to be unpopular, but I cannot remember him ever going out of his way to deliberately target or hurt people who are already at several disadvantages: physically; mentally; within society at large; financially, and on and on. Taking the piss out of models in Zoolander almost counts, but it doesn’t.

There’s no excuse for it. If you don’t know or aren’t related to someone with a disability you may possibly fail to see the creeping clawback here of gains made by thousands upon thousands of people with disabilities and their advocates over the last few dozen years. But items like this movie, unchallenged, are representing just that: a diminution of the full rights of ordinary people who happen to have enough on their plates already. It’s a pernicious slide, and I don’t think I’m being a stuffy old PC crust for bringing it up. It matters to me at a gut level.

I’ll be back on this topic again. Meanwhile the movie is scheduled to be released in the US this Wednesday 13th August. Timothy Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics, expects a boycott in Hollywood from a cross-section of disability advocacy groups, which you can read about here. If you want to inform yourself some more on it, Pat Bauer has plenty posted on the subject.

I’m not going to tell you how to live your life. I’m not going to tell you to boycott this movie (made incidentally through the usually most sensitive Steven Spielberg’s production company). I do suggest that you consider what I’ve just said and then make an informed judgement

Drums please! Introducing… diffability!

I’m feeling all feisty tonight. I’ve never considered myself too PC, but lately I’m surprising myself at just how much umbrage I’m taking at the word disabled. Didn’t expect to. Just happened. Other people have issues with various labels that get thrown around, like retard and coloured and dwarf and politician and what have you. Maybe it requires the personal experience to make it hit home. So to hell with disability. I’m redefining it. I’m telling you now, so if it crops up in conversation you’ll be able to spot it and not feel gauche or embarrassed on my behalf or anything useless like that.

Henceforth I’ll be pronouncing disability as diffability.

Go ahead and think it’s wanky if you want, but I’m a problem-solution guy. I have developed an intense dislike of the word, so I’m changing it. See? Problem and solution.

I anticipate some issues. Not problems for me, but there may be one or two raised eyebrows and perhaps even a faltering attempt at correction here or there. It could get very awkward. Folks’ll wonder when I developed my late lisp.* ‘Oh yes’ (I’ll say), ‘our youngest has a diffability. Absolutely everyone’s delirious with jealousy, but what can you do? We all have our cross to carry.’

His diffability manifests itself in a host of disserent ways. He only seems to be upset if he’s in genuine distress, the strange little man. He smiles way more than seems normal somehow. How can that be right? He makes people want to run to him and pick him up, as if he’s got a supercharged good vibe coming off him. Totally diffabled. And I think it’s rubbing off on the rest of us. Not that we’re smelling the roses more, because there doesn’t seem to be time for that. It’s just that we’re all going on about how we should stop and smell the roses now. I wonder are we becoming a diffunctional family. Cripes.

Don’t get too diffmayed. He’s started clapping in the last week. I get the feeling that he’s been sitting in his bouncer, watching a particularly satisfying circus act (that’ll be us) and wants to signal his approval of our efforts.

Now how in hell am I going to tell my hero Pat that she’s gonna hafta change her wondersite’s name?

* If you’ve got a lisp please don’t take a fence. We need it for the neighbours’ cattle.