Feb 282012

Harold Pollack has a great op-ed in the Times criticizing social conservatives for dragging people with disabilities into the latest round of the never-ending culture wars. He singles out Rick Santorum and Sarah Palin for their absurd claims that health care reform would lead to the forced euthanasia of people with disabilities. He then makes the case that such rhetoric jeopardizes the longstanding bipartisan cooperation that made landmark laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act possible.

I’ve written before about conservatives’ recent tendency to politicize people with disabilities for their own reactionary purposes. What upsets me most about comments like those Pollack cites is their breathtaking cynicism. Not only is the Affordable Care Act lacking any implicit or explicit reference to death panels, but it includes many provisions that will make life better for people with disabilities. Insurance companies will no longer be able to turn away families because someone has a disabling condition. More people with disabilities will be eligible for Medicaid without being forced to surrender their savings. States will have more flexibility to provide personal care services to people with disabilities. But since when have people like Santorum and Palin demonstrated any willingness to frame their arguments using facts?

Conservatives make these statements freely because they view us as a voiceless, helpless bunch who won’t call them out on their ravings. And that brings me to another frustration. I remember when plenty of disability activists were ready to burn Jerry Lewis’ house down when he made some offhandedly ignorant comments about disability. But the disability community has been weirdly reluctant to challenge these far more pernicious remarks from people who could actually be in a position to, you know, make policy. Have we become so fearfully protective of the gains we’ve made that we simply hunker down and wait for the craziness to blow over? If so, we’ve already lost. Keeping our silence now makes it all the easier for a future, more electable version of Santorum or Palin to make us unwilling puppets in their noble quest to “restore” America. And then we really will be fighting a rear-guard action to preserve our basic dignity and independence.

The only way to stop exploitation is to call it out for what it is. Other marginalized groups have learned this lesson well and do not hesitate to raise raucous hell when an elected official says something stupid. The disability community, once equally vocal ,has grown timid and cautious. It’s great that advocates like Pollack are willing to write op-ed pieces in the Times on our behalf, but we need to join the fray. The next time Santorum or another politician tries to portray hiimself/herself as the disability community’s white knight, we need to call shenanigans by blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, writing letters to the editor, and generally speaking the fuck up. We’ve come too far to let ourselves be used in a fight in which we have so much to lose.

Feb 272012

When the disability rights movement began here in the U.S., activists encountered plenty of indifference and animosity. But I’m pretty sure they weren’t beaten or tear-gassed by riot police, unlike these Bolivian protesters with disabilities. The pictures are disturbing reminder that demands for equality are still met with violence in much of the world. We Americans with disabilities sometimes take our legal protections–flawed as they are–for granted and it’s worth remembering that others will have to follow a much more difficult path to full citizenship.

Feb 242012

A presidential campaign is overwhelmingly about style and perception. A candidate wants to project enthusiasm and excitement for his or her campaign. We all remember how the Obama campaign captured lightning in a bottle in 2008 by packing rallies full of passionate supporters and harnessing the power of social media. It generated a narrative of devoted grassroots support that the press repeated and amplified. If Mitt Romney becomes the Republican nominee, he must generate some excitement of his own or at least undermine Obama’s reputation as someone who can assemble a big crowd. So how’s Romney doing on that count? Here’s a photo of today’s Romney campaign event at Ford Field in Detroit:
Romney squeezes Detroit event into deserted stadium.
To be fair, the Romney campaign moved the event to the stadium after the original venue proved to be too small. But do you think most casual observers are going to keep those details in mind when they see pictures like this on the web or on the evening news? Right now, Romneybot-9000’s eyes must be glowing red as he decides on which staffer to dismember in front of the rest of his minions.

Feb 232012

Those Google glasses that serve as a wearable computer are scheduled to go on sale later this year. I’m really curious to see how well the head-motion interface will work for someone like me. I’m guessing it won’t be as sensitive as the headset I use to operate my PC, but perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps Google still needs beta testers to use these glasses on a daily basis. I’m willing to sign even the most onerous non-disclosure agreement.

Feb 222012

Is it possible to adapt an eight-year-old pop/punk album to a stage production that is fresh and relevant. If the production is American Idiot, the answer is “yes, mostly.” Based on the Green Day album of the same name, American Idiot follows the story of three disaffected teenage boys from the suburbs who struggle with the perils of coming of age in a post-Bush America. The story is told in broad strokes with little spoken dialogue, so those looking for character development will be disappointed. Instead, American Idiot relies on the album’s songs to create narrative mood-pieces; it’s rock opera in its most deconstructed form. This might sound abstract and pretentious, but this technique actuallyworks thanks to the writers’ ability to juxtapose the songs with scenes that convey genuine emotion. “Extraordinary Girl” becomes the soundtrack for a wounded soldier’s fevered dream, complete with an impressive bit of aerial choreography. “Letterbomb” becomes a vicious break-up song dripping with venom and regret. And “Wake Me Up When September Ends” becomes a rousing chorus of damaged people hoping for better days to come.

All of the cast deliver great performances as does the accompanying rock orchestra. There’s still something a bit too 2004-ish about American Idiot; its observations about youthful discontent in a media-saturated America are now yesterday’s news. But the trip back in time has a terrific score.

Feb 212012

My apologies for the lack of posting yesterday. I’m in the process of updating the blog to a WordPress format and couldn’t post for technical reasons, but everything should be finished soon. Carry on.

Feb 212012

Like a lot of other middle-aged gamers, I have fond memories of playing the point-and-click adventures that were popular throughout much of the 1990s. Titles like Day of the Tentacle, Gabriel Knight, and Monkey Island told great stories while presenting players wwith puzzles whose solutions ranged from the comical to the obscure. These games eventually fell out of favor as first-person shooters and other more technically sophisticated genres became increasingly popular. A few developers continue to make such adventures, but on shoestring budgets and most simply aren’t very good.

Recently, a team of respected game developers known as Double Fine set up a Kickstarter page to raise donations for a new adventure game project. They raised $400,000 in eight hours and are well are on their way to raising over $2 million in total. Such a phenomenal success with crowd-sourced fundraising could point to a future where traditional publishers are less important and more games are financed by the people who want to play them. There will always be a market for the lavishly produced games by big studios, but the Kickstarter model could work for games that appeal to a passionate niche audience. It could also work for writers and musicians who may not have sufficiently broad appeal to attract the interest of a traditional publisher. The trick is going to be for unknown artists to convince others to give them money to develop something that may or may not be worth one’s time.

Feb 172012

I’m flirting with the idea of getting a Macbook. I love my desktop, but it would be nice to have something more portable that I can use away from my desk. And unlike an iPad, a Macbook has several assistive technology options available. And with the forthcoming release of Mountain Lion, it won’t look much different from an iOS device. I’d like to use some kind of headmouse with it (my HeadMaster isn’t easily compatible with notebooks), but I’m not sure which one would work best. Do any of my readers have experience using a headmouse with a Mac? I need something fairly sensitive since my range of movement is limited. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Feb 162012

I have a long weekend coming up, so tonight’s post will be abbreviated as I settle into loafing mode. Perhaps I’ll feel more verbose tomorrow.

Feb 152012

That faint, embarrassingly high-pitched squee you just heard is the sound of hyperventilatng nerds greeting the news that Doctor Who and the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew will meet in a comic mini-series planned for this summer. That faint, piteous wail you just heard is a bunch of other nerds who cannot abide the crass commercialization of their beloved television show. I’m just hoping that we get to see Amy Pond plant a knee in Will Riker’s junk. That smirking bastard has it coming.