Intermediate Enmity 102

This is Professor Plum. Someone hit me with the lead pipe in the library. I was reading Duns Scotus when they conked me on the old squash and upended my teacup.

Now that I’m properly two dimensional I’d like to clarify a matter that some readers of old Plummie’s post over at Blue Girl have apparently misunderstood. In A Short Essay on Enmity my bosom buddy and doppelganger Professor Spruce Grove (for that is what “Kuusisto” means in Finnish–that barbarous language…) wrote about how its high time the old boy should take up the study of hating people.

Professor Spruce feels that political hatred and the atavistic “fight or flee” neurological highjacking that’s responsible for everything from road rage to the soapbox perorations of college faculty offer a cathexis of emotions. In short: one would be misreading him to assume he’s arguing that hate is a simple matter devoid of thought.

He does argue that the end game of hatred offers the excuse to stop thinking which is of course the subject of our next course: “Advanced Enmity: Religions, Radios, Republicans and Reactionary Movements of the Left” –a course not to be missed since it comes with 3D glasses and lobster bibs.    

Spruce (or “Cousin Sprucie” as I like to call him) argues that hatred operates like a baseball infield. First someone feels properly harmed or cheated; then they imagine (because they have a big honking brain) that the people in the next neighborhood are the guarantors of their unhappiness . This, as it turns out, is almost always untrue though every group hosts its own advanced haters–so yes there are lopsided post-cognitive practitioners of advanced enmity in the house next door or across the river. Now we’re at Third Base: Big Brain creates a cymbolic and abstract group of people to be properly demonized. And the third base coach looks quite a bit like your average demagogue–a little out of shape but still wildly gesticulating because its hard to get the game out of one’s blood.

Its only in this last phase that hatred offers the opportunity to stop thinking. Hatred is in this way precisely the opposite of love which is why Robert Mitchum has Love and Hate tattooed on opposite hands in the original version of “Cape Fear”.

Spruce believes that all marginal groups have a rich petri dish.  They have all the nutrients necessary for growing the symbolic codes that are a requirement for handing over one’s will to the coach at third base.

Spruce doesn’t think that last sentence was very good but he’s transmitting his ideas to me via blue tooth and he’s not a very good typist.

The only thing worse than playing Clue is playing Dead Clue.


Yours, PP per Spruce per Kuusisto


Nadya Suleman Vows to "Stop Her Life" for her Children–She's Not Off to a Good Start


In her Today Show Interview the mother of octuplets who all told now has 14 children vows she’ll “stop her life” for her children apparently believing that being the mother of more than a dozen small and smaller kids is a kind of Zen exercise.


All I can think is that the probability is rather high that these 8 babies may well have varying disabilities including “retinopathy of prematurity”–a form of blindness that I also have.

Being the mother of children with disabilities will require Nadya Suleman to start her life and start it and start it over and over like kicking a motorcycle.


This is a serious business. One wonders if anyone and I mean anyone is telling her where to learn about parenting children with disabilities?


Well of course its too early since the children aren’t ready for the kinds of developmental diagnoses that will confirm or dismiss the evidence of disabilities.

Yet the likelihood is very great that Nadya Suleman will be looking after children with compound physical problems.

Does Ms. Suleman know about the National Association for Parents with Visual Impairments NAPVI?

Does she know about online resources like Special Child?

How about Rights and Responsibilities of Parents who have children with disabilities?

Perhaps more than anything I worry that Ms. Suleman’s poor judgment will leave her children at a supreme disadvantage throughout their lives assuming as I must that they may well have disabilities. Our culture is judgmental in such neo-medieval ways about people with disabilities–will the poor judgments of their mother and the uncomprehending actions of her doctors put the children in a lifelong position of abjection, a position that might be worse owing to matters that are entirely beyond their control?

I certainly hope not. I’m praying for all concerned. I hope, as all people of faith must that my prayers have outcomes beyond my wildest flights of optimism.



Funny? You Call "That" Funny?

Our friend Leslie B. comments on our post The Fetishist Goes Cold Turkey and points out that my attempt at humor is misplaced. I wrote in the piece  about a man who looked disarmingly like the elder Einstein who was fingering brassieres in the lingerie department of J.C. Penny’s. The  narrative was designed to make all 3 characters look vaguely silly–the narrator is presented as being pompously and intrusively performative and his friend is adolescent. The old man resembling Einstein never gets his say and he is patronized and presented as a fetishist.

If I had stopped at the incongruity of a man who looked like Einstein among the push up bras I’d have been okay. If I had let him speak for himself there would have been a story. Instead  I failed to find out what the man was doing there among the bras and I made up a story about him, even unto depicting a horrid latency fantasy from his childhood.

Leslie B’s larger point is that even if the man was a brassiere fetishist –“so what?” If I’m a human rights advocate then how can I konk a person who’s doing no harm with the same shallow brush strokes that so often are employed in bad representations of people with disabilities? (The Saturday Night Live skits about Gov. David Paterson come to mind.)

She is right. I presented Einstein’s doppelganger as a lurid and creepy figure and in so doing replicated the kind of thing Jerry Springer does. Springer displays men who wear baby clothing while his audience hoots and snarls. He pushes uncomprehending serial divorcers onto the stage and leaves out their personal stories of abuse and affliction.

Inviting cheap laughter is a low art. Knee jerk assumptions are employed against people with disabilities and I used the same trick.

I stand corrected and I’m taking my lumps.


News Flash: World Economy Collapses. Only U.S. Media and the GOP Fail to Notice

I received an e-mail this morning from a friend who was planning to attend an international conference in Auckland and with just days to spare before he was scheduled to depart he’s received word that the conference has been canceled. My friend, who is a junior faculty member–nay, an adjunct professor, is “out” the cost of his plane tickets. Who knows if he will soon be out of a job?

News flash: the world economy has collapsed.

This still feels like news here in the United States for the coverage on CNN, MSNBC, and the 3 networks has focused on the “drama” of the stimulus package but in doing so has presented the story as a mere soap opera, as if they’re covering the Paris Hilton arrest: “Will she come out of her house and submit to her handcuffs in front of the hordes? Will she weep on cue for the cameras? Will her attorney drop the “F bomb” for our sport?”

Even as we watch the U.S. economy “bleed out” we’re treated to the inane ET branded speculations about whether any member of Paris Hilton’s family will greet the sheriff.

But at this point its clear that the pending stimulus package isn’t even a medium sized bandaid for the shuddering economy and its additionally clear that the only people in America who aren’t terrified of what’s happening are the news producers, that intra-ophthalmic class of celebrity chasers–the same people who unblinkingly brought us the Iraq war because, after all, the whole thing was an episode of COPS. The Marines would burst in with the embedded media at their heels and we’d find Saddam in his underwear with his Weapons of Mass Destruction piled up in the double wide.

IN narrative poetry there’s always a moment where the poet says “Ah but you want the truth dear reader” and the test of the poet is how artfully he or she can pull off that trick but the truth mostly hurts and trickery or no, the fact is that the GOP isn’t signing on to the stimulus because they don’t want to be in the same room with the corpse.

The Obama team hopes they can hit the economy with the paddles and get it to breathe.

The GOP is gutless and cowardly and un-American but that’s not really news. Hmmm. How about this? We’llcount on the press to  imagine we’re all in Beverly Hills.

Miniature People on the Pillow, or How to Experiment on the Developmentally Disabled in Broad Daylight


AT his blog devoted expressly to “The Ashley Treatment” huahima details the mysteries surrounding the surgical procedure that was performed on a developmentally disabled little girl that has, in effect, rendered her forever small.

huahima writes:

“In the December 31, 2007 update of his blog, Ashley’s father revealed what he was considering to do to promote “the Ashley Treatment” for the quality of life of other Pillow Angels in the world. …”

One direct outcome of this effort to promote the procedure has been reflected in two panel discussions held at the hospital in Seattle where the original surgery was performed on the little girl we only know by her assumed name. 

At you can read a first person account of the panel discussion about this controversial treatment and I recommend this for in point of fact there’s a stampede underway at the Seattle Children’s Hospital to justify growth attenuation surgery for severely developmentally disabled children. Its of particular interest that disability studies scholars and disability rights advocates have not been part of these panel presentations. The views of the disability rights communities are characterized by panelists but they are not given primacy in the roundtable.  This is not surprising for the dynamic of “talking over” people with disabilities is well ingrained in both academia and in the medical professions. The justification of “pillowing” people is, in rhetorical terms pretty much “Ableism run wild” or the “same old same old” and one could dismiss the whole matter were it not for the magnitude of the ethical violations that are being justified by this post-modern game of relativism disguised as medical care.

Over at Bad Cripple one can read a superb post on the collision (collusion?)of “intrigue and ethics”surrounding the panel’s formation and its findings.  It is clear that Ashley’s father who works for Microsoft is working very assiduously to lobby for the ethical adoption of human experimentation in the name of utility–its so much easier to care for a severely developmentally disabled person if they never grow larger than a pillow. Resident in this argument (and a view that’s widely accepted on the Seattle panel) is that profoundly developmentally disabled children will never know they’re being rendered permanently small and that this is therefore not unethical since consciousness is central to human dignity.

This is of course a phenomenological argument and not an ethical one and its interesting to see how easily academics and MDs adopt it. “Look at the shiny watch and listen to my soothing voice, you’re getting sleepy in the tendrils of a convex argument, oh so sleepy, etc.”

Why one would never know that removing a child’s uterus, taking out her breast buds and bombarding her body with hormones is, in point of fact, entirely unproven as a medical procedure and that in turn no one really knows what this does to a human being–or to put it another way, you’d never guess that outright experimentation is being justified in ways that are not at all dissimilar from the work of the eugenics movements or the activities of German doctors in the late thirties and early forties. One can read more about this over at Bad Cripple.

Money and sophistry are such dear friends. The insertion of human experimentation in the name of parental ease can be wrestled into a kind of Benthamite argument but as doctors I know personally have said “off the record” “It doesn’t pass the sniff test”.

But of course what’s really happening in Seattle is the orchestration of spin doctors doing the mash for the medical industrial complex. The smell of money covers a lot of odors.



The Fetishist Goes Cold Turkey Department

I saw him from a middling distance: a man who looked like Einstein was fingering ladies underclothes in Penneys.

“How did I see him?” you ask, aware of my blindness. I have friends. I have lots of friends. We go places together. We go to the department store and although we’re looking for bathtub grout we wind up taking a detour through the bras and panties because the main aisle has some kind of Zamboni machine and we have to veer off the slick tiles and into the nearest department and Lo! That’s when my friend who I’ll call Irving sees Einstein of the brassieres.

“God! He looks like Einstein!” Irving says. “He’s the post war Einstein. The grand fatherly one. The one who’s sticking out his tongue in that famous photo.”

“I want to talk to him,” I say. I’m clutching Irving’s elbow the way blind people do. “Let’s talk to him.”

Irving has no judgment so he just takes me over. “Excuse me,” I say. “I am told by my boon companion that you are shopping for a brassiere.”

I won’t know til later that the man had soulful eyes. Spaniel eyes. And I won’t know til later that he was actually wearing a Princeton sweatshirt. Of course he knew what he was up to. He was Einstein of the brassieres and he didn’t care who knew .

He was quick. “Ah,” he said. “A blind man. Good. I’m told you people have an excellent sense of touch.”

“So far he isn’t crazy,” I thought.

“At your service,” I said. “Just remember that touch and imagination are not the same.” (I don’t know why I said this. But I was talking to Einstein of the brassieres after all. You have to take your opportunities when they appear.)

“Listen,” he said. “This bra isn’t for me.”

“Ah,” I said.

“It’s for my—“

Then there was the deafening noise of the Zamboni which was backing up like a portable wind tunnel on casters. Einstein’s mouth kept moving but Irv can’t read lips and he couldn’t talk anyway.

“So what do you think?” said Einstein after the racket stopped.

“Hmmm.” I said. “This is tough.” I feigned introspection. “Here’s what I’d suggest,” I said then.

“What you need to do is stay away from brassieres for at least a year. Studies have shown that women and even teenage girls know how to buy their own bras. What you need to do is channel your good Samaritan energies toward something that wouldn’t ordinarily occur to your magnanimous and enlightened nature.”

“Like what?” he said.

“You’ll have to figure that out on your own,” I said. “It will be a spiritual thing.”

“Come, Havisham,” I said, for I never use Irving’s real name and of course even that’s not his real name. “We must proceed to the industrial unguents.”

We knew of course that Einstein would go on fingering the B cups while imagining some god awful outpost of his private and abysmal latency period and the concomitant fantasy of a school marm or librarian.

We agreed that you can’t solve everyone’s problems. We agreed that contemporary department stores offer untold advantages to fetishists since they can’t afford floor walkers anymore.

The whole thing gave me the creeps.

“That’s what they get for doing away with the catalogues,” Irving said.



Our Domestic Correspondent from Rochester, New York


I am four hundred miles away from home and even from this distance the news is not good.

A 23 year old rookie cop, two days ago, was shot in the head.  There was no reason for it, not that there ever could be.  It was routine.  No weapons had been pulled.  No arrests were made.  And then, as he returned to his car, back turned, he was shot in the head.  Lights out without ever seeing his shooters face.

Two days before hand: Kodak announced they were cutting 4500 jobs.  Of course we're prepared for these layoffs like we are prepared for snow in Rochester, New York.  It is just a matter of time and it'll be coming.  4500 people without work.  This is a city that was once home to Kodak, Xerox, Bausch and Lamb.  The second largest employer in the city of Rochester, today, is a grocery store.  Thank god for minimum wage and the 40 hour work week.  We need to get on the arch and see if we can't all scrape by together.

In other news a 36 year old man, just today, walked into his girlfriends house, shot her six times, and then shot himself.  I feel it in my bones, the way this all just accumulates like snow.  And the sad thing is that violent crime tends to drop off in the winter months.  What are we in for this summer?

In the meantime the new Governor of New York is passing a, "you can't make this shit up," obesity tax.  He has Pop, that's right we call it pop, at the top of the list.  Taxing "fat" people, poor people, middle class people, who aren't drinking six dollar bottles of Ethos water or four dollar non-fat strawberry infused caramel covered lattes.  It seems like one more bullet aimed right for the heart of a city that bottles both Pepsi and Coke.  If it keeps on like this we'll be lucky to have grocery stores left.

Some days, when I think of home, I think of a ship sinking so slowly that no one even recognizes we're sinking.  That fucker will be at the bottom before anyone notices.  That fucker will take us all down before anyone calls mayday, or outfits us in life vests, or thinks to throw us a mother fucking life line.


As you can see, our correspondent from Rochester is not impressed with the national response to the economic despair that is being experienced by all those people who aren't in Dick Cheney's tax bracket.


Going Home Slowly in a Sunbeam


Actually it was the bus. I was riding the bus and fat streams of sun flooded through the windows and I was warm for twenty minutes or so. The driver had the FM classical station going and I heard Beethoven’s 4th symphony and I don’t know why but I recalled a Disney “made for TV” film about Beethoven that I saw on Disney’s “Wonderful World of Color” circa 1965 when I was 10. It might have been a year earlier or later–it doesn’t matter. The film in question dates from the  mid-50’s and the scene I remembered today on the bus depicted Beethoven conducting the premiere of one of his later symphonies and someone had to get up and turn him toward the audience so he could see they were applauding.

I don’t know why this came to me. But I was thinking in the sunbeams of the gentle and decent kindness reflected by someone turning the deaf composer to behold his audience. I don’t know if there’s any factual basis to this depiction. Perhaps I could find out. I don’t want to find out. I am as ever in love with the idea that art is a community matter rather than a private thing. Someone turns the composer so he can see the effect of his ardor on strangers. It is this ardor that matters. But no less important is the human enterprise of gently turning a disadvantaged man toward his community. The art makes this possible not laws or religion.

Later in the 19th century art would become something different. It would be ground up and spit out by capitalism in ways that affected the artist by removing him from community–the image of the starving and isolated genius emerges as a keen co-efficient of industrial alienation and is its fittest symbol. And no coincidence that this is when disability becomes a mark of further exclusion from the mainstream. These tendencies are strictly attached.

My bus ride was a soft, unanticipated escape from the dailiness of darkling thoughts and I was happy there in all that light on the East Side Express. 



Pish Posh, You're Just Falling Apart, That's All

There are so many ways to fall apart. Live past 50 and your teeth start to go. Turns out human beings weren’t meant to live past 35 and our teeth will crumble like rock on a northern exposure. If you have money you can go to the dentist who will do her best to replaster you. If you don’t have money you can say aloud like the poet Charles Simic who has a poem with this line: “Brothers My Teeth Hurt and I’ve No Money to Have Them Fixed”. This isn’t funny. We’re dying over here. We’re lucky to be going slowly. That’s the goal. Erode slow. Think fast. Don’t confuse the two. Hold the live wires in opposite hands. Try not to touch them. 

A friend once slipped on the stairs. He broke his ankle. Then he got a blood clot and died. All because he went fishing. The steps were on a boat. He was going below to get a beer. He was having a good day. He was a funny man. He trained guide dogs. He liked blind people. I miss him. He told fabulous dirty jokes. He was a volunteer fireman and he loved his wife and kids.

What did I do today? I worried about appointments and the Rococo picture frame of capitalized nonsense and I felt like a failure chasing illusions. I tried to link my thoughts with those of minor administrators. I wanted to take a walk in the autumn woods and smell the cinnamon ferns, listen to crows fighting in the crown of a birch which, in autumn is a foolish thing for the crows are easy to see amid the golden curls of birch leaves which of course are starting to fall. Only crows believe they are imortal. Crows have no teeth. They don’t need to read poetry because they “are” the poem. You can check Poe or Ted Hughes or Anselm Hollo’s excellent bookCorvus.

I’m of course now conflating crows with ravens but that’s what happens when your teeth hurt. One resents the louder scavengers. Lumps them together.

“Easy, easy,” he says. “You are now thinking of the sweet corn of boyhood and those excellent teeth of yesteryear.”



Is It Unethical to Provide Fertility Drugs to Someone Who Doesn't Need them?

There’s an interesting roundup from feminist blogs over at The New York Times.

My favorite quote:

— Blogger Katie Allison Granju calls the situation the “perfect storm of unethical medical care” — a fluke that brought a “psychologically vulnerable patient” together with a “one-in-a-million crazy doctor.”


One in a million seems a bit optimistic, but hey, I’m just one short blind guy with suspicions.