Bookworm: To Siri With Love by Judith Newman

boycotttosiriMy mom gets Reader’s Digest each month. In the October 2017 issue, they published an excerpt from Judith Newman’s book To Siri With Love. The excerpt piqued my interest, so I borrowed it from the library. On the exact day I started reading it, I saw a campaign on Facebook using the hashtag “#BoycotttoSiri” I read the articles about the book and was heartbroken.  This mother can’t be this bad, can she? Spoiler alert–she is.

There is a type of mother in the autism community called the “autism mom.” This is a mother who sees herself as a martyr because of the “suffering” she goes through for her child. She will complain endlessly about how terrible it is to raise a child. They rarely, if ever, celebrate the joys of motherhood because they don’t see it as joyful. They see it as a burden.  That is my first problem with this book. She even has the audacity to ask if her child is thinking and say she is unsure if autism should be cured. (The correct answer to that question that should never even be asked is NO! Not yes, or maybe, or unsure–NO!) The reason this is a problem is that these parents don’t seem to realize that EVERY parent has difficulty raising children, even the ones who aren’t autistic can be difficult! This does NOT make you a martyr.

My second problem is how she treats autism advocates. She is very condescending about them, almost as if she doesn’t value their opinion. In fact, when autistic YouTube personality Amythest Schaber called her out for calling her a “manic pixie dream girl” (a derogatory term for overtly cheerful women. Because autistic women can’t possibly be cheerful), Newman didn’t apologize–she gaslighted her! She made it seem as if, by not asking for her permission to be quoted, she was doing her a favor. A “nice surprise”, she called it. She then called her a brat because Schaber still persisted to criticize her dehumanizing book. In short, if you don’t share her POV, you’re not worth her time.

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Annah’s World: The Second Interview

A few years back, I conducted an interview with Annah, the main character from Clay Gilbert’s book of the same name, and the first in his series, Children of Evohe.  In that time, he has had to change publishers from the now-defunct PDMI to Dark Moon Press. He has now published two books simultaneously. This time, I interview her two “sister-friends”, Chelries and Liara. To Annah and her people, friends who are especially intimate are considered family, so they are both her sisters and her friends.

  1. It’s been a year since Holder and Annah have married. How are you adjusting to coexistence with humanity? *both laugh* We have never really had any difficulty “coexisting” with humans, at least those who are willing to coexist with us. Yes, there are terrible images of what humans did to Evohe in our people’s shared Memories of what we call the Breaking of the World, but Holder, Goodman, the Maestro, Maria Cantriel, and even Brian Stelson–so many humans never personally treated us badly. I think we both agree that misunderstanding is harder one on one.
  2. I’m told Annah has started a group called “The Circle” and one of its members is autistic. What is your impression of him? Chelries: “Our circle is a thing that does not really have a name–unless Annah is talking about it, she does pronounce it with that sound you give it, that “thing” sound–but even she just thinks of it in terms of what it does, and not so formally. Liara: “That is not the point of what he is asking, sister. He is asking, I think, about friend Jason. Jason Treader. That’s a subject I know you like. Chelries: “Oh! I do like him, very much He is less guarded than other humans sometimes, even less so than Holder.  That is very comforting. And he does not mind dancing with me, and can even keep up. Liara: (smiles) I like him too. He likes stories, and has even told me some of his own, and those of his world. This ‘autism’–I have heard him speak of it as well, but I do not think of it as separate from him, or a thing he ‘has’. It is merely a part of who he is, and that is all.
  3. What other members of the Circle have you found the most challenging to teach and learn from? (Liara and Chelries look at each other, as if trying to decide who’s going to answer first) Chelries: I think we both had some difficulties adjusting to Maria Cantrell, when she was with us. Liara: Yes. We were not entirely sure what to make of her in the beginning, but we trusted her, because Annah did.  And then we came to see what Annah saw in her, and we loved her.  And then she was gone. But we remember her fondly. Chelries: There has also been Brian Stelson. It is truly remarkable how much he changed, even more so than Maraia did. Liara: Sister, that may be because there was even more in friend Brian that needed chaning. Chelries: I suppose that is true, and I suppose that is the point.
  4. Your culture seems to place great emphasis on music. What is your favorite thing about human music? Chelries: The rhythms! Human culture seems to have found many more ways to make a beat than we have, but then I suppose they have more ways to do it. It is wonderful, anyway. Liara; The fusion of melody and verse. We do not have so many songs with words here on our world, not ones of our own. Song-shapers like Annah, and word-shapers, like myself if I may say so, may one day change that. Chelries: And then I will dance to those new songs! *laughs*
  5. What is your opinion of our food? Chelries: Very tasty. Holder and Anah talked Llew and Danae, Annah’s parents into making a human meal called ‘pizza’ from a recipe he had found.  It was delicious. Liara: I agree! I could have eaten at least half of it by myself. Chelries: Hmph! I would not have let you

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Bookworm: The Outsiders

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Last year, I did anniversary posts for the Adam West Batman TV series and my top 10 best and worst Star Trek episodes in celebration of their 50th anniversaries. 1967 is also a great year for pop culture. Pink Floyd started off their career with Piper at the Gates of Dawn. The Beatles released their landmark Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Peanuts gang debuted on Broadway with You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. And in Tulsa, Oklahoma, SE Hinton published her debut novel, The Outsiders. It would be followed by That Was Then, This is Now, Tex, and Rumble Fish. All of these encompass what I personally call the Ponyboy saga, because he’s in all four books. (although in the “sequels”, he’s not as important as he was in the first book.

The story focuses on two gangs–the Socs (the rich kids) and the Greasers–Ponyboy, Dallas, Two-Bit, Soda Pop, and Johnny  (our heroes). Most of the Greasers are orphans, with Dallas being the stand-in parent.

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Bookworm: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

cursed childYears ago, I reviewed all seven of the original Harry Potter books on this site. Last year, two new stories were added to the mythos, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and a prequel, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It’s only right that I review these on this page as well. Since I just finished it, I’ll start with Cursed Child.

Cursed Child is actually published as a play rather than a novel. I realize that using the script as my source for this review may not be the best way to review a play, but I probably might not get to see an actual performance, so here we are. Oh, and spoilers from here on out. You’ve been warned.

Let’s start with what I like. The story starts by replaying the epilogue from Death Hallows. It is now 19 years later.  Hermione works for the Ministry of Magic. Ron has taken over Fred and George’s joke shop. (since one of the twins died in the last book, in case you don’t recall.) The story mostly focuses on Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy, the son of Draco Malfoy.

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Bookworms: Astro City v. 1

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Many superheroes have a fictional city they call home. Superman has Metropolis. Green Lantern has Coast City. Batman has Gotham City. Have you ever wondered what it must be like to be an ordinary person living in these cities? Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross’s Astro City can give you an idea.

The series was launched in the mid-90’s as part of Image Comics’ short-lived Homage imprint, before Wildstorm Studios folded and was bought out by DC. I’ve decided to review as many of the collections as I can, because I think the series needs more love.

First, let’s talk about the creative team. Kurt Busiek really is one of the best writers in comics. His favorite technique is not using superheroes, but ordinary people to tell his stories. His Marvels novel, for instance, was told from the POV of a reporter who witnessed the first adventures of many of Marvel Comics’ legendary heroes.  This series uses that same approach. Of the six stories in this volume, only two are told by superheroes.

Alex Ross is the cover artist, and his work is museum quality.  His covers are included in a gallery at the end and all look great.

Brent Anderson is the main artist. He has a style that can capture motion well. It’s unique and complements Ross’s concepts well, without emulating it.

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Image: The Samaritan

Now I’ll talk about the stories. First is “In Dreams”, spotlighting the Samaritan. The Samaritan can fly and has superhuman strength, speed, and endurance. He also has a barrier that can repel energy.  In a way, he’s a tribute to Superman. He laments that he spends so much time flying around and saving people, he can’t just fly around and enjoy himself.  We also meet the Honor Guard, the Astro City version of DC’s Justice League. The roster consists of Beauty, Samaritan, The Black Rapier, Cleopatra, MPH, Quarrel, and the N-Forcer.

Elliot Mills, editor of the Rocket
Elliot Mills, editor of the Rocket

“The Scoop” takes place in the 60’s, and is about Elliot Mills, editor-in-chief of Astro City’s Newspaper, The Rocket. (He’s basically a tribute to Perry White, editor of the Daily Planet, where Clark Kent works) In this story, he tells a new reporter about a framed article on his wall–one that was actually rejected by his editor. The story gives us a glimpse of the city’s earlier days, when a new hero called the Silver Agent called Astro City home. We also meet the original roster of the Honor Guard, and learn it was founded by a wealthy businessman named Max O’Millions. I liked this story for its glimpses of Astro City’s history.

The Jack-in-the-box, a clownish superhero
The Jack-in-the-box, a clownish superhero with a storied legacy

“A Little Knowledge focuses on a homeless criminal who catches the superheroic clown Jack-in-the-Box as he is removing his mask. Jack in the Box is what you call a “legacy” superhero, meaning that more than one person has taken on the identity (think of how there has been four different Robins throughout the Batman saga) . Jack has rubber noses that can stun criminals, stretchable limbs, and shoots confetti like Spider-man shoots webs. While Jack-in-the-box is a light-hearted superhero, his costume can be frightening to criminals, and the narrator is worried what will happen to him now that he knows the clown’s secret.

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Bookworm: Neurotribes by Steve Silberman

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I recently read Neurotribes by Steve Silberman. In my opinion, it is one of the best books about autism you will ever read. It tells the history of the research of autism, beginning in the 1940’s with Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger (where we get the “Asperger’s Syndrome”).

The book starts with two historical cases of autistic geniuses, Henry Cavendish (the “wizard of Clapham Common”) and Paul Dirac, who is famous for the “Dirac equation” and an early quantum physicist.

Autism’s earliest researchers were Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger. Both had differing views on the condition. Leo Kanner is the man who actually coined the term autism. He viewed it as a disease, caused by “bad parenting”. His model persists to this day and is sadly adopted even by Autism $peaks. It should be noted that he only focused on early childhood and overlooked differences in the children he studied.

Hans Asperger was different. He studied autistic children in Nazi Germany. Unlike Kanner, Asperger saw it as a positive, saying it was essential to creativity. He called his subjects “little professors” because of their wealth of knowledge. He risked his life to protect them from the Nazism ideal of “perfection”, as mentally disabled people were often sent to the camps, just like the Jews and everybody else who didn’t fit the mold of Hitler’s “dream.”

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My Favorite DC Villains

I believe heroes are defined by their villains. The best villains are those who exist as the opposite of their foes. DC’s villains are as grand as their heroes, as they should be. Here are my favorites:

new-52-vandal-savage_010. Vandal Savage–Vandal Savage has been around since human civilization itself. He has conquered all and survived every battle. And he has not forgotten anything he has learned.

thYU2JVLE19. The Parasite: If I were to make a Superman movie, I would use the Parasite as my villain. The Parasite consumes energy to survive. When he faces superheroes, he can steal more than their identity and energy, he can steal their powers. He can bring even Superman down to normal.

thQ3WD49XJ8. Catwoman–Catwoman is really the one villain in the DC Universe who has effectively been both a hero and a villain. She is truly an independent spirit, much like the animal she wishes to emulate. She’s not one to be taken lightly, and I admire her for that.

th38C8QEI87. Reverse Flash–Reverse Flash is the Flash unhinged in his powers. The Flash knows his limits and does not exceed them. He does not let his power consume him, and is ruled by his morals and convictions. Reverse Flash is not pinned down by such petty concerns, as he would see them. He is a true Reverse of the Flash, in every shape of the term.

th0WHLNU876. Mr. Freeze–Victor Freeze was a brilliant scientist who loved his girlfriend Nora, more than anything. He wanted so much for her to be healed of the disease that was slowly draining her. But she could not, because those who financed Mr. Freeze’s research wouldn’t let him continue. He is a tragic villain, one you pity because you feel if any villain deserves happiness, it could be him.

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