Saturday, June 30, 2007

June 30: Derek Bentley (1933-1953)

The short descriptor for Derek Bentley in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is "victim of a miscarriage of justice." Hard to argue with that. Bentley was born on this date in 1933, in London (his twin didn't survive). He and his sister Iris were children during the Second World War, and had to be dug out of the rubble of their house during a bombing in London. He was considered "borderline feebleminded," and had a history of seizures. He never learned to read or write. Derek Bentley attended a few schools, with little success (one headmaster described him as "the most irregular boy I have had in my career"), and at fifteen was convicted of petty theft, and sent to reform school. He tried to work as a mover and a road sweeper, but couldn't manage long in either job.

In 1952, Bentley was caught trespassing in a warehouse with a sixteen-year-old named Christopher Craig. Fifteen minutes after Bentley was in police custody, Craig fired a gun and killed a police constable. Because Craig was a juvenile, he was sentenced to ten years in prison; Bentley, who never touched the gun, was sentenced to death. Despite protests, Derek Bentley was hanged on 28 January 1953, at the age of 19.

His parents (who died in 1976 and 1993) and his sister Iris Bentley (1931-1997) never gave up trying to clear Derek's name. In 1966, they succeeded in having his remains removed from the prison cemetery. The tombstone was eventually inscribed "a victim of British justice." A 1991 film about Bentley revived interest in the case, and in 1992, Iris convinced the police to re-examine the case. Derek Bentley was pardoned in 1993, and the conviction was overturned in 1998. Too late for Iris Bentley to see; and far too late for Derek Bentley.

[Image: A waist-up image of a blonde teenaged Bentley, wearing a black turtleneck, holding a cigarette in his mouth, a packet in his hands.]

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Disability Blog Carnival #17 is up NOW!

Steve and Connie Kuusisto are hosting the latest edition of the Disability Blog Carnival at Planet of the Blind, with a fine gathering of posts around the theme "Laughter, the Best Medicine." How many kinds of laughter disability bloggers know! Nervous giggles, gallows humor, defiant jests, in-jokes, clever wordplay, funny home videos, ROTFL online quirkiness... Thanks all for sharing your sense of the absurd.

Next two Disability Blog Carnival editions are scheduled to appear on July 12 at Retired Waif, and on July 26 at Arthritic Young Thing, where Zephyr (currently guest-blogging at Ouch!) has set the theme as "Sex." (There now, that should crank up today's sitemeter figures a bit.) Submit links for consideration at the Blog Carnival site, or leave comments here or at the hosts' blogs.

[This time around, I'm joining Kay in using her first logo, from a series of six so far that have been created for the Carnival. The "Somewhat Disabled" parking sign photograph seemed best for this particular edition! It's superimposed with white lettering, reading "Disability Blog Carnival (come share the uncertainty)."]

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Larrabee Fund?

From the blog of the Connecticut Historical Society Library:

When I was in graduate school the first time, I developed a course to study social movements of the 19th century, including abolitionism, womens’ rights, etc. There were a lot of women’s groups formed to help more unfortunate women. But today, I finished cataloging the treasurer’s records for a charitable fund created by a MAN. Charles Larrabee, in his will, established a fund to care for the “lame, deformed or maimed females” of Hartford. His property reportedly was worth several thousand dollars. His 1847 will bequeathed all of his real and personal estate to the Mayor, Aldermen and Selectmen of the town of Hartford, that the annual income may be appropriated for the relief and benefit for the needy. What his motivation was remains a mystery. I am sure the women whose names are listed in our recently acquired account book (1865-1973) were most appreciative, no matter what his motive.

Well, maybe or maybe not, on that last phrase (not everyone is "most appreciative" of being the target of a charity, eh?). But this might be a terrific source for someone looking for a disability history project to do, especially if you're already in New England and interested in women and 19c. philanthropy. The Larrabee Fund itself may have morphed into the Greater Hartford Larrabee Fund Association, which "serves older women in the Greater Hartford area." (Found a mention of it on this page.) I should add that the blog of the Connecticut Historical Society Library is a gem--what interesting collections come past that librarian's desk!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Greetings, Ouch! Guest Bloggers

The BBC Ouch! website is trying something different and wonderful this summer; they've recruited six guest bloggers (all UK or Canada-based) for the next few weeks. Today's the kick-off, with introductions all around. Go, read, enjoy. They're all fine bloggers individually (some of my favorites), and together they should keep Ouch! hopping through July.

after the last show!

after the last show!, originally uploaded by Edu-Tourist.

Carol Marfisi and I headed down to Olde City on Saturday night to check out 'The Walking Project.' Three radical women artists shared their distinct impressions of what it means to walk. Using digital technologies, they share a rich set of stories that reflect their unique approach to the world. These women are clearly breaking new ground in Disability Arts and Culture. My hat is off to Sarah Drury as well for plugging these women in.

We were so entertained, and look forward to checking out these women again in their return engagement, part of the Independence Starts Here Festival and Disability and the Arts next November.

Friday, June 22, 2007

L.C. and E.W.

Gimp Parade, Wheelie Catholic, Six, Almost Seven, and other blogs have noted that today is the eighth anniversary of the US Supreme Court upholding the "Olmstead decision," L.C. and E.W. v. Olmstead, in which a district judge ruled that "Unnecessary institutionalization amounts to segregation and is a violation of individual civil rights." There will be marches and celebrations marking this day--conveniently situated on the first Friday of summer.

But who were the L.C and E.W. of the case's name? Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson were the plaintiffs designated by those initials. Elaine Beverly Wilson of Atlanta was brain-injured by a high fever in infancy. Elaine attended public school at first, then a succession of private and specialized school. At fifteen, she came home from residential schools, but her family couldn't handle her behavior. She lived in mental institutions or on the streets for much of her life; she endured shock treatment and psychotropic drugs. "I felt like I was in a little box and there was no way out," she testified to the judge. After the 1999 decision, Elaine Wilson moved into her own home, with support. She enjoyed shopping and welcoming visitors, before her early death in December 2004, at the age of 53.

Lois Curtis
has a similar story: she's an Atlanta native who spent years in state-run institutions. She also lives in the community now, and enjoys painting and writing. A painting by Lois Curtis, representing the course of her life so far, was displayed in the Temple Gallery in Decatur in Fall 2005, and her creative work has since been exhibited across the US.

The case might have been won with other plaintiffs; but it wasn't. These were the women who sat through the tedious days and weeks of courtroom procedure, through the Supreme Court appeal, and waited, who told their stories, knowing their own lives and the lives of countless others would turn on the outcome.

[Visual description: Image above shows two women, one closer to the camera, one further in the background. The woman closer to the camera is on the right, in a pink shirt, pearly necklace, and earrings, with her arms crossed over her chest, meeting the camera's gaze with an expression I'd call "determined." The woman farther from the camera is looking down at her upper arm, and is wearing black. The woman in pink is Elaine Wilson; the woman in black is Lois Curtis. Wilson is white, and in her late 40s at the time of the photo; Curtis is African-American, and about thirty. Image from the CDCAN report of 27 April 2007.]

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Perfect Ain't Cool

I'll admit I don't usually go in for the heavy-metal t-shirt aesthetic of skulls and flames (despite my previously revealed interest in NHRA drag racing). But while passing a gallery named Gasoline in El Segundo yesterday, I spotted this sticker (above) in the window, and thought the sentiment (along the lines of "symmetry is overrated") might appeal to some DS,TU readers. It's by car-culture graphic artist Jeral Tidwell, and the stickers are available at his website, Humantree.

[Visual description: A black rectangular bumpersticker with the words "Cool Ain't Perfect, Perfect Ain't Cool" in red all-caps, and in much smaller type at the bottom edge, ""]

Sunday, June 17, 2007

RIP: John Tracy (1924-2007)

Today's LA Times carries the obituary of John Tracy, the son of actor Spencer Tracy. In 1942, John's mother Louise Treadwell Tracy helped to found a clinic for deaf children and their families at USC, which became the John Tracy Clinic, a well-known Los Angeles resource for families seeking evaluation and intervention for their preschool-aged children with hearing impairments. They also have a program for deaf-blind preschoolers. Services from the John Tracy Clinic are free of charge, and oralist in orientation. (Read about one blogging mom's experiences at a recent JTC summer training here.)

John Tracy, who was deaf from birth, worked in the art department at Walt Disney as a young man, until he also began to lose his eyesight (he learned that his deafness was caused by Usher syndrome, which usually brings blindness later in life). In 2003, John Tracy was asked what message he'd want to pass along to deaf children today, and he replied: "I want to let the kids know they can live a full life. Sports, schools, hobbies, interests, dating, marriage, have a family, drive a car--all of it." Tracy is survived by his younger sister, his son, and three grandchildren.

June 17: Henry Lawson (1867-1922)

Get some sympathy and comfort from the chum who knows you best,
That your sorrows won't run over in the presence of the rest;
There's a chum that you can go to when you feel inclined to whine,
He'll declare your coat is tidy and he'll say: 'Just look at mine!'
Though you may be patched all over he will say it doesn't show,
And he'll swear it can't be noticed when your pants begin to go.
--a stanza from Henry Lawson's "When Your Pants Begin to Go" (1892)

Born 140 years ago today, Australian poet and author Henry Lawson (pictured at right, a smiling man with an abundant mustache, wearing a suit). He began to lose his hearing following an ear infection at age 9; at 14, he was completely deaf, and left school. He worked on the railway and lived with his mother, who ran a small newspaper in Sydney. His first poem and first short story were published in his mother's newspaper. In the early 1890s, he wrote for a Brisbane newspaper, the Boomerang. He traveled Australia, worked as a sheep shearer, and hung around with Banjo Paterson, collecting material for his writing, which was popular in its day and is still prized and studied as a record of Australian bush life in the late 1800s. Lawson married and had two children before 1900, and taught briefly at a Maori school in New Zealand with his wife, Bertha.

Things turned for Lawson after he separated from his wife in 1902. His alcoholism became a problem in keeping a job; he was in jail and hospitals a good bit; he survived a suicide attempt with serious injuries, and was sometimes seen begging in the streets of Sydney. Friends found him a job and took care of him when he could no longer work; he died after a stroke, in 1922, at the age of 55. The huge state funeral that followed was the first one given for an Australian writer.

Biographies of this deaf balladeer and journalist include Colin Roderick's Henry Lawson: A Life (Harper Collins 1999), and Manning Clark, Henry Lawson: The Man and the Legend (Melbourne University Press 1995). Some poems by Lawson are online here, and here (not open-access).

Saturday, June 16, 2007

June 16: Margaret Benson (1865-1916)

English Egyptologist Margaret Benson was born on 16 June 1865. Her father was the archbishop of Canterbury (1882-1896). Margaret wintered in Egypt for her health during the 1890s, which was not an uncommon measure among the "delicate" in her class. But while there, she studied hieroglyphics and Islam, and got permission to conduct excavations at the Temple of Mut at Karnak. She even dressed as the goddess Mut for a fancy-dress ball, in a costume of her own devising (including a "vulture headdress"). Wrote her brother, classicist and fiction writer EF Benson:
Did ever an invalid plan and carry out so sumptuous an activity? She was wintering in Egypt for her health, being threatened with a crippling form of rheumatism; she was suffering also from an internal malady, depressing and deadly; a chill was a serious thing for her, fatigue must be avoided, and yet with the most glorious contempt of bodily ailments which I have seen, she continued to employ some amazing mental vitality that brushed disabilities aside, and, while it conformed to medical orders, crammed the minutes with such sowings and reapings as the most robust might envy.
Margaret Benson returned to England (her health had not improved after three Egyptian winters), and published a book about her explorations (co-written with her partner Janet Gourlay, 1899). The next year, Benson had a heart attack. Within a decade, she was staying on the grounds of a private mental hospital; it was believed that her scholarly and spiritual exertions in writing her eight-volume book The Venture of Rational Faith (1908) had too severely taxed her brain. Margaret Benson died in 1916, at the age of 50.

[Image above: Janet Gourlay and Margaret Benson, photographed together in a 1906 portrait; Gourlay is looking downward, from behind the shoulder of Benson, who is gazing off to the right]

Friday, June 15, 2007

The New Face of Disability in the Arts (New York City, 31 July)

Cool stuff from New York: A Theatre by the Blind production of John Belluso's The Rules of Charity is now playing (May 26-June 24) at the Lion Theatre in New York City. In July (the 11th to the 29th), noted disabled actor Henry Holden will play the "rudely stamp'd" Richard the III--a Shakespeare character who is often portrayed as disabled (hat tip to Troy Wittren for the news of that show). And...

From the Theatre Resources Unlimited website (links added here):
Tuesday evening, July 31st, 7:30pm
Beyond Handicaps and Handouts:
The New Face of Disability In The Arts

Co-produced with Stephanie Barton-Farcas, artistic director of Nicu's Spoon. Confirmed panelists: Christine Bruno, Disability Advocate, Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts; Lawrence Carter-Long, Director of the Disabled Network of NYC; Professor Thomas Donnarumma, Iona College Dept. of Performing Arts; Henry Holden, Disabled International Activist, Actor and Speaker; Anita Hollander, East coast SAG/AFTRA rep. for disabled artists; June Rachelson-Ospa, Writer, Producer, Director; Ike Shambelan, Artistic Director, Theatre by The Blind.

We'll discuss what accommodations are needed to hire the disabled, and how the costs are surprisingly nominal and outweigh the benefit of working with some extraordinary talent. Plus the added dimension that can be brought to a work through non-traditional casting.

The Spoon Theater, 38 W. 38th Street, 5th floor

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Call the people at Marvel Comics...

I should borrow the Gimp Parade's "Things that Crack Me Up" label for this...

Overheard, while I was driving, and my chatterbox seven-year-old was in the back seat, playing with random minivan flotsam, I guess:
"This is a job for Blindness Girl!"
I have no idea what she was doing or what the interesting super-heroine "job" was. But if you're reading this, Blindness Girl, consider yourself signaled.

Disability Blog Carnival #16 is up NOW!

Jana at PilgrimGirl has a terrific carnival edition built around the theme of "Borders." Immigration, institutionalization, categorization, accessibility, identity... and Pagans, and shoes, and misplaced call buttons. Go, read, enjoy. (And don't miss Jana's essay on borders and bodies, posted to accompany the carnival--footnotes and all!)

The next edition of the carnival is due up on June 28, when it revisits the Planet of the Blind blog. Stephen and Connie Kuusisto have set "Laughter, the Best Medicine" as their theme. (As usual, take the theme in any direction you please.) Submit your posts on and off the called theme using the blogcarnival form, or leave a comment here, or there, we'll find you and consider all submissions.

(Visual at right is Disability Blog Carnival logo #4, I believe (out of six so far)--the words "The Disability Blog Carnival" and "a bracing event" in blue, superimposed over an old patent illustration of an elaborate torso bracing device)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Unnecessary Roughness

Do we really need this? At left, a print ad for the 2006 Canadian Wheelchair Rugby Championship. (Visual description: black lettering on the face of what appears to be a seriously play-worn wheelchair-rugby wheel, reading "TO PLAY WHEELCHAIR RUGBY YOU HAVE TO BE PHYSICALLY HANDICAPPED AND MENTALLY INSANE.")

The other two ads in the campaign were okay, but this one plays into the cliched idea that being "mentally insane" is all about being heedless of danger, spectacularly self-destructive, and ... entertaining to watch? Busting cliches about one disability group by reinforcing cliches about another disability group just isn't helpful, in the bigger picture.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

evokability walking project

walking the talk

eVokability: The Walking Project

NEWS RELEASE Karmalux Media June 1, 2007 Press Contact: Maori Karmael Holmes 215. 313. 2890

philadelphia—Exploring ideas and images surrounding the notion of “walking,” vis-à-vis the body with disabilities, multimedia performance piece, eVokability: The Walking Project presents a workshop performance in Philadelphia on June 22.

Performers wear Costumes embedded with sensors that track the shape and force of physical gesture, using these dynamics to generate live media projections that amplify their movement. Each performer’s sensor-based Costume is technically “tailored,” to her body and her movement. Each Costume functions as a media "instrument" that the performer plays: a virtual extension of the body, a narrative prop.

The eVokability workshop performances take place:

Thursday June 14, Friday June 15 & Saturday June 16 at 7:30pm at Dance Theater Workshop Studio, 219 W. 19th St., New York;

Friday June 22 and Saturday June 23 at 7:30PM at Spirit Wind Internal Arts Society (213 New Street in Philadelphia).

Tickets are $10 ($7 for students/under-/unemployed) and can be purchased by contacting Sarah Drury at or by calling 917. 254. 3468.

Performers approach the subject of walking from the standpoint of a question: what does it mean to walk—and how is it accomplished by those with different bodies? Where steps and stairways can be insuperable barriers to the world's most serious institutions and harmless pleasures alike, these performers address this basic emblem of human mobility and autonomy.

“This project is the culmination of an experimental process,” says director Sarah Drury. “Assistive technologies need to become more sophisticated, subtle and expressive tools for people with disabilities. This project explores media technologies as subtle amplifications of body, mind and voice.”

eVokability began as a collaboration between Drury, a new media artist and disabilities scholar Carol Marfisi in 2003. The Walking Project has grown out of this initial collaboration, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and Temple University and with the contributions of many talented people, including electronics designer Charlie Hoey and programmer Seth Erickson.

There are three solo pieces that comprise The Walking Project. The performers are Cathy Weis, Shelley Barry, and Lezlie Frye. Body movements of the performers—grand and slight—cause “ripples” of digital imagery, transposed via computer and projected onto a screen. In “Standing Noise,” Cathy Weis wears sensor-soled shoes that visually amplify her weight shifts and help narrate her experiences of standing still, walking and dancing. Shelley Barry’s three-part piece “Transit” is an interactive meditative comtemplation on land and longing. Lezlie Frye wears sensors on her hands to explore the “realtime body archive”—the graphing of physical activity and particularity of movement against the grid of cultural mobility.

The completed production will be presented in Philadelphia in November 2007. If you are interested in presenting eVokability: The Walking Project, please contact Sarah Drury at

To see images from the show, please visit


Sarah Drury is a new media artist working with language and the body through interactive narrative, wearable interfaces and responsive media design in performance. Her work has been presented at international venues, including: BAM’s Next Wave Festival, the National Theater of Belgrade, the Brooklyn Museum, the Kitchen, SIGGRAPH, ISEA, the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, Artists Space, Hallwalls and the Worldwide Video Festival at the Hague. Drury’s work uses responsive media to focus on questions of control, play and the emergent subject. This work translates kinesthetic and vocal experience into languages of image, sound and text, in such diverse contexts as electrical inventor Nikola Tesla’s principals of induction (Violet Fire Opera) and the projection of different embodiment by performers addressing issues of disabilities (eVokability: The Walking Project). Sarah is currently an assistant professor at the Temple University Film & Media Art/New Media Interdisciplinary Concentration.


The work of Guggenheim Fellow and Bessie Award winner Cathy Weis centers on a choreographic process that fully integrates dance with sound, design and technology. In 1989, Weis was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. By 1992 she began to emerge from what she calls her own personal black hole. Fascinated with our perception of television as reality, Weis began to explore the partnering of live dance with video. Her recent works include Electric Haiku: Calm as Custard, recently produced at the Institute for Contemporary Art, Boston (2007) and originally commissioned/produced by Dance Theater Workshop, NYC (2005), A Lecture on Walking, commissioned by the Culture Project, NYC, 2004, Electric Haiku and An Abondanza in the Air (with Lisa Nelson), Dance Theater Workshop (2002); and Show Me, commissioned/produced by The Kitchen, NYC (2001). In the past, Weis has also worked with dance and performance artists such as Bill T. Jones, Simone Forti, Joan Jonas, Steve Paxton and others.

Shelley Barry In 2003 Shelley was awarded a full scholarship from the Ford Foundation to study towards her MFA in Film in the United States, graduating from Temple University in 2006. Her films have screened at major venues around the world and have been acquired by WYBE, DUTV and MTV in the USA. Recent awards include an Audre Lorde Award for Media, Distinguished Graduate Student Award from the Pennsylvania Association of Graduate Schools and four Best Film awards at international festivals for her first film, “Whole—A Trinity of Being”, an experimental documentary, which also received the Jury Citation Award at the Black Maria Film Festival. Born and raised in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, Shelley has worked extensively as a disability rights activist, following a shooting in the Cape taxi wars of 1996 that resulted in her being a wheelchair user. She has worked in democratic South Africa’s parliament and presidency as a disability rights advocate. She is also a published poet, currently working on her first anthology. Shelley is the director of twospinningwheels productions, based in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa. For

Lezlie Frye is a performance artist, activist, poet and scholar. She has performed at wide range of artistic and cultural events, including festivals, workshops, and conferences. Frye aims to address intersecting forms of oppression and to locate critical resistance in the foxy bodies of cripples everywhere. She is a currently a doctoral student in the American Studies Program, department of Social and Cultural Analysis, at New York University. In addition to collaboration on the eVokability Project, Frye is currently exploring a range of performance modes that fuse movement to storytelling and spoken word.


Seth Erickson (interactive programmer) is a researcher and producer of New Media art. He received his undergraduate degree in History of Art and Architecture from Brown University in 2004. Since then, he has worked with New Media artists in Germany, France, and the U.S. He currently lives and works in New York City.

Charles Hoey (interactive electronics design) has worked on interactive media design for the eVokability Project since its inception in 2003. He also worked on interactive media for Violet Fire: A Multimedia Opera about Nikola Tesla for its recent world premiere in Belgrade, Serbia and its US premiere at BAM’s New Wave Festival.

Carol Marfisi (eVokability Project collaborator; Walking Project catalogue editor) is a writer and instructor of graduate level courses in Disability Studies, incorporating the arts to explore the representation of people with disabilities in mainstream culture and in disability culture. Marfisi has been a collaborative partner on the eVokability Costume Project since 2003, contributing insights and experiences about disability life from fifteen years of active involvement in the Disability Rights Movement. The author of numerous academic and creative writings publications, Marfisi considers physical difference and disability as a creative device and a means of enlightenment about human nature in general. Carol is editing a catalogue of writings by people with disabilities and photographic documentation of the performance by J.J. Tiziou, to accompany eVokability: The Walking Project. The Institute on Disabilities at Temple University is one of the 67 University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service funded by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

For more information or for photos and interview requests, please contact Maori Karmael Holmes at 215. 313. 2890 or email


eVokability is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Temple University Junior Faculty Research Initiative. eVokability was co-sponsored by the Temple Institute on Disabilities. The Institute on Disabilities at Temple University is one of the 67 University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service funded by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Through training, technical assistance, services and supports, research, dissemination, and advocacy, the Institute is committed to supporting individuals with disabilities in their pursuit of interdependence, contribution, and inclusion.

Where is Pedro Guzman?

Nobody knows, including Pedro himself, at last word. While he was in jail for a misdemeanor trespassing violation, the 29-year-old Los Angeles-born man from Lancaster CA was mistakenly identified as a non-citizen, and turned over to Homeland Security for deportation in April. In mid-May, he called a relative, probably from Tijuana, but he wasn't sure. No word since then.

This week, his family filed suit against the LA County sheriff's department and the Department of Homeland Security. "My worst fear is that he is no longer living," explained Guzman's brother Michael. "He doesn't know how to read. He often can't remember his family phone number. He even gets lost if he gets off the main street in Lancaster." Michael Guzman confirmed that his brother attended special education classes before he dropped out of school; he speaks English and Spanish, but is unable to read in either language.

Pedro Guzman is an American citizen, a disabled man, abandoned by US government officials, alone in an unfamiliar place, after a misdemeanor trespassing violation. They could have looked up his birth certificate, or called his family, but nobody bothered. Now, nobody knows where he is. Or if he's even still alive.

At left above, a photo of Pedro Guzman, as shown at this local news website.

UPDATE (7 August): Pedro Guzman turned up alive in early August.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

June 9: Cole Porter (1891-1964)

American composer and songwriter Cole Porter was born on June 9, 1891. He's best known for standards like "Just One of Those Things," "I Get a Kick out of You," and "I've Got You Under my Skin." In 1937, he was in a serious riding accident, and fractured both legs. He used a wheelchair or crutches for the last twenty-seven years of his life, but because few buildings were accessible in the mid-20th century, he was often carried into venues to perform, or parties to attend. He put his piano on blocks and continued to compose from his wheelchair. His post-injury works included Kiss Me, Kate (1948), which won him a Tony Award.

Chronic and severe pain, depression, alcoholism, and drug addiction were also part of Porter's difficult life after the accident--not all of that directly or solely traceable to his injuries, of course. He is known to have been treated with an early version of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Porter's right leg was amputated, after dozens of surgeries and decades of chronic pain, in 1958. He was fitted for a prosthetic leg, but never used it comfortably, and rarely left his home in his last years. During his life, the extent of his pain and injury were mostly unknown beyond his closest friends, but Porter has since been depicted as using a wheelchair in the 2004 film De-Lovely, and in stage productions of Red Hot and Cole.

Note: The Gay for Today bio-blog also noted Porter's birthday today.

Monday, June 04, 2007

June 4: Happy Birthday, John Hockenberry!

According to his Wikipedia entry, today is journalist John Hockenberry's 51st birthday. His blog doesn't seem to allow comments, but maybe observe the day just by reading this recent entry there, where he exults, "Hey, haven't you heard? Normal is dead ... I'll drink to that." It's good stuff.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

SDS, Day 3--short report

I had to depart the conference after lunch on Day 3, so I was only able to attend one panel--but it was a good one. If I had missed my flight to see David Linton's talk and eat mango cheesecake, it would have been absolutely worth it.

Linton's talk was about the use of "handicap"/sickness/cure language in Kotex advertisements of the 1920s--he had the room (which was spilling into the hallway) gasping and exclaiming with his visuals, many of them found at Duke University Archive's wondrous Ad*Access site (part of the Digital Scriptorium). At left, one of his examples: "A Great Hygienic Handicap that Your Daughter will be Spared," reads the headline on this 1926 ad, illustrated by a drawing of two seated women (presumably mother and daughter), slim and in stylish dress, clasping hands as if they're having an important talk ("the talk," as Linton put it). The small-print text extols how "Like most things, woman's greatest hygienic handicap has yielded to modern scientific attainment."

Linton had the deadpan vocal delivery of a presenter on This American Life, too, where lighter hilarity wouldn't have served the topic--after all, these aren't just quaint old advertisements, if you remember what terms like "hygiene" and "modern scientific attainment" were also about in 1920s America, in the heyday of eugenics and Americanization. (Linton is also known, on excellent authority, as "the funkiest man on skates," a claim that nobody could challenge after Friday night's dance--and he wasn't even wearing skates at the time.)

Friday, June 01, 2007

Checking in from SDS, Day 2

Hello from the lobby of the Sea-Tac Hilton, on day 2 of the 20th anniversary meeting of the Society for Disability Studies. The session I mentioned heading to last entry turned out to be a Deaf history panel, and it was really great to see a set of young scholars (Sara Robinson, Lindsey Parker, and Elizabeth Bush) digging into some issues of community, age, gender, space, and identity in contexts like a "home for the elderly and infirm deaf" in the mid-20th century, or among the first women to graduate from Gallaudet, or in national Deaf empowerment organizations (where the women were, initially, barred from membership, but more than welcome to form fund-raising auxiliaries). And as if those papers weren't enough, Susan Burch gave a fourth presentation about her soon-to-be-published work on Junius Wilson--a life story that complicates a lot of the givens about D/deaf cultural history. So that was cool.

This morning I made it to the plenary, on "The Future of Disability Arts." Very disappointed to find that a favorite dancer-blogger couldn't make it as scheduled, but her paper was still presented, and very cool. Petra Kuppers ended her portion of the program on a slide that read, "We do not need positive images. We need depth, and heft, and presence." Right on. Kanta Kochhar-Lindgren and Jim Ferris were the other presenters--I'm not going to quote you some of the stronger language in Ferris' manifesto, but it was all arresting and powerful.

Had some local friends to hang out with this afternoon, but soon I'll be covering the Disability History Association booth at the poster session and reception. Again, sorry no links, I'm really just tapping this in on the run. I'll add them in later, as opportunity permits.