Museum Visit: Disability Rights and Resources

Woohoo, new series! As a future museum studies/public history student and professional, I figured it behooved me to go out and spend some time soaking up some museums. I’m already studying and volunteering, but I’m interested in seeing the different exhibits both for my own enjoyment/education and to see how they’re being done. I’m hoping to do a Museum Visit post about once a month. (I’m moving into a more organized blog structure and schedule soon, but more on that at a later date!)

Disability History Exhibit

This visit in particular wasn’t to a museum per se, but a Disability History Exhibit presented by Disability Rights and Resources in downtown Birmingham, Alabama. I happened to hear about the organization at a service fair on campus, and chose to do this first since it’s only open for a limited time. I’m not connected with DRR and make no representation of the quality of their services. The exhibit is on loan from People First of Alabama, and I have no knowledge of them either.

On to the exhibit. It consists of 22 panels like those in the picture above. They wind around the DRR lobby, but the order is clearly labeled. Each panel has relevant paintings or photographs accompanying color-coded text (for moral, medical, and social points of view), along with quotes and pullout text marked “Stereotype:” or “Social value:” etc., explaining the context of the time. A timeline runs across the bottom of the display.

There’s really a ton of information here, going from early religious impressions of the “purpose” of a disability, through medical models that turned people into permanent patients or objects of study, then from permanent patients into inmates, especially with the interest in genetics and eugenics in the early 20th century. Roughly the second half of the exhibit goes through different aspects of civil rights movements and modern self-advocacy movements.

I thought they did a great job of presenting their chosen narrative, drawing in milestones in the history of disability rights but also more elusive content like social perceptions and the inception of ideas. The display is engaging, a great balance of illustrative photos, explanatory text, and revealing quotes. I was especially impressed at how carefully the photos had been chosen to add value to the experience, not just for the sake of having a picture there. I did notice a few typos in the text… Not the end of the world, but since the text drives the exhibit, the absence of typos would be a helpful thing. There’s also a strong agenda, but I have no problem with that since it’s clearly identified and there are huge signs naming the sponsoring institutions.

The one thing that actually bothers me is it would’ve been a great digital history project, better than a physical one. There aren’t any physical objects to interact with, so the whole thing could be digitized. That would allow users from anywhere in the world to access it, read at their own pace, and click links to related information from another time period (or maybe more details on another site or something), all without having to stand in a lobby and read something on a wall for 45 minutes. It’s already visually sleek and modern-looking with a good flow of information, and it seems to me it would translate to the web with a minimum of extra effort. A website could also offer some different accessibility options, although there is an audio tour available.

All together, it was an interesting exhibit and I do feel like I learned a few things. It was coherent and visually engaging, and promoting understanding of the historical treatment of people with disabilities is a helpful thing. The exhibit will be available in the Disability Rights and Resources lobby in downtown Birmingham through May 9, 2014. Admission is free. Go to for more information!

For some further reading on perceptions of disability, check out Rose B. Fischer’s “Redefining Disability” blog series.

Review: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

Some spoilers, mostly minor.


I’ve been seeing a lot of people say Winter Soldier is the best Marvel movie. I wouldn’t go that far — nothing here blew my mind — but it was pretty darn good.

The Plot:

Captain America was my least favorite Phase One Marvel movie, for the simple reason that the plot pacing was nonexistent. I am a stickler for pacing. That problem was fixed here… There are a lot of elements and subplots, but they’re balanced well. I was never confused, but I never felt like I was being lead through it either. Some of the dialogue was less than artful, the movie’s anti-surveillance message is waaaay out there in the open, but at the same time that’s a totally on-point discussion to be having and I didn’t feel like it was so heavy-handed as to be ineffective or unrealistic.

I like that the movie follows through on that discussion and actually allows changes to be made, rather than just playing with it and then returning to the status quo. I’ll have to catch up on the last few episodes of Agents of Shield before Tuesday, because a lot of stuff went down with Shield in this movie and I want to see the fallout. I won’t give details, but I will say that I’ve only read a smattering of Marvel comics so I don’t know if this movie’s content follows any particular storyline, but it does seem very Marvel-ish in tone and treatment of its superheroes.

As I expected, the Winter Soldier himself is more of a subplot than a supervillain. In the title and the trailers, he serves to distract the audience from the heavier discussions and main plot of the movie. I’m okay with that, because he’s still awesome, and an important subplot for Cap himself. On the whole, this movie really let Cap shine. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone, but he’s not squeamish. He’s honest, but that doesn’t mean he’s weak — he has a commitment to the truth. His super-soldier skills are on display throughout the movie, hopefully proving his worth to all y’all who thought he was superflous in the Avengers. Honestly, the man fights like a dancer and he knows how to arrange his troops.

The Characters:

There was such a great female presence in this movie! Black Widow is a vital and constant element, Agent Hill is great, and there’s another cool female agent. All three of them are distinctly different women without being stereotypes of anything, all three of them have serious commitments to their work, and none of them are shown in superfluous states of undress. (Not shown in states of undress at ALL, as far as I remember.)

Various ladies are suggested as romantic partners for Cap, but it’s done in a natural and mutual way. (The suggestion is simply that he might enjoy having a social life, not that women will faint all over him or that he deserves a “reward” or anything.) There’s no indication from anyone that because there are women in the movie, one of them must sleep with Cap at some point. They’re there to do actual significant things which they have chosen to do, which matter to the fate of the world, actually.

Beyond all that, there’s a consistent female presence in all the group shots: working on computers, working in Shield, being Shield agents, being henchpeople, being on the World Security Council, attending group meetings of military veterans, just being everywhere, and all completely not sexualized. That’s just totally awesome.

There are two prominent characters of color in Nick Fury and Sam/Falcon, both of whom are amazeballs. In addition, I don’t know how well they qualify as characters with disabilities, but Nick Fury has his eyepatch and the Winter Soldier has a totally rad prosthetic arm.

Winter Soldier arm

Several Spoilery Questions:

Where was Tony Stark? Cap and Natasha are running around trying to get someone to help them hide/decrypt some super-secret programming, and they don’t even try to contact Tony? Especially after he was the one suspicious of Shield in Avengers in the first place? He could’ve been a big help.

More importantly, if Hill was always going to blow up the helicarriers after Steve was clear, why go through all that brouhaha to reprogram them first? I could understand if they didn’t WANT to blow them up, it looks like they did a ton of damage falling out of the sky and who knows how many crewmembers were killed, but that is clearly not the case. Blowing them up was part of the plan.


Aside from the Tony Stark question, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World both did a good job of keeping the other heroes out of the equation in a believable way. In TDW only a few minutes of serious action happened on Earth. In Winter Soldier, most of it’s secret, so again the big fight only takes up a few minutes. I don’t know where Hawkeye was, but the others probably wouldn’t have known or been able to get there in time.

I prefer the crazier end of Marvel, with gods and magic and aliens, so maybe that’s why I don’t think this is the greatest Marvel movie yet. All the same, it is really good, and satisfying on many levels. It’s packed with action, but thoughtful too, and it’s not afraid to make big changes. The characterization is all spot-on, and the pace is good. Go see it and let me know what you think!



Loki Fights Like a Girl

Review: Ms. Marvel #1

Review: “Thor: The Dark World”

Reasons to Love History #7: Touching the Past

I got to hold a piece of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s jail cell.

I volunteer in an iron and steel museum. That may sound strange, but iron and steel have been super important in the South. Anyway, I clean and catalog the museum’s acquisitions. The gentleman who was restoring it for display elsewhere was allowed to keep the extraneous bits, and he donated one to us.

It’s a tiny iron rectangle with some rust on it.

Maybe it’s just a chronological version of celebrity adoration, and I shouldn’t feel touched to hold a random iron rectangle from a jail cell, but I do. I really do.

It’s not just objects associated with famous people… I want to physically touch everything in every museum. It’s like touching the past directly. It’s touching the same thing another person touched, however many years ago. It’s a connection to someone whose life deserves to be remembered, even if they aren’t remembered and never can be. It proves there really were people and things here before us. One of the reasons I’m sure public history is right for me is that touching something old feels like a religious experience.

Don’t go around touching things in museums. They’re fragile and even if you don’t actually break them, the oils on your hands can do lasting damage. I was properly cleaned and gloved. I’m just saying, if a docent ever says “It’s okay to touch this,” do it. It’s remarkable that these items exist at all.

Very Inspiring Blogger Award


Thanks for another nomination! Again, I will try to get to these soon, but if I never do, I still very much appreciate the nomination and you should all go follow Natacha’s blog.

Originally posted on Natacha Guyot:

Thank you, Raven, for nominating me for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award! I am very honored and appreciate that you find my blog so interesting! Still being in my first year of actual blogging is a great learning experience and I am glad to see that people enjoy the content I share here.


Rules for this Award:

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Add the Very Inspiring Blogger Award to your post.
  • Share 7 things about yourself.
  • Nominate a list of bloggers that inspire you.
  • Include this set of rules.
  • Inform your nominees by posting a comment on their blogs.


7 Things about Myself

  1. Baking is my favorite non writing/vidding related creative outlet.
  2. My favorite TV show is The X-Files. The second and third place on a favorite TV show podium would be impossible to determine because of all the titles I love so much. (I’m not good at…

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The Time Lord Victorious


I just left a long comment so I won’t repeat it all here. Suffice it to say I’m having a geek attack about Doctor Who, Satan, and Wile E. Coyote (but Wile E. Coyote is only sort of related.)

Originally posted on Sourcerer:

by William Hohmeister

Confession time: I like Doctor Who, and I don’t want to claim something about the show that doesn’t help us understand the story. I think the writers intended to use the myth to drive their story, and that it made both the character and the story more understandable. I wasn’t just trying to seem clever when I (possibly mis-) quoted Mark Twain; if the Doctor needs saving, what does that say for the myth of the devil?


Satan and the Doctor rebel against authority, and each story uses rebellion as a motivation and a result. But I want to be clear: when I say rebellion, I do not mean the Fall. The characters rebel because of their personalities, and the rebellion leads to the possibility of a Fall. What separates them – why I think the use of this myth in Doctor Who is important – is…

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Novel Update #2 – With notes on my outlining process

I must confess, I hardly touched What Dreams for most of March, but then last week I had Spring Break and made excellent progress.

I’m at 3,902 words, and my outline board looks like this (mostly the same):

novel outline postits

 Cats sold separately.

This month, I…

* Continued to fine-tune my outline process. I still adore my outline board, and I’m using it the way another pantser might use a normal outline – to keep track of the major points I need to hit and the master plan for the story, and to store ideas and scenes in loose order. (I have no idea how many people use the term “pantser” but I’m totally tagging my posts with it now). When it comes time to do the next section, I aggregate some post-its, make a few more detailed ones, and get them in order.

The second step in the outline process is to type the post-its into the Word document in which I’m writing, and start linking them together with more notes. Then I delete the notes as I write the scenes. So, I have kind of a rolling outline ahead of me, it’s super easy to alter, and I can just glance down to see where I’m going instead of trying to re-decipher my outline board or getting distracted by events in the far future. Plus, it’s easy to add notes about each scene as I think of them. Here’s a screencap:

WD screencap

Click to enlarge.

Compare this to my friend and longtime writing partner Rose’s outlining process, and you may see a few conceptual similarities but a lot of practical differences. I think the key is to just do what makes sense to you. Don’t try to force yourself into someone else’s process if your brain doesn’t work like theirs, find something that actually organizes what you really have in your head.

This month I also…

* Came to terms with the fact that I write best first thing in the morning. It’s not that I’m a morning person, just that no one talks to me then and I don’t have anything else on my mind yet. I can’t get up early for exercise to save my life, but I’m instituting a page-a-day regime and I’ll get up early for it when necessary. It’s a good way to create time, and my pages are only 300-400 words each. Generally I can outline in bits and pieces at other times of the day or on weekends to get me through the week, and I can do fact-checking or research during any moments of down time.

* Made a major realization about the character dynamics. It turns out two of the central characters aren’t actually in love, when all this time I thought they were. It changes basically nothing about the story, just fixes an ending I already didn’t like. Super excited about this!

* Re-read The Masterplan by Scott Mills. It’s an awesome sci-fi graphic novel that I’ve loved for years, one of my tone inspirations for this novel, and featured on my Doctor Who reading list. You should read it. (Tone inspirations are really important to me and I have to read books similar to mine or what I’m writing comes out like something someone else has already done… Reading is part of how I contemplate my story.)

The Masterplan Scott Mills


Lastly, I’m transitioning to a new format for these updates that’ll hopefully be helpful for people besides just me… Each one should include a writing tip, the word count/outline board update, bulleted points of interest for the month, any SF- or writing-related supplemental reading from that month, and maybe a sneak peek/example excerpt/character sheet/something like that. Anything else you’d like to see from the process of writing a science fiction novel?

So, that’s my progress for March. How are your projects coming?

Is There a Difference Between Nationalism and Patriotism?

eagle memeIf you’re just tuning in, I’m from Alabama. In the American South, patriotism is serious business. In fact, when I say I’m not patriotic, the best word to describe a person’s reaction is “horror.” The immediate conclusion is, “You mean like a terrorist?” (As if the only country to be patriotic about is America, and those who aren’t patriotic must hate it, and no terrorists are American… the list goes on). Granted, it’s mainly strangers who have that reaction, but even family members have said it “worries” them that I’m not patriotic. What I don’t understand is why people think patriotism is a virtue. The reason I’m not patriotic, and would never claim to be, is because I can’t discern any difference between patriotism and nationalism.

Some people might want to draw semantic lines and say patriotism is the good and mild version, while nationalism is the scary militant side. I don’t see a justification for that. I readily agree there are different “personalities” of patriotism/nationalism, and the term “patriotism” is more associated with “love for one’s country” while nationalism is linked to militancy, but I don’t see them as fundamentally different emotions or motivations. The basic idea is supporting your own country above all others.

In Political Science we talk about the need to build nationalism in a new state, and how important a sense of fellow-feeling is if you want a country to survive. I can certainly understand the government promoting the idea that patriotism is a virtue, and of course any government will be promoting patriotism in schools and armies. That’s a given, and not necessarily a bad thing, given the need for fellow-feeling. But fellow-feeling is the virtue, not patriotism/nationalism, and at some point the patriotism is going to inhibit fellow-feeling for those living in other countries.

I can enumerate reasons why liberal democracies are the best places to live. I’m intensely happy and grateful that I do live in one. I don’t want to move. I don’t want to get conquered, even hypothetically by another liberal democracy. But not wanting to get conquered doesn’t mean America is the greatest country on Earth, or that there’s nothing worth criticizing here. It doesn’t mean I want to drape myself in the American flag, or that I weep at cartoons of angry eagles. It doesn’t mean we have the right to treat other countries with disdain, ignorance, or violence. I’m not interested in working myself into an emotional frenzy based on the place I happen to live, especially when it necessarily means blinding myself to the actual facts about us and everyone else. That’s what patriotism boils down to for me, and I’m just not interested. Let’s try to improve the world and all the countries in it, not engage in petty squabbling about which country is the best.

Maybe this opinion comes from living in the south, and in other places there’s more of a distinction. I’d be interested to hear others weigh in on this from different perspectives.

I happened to come across this Listverse post yesterday with links to several studies about patriotism, so I’m gonna be lazy and just link you there if you want to find more scholarly analysis.


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