ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the April 5, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl, but it has its roots in several discussions on [personal profile] dialecticdreamer's blog about characters with disabilities including "Disability On Screen" and "Future Illness and Ableism." The prompt from [personal profile] capriuni about Claudius I is actually under "Prompts Open for April 2016." [personal profile] technoshaman prompted for Granny Whammy in my fishbowl. It also fills the "living legend" square in my 4-1-16 card for the Archetypal Characters Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] capriuni. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

Warning: This poem discusses disability and discrimination, along with Granny Whammy's muleheaded stance that everyone with superpowers ought to be a superhero. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"Confusing to the Ear"


Granny Whammy enjoyed taking
time to look through history in search
of possible soups from the past.

Today she had company in
the form of Valor's Widow,
another avid historian with
an interest in superpowers.

"I think Claudius I of Rome
may have been a Super-Intellect,"
said Granny Whammy, her finger
pointing out a block of text. "It says
that although his speech was
confusing to the ear and people
underestimated him, he made
many astute arguments and
solved a lot of problems."

Valor's Widow leaned over to look.
"You think that his physical disabilities
obscured his mental gifts," she said.

"It seems likely," said Granny Whammy.
"His plans made it possible for Rome to
conquer Britannia, the first time the Empire
reached beyond continental Europe."

"We can put Claudius I on the list of
possible soups," Valor's Widow said,
making a note on her tablet computer.

"He would have made a great superhero,"
Granny Whammy said with sigh.

"He would have made a terrible superhero,"
said Valor's Widow, frowning at her.
"He made a great politician."

"Politicians," Granny Whammy snorted.
"Bunch of snooty old fools arguing over
how to run the country into the ground."

"Helen, not everyone is cut out for combat,
and that's a good thing," said Valor's Widow.
"You need to leave room for that, and you
don't always remember to do so. Otherwise
you'd wind up doing the jobs you hate, like
politics -- I know people keep asking you."

"Never gonna happen," Granny Whammy said.

"I know, and that's probably for the best,"
said Valor's Widow. "So if you don't want
to do it yourself, you need to let other folks
develop their skills in that direction."

"Can't teach what I don't know,"
said Granny Whammy. "I know how
to be a superhera, how to fight the good fight."

"So delegate," said Valor's Widow. "I know it's
confusing, but you have plenty of volunteers,
and SPOON could be a lot more than it is.
It could reach a lot more people."

"You mean supervillains," said Granny Whammy.

"I mean supervillains, blue-plate specials,
crickets -- everyone not optimally covered
by the current offerings," said Valor's Widow.

"They talk to you," said Granny Whammy.

"They do," said Valor's Widow. "I could
make some suggestions, based on that input."

"I'll think about it," Granny Whammy said.

* * *

Notes:

Granny Whammy -- Helen Laguardia was Whammy Lass in her youth, one of the first really famous superheroes. She served in World War II. She has olive skin and brown eyes. Her wavy hair was black, and is now white. As Granny Whammy, she runs the Super Power Organizational & Operational Nexus.
Origin: Always a big strong girl, she came into her superpower at puberty.
Uniform: Whammy Lass served in the army and wore camo fatigues. Granny Whammy customarily wears dark green pants with a cream or white blouse, often with a camo-patterned sweater or vest on top.
Qualities: Master (+6) Commanding Respect, Master (+6) Wisdom of Experience, Expert (+4) Organizational Skills, Expert (+4) Stubborn, Good (+2) Activist, Good (+2) Armor, Good (+2) Soup HIstory
Poor (-2) No Longer a Spring Chicken
Powers: Good (+2) Strength
Motivation: Use the right tool for the job.

Valor's Widow -- Deirdre Braden has milk-pale skin and wavy auburn hair. Her eyes have changed from hazel to glas, sea-color lit with sorrow. She has a slender, delicate build. Superheroes and supervillains alike respect her and stand aside for her. They are coming to her more and more often for help resolving disputes or other problems. Deirdre lives in San Jose.
Origin: Deirdre was the wife of Captain Valor. When Haxxor planted a bomb in San Jose and took over Captain Valor's gizmotronic armor, Deidre activated a failsafe and destroyed the armor, killing both Captain Valor and Haxxor. The sacrifice changed her from an ordinary woman to a supernary hera.
Uniform: Deidre dresses all in black, in sober styles. Sometimes she wears a black veil too.
Qualities: Master (+6) Aura of Valor, Master (+6) Loyalty to Honor, Expert (+4) Love of Captain Valor, Expert (+4) Historian, Expert (+4) Leader, Expert (+4) Mediation, Good (+2) Compassionate, Good (+2) Contacts Among Soups, Good (+2) Forethought, Good (+2) Graceful
Poor (-2) Broken Heart
Motivation: To keep the peace and uphold the memory of Captain Valor.

* * *

Claudius I made many accomplishments, despite his physical and social challenges. People often overlook parts of his life.

"It is likely that Claudius had the congenital physical impairment known today as cerebral palsy. This affected his ability to walk. This impairment is very common for survivors of this condition." [...]
"He also had a speech impairment. Lucius Annaeus Seneca sometimes known as Senecathe Younger (Stoic philosopher, dramatist, politician, money lender and teacher) (c. 4 BCE - 65 CE), makes a mocking reference to his speech in the play Apocolocyntosis DiviClaudii / The Pumpkinification of Claudius: "They did not understand his reply because his voice was disturbing and confusing to the ear [...] His tongue was not intelligible - notGreek was he, nor Roman, nor of any noted race [...]"
-- Emperor Claudius I: the man, his physical impairment, and reactions to it by Keith Armstrong

"Later Claudius was to write a history of the Etruscans in twenty books, in Greek; a history of the Carthaginians in eight books also in Greek; a history of the Roman state since 31 BCE in forty-one books and his own biography in eight books. None of Claudius' books have survived."
(In Terramagne, fourteen of these are known to have survived: the first volume of the Etruscans, the last volume of the Carthaginians, four of the Roman ones, and all eight of the autobiography.)
-- Emperor Claudius I: the man, his physical impairment, and reactions to it by Keith Armstrong

Cerebral palsy is a condition caused by damage to a child's developing brain before (usually), during, or immediately after (rarely) birth. Brain damage can cause a vast range of physical or cognitive effects; CP is characterized primarily by muscular impairments such as tremors or paralysis. Here is part of our discussion about the possible overlap with cognitive impairments, and the importance of maximizing people's mental opportunities. Coping with CP offers techniques for living a more enriched life. There are tips for parents and friends of people with CP. Adults with CP may need some special arrangements to function, but many enjoy productive lives.

It's important to let people be themselves, and avoid pushing your expectations on them. This creates a good workplace or other organization. People with superpowers have a very wide range of cultures and standards, making it difficult to include representation for everyone. You can see the difference just between Granny Whammy (who thinks in terms of duties and institutions) and Valor's Widow (who thinks in terms of connections and negotiations).

Diversity has a variety of benefits and challenges. Here are some tips and activities for supporting diversity.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-12 11:53 pm (UTC)
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
From: [personal profile] capriuni
Thank you for this, btw. It's important to crip history a bit -- the Disabled didn't just show up in the world the first time doctors started categorizing them.

Meanwhile, there are a few different kinds of C.P. Based on the symptoms Kieth Armstrong described, I think Claudius had the same flavor of C.P. as standup comedian Maysoon Zayid (a TED Talk).

Also, I think Claudius fell in love with writing, because it allowed him to express himself without a finicky tongue getting in the way.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-13 12:52 am (UTC)
thnidu: plus sign (plus)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Also, I think Claudius fell in love with writing, because it allowed him to express himself without a finicky tongue getting in the way.

Excellently sensible.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-13 09:50 am (UTC)
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
From: [personal profile] capriuni
I speak from (somewhat related) experience. I grew up with the privilege of nearly fluent speech, but fell in love with writing because words allowed me to play pretend with my mobility-typical peers as an equal -- or to excel past them. They could run and climb trees. I developed the skill of writing Poems-in-a-Minute for them....

Re: Yes...

Date: 2016-04-13 08:07 pm (UTC)
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
From: [personal profile] capriuni
Imaginary games are the best.

When I was a kid, there was a fairly deep patch/pit of super-fine sand (the kind used in mixing cement) left over from when our house was built right at the corner where our porch/terrace met the lawn. On hot summer days, one game friends and I made up would be to let the garden hose squirt water full blast into the sand for a few seconds. And when the water drained away, there'd be "hills" and "ravines" and the like, left behind by the turbulence. Then, we'd build tiny houses out of sticks and leaves, and decide what kinds of cultures lived in what kind of landscapes. I was "World-Building" even before I knew the term.

Re: You're welcome!

Date: 2016-04-16 11:42 am (UTC)
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
From: [personal profile] capriuni
To think that he wrote dozens of them, and was an emperor, and it was all lost anyway, is just crushing.

Definitely. If I ever get around to hosting a TARDIS dinner party, he's one of the dozen people I'd invite to one of them (But I would definitely not sit him next to Robert Graves... >_>)

Re: You're welcome!

Date: 2016-04-16 06:12 pm (UTC)
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
From: [personal profile] capriuni
Actually, the "TARDIS Dinner Party" is not a plot bunny in my head -- it's a discussion thread meme going back to the days of Usenet Newsgroups, from the days before anyone knew the Doctor Who reboot was a twinkle in Russell T. Davies' eye. As leader of the pro-fun trolls, I was constantly trying to think of thread topics that could be linked to Doctor Who in some way, that would generate lively discussion, but be unlikely to descend into flaming each other, so I posed this question:

Considering the fact that the maximum number of humans who can engage in a single conversation (without splintering into private asides among smaller groups) is 13 -- and imagining you had a TARDIS: What 12 guests, from anytime in history, the present, or fiction, would you invite to a dinner party (with yourself as host being the 13th person)? Bonus question: Who would you seat next to whom?

Besides, it's Creative Jam weekend. Consider that my personal prompt to you, if you like the idea.

I'm probably going to take a rain check on taking on any additional fiction/poetry writing until I've got my poetry anthology/chapbook (a bit more elaborate than a traditional chapbook, but not as long as a "collected works") ready to be published... I am so-o-o close, I can taste it.

But thanks for the prompt. I'll let my brood of plot bunnies keep it warm for me in the meantime.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-13 12:58 am (UTC)
thnidu: warm red heart on orange streaked background (heart)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
I was close to tears reading Valor's Widow's description.

I really hope Granny thinks positively about her proposition, recognizes that Valor's Widow is offering valuable acumen and services that Granny herself is unable to supply to SPOON— not because of any flaw of hers, but because it involves personality characteristics that she simply doesn't have in such strength— and takes her up on it. Maybe she'll even offer Valor's Widow a new-made post in SPOON with appropriate resources and authority.
Edited Date: 2016-04-13 12:58 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-15 09:19 pm (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
It's extremely ironic that Granny Whammy recognizes her own strengths and weaknesses and refuses to let herself be pushed into a political position for which she knows she's unqualified, but refuses to consider the idea that other people might not be suited to Fighting the Good Fight. Also, she doesn't seem to have much of a clue about how to delegate, or she'd have been developing people to take on the political roles already.

This is probably the result of (1) having grown up in an era when One-True-Wayism was much more the norm than it is today, and (2) her military background, which is going to reinforce both that and "single chain of command" thinking. Nonetheless, it's now a liability for SPOON as they move into the 21st century.

Has she even thought about designating someone to take the conn when she dies? Everything she's worked so hard to build could crumble if the organization flails helplessly once she's gone.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-12 07:52 pm (UTC)
eseme: (Default)
From: [personal profile] eseme
The poem is not displaying for me, just the notes.

Well...

Date: 2016-04-12 08:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I checked both DW and LJ. It displays in full for me. I have no idea why it's not for you. Maybe browser issues? Or because technology hates me. 0_o

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-12 11:53 pm (UTC)
zeeth_kyrah: A glowing white and blue anthropomorphic horse stands before a pink and blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah
It's working for me. Maybe the page got corrupted in transit by something. As a trick, try holding the shift key and clicking the reload button. That should totally refresh the page from the website, instead of recalling stuff from your local cache.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-13 12:07 am (UTC)
eseme: (Default)
From: [personal profile] eseme
It does not load in the LJ mobile version. Switching to the non-mobile version let me read it.

I like it, and agree with Valor's Widow.

Thoughts

Date: 2016-04-13 01:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> It does not load in the LJ mobile version. Switching to the non-mobile version let me read it. <<

Weird. But a lot of things break when crossing the mobile/static boundary.

>> I like it, and agree with Valor's Widow. <<

Yay! I'm happy to hear that.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-28 01:42 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (Murphy's Law)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
Was that one of the periods when LJ upgrading their servers?

Well...

Date: 2016-04-28 01:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
Possibly. I do not use mobile services, so I cannot check functionality of those if someone reports a problem.

Re: Well...

Date: 2016-04-28 04:58 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (Default)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
Oop, I meant to address the question to [livejournal.com profile] eseme, knowing that you would see it too. Anyway, it was more to test a possible reason than to know the literal answer.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-16 07:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] paantha.livejournal.com
How long have these two been friends? *curious* It shows the depth of their friendship that Valor's Widow is able to get such a concession from Granny Whammy. ^_^

Thoughts

Date: 2016-04-16 07:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> How long have these two been friends? *curious* <<

Quite a while. At least since the death of Captain Valor, but they may have met earlier.

>> It shows the depth of their friendship that Valor's Widow is able to get such a concession from Granny Whammy. ^_^ <<

True as far as it goes, but there are two additional factors:

1) Everyone listens to Valor's Widow. She is one of the few people who crosses cape lines with complete respect from all sides -- and she's not one of the standard neutral parties like a medic or a teleporter. She's just a favorite negotiator.

2) Granny Whammy may not incorporate diversity well, but she is actually quite good at talking with a variety of people. She has a lot of, hmm, not exactly friends but nonhostile contacts. She doesn't have to agree with people to have a chat without hitting anyone. Granny Whammy talks with Dr. Infanta too.

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