Posted in disability rights, quotes, Sunday - dimanche - domingo - söndag - Sonntag

The Things I’ve Heard About My Eyes and Brain… (Storytelling Sunday)

Some of the words used in this post are really ugly. That’s because they’re the really ugly words that I heard. I’m not gonna sugarcoat this. But if you can’t deal with reading the r-word in either of its common forms, or hear “psychotic” or “blind” used as insults rather than descriptions, you might want to skip this.

Storyteling Sunday, written on red text, on a striped yellow/green/black/white/cyan background.
Storytelling Sunday.

The story here, the reason it’s on Storytelling Sunday, is because each of these quotes forms one little piece of a long story that’ll be familiar to way too many disabled people. And while I’d like the story to stand on its own, I’d just like to comment that I don’t think lesser of any group targeted by such speech. And I don’t even necessarily think lesser of the people creating this speech — it’s very destructive, but it happened a long time ago to a bunch of people I’m leaving anonymous on purpose because who knows how they’ve changed since then or why each one said what they said.

You look BLIND.

close family members

What, are you a RETARD or something?

other kids


close family members

You look RETARDED.

close family members

Do you have a HEARING PROBLEM or something?

lots of people

What are you BLIND?

lots of people

People think you’re BLIND.

close family members

People think you’re RETARDED or something.

close family members

People think you’re PSYCHOTIC.

close family members


close family members


close family members, therapist


close family members


close family members


close family members

You’re a little bit TETCHED.

close family members

Oh don’t worry, we’re all a little SLOW in this family!

close family member regarding family reunion

It’s only after living with you for six months that I can see the degree of your VISUAL IMPAIRMENT.

close family member



You sure you’re not BLIND?

practically everyone

You CAN’T SEE can you?

practically everyone

Hey look at that BLIND [guy/lady]!

Lots of strangers

You know ‘gifted’ is just what they tell RETARDS they are so we don’t have to tell them they’re RETARDED…

lots of kids

You just seem like a SPECIAL ED KINDA GAL…

A hairdresser who’d asked whether my school was a ‘special school’ (it was).

These things were said in all manner of tones. Some people seemed to be trying to be affectionate. Others were aiming to insult and harm and bully. Others were just confused or curious. But all of this has an effect on you when you hear it day in, day out, every day, in one form or another. Especially when it’s coming from loved ones and people who are supposed to be loved ones.

I’ve asked about the blind part. Apparently it’s about a bunch of things: I stand too stiffly. I don’t make the normal eye movements and look straight ahead too much. (This is just called “staring” and apparently makes me stand out.) I don’t respond normally to visual information. (I am low-vision, guys…) I wear dark glasses in low light. I don’t always move my head or eyeballs in ways that would indicate noticing things visually. I could go on. Apparently I have many things that make me “look blind”.

But hearing these things so much made me think there was something wrong or shameful about being low-vision.

And, well, as I said, the story told by the above quotes most likely speaks for itself when any disabled person who’s heard similar reads it. I just want to make sure people know, my problem here is not “OMG I’m being compared to people I think are inferior,” it’s “OMG I’m being compared to people the speaker thinks is inferior, and being thought inferior myself, but I wouldn’t be inferior whether or not these things were accurate descriptions.

Right now I’m talking about blindness, but blindness is just one of the things that was repeatedly called to my attention as a sign I was Doing Something Wrong, or rather Being Something Wrong (you know you’re being accused of Being Something Wrong when the local kids use your full name as a cuss word growing up). Which — no — doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense, but ableism rarely does.

But it does get inside of you, telling you these things do make you inferior (whether they exist or not barely matters). And I’ve been ridiculously afraid of being low-vision for way too long. Time to change what’s inside my head, time not to let this crap into my brain anymore. You don’t have to accept every idea handed to you, something that was news to me when I learned it rather late.

Posted in culture, music

The common thread between country music and prog rock (no really!)

This is extremely heavy on the embedded videos.  Most don’t have lyrics embedded but the lyrics can be looked up.

So I know this makes me kind of weird and a little stereotypical for an Okie. But my absolute favorite music is country music. Not whatever the hell they’re calling country these days. But actual country music from back in the day, or country music that at least sounds like country music. Not this crap it sounds like easy listening with a southern accent.  Or pop with a southern accent.  Or this weird overproduced bullshit that sometimes passes for country these days. But country country. And sometimes there is good country that’s made these days, but it’s hard to find.

But I do like a lot of other kinds of music. There aren’t many kinds of music where I don’t like some of the things that are in them. And one of the things I like sometimes is prog rock. Prog rock is kinda hard to describe, but like you know those long 70s concept albums and that kind of thing. That’s prog rock.

Anyway, I finally figured out what it is that draws me to both country music and prog rock. It’s the thing they both have in common: the storytelling. They don’t tell stories in the same way. But they do very often tell stories. I would of course love to hear some kind of fusion of country and prog rock.  But the closest thing I could find was a weird bluegrass-esque version of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”.  Yes this exists, this is “Comfortably Numb” by Luther Wright and the Wrongs:

I can’t find country prog or prog country or whatever you would call that combination. It’s possible, but there’s reasons the two are unlikely to mix much. Unfortunately.  Because I would love to hear it.

In country music, the song usually tells a story. It’s often the story of one person.  It will be often told from the point of view of that person, even if the singer isn’t that person. The singer may take on the persona of whoever they’re singing about. And that is normal common practice in how country does these things.

The singer will immerse themselves in this character and bring it to life.  On a very personal first-person level a lot of the time. They might be singing about other people too, it’s not always in first-person. But there’s usually a story. Sometimes it’s a fairly involved story.  Sometimes more of a character sketch.  Sometimes just one character at one moment in time, and what they’re going through. And it’s usually limited to the one song, they don’t do entire albums that are all one story. Even if they do an album on a theme, they’re gonna have just one story per song.

In prog rock, you often get elaborate stories. They often have a long plot.  They may jump around between characters, not making it easy to understand what’s going on. And they take place over the course of an entire album. It’s called a concept album. I used to, not knowing the term concept album, just call them story albums. Not all concept albums tell a story that way. But a lot of them do. And a lot of them it’s a long elaborate story, told over the course of an entire set of songs. Sometimes it goes in order like a regular story. Sometimes it’s nonlinear, with callbacks to different parts of it in the shape of the music itself. It’s definitely different than the way country would handle a story.

I’ll give you a couple of examples.

One of my favorite country songs is Lacy J. Dalton’s “The Girls From Santa Cruz”. As far as I’m concerned it’s about lesbian horse thieves. That’s what I want to believe anyway.

So it’s about two women who steal a stallion. They get chased down by a Texas Ranger.  The character who is singing is lamenting the fact that she has lost her companion Kim. Because Kim and the Ranger fall in love in the end and forget about her. She sounds a lot more broken up about what happened than someone just losing a friend or partner in crime. So to me it’s about lesbian horse thieves, and you can’t convince me otherwise. But you can see either way it’s a pretty simple story.

I grew up on a prog rock album called “Pink World”, by Planet P Project. It is a long double record that tells an elaborate story. Sometimes from the point of view of many characters.  Here’s the full album, all 1 hour 20 minutes of it:

The plot is a little more elaborate:

A boy drinks bad water behind a factory and get psychic superpowers. He starts predicting the end of the world (they wrote this during the Cold War). He gets taken into a government lab where they try to study him, but they’re also afraid of him. And he escapes. He can’t talk. But he can move things with his mind and he can read people’s minds. And someone pushes the button. Nuclear war breaks out.  This boy, Artemis, starts a cult and ends up saving a bunch of people by creating some kind of barrier that they can live behind. Except everything in this place he created resembles 1984. Or some kind of totalitarian dystopian cult type thing. They stay like that unchanging who knows how long. Artemis decides he made a mistake and just abandons everyone. And that’s the end of the album.

A lot of twists and turns and weirdness in there that I didn’t even get into. But you can see it’s an elaborate plot that takes place over two whole records.

Here’s a couple specific songs from it if you don’t want to listen to the whole thing.

“What I See” (from the point of view of Artemis predicting nuclear war and what he’ll do about it):

“In the Zone” (from the point of view of a resident of the cult/dystopia Artemis creates to survive the war):

Prog rock and country obviously handle stories in entirely different ways. But they do both tell stories.

Here are some more examples.  It’ll be a little country-heavy because the prog rock examples are often longer songs or entire albums at once:

COUNTRY: “Grandma’s Song” (Gail Davies)

PROG ROCK: “Thick as a Brick” (Jethro Tull)

COUNTRY: “Jesse Younger” (Kris Kristofferson)

COUNTRY:  The Devil Went Down to Georgia (Charlie Daniels Band):

PROG ROCK:  Doomsday Afternoon (full album — about authoritarianism and environmental destruction) (Phideaux)

PROG ROCK:  “Candybrain” (one song from Doomsday Afternoon) (Phideaux)

PROG ROCK: “Micro Softdeathstar” (another song from Doomsday Afternoon) (Phideaux)

COUNTRY:  “Gone, Gonna Rise Again” (Kathy Mattea)

COUNTRY: “This Van’s For Sale” (Wayne Parker)

COUNTRY: “Calico Plains” (Pam Tillis)

COUNTRY: “Up With the Wind” (Lacy J. Dalton)

PROG ROCK: Number Seven (full album — about a dormouse who survives nuclear war)

PROG ROCK: “Darkness at Noon” (Phideaux, one song from Number Seven)

COUNTRY:  “I’m Hungry, I’m Tired” (Gail Davies)

PROG ROCK: “Part of the Machine” (Jethro Tull)


PROG ROCK: “Moribund the Burgermeister’ (Peter Gabriel) – yeah I know people don’t count his solo career after Genesis as prog rock, but this song was.

COUNTRY: “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses” (Kathy Mattea)

COUNTRY: “Beer Drinkin’ Song” (Lacy J. Dalton)

COUNTRY: “The Legend of Wooley Swamp” (Charlie Daniels Band)

COUNTRY: “That’s Just About Right” (Blackhawk)

COUNTRY: “Mama Tried” (Merle Haggard)

COUNTRY: “Dakota (The Dancing Bear)” (Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge)

PROG ROCK: “The Hazards of Love 3” (The Decemberists)

COUNTRY: “Changing All The Time”

PROG ROCK:  “Static” (Planet P Project)

PROG ROCK: “Epitaph” (King Crimson)

COUNTRY: “Somebody Killed Dewey Jones Daughter” (Lacy J. Dalton)

COUNTRY: “Little Brother” (Wayner Parker)

Music as a means of storytelling is really important to me.  Music is one of the first ways I could understand and use language. It’s still easier for me to understand something if it’s a song.  Or to communicate by singing or playing music. There’s something about music that brings language together.  It brings comprehension together. It brings lots of things about communication and understanding together.

By the way, the guy who made “Pink World”, his name’s Tony Carey. He does his prog rock science-fiction music under the name of Planet P Project. What initially drew me to Tony Carey was not that “Pink World” was this giant story album. It was Tony Carey’s accent. Because Tony Carey is an Okie. Like my family. So he sounded familiar, he had that weird combination of a California accent and a bit of southern thrown in. And it reminded me of my father’s accent so I just felt comfortable with this guy’s music.

I later found out he did a song about the Dust Bowl (“Dust”):

And the funny thing is, as prog rock as Planet P Project is, someone once asked Tony Carey if he would ever do a country song. His reply was, “They’re all country songs.”