The Ables by Jeremy Scott

From Nashville, Tennessee; Jeremy Scott, the author of The Ables, is also the co-creator of popular website and YouTube channel CinemaSins. Best known for the nitpicking comedy videos Everything wrong with [insert movie title here]. The success of the channel and the website (on which one can buy merchandise like CinemaSins mugs and t-shirts (you know, if you feel the need)) has meant that Scott has been able to spend more time writing. The result is The Ables, which he self-published earlier this year (2015) via Clovercroft Publishing.

The Ables is a tale about a group of twelve year-olds with superpowers. They also have significant disabilities. On the surface their impairments hinder their superpowers, even causing them to be canceled out entirely. However, through trust and the close friendships that connect a group in a way that only seems possible in the awful adolescent years at school, the characters do incredible things.

I was told of the book by a good friend who wanted to get my perspective on the portrayal of young people with disabilities. That strums a few chords with my life and current work, so this is one area where if i can’t claim expertise, I can claim experience. I’ve also wanted superpowers since I was about three (who hasn’t?) so was intrigued to find and read this book.

Firstly, this is not some kind of sop story, nor is it a weak expression of the sympathy and hope an in-experienced, non-disabled author. Let me explain. If it was the latter then I would expect to come across the trite message, ‘disabled people can do anything!’ That message can be attractive, especially to someone young who discovers they have a disability, as I was. But it is a mirage, a lie to cloak ones-self with when cold reality starts to bite. It bites anyway, and the cloak is as useless as the proverbial emperors clothes.

Because there are limits to everything one can do, whether disabled or not, one has to probe deeper. People’s aspirations often have little to do with physical or mental power. Having friends. Feeling loved, and accepted by your friends and family. Being truly comfortable as yourself. These are much more important than being able to walk well, or at all, and being able to see. I think Jeremy Scott has grasped the edges of this point. Friendship and trust are what truly counts in The Ables. Although the superpowers somewhat overshadow the disabilities, which are static impairments. They don’t charge requiring the characters to adapting differently as the story goes along. More on that later.

His story begins with the discovery by a young man of a superpower he’d never known about. This cleverly and rather pleasingly inverts the experience I mentioned before, about being a teenager and learning you have a disability. Watching your horizon disappear behind a cloud. That is an experience many  people have had, are having right now, and will have in the future. Getting past it is important, but through inverting the experience Jeremy Scott starts with possibility and aspiration.

I am deliberately edging around the narrative by not mentioning any specifics, but I will say that this protagonist is placed in a school for superhero kids, where he is crestfallen to realise that he’s in the ‘special’ education class with other disabled kids. Yes, disabled people have the same fears and anxieties as anyone else, the desire to fit in only being exacerbated by the intolerance of the powerful in society, whether school boards or bullies (is their a difference?).

Strength, as you would suspect lies in numbers. The group of disabled kids with  their array of powers and impairments calls themselves ‘The Ables’, after a mythical superhero group that saved the world in centuries past. They have to work hard together to compete with their peers, for what good is telekinesis if one is blind? If one’s wheelchair bound but sighted friend is telepathic, then seeing becomes a matter of communication and trust. I really don’t want to spill anymore details of the novel here, so if my disjointed rambling is appealing to your curiosity, then please get your hands on a copy of The Ables and satisfy yourself.

Non-physical disabilities: intellectual, learning, developmental, mental — buried in jargon and euphemism are the actual people with such disabilities (note that ‘people’ comes first), who are not prominent earlier in the book, become more important later n. On reason is that Scott allows his characters to be nervous and slow about including the down syndrome kid with unknown powers in the group. The relationship develops over time. In a period when intolerance is condemned and acceptance demanded at the first, it is refreshing to see it as more of a journey. People’s value can’t really be measured in a paragraph or a page. It requires chapters.

One criticism I will make is that for the co-creator of a YouTube series that makes it’s living by nitpicking the sins of movies, Scott was guilty of a bit of sloppiness in this regard himself. In the book a character that is plainly said to have one arm is referred to later as having “his hands on his knees”. A sin certainly but one that is easily forgivable. After all this book was self-published, which might explain the occasional editorial lapse. It’s not enough to harm the story.

An absence I did feel quite keenly was the idea of a progressive disability. They are not uncommon, and I have one myself. I am not merely disappointed in that for my own sake, but because it would have been an interesting narrative turn to see a character with a changing condition, and to see what bearing that has on their superpower. Does it become mire useful or less? Obviously it would depend on the power, and perhaps Scott will write a sequel and consider that. However, this is not ultimately a book about disability, but about friendship and coming of age. It’s good to bear that in mind

I haven’t mentioned the primary antagonist, or gone into the subversion of the Messiah theme. You will have to forgive me but I have grown tired and sincerely hope that you will read the book. Come on now, it’s 364 pages — not a time by any means.

In sum The Ables is an entertaining and sustaining read. It is more dramatic and emotionally sophisticated than I assumed it would be, and a fairly good insight into the character of disabled people. Superhero’s or not, Jeremy Scott treats them as people.

The Ables is available at amazon.

Check out the trailers for the book below!

GONE

That is it! After 1 year and 361 days in office Tony Abbott has been defeated in a leadership ballot by Malcolm Turnbull who will become the new Prime Minister of Australia.

During the 2013 election campaign former Prime Minister Paul Keating wondered aloud how such a nutter as Tony Abbott could get anywhere close to being head of government; the rest of the world wondered that too. The late Malcolm Frazer put it more gently, but was just as cutting.

As it is midnight and my internet connection is rubbish so I won’t explore this in depth until tomorrow.

All they can talk about…

The point was made some time ago by the likes of John Oliver and John Stewart (and many other John’s, Joan’s, and [insert another generic name here]) that getting hyped up about the 2016 presidential campaign well over a year in advance of polling day is a nonsense.

Yet the irrepressible clamor of a bored and starving press is making it very hard to remain in the present moment. To consider the things that are happening in peoples lives right now and take some time to explore solutions to problems without having the selfish motive of political advantage. Registering in polls (there are many more actual candidates you may have never heard of) there are seventeen contenders on the Republican side, which is actually sixteen without former Texas governor Rick Perry who dropped out over the weekend, and seven Democrats. Curiously Joe Biden is rated at number three in the polls behind Senator Bernie Sanders and perpetual front-runner Hillary Clinton, despite the cloddish Vice-President not yet having announced that he is running.

There’s actually a ton of candidates and so the media has done a Microsoft Excel and filtered the list. So many people crowding the stage makes for a dismally unfocused show, especially when the players mix up their cues and try to get through the stage door at once. Fortunately the political theatre (which is to be found just inside the entrance of the media circus) is equipped with spotlights, and the beams discriminate without mercy.

One is on Donald Trump. It cannot be denied that the grins of mirth on behalf of pundits that spread all over when the heavyset billionaire took to the stage may have become slightly fixed and painful. I was certain that the crowd would tire of the clown and his opening act would terminate with no serious prospect that Donald Trump might get the Republican nomination. I think the theatre metaphor has been stretched enough, but let me let it go by saying that I might have misjudged the audience if not the clown.

Watching him and the reactions he elicits from audiences and fellow candidates should give one pause to consider why Donald Trump is managing to store that most coveted substance in election campaigns; momentum. It could simply be that he is a greater showman, and hence of more interest to the media which wants to make a profit. But does this present a false picture of reality? Former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and the sole female Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina thinks that the media and the voters are on two different wavelengths.

Of course, just because the other candidates are being squeezed out of contention is not in itself a bad thing. Nor is it a trustworthy basis on which to criticize. There can only be one winner after all, and one either stays afloat and waits out the Trump storm, or one has enough of a share in the polls be able to attract lobby groups and sell out like Faustus. The alternative is folding, like Rick Perry just did (it is rumored that he was so low on funds he couldn’t pay his campaign staff). He suspended his campaign with a speech in St Lois espousing the fundamental basics conservatism as he sees them, managing to butcher a quote commonly attributed to Margaret Thatcher. It usually goes: “The trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money”, but it actually originated before the iron lady’s time and may have been uttered during a British Parliamentary debate in 1944. The message is a bit mixed when it comes from a candidate for president. It should be “The trouble with Presidential elections is that candidates eventually run out of other people’s money.”

Still, the slightly updated strain of conservatism (I love the irony) finds favor with many, and although that voting bloc is no longer kingmaker in US general elections, they are an essential component of a Republican victory.

So the political autumn begins with one candidate falling back to the obscure ground. More will follow. How long Trump stays in the game is indeterminable. He’s made a point of the fact that he is stunningly wealthy and is seeking no donors. In doing so he makes everyone else look squalid as they rattle their tins in exchange for their positions. Trump is beholden to no-one, and the self-made idea he represents is nothing if not American. The part that endears me to him (don’t read too much into that) is that he doesn’t appear to take this at all seriously. He says what he wants, how he wants, and is running rings around the competition.

He alone is having just as much of a laugh at this as the late night comedians. As I said at the start of this post; John Oliver and John Stewart ridiculed the media for buying into election hype so early on. In a ridiculous world Trump may be seen as the sanest choice.

Moa Imperial Stout

Spring is here! Since this is the time of the year where life becomes skittles and even beer  (and rhymes apparently) I thought I would make my return to the blogoshere with a review of a fine craft beer. So, without further delay and interruption:

The Moa Imperial Stout

The back of the bottle has this to say:

Moa Imperial Stout is a very strong, upfront and rich beer hopped to over 100 IBUs. Aged with French oak, this beer not only displays coffee, mocha and smoked cedar characters but also some sweet and savoury notes unique to Moa Imperial Stout. A great beer to cellar and age

It is certainly heavy right up front. My impression was that cocoa rather than coffee is the dominant flavour and aroma. Blunt, and perhaps a little too heavy, since the other flavours are squished to the edges of the glass. I didn’t quite get the cedar, which I think to be quite a dry, sharp scent (as to the flavour of cedar I have nothing to go on since it is not in my habit to lick cigar boxes). Instead the stout reminds me of something still growing. Something sappy like the Norfolk pine my siblings and I would climb as children. Perhaps that is too pretentious a remark to be taken seriously. Nonetheless I dispute the smoked cedar claim.

Rich? Certainly. I was going to pair it with some Whittaker’s dark chocolate, but could not bear to take a single nibble of the block. This stout should probably be enjoyed on its own. Like an obnoxious noble it won’t allow others to be on the stage with it. However, it should not be imbibed on an empty stomach. As I have confirmed this is a heavy craft beer. 500 mls with an alcohol content of 10.2%. According to the bottle that is approximately four standard drinks. I am no Hemingway, so a third of the bottle has got me sufficiently wiffled without risking incoherence. There is no shame in being a lightweight, but even if you happen to have a stronger constitution this is not a drink to be sandwiched with a dozen others on a conveyor belt to your liver. I don’t mean to be strident with a sensible drinking message, for one thing such a stance is all too easy to ignore. To binge drink with a beer like this would be to utterly miss the point of what it is; a drink to think about. Generally one’s mental faculties need to be functioning for this to occur. So try taking it easy.

The Moa Imperial Stout is one of the only Moa craft beers that I remember having previously. I first tried it in an overpriced Queenstown pub and took a liking to it. That may have been due to the company I was in at the time, which in a small way contributes to my argument that this is a beer to engage the mind rather than depress it.  It is definitely responsible for sending me further down the path of dark beer. Since that initial exposure Porters have supplanted stouts as my favourite type of craft beer for their tastiness and versatility. Unlike the stout a porter is an excellent accompaniment to a hearty meal. Now one Imperial Stout sends me to bed. It is all in the name I guess, is supposed to be a conqueror.

I look forward to hearing other opinions, please feel free to  comment.

Palmy Political

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Peace, love, and a happy Oxford comma to you all!