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Oh No, Amelia Bedelia!

22 Jun

For one reason or another I happened to read the directions on a bottle of body wash. The directions were as follows: “Squeeze product onto washcloth. Work into rich lather and rinse.” I started laughing to myself, thinking what would happen if someone who was very literal, like some autistic people, followed those instructions. They would never actually wash themselves, just lather up the washcloth and rinse it off.

Someone like Amelia Bedelia.

If you don’t know who she is, let me enlighten you. Amelia Bedelia is the beloved eponymous character from the Amelia Bedlia children’s stories. She is a house-maid who follows order to the letter, but in a completely literal way. She has no understanding or concept of idioms, implied meanings or plays on words. As you might imagine, this gets her into many scrapes and interesting situations. In one story she is asked to make sure to “put the lights out”. She does.

I stopped and pondered. If Amelia Bedelia was the kind of person who might take those directions on the body wash literally, but an autistic person might also take them literally… could Amelia Bedelia be an autistic person? Could it be that hours upon hours of my childhood were spent mocking someone with a learning disorder? Could it be that these books I found so amusing actually conveyed (to an extent) situations some people with autism find themselves in, and which I doubt they find hilarious in the least?

Isn’t it awful how thinking can ruin things for you that you loved in your childhood?

I think it highly unlikely that Peggy Parish purposefully created Amelia Bedelia for the purpose of laughing at autism, but I have to admit I sort of wanted to go take a shower and wash up. Making sure not to follow the directions on the body wash, of course.


Warren Ellis Would Be Pleased With the Way He’s Obliterating My Mind Right Now

26 May

I’m currently reading his book Shivering Sands and I have come to a few conclusions.

Firstly, I would give just about anything to live with this man for a month. I get this feeling that we would have epic fights concluded with us both running to notebooks to write things down.

Secondly,  he has a way of spinning words that is so direct, honest and assertive that you feel yourself sympathetically agreeing with anything he says. Until you suddenly snap out of it and realize that he just said something you don’t agree with in any way, e.g. his feelings on whether man should colonize Mars. I completely disagree with him (which will be the topic of another post, hopefully today) but while I was reading his essay on it I couldn’t help but feel a sense of “go git ’em, humans!” and get excited about the idea.

I can’t really say more right now because, though this book is not long by any means, each essay has so much… idea and philosophy in it that I am reading it very slowly and thinking very, very hard about each one. I would like to include this quote from it, however:

“If I’m good and if I’m lucky, I can change the way you think, just a little bit. I can tell you my secrets, and reveal things to you, and get you a little drunk with ideas, and dramatise the world you live in, just for a little while. That’s what stories are for, and that’s why I’m here.”

This is something dear to my heart; the whole reason I ever started writing (even as a child) was because I wanted to show other people things they may not have seen and alter their reality or show them a different reality. I collect experience and knowledge like the most rabid treasure hunter because each piece that I find expands my world… and then I can expand yours.

Mr. Ellis understands this completely. Finding a kindred spirit can be a rare flower in this desert of a culture- I think I have found mine. More detailed ruminations on his essays to follow.