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Marks and Spencer and the National Autistic Society have launched a school uniform range aimed at the parents of autistic children. Note that I say aimed at the parents of autistic children, rather than aimed at autistic children. All the blurb is to do with how easy it is to put on, and how hardwearing it is. The subtext is that it's designed for kids who can't dress themselves. This is clearly aimed at parents.

The other way you can tell that actually autistic people were not involved in this is that if you ask any autistic person what is most important for them in clothing they will tell you it's the fabric it's made of. Many autistic people have comorbid eczema, and a lot of those that don't have sensory issues, which mean that fabric and texture are hugely important in clothing. Something that is in contact with your skin all day needs to be made of something non-irritating; that almost always means 100% natural fibres. Cotton, or bamboo, or silk, or modal. Sometimes wool, but sometimes not. NEVER SODDING POLYESTER. And some of the clothes in that M&S range are 65% polyester. And of course it's very wearying that the only clothing specifically designed to be worn by autistic people is school uniform, because nobody of above school age is autistic, and no autistic child ever wears non-uniform clothing. AND they've "removed pockets for comfort". I have never known an autistic person who didn't want MORE pockets, as long as they are made from 100% natural fibre too.

So what would clothing for autistic people actually look like? Well, from the conversation on twitter today:
  1. Clear, obvious fabric labelling on the rack/shelf. While most of us just want everything 100% cotton, some of us prefer other natural fabrics like linen, and some actively prefer viscose or modal. Some of us can cope with silk or wool, some can't. Every single one of us, though, would like to see fabrics clearly, obviously labelled on the rack, without having to go hunting through the clothes for a tiny illegible care label.

  2. No polyester. Not even a little bit. Not ever. No, not even in linings.

  3. Linings are important! Linings are the bit that is actually in contact with your skin, so they need to be all natural fibres too. Note, though, that this does not mean you can take a garment made out of something horrible and line it with cotton and it will be OK - outer fabrics need to be touchable too.

  4. Care labels to be made of the same fabric as the clothing, not scratchy plastic.

  5. Elastic to be covered with the fabric the clothes are made of, not left to be in contact with your skin.

  6. Flat seams! Or even NO seams!

  7. For Cthulhu's sake, SOMEBODY make some bras we can wear! It is really, really, incredibly difficult to get hold of cotton bras, to the extent that I have considered making my own. And even if/when you DO find them, they are covered in non-cotton frills and lace and fripperies. And have stupid care labels made of plastic right in the middle of your back.

  8. Comfort and fit are much much more important than being on trend. I saw an article the other day that low slung waist trousers are coming back into fashion and actually cried.

  9. Moar pockets, on everything, especially women's clothes - but again, made of the same fabric as the actual clothing

  10. Stop saying things are "cotton touch" or "cotton feel" or "cotton rich". All this does is bugger up searching for cotton things. And actually, make your website searchable by fabric. That would be amazing.
And a clothing store for autistic people?
  1. Would be lit sensibly, not with migraine-inducing lighting.

  2. Would have the afore-mentioned obvious, clear clothing labels on the shelf/rack.

  3. Would sort by size and colour as well as style.

  4. Would have assistants that wait to be approached rather than badgering you the second you enter the shop.

  5. Would not have music at all (many many autistic people love music, but find music that they don't like intensely irritating; whatever music you play some of us will like and some won't) and would ideally have sound baffling so that other people's conversations are not intrusive.

  6. Would open from (say) 12 till 8, rather than 9 to 5. Autistic people are more likely than others to have odd sleep patterns and/or working hours.
Now, if some kind banker or venture capitalist would like to give me a wad of cash to make this a reality... And to M&S and the NAS... I do appreciate that you're trying, and I don't wish to appear ungrateful, but if you consulted any actually autistic people in fomulating that clothing range it's not immediately obvious. Please, please, bear in mind the priorities of actually autistic people, not the parents of autistic children, when making clothing that the autistic people are actually meant to wear. Remember the phrase: nothing about us without us. Thank you.

The Blood is the Life for 18-08-2017

Aug. 18th, 2017 11:00 am
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The Blood is the Life for 17-08-2017

Aug. 17th, 2017 11:00 am
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The Blood is the Life for 16-08-2017

Aug. 16th, 2017 11:00 am
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The Blood is the Life for 12-08-2017

Aug. 12th, 2017 11:00 am
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Friday Five

Aug. 11th, 2017 03:35 pm
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(questions via [community profile] thefridayfive)

1) What is the most outrageous style you've ever rocked?

When I was a young 'un, there was that brief period when shell suits were incredibly fashionable, but before they had been discovered to be ridiculously dangerously flammable, and we had a non-uniform day at school. Every single other person in my class came in a shell suit. Some of them had those colour change t-shirts that showed your armpit sweat even worse than grey marl does. I wore cut-off denim hot pants, fishnet tights, an Alice Cooper t-shirt and a leather biker jacket.

I think that tells you everything you need to know about my attitude to fashion.


2) As a teen, were you an emo, goth, punk, grunger, or prep?

Um. I never could be bothered with the make-up requirements for goth, but I suspect I tended more that way in other respects, with bits of punk and grunger too. I mean, I never did do the blue stonewash jeans classic rocker look, I always wore black and purple.


3) Have you ever had a crazy hairstyle/colour?

Ever since I was 18 right up until the present. I'm normally one or more of blue, purple, or pink, but I've been other colours too. Went jet black once; didn't like it.


4) Do you think we ever really grow out of our teen selves?

I certainly haven't. But then I was quite elderly in outlook from about the age of 18 months, so... (this is possibly down to the autism, which obvs was undiagnosed when I was a young 'un.


5) Is there any fashion style you wish you could wear but maybe don't have the confidence?

It's not the confidence, it's the tolerance for pain. I wish I could wear halter neck tops, but my boobs are so heavy that they give me horrific neck ache within seconds of putting them on.

The Blood is the Life for 11-08-2017

Aug. 11th, 2017 11:00 am
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Doctor Strange film, 2016, dir. Scott Derrickson
A strange mish-mash, and there's little distinction between the bits I loved and the bits I didn't care about. I like the resolution (it was spoiled by a friend, and the reason I watched)—I've never seen time travel/narrative looping played quite that way, and it was clever. The mirror universe and unfolding, kaleidoscopic visual effects are phenomal—Inception didn't look this cool; it's such a finely rendered, dense, evocative aesthetic, and I could watch it all day. But the magic (as ... sparks, I guess?) effects are uninspired, and: the acting! the character arcs! the sense that no one in the film want so be there or is taking it seriously, including Swinton, whose presence was already unjustified but who I at least expected to live it up (as she has elsewhere, see: Constantine). I find Marvel boring, and this Marvel is no exception (and the humor's awful), but the bits I like, I sincerely love. Bless that we have the technology for effects like this now, for worlds folding and unfolding, for dense particle physics and shattered glass.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, film, 2014, dir. Joe Russo, Anthony Russo
I watched this for Bucky and I remain true to type: I loved him—the only Marvel character I've ever much loved, and for no especial reason but that dark, tortured, mask-wearing, augmented and/or disabled, brainwashed but the face of the one he loves can save him are tried and true trash tropes for me. But, honestly, this is one of the more successful Marvel movies I've encountered, thanks to its smaller, interpersonal focus. I guess there was a larger plot, and I hate the use of Hydra as a Nazi metaphor that manages to wildly miss the point, and the pacing and resolutions were predictable, and there's still not two women to run together (in other words: a Marvel movie); but the characters sold me and it has emotional payoff, which is what I've retained.

Captain America: Civil War, film, 2016, dir. Joe Russo, Anthony Russo
This, meanwhile, was vaguely embarrassing. Civil wars in comics are gratuitous by nature, and this is no exception. It makes effort to avoid "bad communication = plot," only to settle for "bad self-control = plot," which isn't much better. The cameos are corny and reference characters/films that I don't care about (Spiderman was the adorable exception, and felt comfortable within the campy tone; I also liked the introduction of Black Panther). That said, the larger cast does means there's room for more than one entire lady! how novel. It also creates short, sweet, relatively successful character scenes within the supporting cast. So: a hot mess, but occasionally cute.

Ajin: Demi-Human, s1-2, 2015-2016
I love love love Polygon Pictures, and 3DCG is such a good fit here: it allows for dynamic human animation and microexpressions, which are particularly productive in developing the protagonist's character, and the ajin are fluid and intricate and disconcerting. This series is a slow-paced action-thriller; lots of big fights, surprisingly gradual plot progression—layered against psychological themes that almost-no-quite insist on being understated because they get overshadowed by the momentum of the action. That makes it weird to reflect on (not much happened, I guess? lots of interesting characters got almost no screentime?) but engaging to watch. Mostly, I wish Polygon would animate everything; I know some people have a hard time adjusting to 3D animation but the payoff is intense.

Blame!, film, 2017, dir. Hiroyuki Seshita
This was ridiculously good. I'm absolutely biased: I love generation ships, love this aesthetic—like futuristic Dark Souls, everything vast and inhuman and inhospitable—and love the themes, the devolution of society and society's stubborn, changing persistence. I haven't seen a generation ship narrative quite like this, where the ship's breakdown isn't human-triggered, via forgotten history or social divide, but ship-triggered, and it makes the ship feel larger and refreshes the trope. (I also love to think of this as canonical entertainment within Knights of Sidonia, another generation ship setting—it localizes/contextualizes both narratives.) The art design is great, the monsters are great, the action is great; as above, I want Polygon Pictures to animate everything, but they're an especially good fit for something that would need a lot of CG effects regardless, and it further allows intricate character and design details. The pacing is superb, the length just right, the frame narrative effective. I was just hugely impressed by this, in every moment, and already want to rewatch it.

(You don't need to be familiar with Knights of Sidonia to watch Blame!, so you should watch it, and talk to me about it.)

The Blood is the Life for 09-08-2017

Aug. 9th, 2017 11:00 am
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Title: In Calabria
Author: Peter S. Beagle
Published: Tachyon Publications, 2017
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 175
Total Page Count: 226,640
Text Number: 723
Read Because: fan of the author, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: A farmer's prosaic, solitary life is disrupted by the appearance of a unicorn. Beagle has a phenomenal eye for "it is not the same thing, of course, but still it is"—for moments where the specific meets the metaphorical, imprecisely but profoundly. The plot doesn't always live up to that—the intrusion of the modern world is intentional but still unwelcome and makes for a literal, overlarge conflict; the romance fares somewhat better—but there's an abundance of beautiful scenes and the end is strong. It's impossible to avoid comparing this to The Last Unicorn, however unfair; they're different stories and genres, but I've never seen anyone handle unicorn imagery so well as Beagle and In Calabria possesses that transcendence. It's charming and swift and I sincerely enjoyed it, despite niggling caveats.


Title: Roses and Rot
Author: Kat Howard
Published: Saga Press, 2016
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 320
Total Page Count: 226,960
Text Number: 724
Read Because: this review, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Two sisters, estranged by their abusive mother, reunite to attend a prestigious artists's retreat which seems too good—and too magical—to be real. This is half mythic/urban fantasy (of the de Lint variety) and half a Tam Lin retelling—a ridiculously indulgent combination which cribs a bit from The Night Circus in its styling. But writing about a writing (the protagonist is an author) draws attention to the craft, and this a debut which feels like one, especially in scene structure and character voices; worst of all, the inset fairytale sections are facile and repetitive. There's still some magic here: fairyland has a dangerous allure, and the protagonist's desire for it is compelling. But the contrivances of an ever-changing rulebook and sibling squabbles weaken the plot in the second half. I admire that this prioritizes a sibling relationship, but it lacks the emphasis on communication, faith, and female agency which makes Tam Lin so resonant. This is a fun, quick read, but not a particularly good one—more's the pity, as the premise is hugely relevant to my interests and I wanted to enjoy it.


Title: League of Dragons (Temeriare Book 9)
Author: Naomi Novik
Narrator: Simon Vance
Published: Tantor Audio, 2016
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 300
Total Page Count: 227,260
Text Number: 725
Read Because: continuing the series, audiobook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: The final Temeraire novel, seeing the war to its conclusion. It has a lot to wrap up, geographically and politically, and does so in a way that's comprehensive but not excessively neat. This means a lot of combat, military theory, and social politicking, all of it engaging if somewhat rushed, functioning as a final exam for the protagonists that returns to their military origins while encompassing their intervening character growth. There's otherwise not much room for significant character development, although there's some lovely personal moments (and one new character, Ning, who has a fantastic voice and whom I adore). This is in itself not a particularly memorable installation, but as a conclusion to the series it's satisfying—and what a series it's been! Insofar as a review of a finale is a review of the series entire: I loved it, loved it immensely; I'm only sorry to reach the end.

The Blood is the Life for 08-08-2017

Aug. 8th, 2017 11:00 am
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The Blood is the Life for 07-08-2017

Aug. 7th, 2017 11:00 am
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I've been thinking a lot about missing stairs and culpability and productive responses in light of Nick Robinson's suspension from Polygon.

I don't think I have the capacity for surprise anymore when a likable man is accused of sexual harassment/assault; yet this particular one has hit me hard, because Polygon-as-brand works proactively to be a safe space—which doesn't make them free from error, but does lead me to give the benefit of the doubt and expect better than average. Like, what do I do when I'm stressed, I watch Polygon videos, because they're funny and I trust them; and now the thing causing stress is ... Polygon.... It feels more like a betrayal than this sort of thing usually does, even when *cough Johnny Depp* it's someone I like or had emotional investment in.

(Car Boys is deeply, hugely important to me, on an existential/is-this-what-religion-is/emergent narrative scale; as trope, as concept, as art, also as funny.)

It especially does not surprise me in the now to discover a man's problematic behavior, nothing surprises me in the now, in this era of political and cultural crisis. I think it does surprise me to see it reacted to immediately and compassionately; to see a company take action and keep proceedings private, and for that company and independent outsiders to insist, rightly, that "it is not on anyone who has been hurt to provide detailed receipts of their trauma for your entertainment."

Missing stairs operate as a cultural phenomenon—the whole coming to light of this has felt like a thing that "everyone" knew and "no one" talked about, and also something that caught people by complete surprise; it makes me have conflicted feelings about what knowledge is within this phenomenon; about what some people experience and some people know and some people, because of their privilege, never see or never recognize. What culpability is there in that position of not noticing? when clearly it is noticeable, to those that need to or know how; even I feel like some of my "ehhhh" reactions to some things he's said have been given context. But that there are people apologizing if their involvement or position of power compelled others to be silent—and that Polygon/Vox Media is literally doing anything at all, but especially via clear, thoughtful communication....

Cumulatively: a personal betrayal in a way that's not awfully valid, because I wasn't directly effected, but I liked and wanted to like this especial person & didn't want these issues to invade that space—and a knowledge that this issues invade every space, that that's literally what the issue is: pervasive—and gratitude that this is the best possible initial reaction and response. Insofar as any of this is cogent, it's only because I turned it into a rambling narrative for Devon last night; these feelings of mine, while Very Much and A Lot, have effectively been resolved now. (Except that an actual investigation will take time, and while I don't want this to occur in internet time or internet space as a trial-by-popular-vote overnight phenomenon, I do want it to be resolved overnight and forgotten by the next so that it isn't on my mind anymore—not feasible, not desirable, but I still feel cheated for not having it.) But it was Very Much; also: A Lot, in a particular time when I've approximately 2.5 spoons and would in any other circumstances! be watching Polygon videos! for escapism and distraction!
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Title: The Girl from Everywhere (The Girl From Everywhere Book 1)
Author: Heidi Heilig
Narrator: Kim Mai Guest
Published: HarperCollins, 2016
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 395
Total Page Count: 225,990
Text Number: 720
Read Because: on this list of Own Voices YA, audiobook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Nix and her father can travel to any time and place recorded on a map, but her father has only one goal: to return and save Nix's mother, who died in childbirth. What a fantastic premise! and fairly well realized: Heilig's language is beautiful; the seafaring/pirate aesthetic is present but not hokey, and the few visits to mythical locations are delightful, if brief. The more mundane settings are decent, largely because the pre-annexation Hawaii is so well rendered. But the plot isn't as successful; a compulsory love triangle makes an appearance (and is better than most, but still tiresome) and the heist storyline is uninteresting and has a clumsy, overlarge climax. I wish this were more evocative, more magical: more mythical maps, fewer genre conventions. As it is, it's above average but not entirely satisfying.


Title: City of Illusions (Hainish Cycle Book 3)
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Narrator: Stephan Rudnicki
Published: Blackstone Audio, 2007 (1967)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 185
Total Page Count: 226,175
Text Number: 721
Read Because: fan of the author, audiobook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: A man awakens without memory in an enclave on far-future earth, and sets out to discover his origins. That section—the slow journey through various dystopic human settlements—is this book's weakness: none of the settlements are especially convincing, and as satisfying as Le Guin's travelogues are (and they are; her descriptions of natural landscapes and the solitude of travel are precise and immersive) the plot here stagnates. But the end comes together beautifully. It's an introspective book—the most significant developments occur within the protagonist's mind, as he considers his situation, life experience, identity—but the results are profound, clever, and tie nicely into the series's shared universe. It rewards active engagement and it's a satisfying testimony to Le Guin's strengths; a lesser author couldn't make that interior narrative so compelling, but Le Guin excels at the personal ramifications of speculative concepts. A pleasure to read; I recommend it.


Title: The Gilda Stories
Author: Jewelle L. Gómez
Published: City Lights Publishers, 2016 (1991)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 290
Total Page Count: 226,465
Text Number: 722
Read Because: introduced to the author via Octavia's Brood, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: A runaway slave becomes a vampire, beginning a multi-century narrative which ranges across the United States. Her tale is told through connected short stories, most of which focus on periods of transition, a choice which feels less like a "best of" reel but instead provides views from the margins: a glimpse of an ending, the anticipation of a beginning, but no particular investment in the now. It makes the scope of the simultaneously historical and futuristic narrative more accessible, but at the cost of an unfulfilling narrative.

Gilda is a Black lesbian vampire, and there's a lot packed into that premise: an inversion of vampire tropes, a Black (and queer, and feminist) power fantasy, a refusal of social and publishing norms; the introduction and afterward (to the 25th anniversary edition) do a great job of highlighting and celebrating those themes. She practices a benevolent vampirism; much of made of vampiric powers of mesmerism and mind-reading, and the ways Gilda uses them to manipulate mortals for their own good—without engaging issues of consent, an oversight that hardly erases the other things the book achieves, but which is still glaring. I find myself conflicted: the premise here is fantastic, the execution frequently unrewarding and technically unaccomplished (the interpersonal dynamics are particularly abstruse and rambling; a poor fit for a short fiction format), the themes imperfect but profoundly thoughtful. Would I recommend it? probably no, but it was still worthwhile to read.

The Blood is the Life for 06-08-2017

Aug. 6th, 2017 11:00 am
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