Friday, September 22, 2017

He Belongs to the City: A Film Review of Good Time, by Alec Frazier and Autistic Reality

Connie Nikas Coming Out of A Bottle of Acid in a Poster for Good Time
The film Good Time, directed by the brothers Benny and Josh Safdie, is an absolute thrill ride and it epitomizes how a very good film can be made on a small budget.

Summary:

Connie and Nick Nikas in a Poster for Good Time
Robert Pattinson stars as Connie Nikas, a Resident of Queens of Greek descent. He cares a great deal about his brother, Nick, played by Benny Safdie, and does try very hard to do right by him. Connie shows up at the beginning of the film to take his brother out of a counseling session. You see, Nick has developmental disabilities, and Connie just wants to do right by him. Of course, the counselor also wants to do right by him. The views of family members versus the views of “the system” often conflict. Often there is not a clear answer of who is in the right. On the one hand, the questions during the counseling session are making Nick cry, on the other hand, Connie does not have the best of intentions either.

The main thrust of the film starts when Connie manipulates his brother Nick into attempting a bank robbery with him. A chase ensues, and Nick gets arrested. Connie tries to use the stolen money to get Nick out on bail, but since the money is dirty, he ends up having to go to his girlfriend, the significantly older Corey Ellman, who is played flawlessly by Jennifer Jason Leigh. Ellman has quite a fickle personality, and this obviously means that she has a great deal of trouble making decisions. This is further evidenced by the fact that she lives with her mother, with whom she has a bad relationship; they bicker and argue frequently. Connie lies to Corey about the reason why his brother is in jail, but it is all for naught as when Corey tries to use her bank card to bail Nick out, she finds that her mother has canceled it. The night spirals downward even further from here.

Nick had gotten into a fight with another inmate, and was placed in a hospital under guarded supervision. Connie finds out which hospital, finds the police guarding a room, and breaks out the heavily bandaged man handcuffed in that room. He proceeds to further manipulate his way to a very bad neighborhood in residential Queens, and into an old lady’s house, where he attempts to distract her 16-year-old granddaughter, Crystal, played by newcomer Taliah Lennice Webster, with sex. Keep in mind that Robert Pattison is 31, and we are to assume that Connie is of a similar age. The inmate Connie broke out of the hospital wakes up, and pries off his bandages, only to reveal that he is a stranger, Ray, played by Buddy Duress. Connie manages to calm him down with painkillers, and they trick Crystal into accompanying them on a trip in her grandmother’s car.

References on the television throughout the film infer that law enforcement is getting closer to finding Connie, we also see police talking to people seen previously in the film. We learned that Ray had a wild ride of his own the previous day, and left a bottle full of acid and a bag of cash in an amusement park ride a few streets down from where he, Connie, and Crystal are currently laying low. Ray and Connie break into the amusement park, leaving Crystal in the car. They are cornered by Dash the security guard, played by Barkhad Abdi. Dash calls the police, but Ray and Connie managed to overwhelm him. Connie then impersonates the security guard, and the paramedics and police take away Dash, who has been force-fed some of the acid. At the same time, Crystal is also taken in for questioning. Connie and Ray escape to Dash’s apartment in his security vehicle. Upon arriving at the apartment, it is becomes apparent that Dash engages in illicit activity as he is living well above his means. Connie has Ray call his dealer and demands the cash he needs to bail out his brother Nick. The dealer leaves, ostensibly to get the cash, but in actuality to get a gun with which to kill Connie. It is at this point that the police close in on them. Ray accidentally kills himself when trying to escape the apartment, and Connie is taken away by the police.

In the final scene, the therapist from the first scene in the film takes Nick Nikas to a boring, monotonous group activity for those with developmental disabilities, while remarking that Connie is now in the right place, and that Nick is in the right place, too.

Analysis:


This film is incredibly thought-provoking. It goes beyond questions of right and wrong, and into degrees of personal accountability. One thing that should be noted is that this entire film after the bank robbery and before the final scene takes place over the course of just one night. During that night, we get to delve deep into the psyche of Connie Nikas. It is extremely clear that he loves his brother a great deal. At one point, he tells Nick that it is just the two of them against the world. It is true that they both have a very aged grandmother, but she is incapable of looking after them. Connie obviously believes that the bank robbery will be simple and easy. He lacks foresight, and this makes him a poor planner.

After the robbery, Connie’s dive into further crime is gradual. It all starts with a lie he tells Corey as to why his brother has been incarcerated; he tells her that Nick lashed out against his therapist. Connie clearly does not like the idea of Nick going to therapy, and this is consistent with toxic masculinity as well as some Greek-American cultural norms, which believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Throughout the film, Connie consistently believes that things are either out of his control or most definitely not his fault, or both. For example, Crystal mentions that her last boyfriend was her drug dealer, who was significantly older than herself. This makes it a non-issue to Connie when he starts to force himself upon her a while later. Ironically, Connie later attempts dealing drugs himself with the bottle of acid.

It is as if Connie does not notice how deep he is slipping. He quite willingly suggests drugging the security guard and posing in his place. Breaking and entering into the amusement park is nothing to him. Given that Connie’s first significant act in this film is a bank robbery, we can only hazard a guess into his past, although we are made aware at one point during the film that he has a record; we see a past mug shot of Connie on the news.

Connie shows a great deal of willingness to manipulate others. He is aware that Corey has psychological issues that give her weakness and malleability, as well as a willingness to help with finances. It is hinted that before the events of this film, they were planning a trip to the Caribbean, perhaps to be assisted with the money from the bank robbery. Nick is also incredibly malleable, doing whatever others tell him to do. Connie uses this to his advantage in getting Nick to assist him with his various nefarious schemes. The therapist is equally able to convince Nick to do his bidding. It is not in Nick’s best interest to spend his days in monotonous, clinical group activities. However, Nick does not have an in-built group of friends, and the clinical system is still often ill-versed in the social needs of those with disabilities.

The amazing thing about Connie is that he probably believes that everything he has done, including the bank robbery and the actions of this fateful night are without question and in the right. Connie is extremely well-intentioned, but he has shown himself to be addicted to bad behavior, and even deeply sociopathic. The fact that he thinks nothing of kidnapping a 16-year-old girl or having sexual relations with her is proof of this. At one point, Ray asks him about his intentions. Connie makes it clear that he is focused on the here and now, and not the consequences of his actions. There is something deeply flawed about Connie Nikas, but he is portrayed in such a way that we can still have a tremendous amount of empathy for him.

Robert Pattinson on the Cover of Wonderland Magazine
This portrayal, of course, comes courtesy of Robert Pattinson. Pattinson was thrust into the film world by the Harry Potter and Twilight films. He jokes that if he had his way, he would be a nobody in a British dive bar playing guitar and singing for a living. Pattinson is absolutely stunned and surprised by his fame, but not unhappy with it. He has spent his time since the Twilight franchise becoming a fixture in the independent film community. Pattinson is definitely a more artistic type, as is shown in his quite recent photo shoot for Wonderland magazine, in which he pays tribute to Yayoi Kusama, who is arguably the greatest artist alive today. In the photo shoot, Pattinson pays homage to Kusama by wearing gender-ambiguous costumes similar to hers, and posing amongst backgrounds evocative of her art. An artist is truly fearless when they are willing to deny social constructs such as gender, and Pattinson is clearly that brave.

Yayoi Kusama with One of Her Famed Pumpkins
In addition to acting, Good Time is also noteworthy for its locations. The film shies away from the glitzy and famous locations in New York City, instead placing itself amongst bad neighborhoods, mostly in Queens. There have been far too many films exploiting the New York City of tourists, and far too few focusing on the city of everyday people. The Safdie brothers are to be praised for their realism.

Good time defies one specific genre. It is incredibly philosophical, action-packed, and dramatic all at once. It is clear that none of the characters in the film are actually having a Good Time, but this is a very, very good film, and you, the audience, will.


Five out of five stars, or 10 out of 10. Absolutely flawless.

This blog posting is both the personal opinion of Alec Frazier, and the professional policy of his advocacy firm, Autistic Reality. If you oppose it, please screen grab it! We are very proud of this opinion!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

My Mentors, By Alec Frazier and Autistic Reality

This article has been updated as of September 17, 2017.

Hello! Today I would like to talk to you about mentors! Throughout my many business endeavors, I have gained a few mentors. The title of mentor is not something that I give away lightly. Out of my hundreds of professional contacts, I would say that I only have three mentors. They are Mat McCollough, Joyce Bender, Emil Novak, Sr., and Jd Michaels.
Alec Frazier with Mat McCollough at the US ACCESS Board
Mat McCollough was assigned to me as a mentor in 2011 by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the nation's largest cross disability rights network. I was serving as an intern through them at the time. Mat was the Executive Director of the Developmental Disabilities Council for the District of Columbia when I met him. He has since become the director of the District of Columbia's Office on Disability Rights. He is also a presidentially appointed member of the US ACCESS Board, the United States government agency which deals with physical access matters mandated by federal legislation. He met with me frequently during my internship, invited me to functions, spent some down time with me, and has met with me since then. When I was in Washington for the 25th anniversary of the ADA, I met with him to discuss an eventual move to the Washington, DC area. He was very forthcoming about tips for gaining employment, for which I am most thankful. Since I have moved to the Washington, DC area, Mat has continued being a professional contact, and also a very dear friend.
Joyce Bender and Alec Frazier at the 25th Anniversary Celebration for the ADA
I met Joyce Bender on the very first day of my internship for the AAPD. She was just about to assume the role of board chair of that organization. I will admit that I did not know much about who she was until part way through the internship. I soon learned that she has done more for disability employment than almost anyone alive today. She runs a temp agency, Bender Consulting, out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has helped develop policies that are now implemented on the federal level, and she frequently meets with delegations from overseas who are hoping to improve their disability employment measures. Joyce has always been willing to provide job recommendations, references, networking, and other opportunities. When I last met Joyce, she gave me a gigantic hug and repeatedly referred to me as "my son". I feel honored to have someone of her stature in my corner, and it is absolutely incredible how close we have become!
Alec Frazier with Emil Novak, Senior at the First Meeting of Visions Comic Art Group
Emil Novak, Sr. is a successful independent businessman in Buffalo, New York. He approaches life with common sense, and always jumps at opportunity. He has been working at the biggest comic book store in town, Queen City Bookstore, since his father founded the business over forty years ago. He is now the owner of the business, which is the oldest bookstore in Erie County, New York. He also runs an independent film studio, two local comic book conventions, and manages Visions Comic Art Group, a local group that makes comic books and coordinates artists and writers. Emil has graciously allowed me to do publicity for him, honing my skills in photography, events management, and social networking. When I came out with a paper that I wanted published, I was told that there was no chance of that happening. Emil came forward and allowed me to get it published. He has also coordinated artwork for this publication, and allowed me to promote it at his conventions. Since moving away from Buffalo, New York, I have remained friends with Emil, while developing a new mentor-mentee relationship in Washington, DC.

Jd Michaels with Alec Frazier
That relationship is with Jd Michaels. In another blog post, I spoke of the benefits of the Lights, Camera, Access 2.0 seminar on disability and media. I have been invited to these seminars, both during the closing days of the Obama administration. At the first one, which actually took place at the White House Complex, I met Jd, who is the Executive Vice President of a large, prominent international advertising firm in New York City called BBDO Worldwide. Although we are not located in the same cities, we frequently meet over Skype. At one point, he proposed some rough deals to me. I later traveled to New York City to meet with him at his offices and discuss details. For one thing, I am being given a job at BBDO Worldwide as an editor. My job is to edit stories from authors in the Deaf and disability community for collection into an anthology. Editing includes work on flow and consistency of content, and monitoring disability-related themes. This job shall last at least one calendar year. In addition, based simply on the fact that Jd believes I am a good person, BBDO will be paying for the production of a book collecting a number of my essays. Amazingly, all profits will be mine. I am stoked! Finally, Jd will be working with me to find conferences and other events where I can be a guest speaker. It is clear to see that Jd Michaels is a terrific friend and mentor!

All of these wonderful people have contributed greatly to my success in my professional life. I thank them tremendously for all of the help and patience they have given me in helping to contribute to my professional growth. I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Mat McCollough, Joyce Bender, Emil Novak, Sr., and Jd Michaels!

This blog posting is both the personal opinion of Alec Frazier, and the professional policy of his advocacy firm, Autistic Reality. If you oppose it, please screen grab it! We are very proud of this opinion!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Disability Pride Questions and Answers: An Interview of Alec Frazier and Autistic Reality

The questions were provided by disability rights advocate Kings Floyd. 
With the main character’s wheelchair from the movie Avatar.
  • Name: Alexander Fuld Frazier. Call me Alec.
  • Age: 31
  • Pronouns: He/Him/His
  • Disability (if comfortable sharing): autism, ADD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, sensory processing disorder, digital atonia, dysgraphia, facial atonia, HHT, born without hip joints which were later grown, possibly also PTSD and dyscalcula
  • How did you learn about your disability? At what age?
I have always known that I was different. I never once thought that I was less because of these differences, although I sometimes felt sad about a lack of inclusion as a child. As soon as I became able to understand, which was around later elementary school and middle school, my parents taught me about my diagnoses, while being careful to impart the knowledge that I am different, and definitely not less. As my diagnosis took place in the early 1990s, I was the first person with a higher functioning autism diagnosis and most of the communities I lived in. As such, my self-identity as an autistic individual predates much of the current autism politicking. For example, I fail to see a reason to choose either identity-first or person-first terminology, and I do not see what the fuss is about between the two options. I believe that we have become overly obsessed with language and terminology, and that it hinders our ability to properly represent ourselves. As such, I also believe that usage of slang can be very healthy. We often talk about fitting in with the rest of the world, and we won’t be able to fit in if we use cold, clinical terminology all the time.
  • How much are you involved in the disability community? When and how did you become involved?
Speaking at the US Capitol.
I am extremely involved in the disability community, although not in the ways in which you may think. I first was involved in advocacy in third grade, when I gave a speech to the Lieutenant Governor of Colorado. In eighth grade, I helped get a state constitutional amendment passed in that state raising funds for special education. In high school, I supported my first political candidate. In 2011, I was an intern for the American Association of People with Disabilities. It was there that I learned more about the national disability community. Since then, I have been involved in a great many ways, including but not limited to peer advocacy, public speaking, writing and selling my book, lobbying, attending conferences, and a great deal of other activities. I have spoken to schools and independent living networks, I have worked with parents, educators, politicians, and individuals with disabilities. I believe that every single voice has a right to be heard, although the voice of those with disabilities ourselves is most important. I tend to shy away from both extremes in the disability rights movement. For example, I shy away from Autism Speaks because they tend to believe that those without disabilities should not have self-determination. On the other hand, I tend to shy away from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network because they are disability supremacists who believe in segregating themselves from the rest of society and bullying anyone who does not fit their myopic worldview. I believe in the work of the Autism Society, and of course the work of my own firm, Autistic Reality.
  • Do you have a sense of disability pride? Why or why not?
My hand above the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990,
I definitely have a sense of disability pride. However, I do not believe in disability supremacy. I very involved in advocacy, but not activism. For the definitions of those two words, I use them as defined by the Google dictionary. An advocate is someone who campaigns for various causes. An activist is a protester, a demonstrator, a zealot. These are Google’s words, not mine. I believe strongly in negotiation and peaceful means to end oppression. Although I see a valuable role to staging protests and demonstrations, I prefer not to do it myself. I believe that the best way to manifest my disability pride is to live a productive, happy life whether or not I have a disability. Disability should not get in the way of living such a life. For the past approximately five years, I have been an incredible optimist. As someone with bipolar disorder, I used to get quite unhappy, and often. Then one day, I made a decision not to get depressed or seriously sad or angry anymore. The amazing thing is that it worked! I have not been depressed or seriously sad or angry in five years.
  • What other identities are you proud of? Do they intersect?
Fan Art of the second Daredevil, Tim Urich, who I review in my book.
I am proud to be disabled, and I am also proud to be a homosexual individual. Just as I attend disability pride events, I also sometimes attend gay pride events, although I find that they can be bogged down by showboating, rather than identity pride. For example, the pride celebrations in Buffalo, New York are more oriented towards causing a scene then fighting for equality. The ones in Washington, DC are awesome, though. In addition, I have many less life-altering identities. For example, I am a fan of James Cameron’s Avatar, Twilight, Star Trek, comic books, and an aficionado of architecture, history, governmental theory, and many other disciplines. These have intersected into disability pride in many ways. For example, as a fan of James Cameron’s avatar, I have lobbied the producers in person for disability inclusion in future films, and talked with them about disability and other identities in the arts. As a fan of Twilight, I have served as a consultant on the number of fan works, some of which have become original works and been published as books. I have also written some disability fanfiction myself. As a fan of comic books, I have written and copyrighted a literature review of a Marvel comics character who happens to be the first autistic superhero. The book is called Without Fear: The First Autistic Superhero, and I have sold it and spoken on it at several venues. I have also spoken with a few executives at Marvel comics, and am working on hopefully writing or consulting on a comic for them.
  • What does disability pride mean to you?
With Friends before the Women’s March
Disability pride means living your life to the best of your ability with proper accommodations and services to the point that you can be empowered, content, independent, and happy on a day-to-day basis. To me, any kind of pride involves living life in this way regardless or perhaps because of the identity in question. As far as I’m concerned, one does not need to march, protest, or raise any kind of ruckus to be proud. One must live their life with dignity, satisfaction, and fulfillment. I take this definition of pride very seriously. It comes from my grandfather, Arthur Jacob Fuld, who was a Holocaust survivor and liberator. He believed that the best way to both commemorate fallen populations and be proud of your life was productive acts and a satisfying life.
  • Are there any images/quotes that represent pride or disability pride to you?
There are several images that represent disability pride to me. One of them is some fan art of the autistic comic book character I cover in my literature review. Another one is a photo of me standing with the wheelchair used for the main character in James Cameron’s avatar. Another one is a photo of me speaking in front of the US Capitol building. Another one is me with a group of friends before the Women’s March earlier this year. Another image is my hand with the original Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. These images are spread throughout this blog post.
  • Are there any disabled role models you look up to?
With Andy Imperato.
I have had many role models and mentors. Mathew McCullough, Director of the District of Columbia’s Office on Disability, has been a mentor since I met him during my 2011 AAPD internship. I consult with him often about my future, and while he provides advice, I also tell him of what I am doing. In addition, he is an amazing friend. Somewhat more professional is my relationship with Joyce Bender, CEO and Founder of Bender Consulting, whom I also met during my 2011 internship. She is immensely successful professionally, and provides professional advice. I have also developed a friendly relationship with Andy Imperato, who has held many roles in the disability community over the years. I often bounce ideas off him, and ask him for his advice on disability-related matters. I appreciate these folks because they are moderates in the disability rights field, just like me. There are others I have looked up to, of course, but not to the extent that I look up to these folks. In addition, I have done some mentoring of my own in recent years. Due to my tendency to work with parents as well as individuals with disabilities, there are many parents of those with disabilities who also look to me for guidance. It is an absolute honor and a privilege to be a source of guidance for anyone, and it is a trust that I will never abuse.
  • Anything else you’d like to add or questions I should ask?

I have done an It Gets Better video that is aimed towards anyone with social awkwardness, in addition to the autistic and LGBTQ populations. In it, I briefly tell my uplifting story, and provide tips that I believe anyone can use to make better friends.
As mentioned, I am the Director of a firm called Autistic Reality.
You can find my firm’s website at www.nothingaboutuswithoutus.net
You can find my firm’s Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/autisticreality
You can find my book’s Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/withoutfearautism
You can find my Flickr page at which I post both business and fun photos at www.flickr.com/photos/autisticreality/collections
You can find my LinkedIn page at www.linkedin.com/in/autisticreality/
You can find my blog, Always Intrepid, in which I discuss both fun and disability related items at www.ithacan-alwaysintrepid.blogspot.com/
You can find my YouTube channel, in which I post fun videos and professional videos at www.youtube.com/channel/UCFOHKZumtHlK81Iqjf3B2lA
This blog posting is the personal opinion of Alec Frazier and the professional policy of his advocacy firm, Autistic Reality. If you oppose it, please screen grab it! We are very proud of this opinion!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Autism Can Make You a Better Artist: A Review of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors, by Alec Frazier and Autistic Reality

Alec Frazier in The Obliteration Room. Every surface is covered in polkadots, including his nose.
Recently, I had the extreme pleasure of seeing the exhibit Infinity Mirrors, by Yayoi Kusama at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Yayoi was born in Matsumoto, Nagano, Japan. She is 88 years old. At the time, Japan was still a very buttoned-down imperialist society. Etiquette and honor governed society to the extreme. Yayoi entered into this world on March 22, 1929. Her childhood was traumatic. Her father was incredibly lecherous, and Yayoi’s mother used her to spy on his affairs, including multiple sexual acts.

During her life, Yayoi has engaged in a great deal of outlandish work. At the height of 1960s counterculture, she composed a great number of performance pieces called Happenings. A great deal of them involved public nudity. One of them in the early 1970s was a highly illegal gay wedding en masse. She also at one point ran a gay bar as an art installation. At one point, she offered to have vigorous sexual intercourse with United States President Richard Nixon if he would end the Vietnam conflict. Yayoi’s disciples have included many individuals who have been influential in their own right, such as Andy Warhol and Yoko Ono.

Since she was a child, Yayoi has had vivid hallucinations which have reflected themselves in her art. She is also documented as having a number of other mental health issues, including but not limited to obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, and a number of other conditions. Due to these conditions, Yayoi voluntarily checked herself into a psychiatric hospital in the late 1970s. She has been a self-admitted guest of that facility ever since. It is practically an open secret that Yayoi has autism. Her moods, social tendencies, and other diagnoses lend incredible credence to this fact. This blog shall attempt to highlight Yayoi’s autistic dependence on order and her obsessions in her artwork as seen in her infinity rooms in Infinity Mirrors.

Yayoi has gone out of her way to make the entire exhibit disability accessible. She realizes that her infinity rooms are not accessible to some with mobility impairments, so she has worked with the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Gallery to provide complete 360° virtual reality tours of all spaces in the exhibit.

Violet Obsession

1994
The first large-scale artwork we encountered was a dark, black room. In one end was a rowboat made out of phallic shapes, all in violet. The black walls, floor, and ceiling were covered with a pattern depicting this artwork. When one has autism, they often feel alone adrift in a sea of humanity, which they often feel passes them by. Yayoi grew up as a girl in Imperial Japan, which was absolutely stifling by today’s standards. She is an extreme feminist, and those burgeoning feelings would have made her feel even more alone at the time. As a girl and as a feminist, the phalluses and multiple pieces of her artwork represent the forest of masculinity she perceived to surround her. This boat travels through dark and dangerous waters, searching for a safe port of call. This artwork was made in 1994, at which time Yayoi was already an older woman. This signifies the fact that people may feel uncertain or lost at any time in their life. Yayoi once said, “If it weren’t for the art, I would have killed myself long ago.”

Phalli’s Field
1965/2016
Stuffed cotton, board, and mirrors
Collection of the artist
Completed in 1965 when the artist was 36 and re-rendered in 2016, Phalli’s Field is the original infinity room. The 1960s were a great time of sexual awakening, and Yayoi, always in the spirit to provoke, envisioned an endless field of phalluses, made from stuffed cotton and reflected in board covered with mirrors. The phalluses are white, covered in red polka dots, which the artist has always adored. The need to provoke or cause a scene is often felt by autistic individuals. It often serves to give us a feeling of legitimacy in society which we may otherwise lack. If it can be done in a novel and risqué form, then even better. The artist would often pose in this room, as if riding a sea of male genitalia. Yayoi certainly knew how to harness the sexual energy and thoughts of her artwork, as well as society’s perceptions of sexuality.
Love Forever
1966/1994
Wood, mirrors, metal, and lightbulbs
Collection of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore
This particular room, Love Forever, has been rendered in metal and lightbulbs reflected in mirrors on wood. It was first completed the year after Phalli’s Field, 1966, and re-rendered in 1994. The reflected light bulbs and metallic patterns form geometric shapes that constantly change color and pattern, endlessly radiating, aggregating, blinking, and spreading throughout the infinity room. One would think that an autistic person with a sensory disorder would find this room alarming and jarring. On the contrary, it is actually quite calming. Autistic individuals often find comfort in dim, soothing lights and geometric patterns. Yayoi is not a psychologist, but as an artist, she realizes which forms will please people. It is my firm suspicion that she worked on this room with a particular amount of personal satisfaction, as it most likely helped calm her always temperamental moods.

The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away
2013
Wood, metal, mirrors, plastic, acrylic, rubber, and LED lighting system
Collection of the artist; The Broad Art Foundation, Los Angeles
A rather recent addition to the infinity rooms is The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, made in 2013. As usual, the mirrors are mounted on wood with metal details. From the ceiling hang endless ropes of colored LED lighting strands made of plastic, acrylic, and rubber. While all small, the lights vary in intensity and are of many different colors including white light, blue light, red light, and even green light. Just like Love Forever, the effect is immediately calming. However, instead of being pulsing and rhythmic, the effect is serene and wonderful. It gives the feeling of traveling in a jungle of magical plants and creatures. This infinity room provides great calm to me as an autistic individual, and the effect on other autistic individuals would be the same. The lights sometimes dim, and sometimes go dark altogether before lighting up again. The patterns in which they dim are at random, but the effect is still completely pleasing. Once again, one may suspect that Yayoi used personal experience to achieve the calming, therapeutic qualities of this room.
Giant, deep pink spherical balloons polkadotted in black.

The interior of the largest spherical polkadotted balloon.

Mirrored spheres and polka dots in the peep-in mirror dome.

Yayoi Kusama in a longer, light purple wig, ruffled red shirt with black polka dots, and black smock, singing to the audience.
 Love Transformed into Dots
2007, installed 2017
Vinyl balloons, balloon dome with mirror room, peep-in mirror dome, and video projection
Courtesy Victoria Miro, London

The largest display in Infinity Mirrors is Love Transformed into Dots. Yayoi, who has a lifelong love of polkadots, conceived of this detailed exhibit in 2007. It was finally installed in the Hirshhorn in 2017. It consists of a large room filled with deep pink vinyl balloons covered in black polka dots. Inside the biggest balloon is an infinity room lined as usual with mirrors on the walls, floor, and ceiling, and filled with spherical lanterns, also in deep pink with black polka dots. There is a peep-in infinity space inside a round kiosk that is made to look like another polkadot balloon. Inside this peep-in mirror dome is a dreamlike scene of mirrored spheres and polkadots all placed in front of a miniature infinity room made out of mirrors. The entire display inside the mirror dome is tinted deep pink by the light that glows within. Yayoi has stated that, to her, polkadots have always been incredibly calming and happy. It has been theorized that her love of polkadots originates from light reflecting off of the pebbles in the stream in her parents’ garden. For autistic individuals, many patterns can prove soothing. The perfectly round nature of polkadots, and the random playfulness with which they are dispersed, gives a feeling of peace to the mind. A deep, calming pink, rather than a bright, hot pink also serves to ease one’s mood. As an unequaled artist, Yayoi realizes the therapeutic qualities of her polkadots, and a projection of her seems to float in midair near the entrance to this installation, in which she sings a calming song to the crowd that passes by. There is no way that Yayoi does not know the psychological effects of her artwork, and the presence of this video proves it.
Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity
2009
Wood, mirror, plastic, acrylic, LEDs, and aluminum
Collection of the artist

The infinity room Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity once again has mirror covered wood with aluminum fastenings. It is somewhat recent, having been conceived of in 2009. It is filled with hanging lanterns made of plastic and acrylic and filled with LED lights. These lanterns give the room the feeling of being filled with floating candles much akin to fireflies. Much like The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, the lanterns randomly dim and go out, and also like The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, the overall effect is quite calming. It leaves you a serene feeling of peace in what might be a chaotic world. It is easy to have much reflection in the brief time spent in this room. Yayoi has had a great deal of chaos in her life, and she wishes to impart the gifts of peace and well-being.
All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins
2016
Wood, mirrors, plastic, acrylic, and LEDs
Collection of the artist
Yayoi has a great love of pumpkins. When she was a child, her family was well-to-do, and owned a plant nursery and seed farm. She finds the round shape and often large size of pumpkins to be happy and joyful. In this recent infinity room conceived in 2016, pumpkins are made of plastic and acrylic and filled with LED lights against the usual mirrors covering the wooden space. Each pumpkin glows orange with rows of black polka dots. The title, All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, signifies the never-ending love Yayoi has for these gourds. Naturally, the field of pumpkins which have brought her such joy appears to be endless, a bountiful harvest for one’s positive emotions. Yayoi is fond of pointing out that her art is born of her obsessions, which are clinical. When one has obsessions, it is a very good idea to turn them into something useful. For example, I have an obsession with taking photos of things I see as noteworthy. I have used this obsession to further my career, and even to make this blog post. Yayoi wants to share her delightfully joyful pumpkins with the world.
The Obliteration Room
The exhibit ends with The Obliteration Room, a fully furnished room completely in white covered with polkadots. Yayoi has taken us on a grand journey. Her journey starts out unsure and perilous, and surrounded by dangerous elements of society such as toxic masculinity. Through this journey, she asserts herself, and engages in self-therapy by art. She finds means of bringing order to her life and calming herself, as well as making herself happy, and shares them with us as art installations. It is only fitting, then, that in this last installation, she asks us to share in the joy with her. The exhibition opened on February 23. It closes on May 14. By the time I saw the exhibition on April 24, it was mostly over. By that time, an endless sea of visitors had completely covered this once white room in simply wonderful, fun polkadots. I proudly covered it, and myself, in even more dots. In almost 90 years, this artist has seen the emotional condition of the world. She has had an endless journey trying to stay happy. As I, Alec Frazier realized about six years ago, so has she: happiness lies in our unique insanity. Be proud of who you are. Be proud of the world you belong to. Live life. Have fun. Enjoy!

This blog posting is the personal opinion of Alec Frazier and the professional policy of his advocacy firm, Autistic Reality. If you oppose it, please screen grab it! We are very proud of this opinion!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Autism Can Make You a Better Superhero: A Film Review of Power Rangers (2017), by Alec Frazier and Autistic Reality

Spoiler Alert!!!

Spoiler Alert!!!

Spoiler Alert!!!

Alec Frazier with David Yost, who played the original Blue Ranger, Billy.
Yesterday, I went to see Power Rangers, directed by Dean Israelite, and based off the fan favorite TV show from the 1990s. I was somewhat skeptical of how successful the movie would be, given the reviews and my own experience with the franchise. The original show was somewhat poorly written, with very cheesy effects. However, it is the whole concept behind the story that makes said story so appealing.

We began with Jason Scott, a star football player for a high school in the fictional Angel Grove, a small town with both fishing and a gold mine, both of which play important roles to the plot. Jason is fond of engaging in hijinks, and winds up off the team with detention for the rest of the year. (This prank involves a cow. Please don’t ask me why. It is darn funny, though!) In detention, we meet with much of the rest of the cast. This review would like to focus on Billy Cranston, played by RJ Cyler.

The very first thing we see Billy doing is arranging colored pencils quite meticulously. I immediately thought, “Ooh, I used to do that!” And in fact, it is very true. I used to be absolutely obsessed with coloring in floor plans with Crayola colored pencils. In fact, my theft of two colored pencils wound me up doing juvenile community service once. Unfortunately, Billy is being bullied at the time that Jason meets him. Jason tells the guy off, and then gives him a humorous slapping. “Did you just slap him?” Billy asks. “Yes, yes I did,” Jason replies.

Jason is on house arrest due to said hijinks earlier in the film, and is unable to play sports due to injury. However, Billy mentions that he can reset Jason’s ankle bracelet, so that they can chill later and that he has found something out by the gold mine. He also mentions that he is on the autism spectrum, to which I in the audience said, “DUH!! Of course you are!” We are treated to a view of Billy’s sanctuary in the basement of his house. It looks like a dream come true for an intellectual individual. There are tons of gadgets, often cobbled together by Billy’s own invention from items that he has salvaged from various locations. The thing is that in real life, as opposed to the stereotype, autistic individuals do not tend to be absolute wunderkind savants. This results in a number of hilarious moments throughout the film when Billy accidentally makes things blow up, slip, trip, sproing, fladap, shtoink, and just about every other word invented by Don Martin. (Look him up. One of the greatest cartoonists of all time!)

The something that Billy has found by the gold mine ends up being the whole Power Ranger deal, which comes complete with magic coins, a humorously talkative robot, an alien spaceship, a magic portal, superstrength, speed, and agility, and their own personal Brian Cranston. It also comes with sci-fi armor and giant robots called Zords, but those enter the story later. Billy and Jason encounter three other individuals from detention at the site of this mysterious discovery: Kimberly, Zach, and Trini.

A word about Trini. There is a wonderful scene where they are all getting to know each other better, and someone mentions boyfriend troubles, and she hesitates a bit. The person then mentions girlfriend troubles, and she also hesitates about that. You see, Trini identifies as a female in terms of pronouns, but she makes it clear that she does not let conventional definitions apply to her. Trini is queer, and may be the first big-budget superhero in the Hollywood film to definitively have that identity. Her new friends warmly accept her for who she is.

One major criticism of the characters from the original TV show is that we never saw them living their family lives at home. In this film, we spend some time at home with the Rangers. Zach has a loving but sick mother. Trini has parents who don’t understand her too well and younger siblings who look up to her. Jason has a father who tries his very best to be proud of him. In fact, Jason even saves his father’s life during the climactic battle.

All of the five are somewhat hesitant to explore their new discoveries, except for Billy. He is extremely excited about the entire thing. During the whole film, he talks a lot, and he sometimes divulges inappropriate information. That is par for the course with autistic individuals, including myself. Luckily, Jason will sometimes politely remind him that his cup runneth over. I would like to reiterate at this point that friends are amazing, and that autistic individuals should never be afraid of socializing. Billy is also sometimes hesitant to engage in physical stunts, and in real life many autistic people are more involved in the intellectual than in physical activity.

It was aliens, bro!”
As it turns out, the team’s Brian Cranston is an ancient alien named Zordon, who had been the Red Ranger 65 million years ago. At this moment, someone must be thinking, did the Power Rangers kill the dinosaurs? Yes, actually. You see, Zordon was fighting the former Green Ranger, who had turned into an evil being known as Rita Repulsa. As Zordon’s Ranger team lies dying, he summons a meteor weapon to attempt to destroy Rita. The problem is, however, that bad guys (and girls) don’t tend to stay dead very long. Fortunately, Rita stays dead for an entire 65 million years, before fishermen from Angel Grove discover her corpse at the bottom of the sea. Naturally, chaos ensues.

Now, back to our team. They have been busy practicing. However, they have been unable to generate their armor. Suddenly, one of them does. Billy becomes the first one able to do so. They later discovered that, because the unit is a team, their ability to generate armor depends on their ability to know each other. This is actually tremendous news for Billy, and the autistic community. It is frequently said that we autistics do not get the rest of humanity. However, Billy clearly gets the others better than they get each other. Many autistic individuals are incredibly observant of everything and anything, including other people.

Rita instigates a fight, and the team gets thoroughly thrashed. In fact, Billy ends up getting killed. They take him to Zordon, who was planning on using the Rangers’ power to regenerate his life. Before he plans to do so, the rest of the Rangers speak of how they would all give their life for Billy. For autistic people to find real, tangible friendship, the kind which involves self-sacrifice, is a gigantic triumph. As mentioned before, autistic people are not always the best at interpersonal relations. However, with proper time and effort, we can form wonderful friendships. In the end of this scene, Zordon decides to regenerate Billy’s life instead of his own, and they go off to fight Rita.

Rita’s goal is to destroy the Zeo Crystal. In this movie’s cannon, a Zeo Crystal can be found on each planet that supports life. Indeed, the Crystal provides that life force on each of those worlds. Naturally, the Zeo Crystal in this film is located right under a Krispy Kreme. In fact, Rita stops to enjoy some of their doughnuts as she tries to destroy the world. Wouldn’t you?

Rita builds a gigantic monster out of gold from the mine outside of town, and said monster starts destroying said town. The Rangers use their Zords to protect the town and tried to stop the golden monster, which is named Goldar, after a henchman of Rita’s from the original TV series. Goldar is nearly destroyed, until Rita joins with it and is nearly successful. She tosses the Zords into a pit of lava, but they arise, combined into the mighty Mechazord, which Billy has named. Goldar is finally destroyed, and the Rangers demand Rita’s surrender before Zordon. She refuses, which angers Jason, the Red Ranger and leader of the team. I could hardly believe what I saw next, and neither could Billy. “Did you just slap Rita?” Billy asks. “Yes, yes I did,” Jason replies. In fact, Jason has slapped her into outer space. As her frozen body heads towards the moon, we see a smile spread upon her face. I smell sequel!

The town is absolutely overjoyed, and Billy makes the Mechazord dance to country music, which is his guilty pleasure. Two townspeople are played by Amy Jo Johnson, who played the original Pink Ranger, and Jason David Frank, who played Tommy Oliver, the original green Ranger. There are many moments in the film that throw back to the original TV show. In fact, it even gives off the same feel. Near the end of the film, there are more scenes depicting the successful Rangers interacting with their families.

There is one scene during the credits, during which reference is made to Tommy Oliver. There is also a massive explosion in the bathroom of the school, to which Billy says “Oops! My bad!”

Promotional Image of Billy Cranston
Billy is the first definitively autistic superhero in an A-list Hollywood film. Based on criticism of The Accountant, various members of the autistic activist community may point out that it is not realistic to portray an autistic person as a superhero because we autistics are not special, but rather a naturally occurring subset of society. To this I say, “WTF!?” This film has dinosaurs, ancient aliens, giant robots, a humongous golden monster, and a woman who comes back to life after 65 million years at the bottom of the sea! I think we can learn to suspend our disbelief a little bit.

In addition, it is noteworthy that the Blue Ranger is autistic, as the color blue is symbolic of autism awareness. Although many autism activists do not like the color blue standing for autism, they should recall that use of the color to symbolize the autistic movement predates any of the harmful efforts by Autism Speaks. The autism activists would point out that the color blue was chosen because it was initially thought that was prevalent mostly in males. Once again, may I point out that perceptions and symbols can change and adapt. What was once thought of as mostly male is now known to be spread more or less evenly between genders, although autism sometimes manifests slightly differently in each gender. Although the blue color was initially meant to reflect the male gender, the intent was not sexist, and the color can be perceived as applying to both genders.

As an autistic person with autistic friends and acquaintances all across the autism spectrum, I do not think I have seen a more accurate depiction of autism in popular culture, except for possibly the character I review in my first book, Without Fear: The FirstAutistic Superhero. Both myself and my firm, Autistic Reality, would like to fully endorse this film. We will attempt to get in touch with Lionsgate Entertainment and Saban, to make that endorsement official. Both myself and my firm give this amazing wonderful film ten out of ten stars, or five out of five. It is very rare to see a good, high profile film that so flawlessly embodies diversity. SEE THIS FILM!

The Power Rangers, with Billy Cranston in blue.
This blog posting is the personal opinion of Alec Frazier and the professional policy of his advocacy firm, Autistic Reality. If you oppose it, please screen grab it! We are very proud of this opinion!

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Review of Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0, by Alec Frazier and Autistic Reality

The Attendance at Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0
I am writing to inform you about the wonderful disability and media symposium that is Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0!

Tari Hartman Squire
I got to know Tari Hartman Squire through a number of prior business dealings. She is the Founding CEO of EIN SOF Communications, Inc., a disability marketing firm. One thing that the firm does is promote disability inclusion in the media through its Lights! Camera! Access! Symposia.

My Invitation to the White House
I moved to the Washington, DC area on November 1 of 2016. I had not been there for three days yet when I received an invite to the main event for Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0, a key disability and media symposium. This event would be held at the White House, and proper permissions were needed. It was pretty amazing to get an official invite to the White House!

The Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB)
Almost all events held at the White House are actually held at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB). I walked around the White House area taking photos of the beautiful architecture before I lined up for the conference. There was quite a bit of security to go through, but it was easy since we had the proper credentials.

Obama Director of Public Engagement Maria Town with Me, Alec Frazier
The event started with introductions by those in charge, including Tari Hartman Squire, Obama Director of Public Engagement Maria Town, and others.

One of the Panels
After this, there were few panel discussions. Some of the panelists were disability professionals, while other panelists were media professionals. A few people teleconferenced in from other places, including Los Angeles and New York City. The ability of people to teleconference into a meeting makes things much easier for all parties involved.

With Casey, one of my mentors!
At its heart, Lights! Camera! Access! Is a mentoring event, so in the midst of all of this, there were sessions where we, the younger and/or more inexperienced attendees, most of whom have disabilities, met with mentors in the disability rights and media fields. I myself met with some interesting professionals from an advertising firm in New York City. Other mentees came from around the country.

The Leaders of the National Disability Mentoring Coalition
In addition to all of this, there were many networking opportunities, and panels and workshops on mentoring and advocacy. Many professionals in both unique and general-purpose disability in media fields or present.

J.D., one of my mentors!
To follow up, I have had Skype conversations with some of my mentors, and other meetings with them in person. We have also exchanged contact information.

Roberta Cordano, President of Gallaudet University
 In addition to all of this, there was a second Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0 conference a couple months later. This one was also hosted by the White House, although it was not physically held at the White House, but was instead held at Gallaudet University, a remarkably relevant location given its disability rights history. I refer to this conference as Lights! Camera! Access! 2.5.

A Group Discussion at Lights! Camera! Access! 2.5 Disability & Media Industry Summit
There were many people at this second conference who are not able to make it to the original conference. At the second conference, I was able to meet with not one, but five mentors in the disability/media fields.

A Mentoring Session at Lights! Camera! Access! 2.5 Disability & Media Industry Summit
I highly recommend attendance at a Lights! Camera! Access! event. Your perceptions of the world around you will change, and you will get wonderful ideas for promoting inclusion, not just in disability and media, but in many other cross disciplinary fields!

In President Obama's office library after Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0!
This blog posting is the personal opinion of Alec Frazier and the professional policy of his advocacy firm, Autistic Reality. If you oppose it, please screen grab it! We are very proud of this opinion!