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Art and blindness are not often associated with each other, but both have always been a natural part of my life. I wasn’t born blind. In fact, I’m not completely, totally blind right now: I’m ‘legally blind’, which means I have just enough vision to be dangerous.
I was born with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a blinding disease that robs you of your sight over time. I can make out general, blurry shapes and colours during the day, but at night I see total blackness, except for a few blurry lights here and there. And the moon.
It took years to become legally blind. A friend of mine once remarked that he would just as soon go blind all at once and get the adjustment period over with. But it wasn’t that way with me. I was given my first pair of glasses at the age of two, and my vision only went downhill from there. In elementary school, I had to sit at the front desk in order to see the chalkboard. With RP comes night blindness, so I always had to hold onto someone’s arm or jacket sleeve when I was out at night. In some ways I felt limited, but now I realise that was just insecurity seeping in. At times it was hard for me to ask for help, or have anyone know I had a visual impairment, especially when it came to dating. Sometimes I’d be on a date at night in a car, and could only judge how it was going by what he said or how he said it, instead of seeing the expression on his face or seeing his gestures.
When the My Little Pony franchise was rebooted in 2010 as the TV series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, it quickly garnered an unexpected cadre of fans. Bolstered by lively discussion on such sites as 4chan and Reddit, the franchise was adopted by males aged thirteen to thirty-five – hardly the predictable demographic for a show aimed at young girls. These fans came to be known as ‘bronies’—a portmanteau of ‘bro’ and ‘pony’—and today, according to the online Brony Study conducted by two psychologists from the University of Georgia and Louisiana State University, there are at least 50,000 self-identified bronies, eighty-five percent of whom are male, with an average age of twenty-one.
The precise course of the development of this fan culture is unclear. In some tellings the bronies began watching and discussing My Little Pony ‘ironically’. The fact that the fandom is thought to have begun on 4chan and Reddit—two sites where insincerity and unblinking absurdity are the lingua franca—lends credence to this. But the enthusiasm shown by bronies, and their use of a distinctive lingo (‘anypony’ for ‘anybody’), caused them to be marginalised by the host websites. Independent sites were established, and brony culture (based on the frequency of Google searches) expanded in 2011. Eventually, a sexual subset appeared: ‘cloppers’, who masturbate and profess sexual attraction to eroticised images of the My Little Pony characters. One figure puts the ‘clopper’ population at twenty percent of all bronies.
The world of hacking is a complicated one: a community of white hats and black hats, corporate and international espionage, commercial fraud, hacktivism and ‘ratters’, organised crime, and kids mucking around on their home computers. The definition of the word ‘hacker’ itself is much debated within the community. Many distinguish between hackers, or ‘white hats’—the good guys—and crackers, or ‘black hats’—the baddies. The distinction between white hats and black hats arises from the stark similarities between the internet and the Wild West, both domains in which law enforcement and politicians have struggled to come to terms with new techniques, technologies, and even brand new crimes.
Aspiring Writer Disorder (AWD) is a mental illness marked by hallucinations, delusions—and, in extreme cases, lifelong actions to carry out that which is believed in those delusions—that one can make a living as a professional writer.
Early warning signs
AWD will often first present itself during the individual’s teenage years. There are some common warning signs. If you’re concerned a teenager you know may be developing AWD, pay close attention to how they interact with literary objects. When carrying a book, do they keep it in a bag, or even calmly hold it beside their hip? Or do they clutch it tightly to their chest with both arms, in what seems like an attempt to somehow fuse the book their bodies? Research suggests such people, known as ‘clutchers’, are at a far higher risk of developing AWD.
How is the teenager engaging with his or her English teacher? If time is spent with the teacher before or after class exchanging books that aren’t on the curriculum, they may very well be developing AWD. If they’ve laminated a lock of the English teacher’s hair for use as a bookmark, seek treatment immediately.
We are blessed to have had author and doctor Karen Hitchcock as guest editor for this print edition. Here are her editorial notes introducing it.
Of medicine—the science and the practice and the stuff—everyone has an opinion. We have all been to the doctor’s; we all have a body and a mind. Medicine is both despised and revered. When your body hurts or fails you and you place yourself in someone else’s hands, how can you trust them, when can you relax? After all, almost everything might be a symptom of multiple sclerosis, and you have some of those symptoms from the list, so you go tell the doctor and the doctor taps your tendons and watches your limbs gently jerk; she shines a light into the back of your eye, her face so close to yours you can smell garlic on her breath, then she asks you to touch her finger, your nose, her finger, your nose, wriggles her hands in the peripheries of your vision and then tells you not to worry. Don’t worry? Your heart thumps, your pupils dilate: is she lying, is she mad, what have these strange little dances to do with MS?
Feeling sick? Let the brand-new Medicine edition of The Lifted Brow: Digital be your doctor!
In this edition: John van Tiggelen gets the snip; Hannah Thurman raises an ill, teenage daughter; Rhianna Boyle probes the history of lab mice; James Robert Douglas explores the worlds of bronies and cloppers; Lisa Mitchell’s Nonno prepares for death; and an oven-baked patient by Hudson Christie.
You should trust our eminent contributors to tend to your hearts and minds. Why? Because we found the following info about their qualifications inscribed—in terrible handwriting—on the back of their gold-plated stethoscopes:
- John van Tiggelen dropped out of fourth-year medicine to become a journalist. He lives in Castlemaine in central Victoria.
- Hudson Christie is a Canadian artist who uses oven-bake clay and photography to make sweet and upsetting pictures.
- Hannah Thurman lives in NYC. Her work is published or forthcoming in the Michigan Quarterly Review, The Rumpus, and others.
- Rhianna Boyle is a zoologist and writer. Her work has been featured in the recently-released Best Australian Science Writing 2013.
- Lisa Mitchell is a doctor from Melbourne.
- James Robert Douglas is a freelance cultural critic and Interviews Editor at The Lifted Brow.
- Ben Jeurs lives in Sydney and draws cartoons every day on dead tree flesh.
- Cover art by Lashna Tuschewski, an artist working in illustration, embroidery, collage, hand made jewellery, and ceramics.
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