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December 29, 2010

Ronnie Simonsen, RIP

I just heard that Ronnie Simonsen died.

I knew him, a little, because he was one of the campers at Camp Jabberwocky [more posts] and Zero Mountain Farm. The loving obituary in the Boston Globe captures much of what was remarkable about Ronnie, but I knew him inextricably embedded within his summer community. Like some ideal post-racist world, in this community, people do not see disabilities. I cannot think of him apart from their loving and fully mutual embrace.

Every year the campers make a movie, an exercise in play, joy, and friendship. Here’s the Return of the Muskrats, starring Ronnie. I — we — will miss him.

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February 11, 2009

How’s Your News?

I really enjoyed the first episode of How’s Your News?, a new series on MTV (Sundays at 10:30 pm EST/PST).

It’s tough to describe. (Tom Shales does a good job.) It documents the travels of a roving bus of “reporters” who are developmentally disabled. The reporters do person-in-the-street interviews and interviews with MTV-ish stars. It’s deeply funny, and bounces around through multiple levels all at the same time.

The obvious criticism is that the show exploits these folks. I don’t think it does even for a minute, although there are undoubtedly people who view it meanly. But, what are you going to do? There are idiots and bullies everywhere. The show in fact takes these folks for what they are. It doesn’t turn them into saints and it doesn’t condescend. The show is created by a guy who works closely with the developmentally disabled.

Now, the truth is that I know this group pretty well. I have a relative who goes to the same summer camp from which this project sprung, and I have spent enough time with them to know that the reporters are participating voluntarily, happily, enthusiastically, aware of their limitations but also of their special strengths and vantage points.

There’s nothing like it on TV.[Tags: ]

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