Showing posts from August, 2012
Well, fuck. I started thinking again. I hate it when I do that. Much of my read of Sherlock as not autistic is based on the fact that that I recognize a lot of that behavior from me, back when I was furious at everything and thought people sucked, and I'm not autistic. But you know, I could be kinda wrong there.

I find myself in the surreal position of reading more and more stuff about autism and saying, "nope... nope... nope..." to all the big official diagnostic features, and "yep... uh-huh... and that... shit, I do that daily," to all of the smaller, unofficial, anecdotal things people talk about in passing. Particularly in the way I go about learning things -- I'm extremely good at the one where I go to bed one day knowing absolutely nothing about a given topic, and then pop back up maybe a week later with half a dissertation already done. I decided to demonstrate walking, talking, and reading all about eighteen months old; I think the walking and tal…

I can't speak for the rest of them, but this host kid is pretty much exactly what I would have been like on camera at that age, except that I'm a redhead and I have an American accent. It's pretty much how I am on camera now, for that matter -- I'm not easily intimidated by the whole omg, people are watching me! thing because I miss or am just unaffected by all the cues that apparently indicate to other people that they should be terrified of faceless mass-judgement. If she's getting an autism spectrum diagnosis on the basis that bright lights and scratchy clothing tags suck, some words are slimy, and the inside of her head is more interesting than her classmates, then 1) of course I'm going to test out as being on the fucking spectrum, and 2) I take back anything I ever said about psychiatry having made progress in the past twenty-five years.

There is nothing wrong with this kid, and there is nothing going to go wrong for this kid that could't be…
"I'd be curious to know what you made of those questions/the test itself."-- Curious reader There are loads of problems with it. There are with pretty much all psychological questionnaires. The main issue is distinguishing the subject's internal experience from the way the subject is actually acting from the way other people perceive the subject. An awful lot of psych disorders boil down to "one of these things is not like the others", and figuring those out is difficult at best.

Questions regarding social functioning are especially tricky. The answer varies a lot with the exact phrasing. I have the same problem with informal tests for things like narcissism, where my score swings from "perfectly normal" to "Lex Luthor" depending on whether they ask me if I think it's the just and correct natural order of things that I be in charge of the entire universe (fuck no) or just whether I wind up in charge of things a lot anyway (all the t…
One thing I grok in fullness is the absolute need to not have other people breathing all my air.

It may surprise people who saw me at the Awkward Army meetup, but sociability is not native to me. I learned that the very difficult way, much like I learned that I am not a functional human being at seven o'clock in the morning, no matter how much I want to do whatever got me up that early. It's not that I'm lying when I go out and make noises like you're interesting and I want to talk to you -- you are, and I do -- but it's a thing that takes a lot of energy, and a thing for which I need to be prepared. If you texted me and asked me if I wanted to come downtown and meet God Himself, right now, I'd probably say no, because I wasn't expecting to go out today, and it takes some time and gear-grinding to get the switch flipped. I am inherently introverted, and social interaction is essentially an improv-performance skill.

(And you'd have to text me, because …
About a week ago, I got an email from a perfect stranger. She thanked me for, essentially, being a separate person who wrote down some of the stuff that goes through her head. I get these, every so often; I never know quite what to do with them. I'm very glad that something I said made someone else feel less alone, but at the same time, the fact that people send me deeply emotional thanks for this means that it's still rare for them, and that kind of sends my heart right down into my feet again.

The other night, at the Awkward Army meetup down at Davis, I was talking to one of the other Awkwardeers, trying valiantly to explain the weird problems you run into when you can't turn the subtitles on social interactions off. "You're like a seeing-eye dog for awkward people!" she cheerfully informed me. She's right, I suppose; I spend a fair amount of time trying to gently steer people away from metaphorically walking into traffic.

I have no idea what the auti…
I tend to marathon random TV shows while I do my actual work, and lately it's been "Mythbusters". The science is pretty awesome-tastic, and of course they use any excuse to drag stuff out to the bomb range and let their retired FBI guy play with C4. But, as I was telling people in the Awkward Army meetup not long ago, the people-reading thing is a superpower that cannot be turned off, so I wind up watching the crew about as much as I wind up watching the cannon.

Adam is obviously not really as twitterpated as he likes to look on camera, or he would be not just dead, but really ignominiously dead, several times a season. I'm guessing he's pretty enthusiastic about working in Hollywood; he's mentioned doing kit-bashing at ILM before the show, and every time there's an opportunity to pretend to be an action movie stunt man, he practically dislocates his shoulder, waving his hand in the air and yelling 'ooh! ooh! ME!' He must give his wife regular he…

In which I have a weird reaction, surprising exactly no one

If I am going to make a damn fool of myself in front of the autistic people, I am at least going to get something useful out of it. So I've spent the past few days doing what I do best, and going through YouTube for random videos on the subject. Taking into account that they're almost all made by allistic people for other allistic people, and are therefore going to be full of things that are mind-bogglingly wrong, I'm mostly watching the behavior of the genuinely autistic people on camera.

To date, mostly what I have to say is:


I am finding it nearly impossible to reconcile the written formal descriptions of autism with the real behavior of people I am told are autistic. Primarily this is because the diagnostic descriptions put really heavy emphasis on the idea that autistics have great difficulty putting things across non-verbally in a way that allistic people can understand, and at no point in any of these videos am I having any trouble figuring out what mood the…

5 things that might as well be magic

1. OTC Medication

When people think of the truly breathtaking advances in medicine, they think of the antibiotics that cure gas gangrene and injectable insulin that means diabetics don't have to die blind, lame, and decades early. Nobody ever really marvels at the stuff in Walgreens. But think about it: If you read a lot of literature written during, say, the Regency period, you run across all these women swooning and begging off to go lie down with such a dreadful headache. You think, "Jesus, lady, how much of a wilting flower are you? It's just a headache."

Except it wasn't, because the entire concept of 'just a headache' didn't come along until aspirin came along. Head-hurty happened whenever it happened and stayed as long as it fucking well wanted to. The original folk remedy of willow bark tea was dependent on your living where willow bark was available, had no standard measurable dosage, and, allow me to assure you, tasted like a combination o…

In which I begin to think a lot of people need a damn good smacking

I did finally sit down and read the essays "explaining the autistic experience by analyzing Sherlock as though he is a high-functioning autistic". I think personally that the bits on stereotypies and physical movement are assuming a lot of facts not in evidence -- in general, the author presumes Sherlock has learnt to conceal things in pretty much the same places I presume he's playing things up intentionally to cover for things he can't figure out how to hide -- but in general, Sherlock-as-autistic strikes me as about as plausible as Sherlock-as-deeply-isolated. It is cheerfully accepted as alternate head-canon, and my brain won't bitch at me about out-of-characterness if I find well-written fic on the premise.

That wasn't the interesting part, though.

Because the author of the essay is an autist writing for a largely allist audience, there is a lot of compare and contrast, particularly when talking about Sherlock and sociability. "In general, allisti…

Some clarification on terminology etc.

Before I jam my foot in my mouth a few dozen more times with people I'd really rather be on speaking terms with, I should probably clarify a lot of the words I use when discussing... well, people I'd rather be on speaking terms with. I have a degree in sociology (that, and a bunch of other random stuff -- I was such a PITA in college that I eventually just defaulted to a 'build your own' liberal arts bachelors, because nothing else covered everything I did), and there are a lot of places in the social sciences where words that have one meaning in casual writing have another, narrower meaning as technical jargon.

I use the word normal a lot. "Normal" does not mean "ordinary" or "how things should be". It also doesn't imply that "not normal" is wrong or broken. Social science does a lot of work with statistics. When you survey a population, you find that most people in it will react to most things pretty much the same way most…

Weekend Radio Theater / 25 Aug 2012

The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - "The Maltree Abbey"

The Adventures of Sam Spade - "The Death of Doctor Denoff Caper"

Box 13 - "The First Letter"

Other discussions of the various incarnations of Holmes

Still leaving the autism paper unread -- it's on Instapaper for sync to Kindle, if anyone's interested -- I should probably mention some of the other discussions I've seen on Holmes' mental state over the years.

There are a lot of them out there that contend more or less that Holmes is a dick mostly for the sake of being a dick. The general postulate is that he does it because he thinks other humans are contemptible and he knows they need him, so nyah. These also tend to see him as keeping Watson for a pet, much as Watson mentions keeping a dog at their first meeting.* Notably, I have not yet seen one of these from any author who independently sets off the 'gifted kid' bell in the back of my head. They seem to be from people who are reasonably intelligent, but have not hit the Weird Smart Kid level that leaves you completely without peers for the first mumble-teen years of your life. It's an interesting look as to why a lot of people see the Weird Smart Ki…

My read on "Sherlock"

One of my readers, to whom I am going to start referring as "my anonymous source in the autistic community" any day now, has thoughtfully pointed me at a series of essays which attempt to explain the internal experience of autism via Sherlock and his exceedingly Sherlock-y behavior on-screen.

I was going to sit down and read it the other night, but then I thought: That's cheating. Either the author will make a compelling argument and I'll end up agreeing, or the author will say something so bizarre that I won't be able to finish the damn thing without developing a headache. In order to do a proper compare-and-contrast, I ought to go write down what I think already, before I fill my head with something else.

Personally, my read is that Sherlock would not get a formal ASD diagnosis. I do a lot of social psychology of the gifted and talented, and the standards I'm used to using are basically "would this be disabling enough to require special schooling&qu…
I didn't intend to buy myself anything for my birthday this year, but I ended up replacing an MP3 player. The old one finally expired, and I am apparently unable to live without one -- I made it about three days before logging onto Amazon and buying another.

I don't have much brand loyalty, except when it comes to portable electronics. I do appalling things to them, especially music players. I am a one-woman extended consumer stress test Trial By Fire for those. I need the kind of gizmos that can be thrown into a knapsack, dragged across the whole of Middle Earth, on foot and on horseback, through sun, wind, rain, snowy mountain passes, and armies of orcs, hurled into the fires of Mordor, and fished out again with maybe some minor cosmetic damage to the case. I will happily take low-end, simple-minded devices, as long as they have the basic function I'm aiming for, and are close to impossible to destroy.

The late MP3 player was a Sansa Clip+ , and so is the new one. I wi…

In which I discover that pretty much every green room is the same

I did my first catwalk show today. Whee!

I was wondering how this would go, exactly, and the answer to that is: Exactly like everything else I have ever done on stage. The performers are told to show up ON TIME for their call, on pain of death (or not getting to go on, which is the same thing for an actor), only to find that the director has already been there for two hours, doing the work of five people. Then they sit around gossiping and taking pictures of each other with their phones until the rest of the support staff shows up, somewhere between thirty minutes and two months late. There is a great deal of wandering back and forth, looking for people who are also wandering back and forth, and asking other people if they have seen which way the wanderers are wandering.

Somewhere in here, makeup, hair, and wardrobe get done. The main difference between runway and plays or general variety work is that if you're putting on a play, everybody knows what they're wearing weeks befo…
Okay, gang, here's the deal: This is my blog. I write things here. I've got two major themes:

Hey, check out this nifty stuff!Jesus, people are weird.
If it benefits you in some way, then good, but mostly it exists to amuse me. I am not particularly out to make anyone feel bad; shouting DOWN WITH [ADJECTIVE]S! is really not my thing. I even think the homicidal lunatic drivers in Cambridge have every right to exist, although if they're that bothered by the idea of having to stop for pedestrians they might be a lot happier existing someplace that isn't Harvard Square.

I appreciate discussion, and I even appreciate being corrected when I'm wrong. But certain vocabulary, often known collectively as 'the language of social justice' makes my skin crawl. I think I'm stuck with 'sexist' -- although I'd prefer 'misogynist' and/or 'misandrist', for clarity -- and probably 'racist' -- there mostly aren't really specific wor…