Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Delayed understanding.

It's taken me 40 years to fully realize the brilliance of Aqualung.

I have always thought that Jethro Tull's Aqualung was a fantastic piece of music, but as I was trying to explain lyrics to my son, I had an epiphany. I was telling him how it was story the of an old man who I believed was homeless and how people saw him is being scary and strange but actually that there was more to him than that. When I was young man listening to the song, I recall thinking that the song was about the duality in his personality and that he was both things, a gentle old man and dangerous antisocial wild man to be feared. That he was cruel to strangers because the world was cruel to him, but still had the capacity to connect when shown kindness. Not a bad analysis for a teenager. 

 It is amazing how powerful saying something out loud is because when I explained the song to my son it triggered whole new connections. I guess I had never really questioned my interpretation for all these years, but now I'm pretty sure the song is all about our perception of the homeless and how WE treat them. Whether we see The homeless automatically as dangerous, dirty, creatures to be feared... or as people in need of of help. this more nuanced meaning presented itself to me very clearly, and now its hard for me to hear it as anything other than a social commentary on us and how we treat people who find themselves in this bad situation any assumptions we make about them. The juxtaposition of the song going back and forth from the hard rock and the gentle acoustic treatments represents the two extremes, fear and repulsion, and empathy.

I have to say, has someone who was not always sure after secure financial future, and could easily imagine myself in that situation, this new revelation about the song and its meaning had quite an emotional impact on me. I hope that if given the chance to time travel I would keep my mouth shut and allow my younger self to enjoy his interpretation of the song. After all, there's only one or two people in the world, who really know what the intentions of those lyrics are, and to be honest, if they are anything like me, they may have forgotten by now. But that's the wonderful thing about music, it's means what It means to the person listening to it at the time. I have to try to remember that. So even those people who clearly have never listen to the lyrics of any song in their life, are still getting emotional connection from the music, Even if I feel like they are missing a beautiful treasure. Who knows? Maybe they will discover new meaning in that song 40 years later.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Meme Repair

Took a moment to fix this meme that I saw as being flawed today... mostly because I was curious. I didn't really see it as upsetting or anything. It is a bit funny to see such a clear example of how subtle changes in lighting and facial expression can change your perception of a person in an image. The mustache is still a bit creepy however... heh.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Our Written Language Is Flawed And Confusing...

Should we try harder to understand those who question it?
Horydczak, Theodor, 

It is a mess, I have said it for as long as I can remember. I have lots of examples, like silent letters, words that sound nothing like they are spelled, the fact that y is only "sometimes" a vowel... The list is very long and I have never had the energy to compile it. Luckily one woman has taken the time to explain why she had so much trouble with at least one aspect of it. In her article Kate Gladstone tackles what it is to be a person with autism dealing with the insanity that is handwriting.

It is fascinating and revealing. See it here... 

So much of her article strikes a chord with my personal experience. I have "learning differences" and although there is no real way to compare that to the experiences of someone like the author or this article, I hope it is safe to say that we each see the world differently than others do to varying degrees. And that it won't offend when I say that I feel like I may be able to understand and empathize. There are many things about our written language that have always annoyed me greatly because they are so inefficient. Often parts of it are so senseless and ridiculous that it seemed to me as a child that someone must have been playing a cruel joke on me. Why should it be this way, why wouldn't anyone try to fix it? And most of all, why is everyone pretending it is normal!?

It's a common thread in my life, I despise inefficiency and am drawn to simple and elegant design. I rail against things that don't make sense (cents, sents) and feel like I need to do something to correct a problem that I clearly see in front of me. Honestly, people who just accept the status quo without question sometimes seem weak willed to me. Just saying "Thats the way it is" is NOT an answer I have ever found acceptable, even when I was small.

So when Kate said in her article "When our best efforts at understanding are penalized, we often stop trying or caring." That really hit home... It was something I had often thought myself. Yes, what ever you do, don't be that clever kid that can see the folly in the flawed language that your teachers are tasked with instructing you in at all costs. Hopefully kids with differences have it better than her and I did. 

It has taken me my whole life to be able to compose the text you are reading now with some amount of confidence... Even though I likely could have thought it or spoke the words when I was very young. I have wrestled this monster for decades, and it is an ugly beast. The funny thing being, is that once most people learn to a point that they are comfortable, they just stop. I could not, I needed to prove that I was not the idiot I was being made out to be, so I kept going, and I still learn and understand more and more little by little. Forcing it all into my head like shoving unruly snakes into a basket with many holes. I can do more now than I could when I was 40. I could do more when I was 40 than when I was 30, and if you look at my writings from when I was 20... Back when most people are "finished learning such things"... Well, let's just say I would be deeply embarrassed. For most, our written language is either quirky, and fun, or boring, and automatic. For me, it has always been an oppressive creature pinning me down. Finally, later in life, I feel like there is hope I may eventually get the thing into a half nelson.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Internet As A Digital Side Show

Welcome to the digital freak show! Feeling uncomfortable yet?

Untitled Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969, photographer. 

Recently I was reading back through some old posts I made on various message boards and I came across a thread from 2007 in which people where mocking the public behavior of a rising "internet star" who self described as being a highly functioning autistic. The person was using the internet to make a spectacle of themselves by posting videos of outrageous and potentially dangerous antics and people were eating it up and at the same time showing very little understanding or compassion for the underlying problems that could be leading to his admittedly unusual and potentially threatening behavior. The whole thing reminded me of something... and then it dawned on me, it's the new equivalent of the circus side show! And we thought we were soooo evolved... pft! We are doing the same crap. Voyeuristically watching others who are somehow different so that we can mock them or at best pity them, but with this new version, we are sparred the "indignity" of paying money to create this artificial chasm between "us" and "them", it is mostly free, and the best thing about it is that we can be as brutal as we want because we feel anonymous. We never have to look them or anyone else in the eye while doing it. So we are spared the shame and guilt we used to feel when we had to gather in public to try desperately to feel better about ourselves. Its all so private... and clean... and digital.

Ah, the magic of the internet.

Here is what I wrote back in 2007 that effectively ended the original thread dead cold...

"*Disclaimer: Doc is not an expert on brain disorders... he just has a few personal theories about them.* 

Assuming we take the information given at face value, the bottom line for me is that the person seems to have problems... possibly both physiological and psychological. For that reason, I don't know if I want to participate in mocking him publicly. 

He IS putting himself out there to be mocked for sure... but if we choose not to take the bait, then other people will be less likely to seek fame from encouraging ridicule of their shortcomings. And to be honest, I am not so sure he "gets" the underlying tone of his "popularity", he seems to be not entirely able to successfully interact socially after all. I wonder if any attention he receives satisfies a need in him, even if it is negative and can only add to his issues down the road. Will making him "famous" stop him from acting badly in public and getting arrested in places he goes to look for girls? I don't think it will. 

To me his "star status" just seems like a digital equivalent to an old circus side show. Something we as a culture thought we were beyond but in fact we are still starring at the people who are different from what is considered average because it helps us each individually feel more "normal". 

As far as him having psychological issues that go beyond being autistic, who is to say how much being autistic screws with your self esteem and general mental health? Aspects of your brain function may be normal or even superior to average but I think that could be a serious detriment to being otherwise balanced because you may have the ability to comprehend just how your autism effects your life and limits what you can accomplish. I think thats gotta mess with ya. 

Brain dysfunction has a wide range of effects on people and we are nowhere near being able to understand it fully. I think at some point in the future we will have a better grasp of just how unique and different each persons "mind" is and we look back on the idea of thinking that people are either "normal" or "abnormal" as very naive."