Friday, December 19, 2014

If Eric Garner was white: We need #DisabledLivesMatter

This was originally a post on my personal Facebook wall. It is presented here unedited.

Let me preface this entire post by saying that the concept of "reverse racism" is nonsense and bullshit. The opposite of racism is "not being racist."

Had Eric Garner been white, I wonder if we would have heard about his death. I think it's fair to say that the cop who killed him might have been properly charged (he also may not have been killed in the first place), but that's not the issue my mind is on. I doubt that there would have been a public outcry. There is no *systemic* killing of white people, thus no need for a "white lives matter" meme, but racism was not the only thing that threatened Eric Garner's life. He was black and also disabled. He would have very likely survived the illegal choke-hold if not for his asthma and heart disease, elements that his murderer may not have even been aware of.

In reality, Eric Garner's name is part of a long list we refer to when we say black lives matter. When people talk about Eric Garner, they don't say disabled lives matter; they say black lives matter.

In the hypothetical world where Eric Garner was white, there is still no "disabled lives matter" meme. His death goes unnoticed, because there is no existing issue to piggyback off of.

That is what disabled people have to do: Piggyback. We have to provide some reason for people to care about us other than our disabilities.

When Robin Williams died, the story was the sudden tragedy of a famous actor, not a bipolar man's long battle and eventual failure to cope. Debates about Beyoncé argue over whether she counts as a feminist, not whether she really has depression. Albert Einstein is famous for his contributions to science, not the autism that led to them.

The cultural meme is that disabled lives don't matter. Lives can be disabled and matter, but the disability can't be the reason.

#Black trans disabled lives matter

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Communication Shutdown or Autistics Speaking Day: Which will you celebrate?

This article was written as a submission to my college newspaper. Word choice and overall writing style are thusly adapted.

As November soon catches up to us, its first day brings a time to celebrate Autistic people speaking, or as it was originally called, Communication Shutdown.

Communication Shutdown was invented as an exercise in perspective taking. The basis of the exercise is to completely swear off social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) for one day. The idea is to experience the social anxieties and inabilities associated with autism. The title of Autistics Speaking Day was proposed before the first Communication Shutdown even began, encouraging Autistic people to do the opposite: Become more vocal on the day when there are fewer allistic (not autistic) voices hogging the attention.

The exercise is inadequate to say the least. It's like trying to understand blindness by blinking a lot. A real autistic person must continue being autistic for the other 364.24 days of the year, and you don't even get an accurate experience for the one day. Social media is actually a place where autistic people thrive: There's no body language or facial expressions, no need to speak instead of typing, and no urgency. You would get a better picture by using the internet exclusively and canceling plans to see people face-to-face.

If you really want to experience the hardships an autistic person might experience, then swear off the internet altogether, along with phones and the concept of pen and paper. Duct tape your mouth shut and bind your hands. Line the inside of a shirt with sandpaper and don't eat anything other than hot peppers. Now that's perspective taking. You can choose any day to remember what life was like before social media. If you want to understand autism, try Autistic Speaking Day and forget Communication Shutdown.

Here's my recommendation: Stay on social media, silently. Don't tweet, blog, or take pictures of your food, but do read what autistics are saying. Shut down your own communication while listening to the people this day is really for. Then you might understand the perspective of someone who is ordered around and not allowed to talk back.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Neurotypical Syndrome Played Straight

In every blog, business, journal, or website with a strong tie to the subject of autism, there is inevitably a description of what autism is, usually reflecting the author's opinions more than any actual evidence. These descriptions are necessary for awareness campaigns, and occasionally useful to the self-identification process. The "What Is Autism?" section of Acting NT attempts to stand against complete bollocks like deficits and extreme male brain, but there is a major issue it doesn't fully address: Comparison.

Descriptions of autism, even ones from authors who support neurodiversity, tend to use words like different, atypical, and even deficit; judgments of "severity" are based on factors that are more or less than... what, exactly? Deficient compared to what? Different from what? From neurotypical of course, though this is rarely specified. Instead it is assumed that neurotypical is "normal" (a word that should always be in scare quotes) and every other neurotype is therefore a deviant that can only be defined by how it compares to neurotypical. What the authors of these descriptions fail to recognize- probably fail to even comprehend- is that autistic people have no knowledge of this "normal". For an autistic person, autistic is the only normal. For an autistic person, neurotypical is weird, mysterious, puzzling, and abnormal, because we autistics have never experienced being neurotypical and have no psychic powers with which to gain insight in the absence of education.

Without knowing what neurotypical is, telling me how I am different from it is less useful than telling me how my thoughts are different from an alligator's thoughts. Whenever I mention an item of pop culture on this blog, I link the name to a page (usually Wikipedia) that offers more details of what is being referenced. I do this because explaining thing A by comparison to thing B is useless if you don't know what thing B is either.

Imagine that someone is trying to describe a new genre of music to you: They say that it's like techno but heavier, more chaotic, and with more bass; except you have never heard a techno song, so you didn't even know that techno had bass or that it was unusual to have more of it. You don't know if techno is numb and repetitive and this new genre is only slightly looser, or if techno is already chaotic and this new genre is a complete mind-fuck. Heavier? You don't even know what that means. It's simply not a very informative description. This analogy isn't complete though, so let's take it a step further: Forget you ever knew the word techno; it is simply called music. There are no genres, only normal music and incomplete music. Classical is music that is lacking the crispness and precision of electronic production. Hip-hop is music that is obsessed with vocals and lacking melody. Metal is run through filters yet never quite matches any sound that a computer produces; clearly it is not trying hard enough. This heavy chaotic stuff is very high-production; if you just turned down the bass and made it a little more predictable, it could definitely pass for normal music. Ah, but now I'm on a tangent about functioning labels.

The point is that this is how autism is being explained to autistic people. No wonder so many have doubts in the self-identification process: I am normal, yet autism is described as a difference from normal. Thanks to the logical absolutes, my senses can't possibly be more sensitive than my senses, my social difficulties more difficult than my social difficulties, or my logic more logical than my logic. Only someone who knows what neurotypical is can tell me that I behave differently from neurotypical. Even if they do, autism is largely an internal experience, one which a neurotypical person cannot also experience. In short, we're all just guessing.

Other authors (most of them autistic) have written very insulting descriptions of "neurotypical disorder" or "people with NT syndrome" and this is understandable as their anger is justified. I'm angry too, but that tactic is not productive. What follows is an honest attempt to help other autistic people cope with a neurotypical world. Below the dashed line you will find no sarcasm or satire, no insinuations of disorder or syndrome, and no "person"-first language or other linguistic contortions existing just to make a point. It is not my goal to insult anyone, although I can't promise that you won't feel insulted. There are generalizations, since it is impossible to speak simultaneously about 6 billion people without generalizing. Also note that the words autistic and neurotypical are used in contrast, however the proper antonym of autistic is allistic and not every allistic person is neurotypical. Lastly, as I cannot describe what I don't know, this is from an English-speaking, United States perspective.


What is neurotypical? (From an autistic perspective)

Neurotypical, abbreviated from neurologically typical, is a neurotype- in the same way that autistic, bipolar, cerebral palsy, dyslexic, ADD, OCD, Down syndrome, psychotic, sociopathic, and schizophrenic are neurotypes- a variant of human neurology characterized by distinct patterns of development, reasoning, sensory experience, and common areas of skill or lack thereof. Neurotypical is the most common neurotype, occurring in about 90% of the human population.

The word autism was only coined as recently as 1942, yet autistic people have existed long before that. In similar fashion, neurotypicals have existed as long as the human species has, even though the English word was not coined until the 1990's. The neurotypical brain has never been formally diagnosed or otherwise treated as a disorder, therefore there are no specific criteria, only general patterns observable through neurology, psychology, and sociology.


The only neurotype with an identified genetic cause is that of Down syndrome, which is a chromosomal mutation. Neither genetics nor environments have been implicated in causing neurotypical development, although genetics are more likely. Neurotypical behavior has been observed in babies, therefore the cause would have to be in utero or infancy.

Children of neurotypical parents tend to be neurotypical themselves, although it is not remotely a guarantee. In many cases, parents who were previously believed neurotypical are reclassified after observing similarities with their more obviously neurodivergent (non-NT) children.

Neurotypicality cannot be acquired, but it can be cured. The most common instance of a neurotypical person changing neurotype is one who acquires both brain damage and cerebral palsy. Attempting to intentionally gain CP this way would be highly dangerous, since brain damage can also cause death. There is no treatment or intervention for neurotypicality, because just like autism, it's not a disorder.

Although most research into the human brain is still tentative and speculative, the most accepted difference between autistics and neurotypicals is that NT brains are believed to have less white matter, or synaptic connectivity. In general, this means that a neurotypical person experiences the world less chaotically and with less detail. It may also have an effect on learning, memory, and creativity; in other words, intelligence. While some neurotypicals are very intelligent, they are not known to obtain savant-level skills.

More specific signs of neurotypicality are outlined below.


As implied in the preface, I do not believe that neurotypicals have any sort of "deficiency" in sensory processing. They are simply specialized in a way that is different from the autistic specialization: While an autistic person tends to perceive, in detail, everything that they can sense, a neurotypical person tends to perceive one object at a time and lose awareness of the rest. The advantage is that an NT can more easily focus on one thing. The disadvantage is that they often miss details.

Neurotypicals may experience pain just like anyone else when met with an extremely bright light or loud sound. However, the acceptable threshold is much higher for NTs than for autistics. Neurotypicals do not experience sensory overload or meltdowns.

Visual (seeing)
Neurotypicals execute a significant portion of their nonverbal communication with just their eyes. This is why actors are often told "it's all about the eyes." NTs become uncomfortable when they perceive too much or too little eye contact (a generalized discomforting feeling, unlike the painful sting of eye contact for some autistics). This is a subconscious response to what, for neurotypicals, is a sign of intimidation (lots of eye contact) or dishonesty (little or no eye contact). NTs have difficulty consciously overriding this response, even when they know that the eye contact of the person they are interacting with is an autistic behavior and unrelated to honesty or intentions. One reason for this is an inability to link the feeling of discomfort to the event that caused it, suggesting a possible impairment of introspection.

Auditory (hearing)
Neurotypicals focus intensely on conversations they are engaged in, and less commonly, on specific sounds they are anticipating. NTs easily and automatically ignore (to the point of being unaware of) industrial sounds such as moving cars, nature sounds such as birds tweeting, music without a live musician, and other people's conversations.

Olfactory (smelling)
Neurotypical olfaction is less sensitive than autistic olfaction. Humans in general are among the weakest animals in smelling ability, and neurotypicals are especially insensitive.

Gustatory (tasting)
Neurotypical gustation is less sensitive than autistic gustation. Though all people including NTs have preferences, favorite and disliked food, most NTs eat from every major food group (bread, fruit, vegetable, meat, and dairy). Most NTs have no problem with the carbonation of soda or the heat from peppers. Some NTs are so insensitive to heat that they mistakenly refer to food as not spicy instead of mild. The ability to recognize specific ingredients from a mix is considered a special skill known to NTs only if they have honed it by working in the culinary industry (or cooking as a hobby).

Innervative (touching)
Neurotypical innervation is generally numb relative to autistic innervation. Neurotypicals will only flinch or recoil at a touch if it is from someone whom they particularly dislike, or if it is an especially painful object such as a hot coal or a blade. There are social reasons to reject a touch, such as male-on-male affection being rejected as un-masculine, but these aspects of culture do not apply to NTs exclusively. A bad NT experience with clothing is typically a gradual fatigue lasting at least several hours, not an immediate reaction to the fit and textures. Most neurotypicals consider sex to be the pinnacle of physical pleasure. Furthermore, there is an extreme emphasis, especially from NT males, on the orgasm, above all other aspects. Neurotypicals overlook many enjoyable textures such as soft fabric and fur, because neurotypical innervation is not sensitive enough to appreciate them.

Proprioceptive (moving and orienting)
The neurotypical application of proprioception is mostly subconscious. It is something that is always on at a consistent level, not a skill that can be concentrated or rested. Common tasks such as walking are rarely a problem for an NT, but it may be difficult to master new skills such as dancing, stretching, and gymnastics.

Vestibular (balancing)
Most neurotypicals are satisfied with the amount of vestibular input they receive. Because most machines are designed with neurotypicals in mind, they very rarely overtax the vestibular system.


Like autistics, neurotypicals do have a theory of mind, which is a fancy psychology term for the understanding that other people don't think or know the same things you do. What NTs lack is a particular application of theory of mind: They easily understand that a thought such as a picture or word is not shared, but do not understand that another person may use a completely different thought process to arrive at the same conclusion, or why the person may arrive at a different conclusion.

Though not an absolute cognitive limitation, neurotypicals often assume that knowledge they have deeply internalized, and skills they find easy, are universal. This assumption leads to prejudging people without the same skills and knowledge as lazy and stupid. In general, NTs are more likely than autistics to make assumptions about what another person knows. Some NTs engage in perspective-taking exercises, most of which are detestably insufficient. Closing one's eyes for a minute to simulate blindness is one example. The person doing this does not understand that being blind all day, every day, for years is a very different experience from temporary blindness, on both the personal and interpersonal levels.

A neurotypical's acquisition of knowledge is mostly motivated by need, not interest. Although neurotypicals are capable of intense interest, they do not pursue special interests the same way autistics do. While knowledge itself is a source of autistic joy, neurotypicals only intentionally learn when the knowledge is a necessary step towards a more interesting goal, or required by an outside force such as an employer or school. Even when interested, neurotypicals acquire new knowledge and learn new skills at a slower pace than autistics. This could be attributed to interest, retention, or a discrepancy in the raw processing power of the brain, but these reasons are speculation. The skill of social interaction with other neurotypicals is a major exception to the slow pace of NT learning. The mastery of socials skills is based on an intuitive use of both verbal and nonverbal language, rather than a conscious understanding of the underlying principles.

Once a neurotypical person forms a belief, it is set in stone. The implications of this rigidity apply both to fundamental aspects of identity such as religion, as well as inconsequential issues such as liking or disliking a video game. It is nearly impossible to convince an NT to change an opinion through logical arguments, even if they originally used logic to arrive at their conclusion. Instead, a change of belief is a gradual journey of absorbing information through mostly impersonal, non-threatening media. However, NTs are unlikely to begin such a journey because they do not seek knowledge for its own sake. Their susceptibility to confirmation bias is another hindrance.

Logic & Emotion

For someone who is neurotypical, these two aspects of the mind are related. Specifically, their relationship is adversarial. Neurotypicals find it extremely difficult to act logically and emotionally at the same time. Neurotypicals experience their emotions as a separate force that influences them, rather than an extension of themselves influencing how they present. Thus it is assumed that one's rational mind and current emotional state may have two different intentions.

During times of extreme emotion, neurotypicals usually act upon those emotions at the expense of rationality. An NT may recognize that their actions are emotionally motivated, but they lack the necessary introspective capacity to realize that what their emotions suggest is at odds with their core principles. After the fact, neurotypicals usually try to defend and justify their emotional behavior externally, even if they regret it internally.

Neurotypicals experience the emotion of boredom at a greater frequency and intensity than autistics. The need to remain active is primarily driven by an aversion to the feeling of inactivity. Neurotypicals have difficulty coping with boredom on their own, usually requiring another person to entertain them in order to stop feeling bored.

Neurotypicals are much better at abstract skills such as language and art than they are at logical skills such as reasoning and math. In a debate or argument, most neurotypicals are able to overpower an autistic opponent with their use of language, despite committing numerous fallacies. Neurotypicals have a weak internal editor, allowing them to speak, write, and create without first worrying whether their creation is good. This can be advantageous, since it is usually better to create freely and occasionally fail than to not create at all.

Unlike autistics, neurotypicals seem to have no need or even preference for consistent rules. This may tie into the underlying white matter theory, suggesting that the neurotypical brain is disparate and fundamentally compartmentalized. Neurotypicals feel little compulsion to adhere to rules set by themselves or others, instead seeing them more as loose guidelines. This explains why highways with mostly NT drivers seem to not only break the speed limit but be generally unaware of it.

Neurotypicals are able to apply a set of rules, such as logical reasoning, to one aspect of their worldview while exempting another aspect. This explains how some neurotypicals seem generally intelligent while simultaneously believing in deities or the Loch Ness monster. Compartmentalization is an enabling function for hypocrisy. A neurotypical hypocrite may not realize that they are a hypocrite, because they able to condemn the actions of others without accessing the memories of their own actions.


In general, neurotypical speech is more metaphorical and expressionist than literal. Neurotypicals rarely specify whether they are speaking literally or metaphorically, so it is easy to mistake the metaphors for lies. An idiom like "bringing home the bacon" is a direct metaphor, in which the word bacon is substituted for the word that is actually meant, money. A literal interpretation of this statement would frame it as a lie if no actual bacon is presented, but the person who said it never had actual bacon in mind. When a neurotypical states "I will be at your house at 6 PM." they are not really planning to wait and watch the clock until it is exactly 6:00. They are planning to aim generally within the 6:00-6:30 window. Although it is still objectively a lie, neurotypicals consider blatant lies, half-truths, and lies of omission to be entirely separate categories rather than variations within the same umbrella. An NT does not believe that they are committing the transgression of lying while committing a half-truth or a lie of omission. Neurotypicals also tell blatant lies more often than autistics, for various reasons.

Most people use some amount of sarcasm, regardless of neurotype. NTs are not especially good or bad at using sarcasm, but are good at detecting it. NTs interpret the language of others based on an expectation of similarity to themselves. They are good at picking up sarcasm because it follows their own speech patterns. The same applies to metaphors and expressionism. The flip side is that the NTs may incorrectly perceive sarcasm, metaphors, and expressionism from a person who was speaking literally. This is most evident in written language, to which NTs ascribe tone where by nature there is none.

Small talk
Unlike autistics who find small talk highly discomforting, neurotypicals need small talk and are uncomfortable without it. If a conversation starts out immediately on topics of importance, even if no one is requesting or revealing personal information, any neurotypicals involved will feel invaded and unsafe. It is as if they got into a car and instantly started driving without buckling up or even closing the door. Even in situations like business meetings, where efficiency is prioritized, if a neurotypical is in charge, the conversation will begin with small talk, because it is so vital to the neurotypicals' comfort.

While autistics have both immediate and delayed echolalia, neurotypicals only have delayed echolalia. This takes the form of routine greetings such as "how are you?" and the minimalist "Sup." Some of these routines take on multiple stages, like the first 5 moves in a game of Chess. After an NT asks "how are you?", the expected response is "fine, and you?" which passes the turn back to the NT. If the person responding omits the crucial "and you?" invitation, or answers something completely different such as "actually I feel like shit today", this breaks the routine and brings great discomfort to the neurotypical person who was not expecting it to be broken.


In addition to their own dishonest tendencies, neurotypicals often prefer to be lied to, particularly if the truth is something they consider undesirable. This is one of the reasons NTs are, statistically, more religious than autistics. When a neurotypical poses a question like the sitcom cliché, "does this dress make me look fat?", the desired response is no, even if the objectively verifiable truth is yes. The NT would likely be angered by an affirmative answer; fat is considered a negative trait by this NT, and she (in an actual sitcom it would certainly be a woman) wishes to be told that she is not fat, even if she is, in fact, fat.

Introverts and extroverts comprise about an equal portion of the neurotypical population. This means that NTs, on average, are more extroverted than autistics. A common stereotype of both autistics and introverts is that we prefer to be alone. Not true. Humans are a social species and tend to enjoy each other's company. The introvert-extrovert spectrum is only a description of how energy flows: Introverts are fatigued by social experiences and need to be alone in order to recharge, but that says nothing about preferences. Extroverts, by contrast, gain energy from other people and may feel depleted when alone. NT introversion and autistic introversion manifest in the same way. People in every combination of autistic, neurotypical, introvert, and extrovert can experience the same degrees of loneliness, although NTs and extroverts may be lonely less often. Neurotypicals are more likely than autistics to seek help from another individual instead of trying to solve a problem on their own.

Neurotypicals are much more conformist than autistics. NTs have a habit of forming groups, particularly with other NTs. Neurotypicals are subject to assortative mating, although the effect may be exaggerated by ableist discrimination. Sometimes groups are formed, ironically, by division. Neurotypicals can acquire prejudice automatically, sometimes over trivial things like fashion. Rejecting those who are different is an implicit endorsement of those who are the same. Similar people are likely to come together by alienating others, and form groups organically.

Groups of neurotypicals have a herd mentality. Members of these groups feel tremendous pressure, sometimes imposed intentionally by the group's leaders, to fit in with the group. The herd mentality has a pervasive effect on individual behavior. Group members drift closer in fashion, language, interests, and even beliefs. This is most apparent in political parties and religious sects. In addition to general rigidity, neurotypicals automatically reject evidence and arguments that conflict with the positions of their groups.

Neurotypicals have an automatic respect for authority, beginning with their parents. Subverting this respect requires the authority to commit an overwhelming injustice in the eyes of the NT. Minor transgressions, and some not so minor, are excused, especially if the person committing them is a fellow group member with the NT. Combined with prejudice and herd mentality, this can give the appearance of a lack of empathy. Multiple studies have shown that a neurotypical person will repeatedly press a button that physically harms another test subject, as long as someone who is wearing a lab coat tells them to do so. An outsider without authority is not so easily obeyed or excused.

Neurotypicals have difficulty socially interfacing with neurodivergent (non-NT) people. In the case of autistics, neurotypicals have an almost complete inability to read body language, sometimes even forming conclusions that are the exact opposite of the truth. This is generally not a disabling condition for the NT, since only 10% of the people an NT meets are neurodivergent, and even among that 10%, many choose to pass as neurotypical. Neurotypicals intuitively learn the nonverbal cues of other neurotypicals. Neurotypicals are not simply born knowing these cues- they must be learned- so an NT may have difficulty with an NT from another culture, even if the two are speaking the same verbal language. Still, NTs are better at understanding other NTs than autistics are, just as autistics are better at understanding other autistics than NTs are.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

B.Y.O.E. (Bring Your Own Ending)

The last time you heard that there was going to be a sequel to one of your favorite movies, did you jump with joy, or think "please don't fuck it up"? For me it's definitely the latter the vast majority of the time. Series and sequels have a horrendous track record. Far too many sequels are made to material that was only ever meant to stand alone, and that's not even the issue I want to address.

The majority of art is not good. This is just a universal truth. It's easy to throw something together without thought or effort and wind up with a mess. Arranging elements intelligently and creatively requires a lot more skill, planning, and persistence. Even with all of those factors present, works of art are not always successful.

If you've ever studied film-making, you know that pre-production is a such a big process that there are entire jobs within it that don't extend to production. The success rate of all art goes way down with a lack of planning. The number of projects that a writer actually finishes is about 1% of how many they started, because spontaneous inspiration leads to immediate creation, but most of the time it turns out that the idea didn't really have that much potential. When this same process extends to published works, it often leads to a betrayal of the consumer.

Ideally, when the creators of a series are not sure that they will get the financial backing to finish it, they should make sure that the first installment has a satisfactory ending, even if it doesn't tie up every loose end. Then, when it becomes more clear that the series is slated to finish, it can be structured around the eventual ending and its necessary setup. Not only is the ending one of the most important components of a story, as the last impression with which to give the audience a sense of closure, it also informs the rest of the story, because taking the necessary steps on the path to the ending gives the story direction.

This is not what happens most of the time. Works that are intended to be the beginning of a series usually end with a cliffhanger, thanks to the false assumption that audiences are only interested in knowing what happens next regardless of the quality of the work. Then installments are structured as an ongoing story rather than one to be completed, mainly due to a major financial incentive to make as many installments as possible. Without knowing the ending ahead of time, at least of a saga if not the whole story, it is impossible to set up proper buildup and payoff. Because writers so often have no intention of letting the story end, they often do not even know what the ending will be until it hits them in the face. This is most evident in TV sitcoms which often have a sudden awkward attempt at catharsis in the final episode, which clashes with the show's tone and generally doesn't work because there was no attempt to get ready for an ending.

I command you to FEEL!
As if serial storytelling didn't have enough inherent challenges, sometimes the publishers get involved on the micro-level, and that very rarely ends well. Since publishers by inclination are people who know money and not art, they usually do not understand what makes the story work. The worst offenses are direct changes to the writing, such as preventing popular characters from dying. The obligatory terrible sports analogy is a team's financial manager making the decision that practicing passes is a waste of time and every player should just go for the goal selfishly. Publishers also have the power to determine how much material the artist has to work with. The third Spider Man movieF had a clusterfuck of three different villains because the director originally wanted to make three movies instead of one. Apparently the superhero movie that brought superhero movies into the mainstream was still popular, so it got an abrupt reboot with a much less charismatic Peter Parker who also happens to be an asshole in real life.

The Harry Potter movies are examples of both too short and too long. The shortest movie in the series is adapted from the longest book, but the last book (which is arguably the shortest because even though its page count is not the lowest, it's full of filler) was adapted into two separate movies titled as part 1 & 2. Apparently the studio forgot that they were making adaptations of a finite number of books, and once they reached the bottleneck (or rather bottlecap) of "there aren't any more books after this", desperately searched for any excuse to make at least one additional film and prolong the profits. The same thing then happened to Twilight and Lord of the Rings.

870 pages in 2 hours? I'm sure nothing important was left out.
Money people also have a habit of forgetting that art is created by artists. One of the most common downfalls of a TV series is firing the head writer. You know, just the person with all of the visionary direction and ideas. CommunityB is the most recent example I know of, losing its creator after the third season. The fourth season still had obvious influence from him, but once the remaining team ran out of his ideas, the fifth season was clearly on a downward path, and then the show was canceled. It did get picked up by another company however, so the story doesn't end with asteroids killing all of humanity. A less recent, but more evil example comes from Disney (you knew after reading "evil" that "Disney" couldn't be far way), who fired the head writer of GargoylesD because they couldn't give him the larger third season budget he wanted, then gave his replacement everything he asked for.

One of the praises shared by proponents of anime is that Japanese culture makes businesses much more loyal to their customers because there is great shame in betrayal or failure. Remember when the Playstation Network had a huge security breach? The CEO of Sony had to get on camera to apologize, not "we regret that some unfortunate events occurred" but actually "we're sorry we fucked up." Ironically, some of the most popular anime series do in fact run on with no ending in sight, but there is some truth to the culture-based claims. As far as art goes, Death NoteF is the best thing ever to come out of Japan. It has 37 episodes, and then it's done; not because it was canceled or had some legal battle but because the story concluded. Before you say "well that's just the best of the best", consider exhibit B: Lucky starD, the most popular show in the vapid slice-of-life genre, comparable to sitcoms like FriendsD or The SimpsonsC. There could have been an episode for each of the characters' 1461 days of high school; instead there are 24. It's also apparent that there was some advance planning, because characters who are not introduced until the 16th episode can be seen in the opening credits of the first.

Yes, I did watch all 24 episodes of Lucky Star. Don't judge me.
Of course, we cannot blame every problem on money. Not all writers are good writers. Some would rather not even try to give their stories proper endings, and instead "leave it up to interpretation". The SopranosD is the most blatant example of a non-ending in recent memory. At the end of a mediocre final season, full of so many character deaths that they must be either unjustified in happening or unjustly delayed due to main character immunity, the final scene literally jump cuts to pure silence and darkness. Then the video lingers there for a solid 20 seconds before rolling the credits, to trick viewers into thinking the ending was there but missed due to poor satellite reception. Truly a prank leaving Andy Kaufman applauding far away from his fake grave. Unwavering fans of the show have tried to justify the blank screen ending by saying that "cut to black" was foreshadowed earlier in the season, which is sort of like saying that assault justifies battery.

Stories that were canceled, ended but didn't conclude, or had endings that are just plain silly all necessitate replacing canon with headcanon. Think of some mental fan-fiction that ends the story properly and declare that to be the truth. The guy from the bathroom has snuck in a gun and shoots Tony Soprano in the face. The end. Sam Becket meets God? No, he just has a really tough job, finishes it with a sigh of relief, accepts his role as a do-gooder, and continues leaping with no definite retirement. For any "but it was all a dream" ending, just purge that part from memory. There are many great stories that do have proper conclusions, but they are exceedingly rare, so be ready to Bring Your Own Ending.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

@SesameWorkshop - don't be a hate group

My contribution to the #EducateSesame flashblog: @SesameWorkshop - don't be a hate group

"Dear Sesame Workshop:

There are about 7 million autistic people in the United States. Well over 100 million worldwide. None of those people, their children, their allies, or their allies' children will be able to watch Sesame Street if it is a source of anti-autistic hate speech. Hate speech is all you have to offer if you get your information from a hate group, which is what Autism Speaks is. If you wanted to promote messages of racial tolerance, you wouldn't partner with the Ku Klux Klan. Autistic people are uniquely qualified to offer information about autism, but Autism Speaks actively excludes them. So flip the Big Bird at them and instead partner with the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, an organization run by autistic people themselves."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Autistic Pride: Why I Wear the Shirt

As I stumble through the Blogger publishing interface, half-blind and half-awake, I am reminded of why I prepared this entry in advance: I am not a morning person, but today is a special day and in lieu of sexualized rainbow parades I shall celebrate on social media. I shall also celebrate in my Modern Dance class, which is the only reason I am up this early.

Part of my morning routine, and I believe most people's, is picking a shirt. Sometimes I match colors, sometimes I need to look nice for an audition, and most of the time it's just a "feel" thing. Today is different. Today is Autistic Pride Day, and I am wearing my autism shirt.

If you've read my first protest post, you've already seen the shirt. On the front it reads "I love hugs even though I'm autistic (yes, this is permission to hug me)". On the back, there is a blurb about Autism Acceptance Month, a specific dig against Autism Speaks, and a recommendation of four pro-autistic groups: ASAN, AWN, ANI, and AutCom. The shirt is one-of-a-kind, because I designed it myself. I didn't want to buy a logo shirt from a charity store, one because I would rather give a direct donation than support them through merchandise profits, and two because I don't just want to show support for an organization; I want something unique to me and with a specific purpose.

A fellow aspie once told me he saw a shirt that read "I have Asperger's. You read my shirt. That's enough interaction for one day." While I try to appreciate all humor, I get enough juvenile "ass burgers" comments without intentionally making myself the butt* of a joke. I also don't want to perpetuate harmful stereotypes like "all aspies are introverts and have no interest in socializing." I want to wear a positive message, and I think I've succeeded at packing several into a small space.
*Pun always intended.

The first line is "I love hugs" which by itself would be a simple light-hearted expression of desire for physical affection. Most people associate hugs with positive things like love and family, so right away the "why are you so negative?" crowd needs to get more creative. More importantly, my appreciation of hugs flies in the face of the idea that autistic people are all clones of each other and exactly match the diagnostic criteria. I also talk and make eye contact; no stereotypes here.
The "even though" part acknowledges that hugs really are very problematic for many people, and sarcastically calls out the reader for believing in stereotypes. The last line shows my sense of humor and has indeed earned me quite a few hugs, but the most important part is "AUTISTIC" in big, bold letters. This is the part that starts conversations, usually opening with "are you really autistic?" Uweephow. That's the sound of me rolling my eyes and sighing at the same time.

The back of the shirt calls out Autism Speaks for being a hate group. They spend most of their money on salaries and lavish meals, and the rest on advertisement, in the hopes that their message will be the first one you hear, allowing them to dupe you into giving them more money. I am driving a wedge into that plan. For many of the people who read my shirt, I get to be the first voice they hear talking about autism. Grassroots, but effective. In addition to specifically calling out Autism Speaks, I get to give an expert's perspective on common myths and truths. I get to describe special interests as autistic people being passionate and excited rather than obsessive and inconsiderate. I get to describe stimming as an expression of happiness rather than a nervous tic with no purpose. Even better, I get to be that first voice a person hears, the one that shapes how they think of autism in the future.

By wearing "AUTISTIC" on my shirt, I'm also passively coming out to everyone who reads it. It's similar to those "this is what a feminist looks like" shirts, but for something important and useful yet often misunderstood and misjudged due to misinformation. So exactly the same.

That's what autistic pride means to me: Reckless honesty. Many advocates and related bloggers talk about the careful decision that is disclosure, the who/when/where/why/how of telling people that you are autistic. I prefer to call it "coming out" rather than "disclosure" because it lines up with the same process that atheists and LGBT people have to go through. I say throw caution to the wind and come out to everyone, because keeping secrets implies that you're ashamed of something (not true but a common NT assumption). As many famous LGBT people have demonstrated, coming out casually as if it's not a big deal can actually be more powerful than carefully calculating the right time. Why do we come out, anyway? Because it's the most straightforward way of showing pride. When we loudly remind everyone of our identities, we say to the privileged "We are proud of what we are" and we say to each other "You are not alone."

Now, the obvious counterargument is "what if your coming out is met with a dangerous type of ableism?" Let me make it absolutely clear that this is a valid concern. I do not intend to shame anyone who puts their own safety first. Personally, I might still hesitate to come out in the middle of a job interview. I realize that even if I don't tell a prospective employer that I'm autistic, they might look me up on Facebook and see the huge volume of statuses (stati?) about it, and then their ableism may cost me the job. I realize it, and I accept it. No civil rights movement has ever gotten off the ground without making sacrifices. Next month I will perform in a choir concert celebrating Harvey Milk, the first openly gay American to hold public office. It was a generation of openness before him and alongside him that made it possible. The most tragic part of his story is that he was assassinated during his term. The bright side is that his election still sent a message: The tides are turning, and each generation will have it a little easier than the last. I look forward to the days when we celebrate autistic firsts.

Flipped for your viewing pleasure

Monday, June 9, 2014

Profanity Is Bullshit

Content warning: This article uses not only words like fuck and shit but also racial slurs. In hindsight, I could have explained better the difference between the two and why I chose to lump them together.

Assuming your browser is displaying images correctly, you should see two audio waveforms above, which are recordings of my voice. One of them is me saying "book", an ordinary word that represents an ordinary object. The other is "fuck", an EVIL word that brings misfortune to whomever hears it. Also known as a curse, a cuss, a swear- collectively, profanity. There are so many words for bad words. We all know that words like fuck make us angrier, and dumber, and must be kept away from children lest it damage their fragile psyches. We don't think about why this is, we just know. Let's think about it: What's the difference between book and fuck? They're both four-letter words. They sound pretty similar too. In a busy crowd you might mix them up. Can you tell which is which just by the waveform? The difference in sound doesn't have any inherent meaning, any more than we can intuitively gather the meaning of a bird tweet. If you listen to a foreign language, you can't tell which words are the profane ones.

This one is definitely a word.
The only meaning to find in a combination of sound is what's defined by language. We choose to agree on definitions because doing so has proven extremely useful, and convenient for those who know them. Then we compile lists of these definitions so that everyone has access to the same information, but where in the dictionary does it explain why one word is a "good" word and another is a "bad" one? Granted, you may find descriptors such as vulgar, profane, or maybe just slang, but all that these labels accomplish is filing some words into a category which itself is not clearly defined. Again, why is "fuck" in that category while "book" is not? The only way to understand this seemingly arbitrary grouping is to look at the meanings of the words in it.

ASS: This has three definitions. One is a synonym for a donkey and is considered the acceptable usage. Another is a synonym for a person's anus (or that of any animal) and this one is not okay, even though "butt" has the same meaning. However, "butt" cannot refer to a donkey- aha! A clue. Humans don't want to be compared to other animals. The last definition is a generally mean and possibly embarrassing person; "jerk" would also be sufficient.

"Hole" is not vulgar by itself, so the word asshole is just a more extreme version of the word ass.
BITCH: Another one with multiple definitions. You'll see that this is a recurring theme, but not a steadfast rule. One definition is a dog, specifically a female one. Another animal! It's too early to say for sure, but this may be a pattern. When referring to a human, the definition depends on the gender of the person being described. If male, this person is weak, overly sensitive, and may complain a lot. If female, the person is generally mean, but not embarrassing as an ass would be.

BONER: Whoops, no animal this time. It might belong to an animal, but is generally used to refer to a human's erect penis. Unfortunately, with "bitch" we've already ruled out the possibility of body parts as the common thread. Maybe it's something to do with humans deviating from their usual behavior, if we grant that flaccid is the default state.

CHINC or CHINK: A person from east Asia, especially China. Once again the pattern is broken. No animal, no body part, no negative traits. I'm not sure why a Chinese person would be offended by the idea that they are Chinese.

Go home red ink cartridge, you're drunk.
COCK: We're back on track! A male chicken this time, so "bitch" must not be a sexist thing. The vulgar version: A penis. Not necessarily erect; any penis. So much for that high-minded "deviation" hypothesis.
COOCH or COOCHIE: Female genitalia. So far all the body parts are in the crotch area.

COON: A dark-skinned person.
CRACKER: A light-skinned person.
So the best skin tone is a neutral gray?

CUM / JIZZ / SPLOOGE: Sexual fluids- semen or natural female lubrication. Now a pattern is starting to show itself. The body parts are all sex-related (technically the ass is not for sex but it can be used that way).

CUNT / PUSSY / TWAT: A vagina. Yup, sex must be one of the criteria.
DICK / PRICK: A penis. It's nice to see that we're equal opportunity.

DOUCHEBAG: An accessory to a hygiene product- one that is used upon a sexual organ- or another type of mean person. Douching is actually bad for your health, just FYI.

DYKE: A homosexual person, specifically female. Not a body part this time, but still describes somewhat how a person prefers their sex.
FAGGOT: A more general term for homosexuals.

FUCK: Wait, I thought there were only supposed to be thirteen of these.

What a faggot.
GUIDO: A person from Italy.

HOE: A gardening tool or a prostitute.

KIKE: A Jewish person.
KRAUT: A person from Germany.
NIGGER: A person from Africa. Not to be confused with "nigga", an exclusionary version of "friend".

PISS: Another word for urine and urination.
SHIT: Another word for feces and defecation.

SPICK: A hispanic person.

TIT: A woman's breast.

WHORE: A person who has a lot of sex, possibly in exchange for money.

Pictured above: A pair of great tits.
Based on these patterns, it seems that there are multiple criteria and only one is required for inclusion. The main theme is sex, a subject that generates far more happiness than misery, and is absolutely imperative to the survival of our species. The lesser used type of profanity is referring to a person by their ethnicity or nationality, which can easily divide people. However, many people take pride in their national origin and consider it important to their identity.

At first glance it would seem that piss and shit don't belong, however piss can come from a sexual organ and the place where shit comes from is also often used sexually. Tits are completely outside the crotch area, however the image of female breasts is so sexualized that they are almost considered a sexual organ. The only real outlier is bitch, although it can sometimes refer to a person who is sexually subservient.

If there is a conclusion to draw here, it is that there is really nothing bad about "bad words" and we should use them just as much as any other. Marking any portion of a language as off-limits is a limit imposed on our ability to communicate, especially when the words in question have such varied and nuanced definitions. Such nuance is the basis of cleverness and poetry. Who can say that Shakespeare knew language better than David Mamet, or the Beatles better than Tenacious D? If language is beautiful, then profanity is beautiful too. You fuckers.

Now go forth and curse!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Graphic: What "spectrum" really means

The term "autism spectrum" was specifically invented to help people understand what autism is. When it comes to assumptions and willful ignorance, neurotypicals never fail to disappoint. Most read "spectrum" and think of it as a:


When what it really it means is:


With this understanding, we are not talking about a spectrum in the sense that the visible light spectrum is a spectrum. We should really be calling it the autism continuum.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Coffee With a Shot of Entitlement

The other day I went to Starbucks for lunch. I ordered a pastry and, as always, a decaf iced coffee. The decaf part is very important, and not necessarily for the taste. As far as I know I'm not allergic to anything, but caffeine does give me a weird combination of constipation and diarrhea. (Perhaps that is an allergic reaction, but I digress.) We tend to think of anything to do with butts as inherently humorous, but constipation and diarrhea are both medical conditions; if you have them, you are considered sick. People even die from them, a whole lot more than shark attacks. People also die from allergies. For example, if a person who is allergic to caffeine ingests caffeine, that person will likely have medical issues possibly requiring hospitalization or even causing death.

The barista apparently didn't think it was that important, because he didn't write anything and didn't give me decaf. Bear in mind my order was not that complex: Just the type of drink, flavor, size, and decaf. What possible excuse did he have for getting my order wrong? I didn't come at a busy time, so it's not like the server was hurried. In fact, I was the only person ordering at the time. I've heard of "decaffing" people as a bizarre and ineffective form of spite, but this is even more fucked up. Caffeine is a drug. Would you sneak vodka into someone's drink when they specifically asked for root beer?

You just want a jelly sandwich? But you can hardly taste the peanut butter.

The typical excuse in this situation is "you can't taste the difference." First of all, fuck that. Total bullshit. I can easily taste the difference and I wasn't looking for it. If people only order decaf for the taste, that premise already proves you wrong. Second, how does that make it okay? You can't taste a rufie in your drink either. That doesn't mean it has no effect.

The reasoning for intentionally ruining someone's drink seems to be that the customer is not always right, and is just being pedantic (for the sake of pedantry) if ordering anything but a standard generic drink with no qualifiers. It's only natural to think that; after all, humans are all born with identical sensory experiences and have no preferences, which is why no two people have ever argued about where they should go for food.

If you couldn't tell, that was sarcasm. No mr. barista, YOU are the one being an asshole by not giving me EXACTLY what I want. There should be no variation, because it's your fucking job to match orders exactly. This is where apathy meets ableism, because if there is a slight variation, I probably cannot consume the product.

"HELP ME MY MOUTH IS BEING CONSUMED IN RAGING FIRE BY THE DARK LORD SATAN HIMSELF" is my reaction in both cases, so yeah, I guess I can't taste the difference.
What should I have done in this situation? A blog post certainly isn't going to find its way back to its human subject. Should I have dumped the drink on the floor to give the guy a big mess to clean up? Thrown it in his face? I would probably get kicked out, but there are plenty of other Starbuckses to choose from. Or should I have respectfully asked for a replacement? Still an unnecessary inconvenience to both of us, but it would have been more "socially acceptable" than something more dramatic. I could file a complaint to the manager and hope that 1) the message reaches its destination, 2) the guy serving me isn't the manager, and 3) the manager actually gives a shit.

Unfortunately, I'm not and can't possibly be prepared for every situation that calls for confrontation. So what I really did was quietly leave and then throw the drink into the nearest trash can; $4.08 down the drain. The lesson I take away is that I need to stop being afraid of making a scene. I'm naturally conflict-averse, but I do not want to be. We do not need to tolerate intolerance, or be nice to assholes. If you're afraid of being an asshole, you're probably not the one doing it.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Methinks I Do Protest, Part 1

One of the reasons I've chosen to start this blog on this particular week is because I have something to write about that's somewhat time-sensitive. Last weekend I went to the Autism Speaks fundraiser in Pasadena to protest against the organization. It was my first time protesting anything, and I feel I learned a lot, mostly positive things.

My story starts two weeks before the event, when I visited Pasadena city hall. I came for information on how to do things legally, and wound up armed with information on the normalcy of legal protests, how many people (10) qualify as a large group, and the private/public nature of rented space. Not every city can say this, but Pasadena was very reasonable. I also notified the police commissioner by voicemail, and it turned out that none of these people needed to be contacted on the day of the event, but it showed credibility and confidence that I was able to say I had done that, especially to this asshole. I do recommend that other protesters contact their own city hall because every event and location is different. However, the information I got may apply generally or at least give you a clue to when someone is bullshitting you.

If you're in public space, you have the right to be there as long as you are not disrupting in a way that would always be considered a disruption, such as egging people. However, if the space is being rented specifically for the event, then merely having a large group is considered a disruption. However, any group smaller than 10 people is NOT considered a large group and you have the right to be there.

3. Someone who rips up a protester's flyer without even reading it first.
I tried to organize people on social media, but only one person, whom I already knew, agreed to join me. He will hereafter be referred to as The Writer. I would have still gone alone, but it was extremely useful having two people. Unfortunately, if you're alone, people assume you're just 'that one crazy person' and dismiss you. For this reason a larger group is generally better. Even just adding a second person lends credibility because those two people had to agree with each other. I know none of this is true on principle, but it's how most people really think. Having four hands is also useful for holding signs, distributing flyers, and taking pictures. Two heads let you talk to two people at once, and take turns relaxing when it's one at a time. The Writer is not autistic, but he is an awesome ally, and did just as good a job at arguing as I did.
Mere minutes into the event, we met this asshole, executive director of the Autism Speaks LA division. Unsurprisingly, he was the biggest bullshitter of the whole event. He referred to the Pasadena Rose Bowl as private property in order to say that we had no right to be there, a tactic he quickly abandoned when I made it clear that we knew that was bullshit. He pulled numbers out of his ass and even made up blatant lies. For example, I cited the "I Am Autism" video as an example of hate speech, to which he asked "that was 7 years ago and we apologized for it, so why are you so hung up on it?" It was only 5 years ago and no you didn't. He also said "we only do this once a year", or maybe a hundred times.

What was surprising was that most of the people attending the event were pretty nice. We only met a few assholes the entire time. Some people even approached us aggressively and eased up as we explained ourselves. The first person we spoke with caught us walking in and asked "what's with the sign? Not trying to stop you, just curious." The sign said "Autism Speaks doesn't speak for me" on one side and "Autism Speaks is a hate group, not a charity" on the other.

I didn't take many pictures, but did manage to get a selfie in before meeting this asshole.
Probably the best thing we did was distribute this flyer from the ASAN which is very detailed despite being only one page, especially in breaking down Autism Speaks' budget. It also answers the question "why are you so negative?" and the rationalization "at least I'm doing something" by listing three organizations to support instead. I also made a slight alteration to the flyer because I felt that the Autism Women's Network and Ollibean deserved a mention. I printed a little over a hundred of them (at Staples, not FedEx, don't panic) and we ran out after 3 hours. Lesson learned: Print TWO hundred next time.
What makes flyers useful is that it gives people the chance to get the information in a pressure-free setting and with the ability to retread anything they missed. Also because the way I present information verbally isn't always optimal, whereas the flyer is really well written. Seriously, kudos to whoever wrote that one. The only change I would make is to update the financial part to use the 2013 numbers instead of 2010.

We asked if we could take a picture as The Writer handed out the last flyer.
The highlight of the event was meeting some of the people in charge of the Autism Society of Los Angeles, including the executive director, Caroline Wilson. They said that they had a booth not to support Autism Speaks but simply because of the volume of people at the event, and later greeted us as "our wonderful self-advocates". Autism Society is unfortunately run by parent allies, and they make a lot of mistakes because of that, but at least they're trying to do good. If they're one of the organizations on ASAN's original flyer, they must be doing something right.

As my first time protesting, there were a lot of mistakes to learn from, but I think the most important lesson is that I (we) did it, and I can do it again. I will do it again, because no matter how hard the battle, ignorance eventually loses to knowledge.

None of these people are assholes.
EDIT 05/16/2014: I mixed up some names. Caroline Wilson took the above picture. The person IN the picture is Judy Mark, ASLA's Chair of Government Relations.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Autism Positivity Flashblog 2014

As my second act after receiving dual citizenship in the northern Blogosphere, I have decided to participate in the 2014 Autism Positivity Flashblog, a project meant to drown out negative stereotypes by flooding internet search results with positive messages. Here goes!

What autism IS:

Autism is a good thing.
Autism is awesome.
Autistic people are awesome.
Autistic people are experts on autism.
Autistic children become autistic adults. (duh)
Most autistic people speak verbally.
Nonverbal communication is just as good as verbal.
Most autistic people are extremely honest.
Lack of eye contact is not a sign of lying.
Most autistic people make eye contact.
Autism is a disability.
There is nothing wrong with being disabled.
Disabled people are awesome.
Autism is a separate code of body language that NTs do not understand.
Autism means passion in all of your interests.
Autism is a unique way of seeing the world.
Autism is beautiful.

What autism is NOT:

Autism is not a disease.
Autism is not a disorder.
Autism is not a list of deficits.
Autism is not a phase.
Autism does not go away.
Autism cannot be cured.
Autistic people do not want to be cured.
Autistic people do not need to change.
Autistic people are not broken.
Autistic people do not need to be fixed.
Autistic people are fine just the way they are.
Autistic people are not all the same.
Autistic people are not puzzling or mysterious.
Autism is not blue.
Autism does not justify murder.
Autism does not justify torture.
There is no such thing as mild or severe autism. All autistic people are 100% autistic.

What autism is TO ME:

Autism means meeting 30 people and remembering all of their names.
Autism means remembering something important you said 10 years ago.
Autism means literally knowing something backward and forward.
Autism means doing algebra without writing anything down.
Autism means appreciating the smell of good fragrances.
Autism means appreciating the taste of good food.
Autism means appreciating the texture of soft sheets.
Autism means appreciating the sight of well-composed picture.
Autism means appreciating the sound of background music.
Autism means never being bored. Ever.
Autism means never sending a typo because I check too thoroughly.
Autism means thinking before speaking.
Autism means listening with the intent to understand, not to respond.
Autism means actually breaking into song and dance when I'm happy.
Autism means being happy by choosing to be happy.
Autism is a life worth living even if I didn't have any special talents.