Thursday, March 25, 2021

Half-Vaccinated

I got my first shot today. I am planning to be immune by May, at which point I will celebrate by taking a day off to tourist around San Francisco, and get a massage, and a haircut. 

The sensation of relief is enormous. The city has been re-opening and I live in a touristy neighborhood. My main fear with Covid has not so much been catching it initially, it’s more about post-Covid complications, and being a disease vector that transmits it to others. Living in a world where people are stumbling around in their own personal grief fog. Virus mutations. Lack of universal healthcare. I can keep going, but you get the drift. At least I'm more optimistic about my own survival. 

I’m looking forward to emerging from my apartment. I’m making all sorts of plans for Immunity Day: haircut, deep tissue massage, crispy french fries, a spin on the new Ferris wheel in Golden Gate Park. 

I’ve changed in lots of ways during the last year. I’ve severed connections with more than one relative over politics. I changed occupations and am learning how to work effectively from my couch. I stopped listening to American music, which has made me notice lots of things about it. I made a lot of progress in learning how to live with myself; I can be difficult to get along with. 

Writing

Rhonda Wray: Raptor Wrangler is doing not-bad-for-an-indie. It gets a regular trickle of sales but I’ve had a tough time getting reviews. It did, technically, get nominated for a Lodestone at the Hugo Awards, so I can truthfully state that it’s both a Hugo nominee and a best-seller. 

I kinda want to do a sequel … but instead I find myself writing a courtroom drama (with SF elements). With adult characters. It’s mainly about trial procedure, sort of My Cousin Vinnie with aliens. We’ll see where that gets me. 

But anyway, that’s why I’ve been ignoring the blog. I keep changing horses mid-stream, creatively speaking, and I’ve been trying to figure out what my art wants to do next.

Music

I’m having the same issues with music as I do with my writing and all my other art (and my personal life too but that’s beside the point) – commitment phobia. One day I want to sing gravely voiced blues, the next day I want to do smooth robotic dance music. I do have an operational studio, which is something. Eventually I’ll either lay down some music, or die.

I only listen to Asian music now. It’s helping me look at my own culture from a different angle. South Korea and the Hallyu have restored my ability to find joy in art.

Home

This place has been cluttered for years but I just started to make it look nice again, with quirky touches. I resurfaced a coffee table with K-Pop stickers and glitter paint, and I liked the way it turned out so I am slowly transforming my tabletops from boring wood to displays for my collections of weird stickers. 

Friends and Family

I still know a few conservatives, religious people, and gun fans. I don’t know any bigots anymore, or sexists, or people who want to get rid of transexual people, or autistics. I had a few lurking in my Facebook crowd and peer associations, but we got together and purged them. I also left a few associations that tolerate haters. 

I cut ties with family members who disagree about hate, and in fact, I’m divorced from the concept of family. “Family” is what people say to me before doing something profoundly disappointing, according to my overwhelming experience. The best people in my life have been platonic friends, and I’m a fool for chasing the family illusion and not appreciating them more. I won’t make that mistake again.

Aesthetics

I’ve totally let myself go. I’ve probably gained weight. I know I’ve lost muscle. I never wear makeup anymore, and sometimes I’ll go three or four days without showering. 

At the same time, I’ve started wearing scent. Most of the time I’m in a long modest nightie that would make my ancestors happy. I’m open about liking girly music, and cute things. My femininity is no longer performative. I've been buying colorful shirts to wear when I go outside again.

Personality

I go days without vocalizing to anyone other than my cat. It’s nice. I don’t have any interpersonal conflict at all, which is soothing (flip side: occasionally I get lonely). 


Thursday, December 31, 2020

Review: Soul (Pixar film)


First of all, the soundtrack, by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (ambient) and Jon Batiste (jazz), is great. My musical fangroups are lighting up with unanimous appreciation. 

Second of all, the plot. And there is no way I can review this film without

SPOILERS

Recently some hooligan in one of my SF groups gave me shit for looking up a synopsis of Wonder Woman 1984, which I won’t be seeing any time soon. She thought that you should deliberately avoid all spoilers so the movie would surprise you.

Honey, I’m over half a century old. Very little surprises me. I want to know what I’m getting into first. I look up the synopsis All. The. Damn. Time. If it’s a thriller/horror flick I usually avoid the last third, just in case there are good jump scares and twists – because I already know there will be scares/twists. From the genre. If it’s a love story, there will be kissing, ironic misunderstandings, and a happy ending. If it’s a Star Wars movie there will be aliens, fighting and spaceships. At 75% of the way through, the dramatic climax will occur. All I’m interested in knowing is (a) which specific pile of cliches am I about to endure; and (b) who is inflicting them? 

So if you want a synopsis of Soul, here you go: underachieving jazz pianist finally gets his break but dies right before it, and his soul must mentor a recalcitrant nihilistic soul in order to bust out of a purgatory-like place. I’ll even drop the ending in exactly four paragraphs, so you can cover that one with your finger if you want to maintain a modicum of surprise. 

I really should drop the pretense. People who are seriously into the spoiler-free experience aren’t going to read reviews in advance. People who read a review to see whether they want to watch a movie aren’t too concerned about spoilers. People who read a review and then pitch a fit if they find spoilers in it are like people who order dinner without reading the menu description and then discover something they don’t like is in it, and make a great big huge deal out of extracting it or arguing with the server or otherwise activating their antisocialness beacon. 

So yeah, I’m about to spoil Soul for you, click something else now if you don’t want that to happen. Soul has a Black protagonist, with a social scene containing his mother and two of her girlfriends who work in a seamstress shop, a happening barber shop, and a day job teaching school kids to play in a jazz band. 

You may recall I had a love/hate relationship with Coco, a Pixar film about a boy guitarist in Mexico. I loved the art and the guitar. I hated two things: (1) there really should have been some more memorable music in a story where that’s the focal point; and (2) the family in the movie takes sides, with the “bad” black sheep running off to pursue their musical dreams and the “good” ones dutifully obeying their matriarch’s command to avoid music. Probably it’s because I’m another black sheep, but my ethics work differently. 

Soul is brimming with memorable music. Plus the mother, initially music-averse, comes around and accepts her son’s musical dreams, pronouncing him just like his father. And I did say I’d spoil the ending in four paragraphs, so here goes: the hero, Joe, drags the recalcitrant soul, 22, into his New York world where they swap bodies (22 is Joe, while Joe is an adorably chonky cat) and she experiences things like music and pizza and autumn, and gets a brief twinge of desire-to-live. Which upsets her, so she gives Joe her chance at life. He goes back to earth and lives a full life, and then towards the end he starts wondering what happened to 22. So he goes back, discovers she is a lost soul, and rescues her. Then he gives her back her chance at life and heads off to the afterworld where he belongs, while she jumps into life on earth.

According to a pretty good source, the whole movie changed in the making. For one thing, it started out with 22 (voice by Tina Fey) as the hero. Then it shifted around to make jazzman Joe the hero, with 22 as … a selfish bratty Karen-in-training that Joe must appease, and eventually sacrifice himself for … although the way I saw it, both of them were sharing this chance-at-life which they created together through collaborative effort, and after Joe got full use of it, it became 22’s turn. 

This shifting-ness is why Soul is my new favorite film. It does surprise me. The writers were re-examining their conceptions at every turn, and so were the musicians. Improv, or “jazzing” as the movie terms it. 

It’s getting some negative attention, though, for the way Joe must sacrifice himself for yet another bratty nihilistic white lady acting in a tiresome way, presumably because some of the male audience likes the tension between brattiness and attractiveness, sort of like how women like bad boys. Except this is a freaking cartoon character with no sexual characteristics. Her brattiness isn’t bratty-sexy, it’s just bratty. A demanding little Karenette, mentored by some great role models while taking pride in her ability to get on their nerves. A devout nihilist who hates life. We’re supposed to cheer for this self-centered bitch?

Plus there’s a whiff of Joe acting as that mystical, cosmic, non-white spirit guide. I was actually sort of glad for the deranged new age hippies (and their tie-dye pirate ship), because they step right into that function. Never mind that actual new age hippies (who flirt with a lot of twisted ideas) frequently assign magical spirit guide roles to non-white people, especially Indians and Native Americans. In this cosmology, psychotic white hippies handle that department. 

The thing I really loved about this movie was the way it analyzed music. The spark. The dangers of getting addicted to being in the flow. Creativity. Finding a life’s purpose but not getting too tied to it to experience life in a casually existential way. Thinking outside the box. Twisting the rules so that both Joe and 22 get to maximize enjoyment of their shared life, while distracting oppressive bean counter Terry. 

I liked the animation style. I liked the pleasant, clean version of New York. I adored the music, and the fact that the big deal musician in this movie happened to be a female instrumentalist. Usually we get relegated to sexy singer but this one got to blow a saxophone. 

I liked the way the lead was a nerdy guy, okay looking but no knockout, who doesn’t wind up “winning” a gorgeous woman. He might have been asexual for all we know, aside from the flash-forward that reveals a wife and kids. 

I didn’t really like 22 and found her to be spoiled and annoying. At the same time, she reminded me of a couple of friends who tend to get trapped in their own emotions in a similar way, and I wonder if they might have a different experience watching this.

I refuse to argue with Black people over whether it’s a negative representation and respect those who feel it is. I recently had an experience reading Nnedi Okorafor’s take on District 9, which is another movie I like a lot and one I’ve reviewed in glowing terms. However, it’s also got some negative stereotypes that I somehow never registered, because that’s how that sort of thing works. In Soul, the Black-character-gives-everything-rescuing-white-character thing is right out in front, and visible. I could see it. I could also see reflections of things like It’s A Wonderful Life, and Heaven Can Wait, and that entire genre of afterlife movies (this one also brings to mind one called Defending Your Life, where Albert Brooks must present an argument justifying his existence). 

Often haoles like me hear these kinds of criticism and use them as an excuse to go into battle mode, turning the art in question into a litmus test so they can judge their friends. Maybe even find some fans to bully, the way Harry Potter fans are probably getting raked over the coals for their author’s decades-later offenses. Too many times, we white people use the concept of fighting racism to get into slap fights with other white people, rather than letting it inspire us to fight racism. This movie does it wrong in some ways, and right on several others, and to me, that justifies liking it – while being aware of its shortcomings. I feel the same way about District 9, and Harry Potter. Let’s keep making movies about Black people, and jazz, and a cool-looking afterlife, until we get it right. 

And that soundtrack? Brilliant. No need to fix that part, it’s perfect already.


Saturday, December 26, 2020

Achievements for 2020


  • Improved my relationship with The Big Kahuna by feeding him ice cream, among other things. 
  • Published Rhonda Wray: Raptor Wrangler, my fifth novel; got some nice reviews.
  • Am over 100 pages into novel 6 (working title: Weaselpants). 
  • Changed careers, am quite happy. 
  • Am equipped to do music recording.
  • Am working through emotional issues preventing me from doing music recording, one step at a time. 
  • Evaded Covid19 so far. 
  • Discovered new genre of music I love. 
  • I am learning the Korean language so I can better understand this music I now love (currently drilling on Hangeul by rekeying lots of word lists before I wrap my brain around vocabulary and grammar).
  • Troll shadowpriest is level 60. 
  • Finally bought a P-Bass and having big fun playing it. 
  • Have learned solo-acoustic versions of several new songs including Dream A Little Dream Of Me. 
  • Finally started an organized notebook of songs I can play because I am terrible at remembering lyrics.
  • All caught up on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 
  • Decreased stress by deciding to let my neuroatypical freak flag fly. 
  • Tummy issues are under control as long as I don’t bring badfood into the house and eat it. 
  • Haven't called in sick once, because reducing my commute to approximately 20' is good for my stamina.
  • Made some new Facebook friends while purging a whole lot of bigots. 

At the same time:

  • Developed hypotension from lack of activity and anxiety.
  • Had more than one day where I was just mentally-physically-emotionally incapable.
  • Learned that I spend a significant amount of time in pain if I don’t get regular massage/chiropractic.
  • Did way too much staring into space. 


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Review: An Outsider's Guide to Humans: What Science Taught Me About What We Do And Who We Are by Camilla Pang


The American title of this book by Camilla Pang is: An Outsider's Guide to Humans: What Science Taught Me About What We Do And Who We Are.

The author is British, and the original title was Explaining Humans: What Science Can Teach Us about Life, Love and Relationships. 

Cross one lousy ocean and suddenly autistics stand apart from humanity, and are so busy grappling with existential angst (and work) that we can’t even get a life or get laid. 

I’m going to indulge in a little bit of autistic whining here. I’ve taken down a few posts that basically consisted of me raging over the way people have treated me over the years, based on my autism. This is something that keeps resurfacing during quarantine. In an earlier post I posted a link to a reddit thread where one of the anti-gamergate types came right out and admitted she and her crowd would bully autistics, because the progressive community she was in believed we were deliberately being autistic because we were conservative assholes, and we should just quit being lazy and make ourselves non-autistic. 

This is why I still can’t fully reconcile with large sectors of the progressive community, even though they’re being all sanctimonious about neurodiversity these days. It’s why my sole political issue that I’ll fight for and promote and argue about is universal healthcare. If you’re a progressive over thirty, I already know how you feel about me and don’t really want to socialize with you unless I know you’re a trend bucker. If you’re a millennial or younger and don’t have a past to overcome yet – I love you sweetie, and I will stand with you against my asshole contemporaries any day of the week. 

I’m in a few autism-related groups, and people there “get” me more than any other community I’ve found (aside from music fandom, anyway). One time, one of them posted something about astrology, and the thread lit up with a nice fast 100+ replies. Turns out, most autistics have studied astrology at one point, as well as Meyer-Briggs (which is based on astrology, go ask Jung), and Big Five (the current personality measure most psychologists use). Camilla Pang knows all about MBTI too, and she used it as a springboard into science about proteins. The way I used astrology as a springboard to psychology, and ultimately, music theory and game theory (I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time studying player groups in multiplayer games to figure out how personality dynamics militate for cooperative failure/success). 

In short, we autistics have to study personality theory with incredible intensity because we are born into a world where people mock us and threaten us for mysterious innate qualities that we don’t fully grasp. Astrology was my first springboard and I’m still very fond of it. And for a lot of autistics, it seems to function as a gatekeeper – if someone mentions astrology and your first thought is something like “sun-moon-rising equates to id-ego-superego” you’re probably one of us (and if your first thought is “that prediction bullshit you find in newspapers” you are NOT one of us, because you have never needed to study personality in depth). 

Pang’s book is brilliant insight as to how autistic minds work, with little flow charts that remind me of the ones I build for my novels, and lots of scientific education acquired along the way. This is how they can work in a society that gives a damn about them, anyway, and has universal healthcare – although I have a few issues with that too, in that I’ve heard British autistics are required to travel and do other things with neurotypical companions present, and I’m not interested in that at all. 

Then again, I’m an American autistic, where the vast majority of us have difficulty living independently, and those who can pass tend to develop all kinds of defensive strategies. 

This is a great book, no matter what the title might be. It explains lots of science, while also explaining neuroatypicality with a lot more finesse and detail than I could. This is what autistics can do when they live in supportive societies as opposed to being shunned and marginalized. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in personality, cognition, neuroatypicality, proteins and psychology, and anything related, while noting it’s a book that is difficult to categorize.


Review: Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline


Ready Player Two reeks of disappointment and betrayal. 

I loved the original version, Ready Player One, an exuberant love letter to ‘80s nerd culture that became a great big noisy wonderful Spielberg movie full of touchstones, Easter eggs and references. In that story, protagonist Wade did a zero-to-hero arc as he beat a video game by decoding the creator’s pop culture references as if they were the Rosetta Stone.

Ernest Cline finally succumbed to the temptation and wrote a sequel, and I bought it, along with thousands of other suckers. Many of whom have been posting delirious tweets about its badness. Said tweets are deserved. Wade starts out ruling the world, then stumbles into a half-assed version of the original plot in which he must decode even more ‘80s references, and re-fight the boss from the last level. 

Cline doubles down on his reference-slinging, invoking even more obscure ‘80s, references, like the classic movie Legend of Billie Jean, and Rieko Kodama, who created the first arcade game with a female hero. Despite Kodama, and a slew of other self-conscious attempts at inclusivity like a character who names herself after Kira from Dark Crystal and forces the plot into a long detour through John Hughes movies. 

Toward the end there’s an homage to Prince that I thought was actually sort of embarassing, as well as unfilmable. It’s followed by some pillaging from the Tolkein estate, as though Cline was daring two of the most litigious guardians of IP to come after him. 

The story is kind of a mutated retread of the last installment. RP2 starts out with a hero who already rules the world, then backpedals his way into the last novel’s plot. It’s all concept, with a bunch of forgettable characters trading obligatory pop culture references. And the new big bad is – dun dun dun – psionics. We have a machine that can record your experiences! This will destroy the world, muahahaha!

Yes, it’s another plot about psionic empathy machines that record your experiences so other people can get inside your head. Not sure if that’s part of the ‘80s nostalgia or not. It seems to really fascinate some people – the kind of people who get all excited when contemplating overriding someone else’s thoughts. I think it's the most boring, stale and derivative SF plot ever, but that's probably why I'm self-pubbed. 

The final thing I want to complain about is the prose style. Last installment made at least an attempt to describe situations and settings, but RP2 is just this stream of consciousness from a solipsistic narrator. 

I hope Cline spends the money wisely. I really loved RP1; such a pity he followed it with this mess. 


Monday, December 14, 2020

Dear Aliens,


You can pick me up any time. The news has had all kinds of stories about aliens, but we’re in the middle of a heavy propaganda war, so it’s probably just more clickbait. But just in case, I would like to hereby register for escaping from Earth. 

I don’t really have any family to speak of. I have an adopted brother I haven’t seen in a decade; we occasionally trade likes on Facebook. I have one biological brother who has stepped back to “conservative independent” and I am still talking to him. I have another biological brother who lives right next door to those Patriot Prayer types, and is too far gone to be my relative so we have severed contact. Plus there’s that mean cousin who told me about my mom’s death on Facebook before anybody called me (I have her on ignore). And it’s a long story, but I have a genetic offspring whose parents breached the contact agreement so I have no idea whether they’re still alive, but I imagine someday I may find out. Family has been sort of like "kryptonite" in my life, which is part of what drives me to write about plucky heroes learning to navigate the world as adults without their family’s help. I did it, here are some helpful tips. I have a soft spot for kids with weird childhoods. 

I do have a cat. I’m very fond of him. I am certain some sucker will want to take care of his freakishly large ass. I’m not sure how much time he has left since I’m gearing up to celebrate his Sweet Sixteen in February. If you give me a couple days notice before we take off so I can make arrangements for him, I'd be most appreciative.


My physical health is functional. On the one hand, I have a sensitive stomach and a propensity toward headaches and fat. On the other hand, I’ve made it nearly to retirement age without having any significant health problems. Hopefully you have all kinds of high tech medicine that can make me younger as well as look like Marilyn Monroe. 

My mental health is absolutely sterling, all things considered. I occasionally get into moods during quarantine. Last month there was a recurring theme of waking up pissed off about past injustices, and I wrote some petulant blog rants flipping the bird to several of the meanies and bullies I’ve encountered in life. 

I do sometimes get anxiety over my failure to make brilliant art, which sometimes prevents me from making any art, brilliant or not. I’m wrestling with that right now. 

And I’ve had a couple of days of bleak depression. Here’s all I’m going to say about depression: (a) I’ve encountered it in the past, usually when a relationship ends, which is why I don’t see the point in getting involved in a new one; (b) I did cognitive behavioral therapy for it, which involved consciously adjusting my speech and thought patterns to redirect negative thinking (which had the side effect of making me unable to hang out with negative thinkers who go around practicing all those habits I worked hard at eliminating); (c) my depression was reactive and not the chronic heavy kind; (d) I have known people with the chronic heavy kind including those who have killed themselves; (e) suicide is just not an option for me, for personal reasons; (f) if you find yourself having recurring depression or suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help, because your future self wants to live; and (g) my default mood is pretty good, actually. 

I tend not to discuss that last one much because I’ve had grumpy depressed friends interpret it as rubbing it in. That’s why I dig happy endings and danceable beats. Nihilism just isn’t for me. 

Which is why I am ultra curious about joining you aliens on your secret alien base. I’m extremely curious about the future, and I’m very interested in new things. I’ve always been that way. My culture tends to greet new things with suspicion, one more element removing us from the organic purity of nature and transporting us to a dismal dystopia. 

For a long time, I thought I was some kind of secret heretic for being a futurist, until I discovered it was actually common in other cultures. Over here you just get nihilistic depressed types sneering at your Disneyish sixties utopianism fit only for corny conservatives. 

This one time I was on the commuter bus, heading down Van Ness Avenue, and my fellow commuters and I were all staring at our phones. Some watching videos, some chatting, they were checking email, doing homework, I was reading books. And this older fellow got on. And for some reason he felt like giving a litle speech about how people these days just stare at phones, because they had lost the pure organic goodness of nature like he had at our age. I think he thought we were all going to blink like we were waking up from a techno nightmare, and rejoice with him, and smash our phones and go off to form a big communal family that lives in the woods eating organic acorns and consensually-collected honey. But no, we all ignored the narcissistic weirdo and continued staring at our phones. People like that are one of the main reasons I won’t mind leaving Earth.

I will be glad to accept any and all required vaccines. There are a lot of people here on Earth these days who don’t believe in science, or vaccines, and I disagree with all of them. 

I would travel light, and I suppose just buy new clothes when I get there. I wouldn’t mind bringing a guitar or five, and my collection of devices. I absolutely insist on having my music, and if you were going to give me family member passes, I’d like to give them to my favorite musicians and singers instead. 

Right now I spend a lot of time playing video games, specifically World of Warcraft, because you can simulate going outside and standing next to people. I miss that, a lot. I miss concerts, and restaurants, and being downtown with all the other worker bees, and science fiction conventions, and having dinner with friends. I miss Hawaii a lot, and the fact that so many of my horrible Karen-ish neighbors are relocating there breaks my heart. I hope they can adjust to the cultural differences. I hope they don’t ruin everything with their selfishness. 

I miss the outside world, and I’m glad I got a chance to see plenty of it in 2019. Some of it’s charming but I’m not that bus guy, I’m perfectly content with photographs. If I were heading off to an alien world, I’d be more about looking forward to seeing new scenery than crying nostalgically about old places. I’m just wired that way. 

It's the main reason I'm willing to leave this planet in the dust. I've always felt like I'm half a step ahead. I'm always liking things right before they get popular, like brand-new music and being the first one to enjoy a cult hit movie. My obsession with the future led me to spend several years of my life obsessing on astrology --

By the way. The astrology for December 21 (one week from today) is huge. I suppose if nothing dramatic happens, then there's nothing to astrology. Personally, I think everyone's life is going to change forever due to the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction. 

But yeah, if nothing happens with the astrology it won't be the first time I've been out of synch with this whole planet. Which is why I’m submitting this application for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you shortly.




Thursday, November 19, 2020

Reactions to Coming Out as Autistic

Occasionally I’ll get the little teary-face emoticons responding to my posts about being autistic. Poorbabysobraveboohoohoo. Sometimes I tell the people who do that I’m tearful over their existence too, and they get flustered.

Today someone (thanks) sent me a link to a Reddit thread, in which someone was talking about the Something Awful culture back in the day. The poster was confessing being mean to people for being autistic, because the liberal consensus was that autistics made themselves that way, and bullying them was a blow against bigotry.

Which is remarkably similar to the kind of reception I get among conservatives for being non-heterosexual.

To recap: I was probably an autistic kid but my parents kept moving me to different schools, probably hoping for one in which I was not autistic. I’m hyperlexic and have a nice IQ, and I’m prone to migraines related to sensory overload, and I have an autistic personality, which neurotypicals sometimes interpret as obnoxious. Intense interests, ability to focus on things like games for extended periods of time, geeking out on spreadsheets, habitually listening to the same song over and over, eating the same food every day, things like that.

When I was a kid, the psychologists thought this was because I had a “refrigerator mother.” My mother didn’t like being blamed for my neuroatypicality, and used to nag, shame, and scream at me in attempts to get me to be average. Didn’t work, and probably poisoned our relationship.

EDIT: And I'm going to throw in a footnote right here and state that I was never referred to as "autistic" when I was a kid, and I don't know if there was ever any attempt at a diagnosis. They definitely knew I was different but every time a school psych started looking a little more closely it seemed to be time for a new school. Sometimes they gave my mom psych books to read; she never got through most of them (but I did). The label "autistic" is something I've pieced together over the last decade or so after reading up on the subject. I fit, but I'm also good enough at masking to ... mostly ... pass. 

When I was a teenager, and left home, I lived with other neurodivergent types in group houses where we listened to punk rock, wore too much eyeliner and dodged different psychologists who were blaming us for the Satanic Panic. Go Google Damien Echols to learn more.

I audited a lot of a degree in psych while helping a friend (for cash), because she had trouble taking coherent notes and I have this IQ thing. I’ve also had, um, at least three relationships with people who have psych degrees, plus I have some in extended family and professional orgs that I hang out with. So I’m not really against psychotherapists, I just know they’re very human and their theories often evolve rapidly.

After I got a little older I started working for trial lawyers, and one of the things I did was keep tabs on psychological expert witnesses who offer predictable theories for cash. For instance, sometimes lawyers on the other side will be able to impeach them with their own testimony. I kept a database on this. I also transcribed considerable amounts of psychological testing and I’m probably not a good candidate to take tests like the MMPI because I’ve transcribed too many exams. It might surprise you to learn that many esteemed psychologists lie for money.

At the same time, I was dealing with the kind of people mentioned in the Reddit thread. Here I’d been raised by conservatives, ran away from home due to it, figured out how to live independently as an autistic, which is no mean feat. Only to be socially rejected for “choosing” to be autistic.

So I had this crisis of … not quite faith, since I don’t have any, but something similar. I came out of it with the decision that yes, I was a liberal. I support labor, I’m in favor of diversity, I like non-heterosexual people and want them to have rights.

But if I insisted on being liberal, I would have to be antisocial. So I started working at extremely liberal jobs, to get it out of my system that way, and I became a single-issue liberal, supporting universal healthcare. If you’d listened to me four years ago we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in now. Maybe my antisocial tendencies will end up keeping me alive. We’ll find out.

Meanwhile, the psychologists moved on, again. Now we’re supposed to trust them, because they no longer believe we choose to be autistic, or became autistic due to secret devil conspiracies and vaccines, or were made autistic by our evil refrigerator mothers. No, now we’re born that way, and the preferred treatment is to keep us occupied with stim toys and weighted blankets. I have a hard time relating to autistics from this generation; they seem very privileged to me, while I must seem very much like an old alley cat to them.

And now I’m in my late fifties, and still resolutely autistic despite all the nagging and shunning. I accept certain kinds of psychology, like cognitive behavioral therapy, but I really don’t see any benefit to getting any diagnosis or treatment.

And I’m still resolutely liberal despite the nonsense. I wasn’t totally antisocial. I made some good friends, particularly a couple of gay dudes who were fortunate enough to check out of this planet before Covid19. One of them fed the hungry, another advocated for the sick, and they helped me learn how to be compassionate.

Autistic people don’t have a lot of empathy, as a default. We can have compassion though, anyone can. I was in an autistic forum the other day where people were discussing the practice of mindfulness which is currently in vogue, and which is yet another thing that doesn’t quite work on us because it can exacerbate sensory issues and anxiety. Mindfulness is not really helpful, but compassion is. And while I can’t choose not to be autistic, and you can’t nag me into being more empathetic, I can definitely choose to be a compassionate person, whenever I can, and to let that prioritize what I do with my time. For instance, I have this writing talent, so I thought I'd use it to help kids learn science in a diversity-positive way. 

For many years, I kept my autism very secret, something I’d indulge in behind locked doors, only in the company of other autistics. Now that I’m open I get occasional negative feedback. I also get a surprising amount of positive feedback. Some days I even get encouragement.

And I’ve stopped getting the hate, which is quite a remarkable feeling. In fact, since I’ve quarantined my physical life and started rigorously policing my social media life, I’m in the amazing position of being able to be unmasked in a figurative sense. In a world where literal masks are mandatory.