Tetris Moments

I’ve just had a tetris moment. No, I haven’t just been playing tetris for so many hours that I had a dream about tetris (it’s happened. The minecraft dream on top of that served as a chilling reminder that marathons of video games have consequences). A tetris moment, or what some might call an epiphany, is that moment where suddenly a fact slides into place and the whole world makes sense. Obviously it doesn’t all go ding and disappear like it does in actual tetris, but it’s pretty much the same.

So my tetris moment has been: stress headaches! Yep, that’s it. I get stress headaches. Now, you might think to yourself: but Charlie, isn’t that really fucking obvious? Well, I’m here to tell you that it isn’t! Or wasn’t! Maybe I’m just dim? Anyway, the realisation struck me yesterday in a lecture (it was really boring, OK? My attention drifted briefly) when I suddenly realised that my headaches and general malaise seemed to coincide with bad or stressful news. And stressful events, and things that I was worried about…

You might, if you were feeling a bit unkind, ask why this is such a revelation to me. Well, a lot of the time I get headaches when I’m out and about on a day trip. So sometimes it can be a bit tricky to tell whether I’m anxious about the trip or just stupidly dehydrated because I’ve forgotten to have anything to drink. It could possibly be a combination of the two, but if I’m perfectly honest I never get headaches when I’m at home or at uni and don’t drink anything for a couple of hours so that might not be so much of a factor.

The most important part about this revelation is the fact that I’m so good at compartmentalising things (1. I’m stressed and 2. I have a headache) that I never realise that they’re connected in any particular way. So my February resolution is going to be: to be more mindful about things.

and maybe to drink more water when I’m away from home.

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Why Doctor Who Must Die

Hello all, and welcome back to my series of little rants about things that really piss me off. This week (today?) I’ve been inspired to talk about the ailing tv show that is Doctor Who. I’m guessing we all saw the Christmas special? If not, I wouldn’t particularly recommend it. Essentially it’s an episode where all the characters are possibly asleep and have to somehow discover which the real world is so that they can wake up and not die. Sound familiar? That’s probably because it’s the same premise as the series 5 episode ‘Amy’s Choice’, where the characters are all dreaming and have to wake up so they don’t die in the real world. I think the idea of people-asleep-but-are-they???? has been done to death on Doctor Who, and no amount of Santa will change the fact that it was pretty boring the first time. This time it’s diabolical.

When you get to the point where even the fans are bored of your recycled storylines, maybe it’s time to stop. And I get how it happens; it’s kind of like when you’re talking to a friend you don’t see very often but you text them loads of anecdotes, and when you finally meet them in person everything you talk to them about is something you’ve already said in an email at 3am. Or something. But here’s the thing: your friend isn’t paying you for the privilege of hearing your stupid anecdote about that time you bought double-cream but when you got home it was unflavoured yoghurt! Ha! (also nobody would pay for that anecdote. Don’t tell it, dude)

That’s one thing. Another problem with the show is that it doesn’t seem like it’s really heading towards any kind of conclusion. Most shows have an end point in sight: the world gets saved, the relationship happens, whatever tension there was gets resolved. But I don’t think that can really happen now, because any tension they create is really going to be on a series by series basis. Unless it’s Gallifrey. God I hope it’s not Gallifrey. There are only so many times we can have a whole damn planet turning up be the end of a series and it’s getting boring! How a planet appearing out of nowhere can be boring is astonishing to me, but it is. And the characterisation of the Time Lords is confusing at best in Nu Who, so let’s not even go there.

The point it, there’s no drama. The Doctor might die at the end of the series, but he’s just going to regenerate. What? An upper limit on the number of regenerations? Hahaha, not for this constantly white/male protagonist! (Mysterious how out of an infinite number of combinations the Doctor is always white, male, and conventionally attractive. At least in the reboot… hmm) And if a companion dies, well there’s always the gizmo that they left under their sofa! Or it was a dream! (By the way, “it was all a dream” is most used amongst the 8 year old authors. Possibly a hint that it’s not a good idea) Even Eastenders has more drama than that! Anyone can die! Eastenders!

So maybe what I’m not saying is that it must die right now. It just has to die one day so that new people can come along with amazing new stories and turn them into tv shows.

On being a little bit…dense

Literally! sort of. This is me, talking about mirrors. I’m sure it’s not just a ‘me’ thing, but maybe it is? Maybe I’m just really weird, or maybe I just need better contact lenses. My problem with mirrors and other reflective surfaces is this: I never know if what I’m seeing is accurate. I always seem to get a different image of myself than you get in photos. And not just in the sense that my face gets flipped, although that pretty much always freaks me out. I just always feel like I look different somehow, like in the photos I look like an acceptable sort of human, but in mirrors I look really weird and hideous. And fat, actually, that’s the main thing. Obviously, if you look in mirrors and hate what you see you’re not going to be massively keen about posing for photos so maybe that has something to do with it. It’s weird.

I don’t know if it’s the lighting or if the reflective surface is to blame – yeah, I know, a curvy car door is hardly an accurate mirror – but it’s really weird how your own reflection can be inaccurate. Or maybe it’s something to do with the conflict of your perception of yourself and the reality of yourself. There’s undoubtedly some self-esteem stuff in there too, but who knows. maybe I need to get my eyes checked.

Short blog post, I know, but I’m currently really tired because I got woken up excitingly by the burglar alarm going off. A) we don’t even set it, B) the code to turn it off was hidden weirdly at the bottom of a filing cabinet, C) I am not a morning person.

The Human Condition

I like cleaning. Not because I’m a masochist, but because it means I get half an hour or so of uninterrupted monologuing time. Obviously I try not to do this out loud, because then people would interrupt me to reply, but if I do it in my head I can pretend the perfect person is standing next to me replying with all the right things so I can sound clever. I’m always more coherent in my head.

One of the things I’ve been musing on is the death penalty. First of all, it’s a good thing to think about when you don’t have to do anything complicated like ascend stairs. Secondly, it’s great if you’ve got a really boring thing like glass to clean. Glass is a bit of a wanker to clean.

I digressed again, and I’m sorry.

But the death penalty is something I really don’t understand. I mean, what they’re basically saying is this: Murder is wrong, unless it’s me doing it. The law against killing is really important, unless someone else breaks it first. It’s very much hypocritical, I think.

Not to say that a murderer doesn’t deserve to be punished. I’m not saying we ought to get them all into a big room and throw them a party. But even locking them up has a certain futility to it. “You killed someone? Great! Have a stay in a high-security facility free of charge for the next twenty years! We’ll even throw in a tv.” But then again, I don’t think I could justify locking people up in squalid conditions. Scratch that, I definitely couldn’t justify that.

Obviously it would be better if we could prevent murder. Something like in Minority Report, where you can predict murders and then go at them with a crack team of police officers who’ve got the righteous power of three imprisoned orphans on their side. (Watch the film, it’s great) Except that doesn’t work. So maybe something more along the lines of teaching people that killing is wrong? “Don’t do crime, kids. You lose all your friends, it’s rubbish”. I don’t think all humans are inherently evil, particularly. They’re all just a bit apathetic. Make it more effort to do evil things than it is to do not-evil things, and I bet people will do not-evil things. Or just not do evil things, either works.

The philosophy of Charli, in a nutshell: Humans are lazy as fuck, and probably not evil.

Marathons

Don’t get alarmed, I didn’t do an actual marathon. I just sort of got caught up in a marathon of Mock the Week. Seriously, Dave shows waaay too many reruns of that programme. Not that I mind, particularly, but even Dara is making fun of Dave. It’s kind of like, if even the presenter is making fun of it, maybe there’s something wrong with three hours of one programme? Perhaps? Or did I miss the memo that that’s what Dave is for? Because when it’s something like Mock the Week, any of the actual news commentary dates pretty quickly. “Last week Tony Blair bought a flamingo”. Wait, Tony Blair?!

I just happened to notice that basically all the comedians are WAM. Now, as far as I’m aware, being WAM doesn’t make you any funnier. It’s not a prerequisite to be male to be able to make jokes. Being white doesn’t make people laugh more. (maybe if they’re laughing at you?)

And then it made it even more awkward when there was a female comedian for once. Because invariable she’d be next to Russel Howard, and he quite often makes jokes that are pretty sexist. Just sitting at home on the sofa I was cringing. And yet none of the male comedians seemed to care or even notice?

*sigh* maybe one day there’ll be non-WAM comedians on my tv. I can dream.

Make-up

Given that it’s currently Lent, I thought I’d give something up. To increase the chances of it actually sticking, I chose to give up something I don’t really like but use anyway: make-up. I don’t exactly wear a lot anyway, and what I do wear tends to be along the lines of foundation and maybe tinted lipgloss, but it’s still make-up and I still don’t really like wearing it.

Part of my issue with it is that it seems so unnecessary. Why is make-up even a thing? Since when was the human face so ugly we can’t stand the sight of it without pigment and tints and highlights and bronzing? A badly made-up face is surely worse than whatever horrors the naked human face can unleash.

But it doesn’t seem that simple. If it really was just a case of the human face being hideous, it wouldn’t just be women who had to wear make-up. Men would wear it too. But… they don’t. Because it’s ‘feminine’. So, women are ugly? Inherently ugly? Is that really what men think?

So I’m not wearing any at all. It’s like, think how much time I’m saving in the morning! 2 minutes! Every day!

er

and also, time in the evening

So that’s like 4 minutes a day. And obviously, I’m saving money by not buying foundation. Anyway, that’s my Lent. I’ll let you know if it works

bye

Message in a bottle… from the past!

Now, I occasionally write things down and then leave them alone for about… ooh, a few years, really. This is one such document. I apparently used to be in the habit of writing mini-diary entries. This is the kind of thing I would have posted on my blog if I’d had a blog back then. I didn’t, so I just typed it up and left it. Well, I say I didn’t have a blog; truth be told this was probably initially going to be part of a book I was writing. It never happened. 

So, without further ado, from the lips of 16-year old me, enjoy. 

Of emotions and wider applications thereof

Or why I hate conversation.

I find it very difficult to relate to people. This is either as a result of my living in a world full of shallow, egotistical people you’d have to be equally shallow and egotistical to relate to, and I flatter myself by saying I’m perhaps less egotistical than most. It could be because I interact with a very limited sphere of people, due to my sheltered upbringing in a middle-class family in a fairly middle-class town at a middle-class school with delusions of grandeur. It could even be because, as a general rule, I don’t give a damn about most of the people I could relate to (read: celebrities) and the only other people I could relate to are about twice my age, half my age, or completely the wrong gender.

Of course, it could also be because of my learning difficulties.

I’ve always had a fairly forceful personality, which might seem strange to people who know me; I’m almost painfully shy. Apparently my confidence has been diffusing away as I’ve aged, to leave me a social-skills lacking, unable to communicate 17 year old. Like most teenagers really, except with little hope of a light at the end of the tunnel.

See? I can even do metaphors. If you’d tried that 10 years ago, you’d have been met with disdain. I did disdain very well back then. And sarcasm, for some reason.

Once, when I was in year 2 or 3, I was given a piece of maths homework to complete, which I did, and handed back in to the teacher. When the homework was marked, the teacher rang my mother. My mother was more curious than upset. She couldn’t quite understand why I had deliberately answered all the questions incorrectly. My answer? The teacher never told us to answer the questions correctly. It’s not my fault the teacher wasn’t specific enough.

Then, a few years later, I was taken to see two psychiatrists/behaviour assessors/whatever/bs doctors. They were apparently assessing me to see where I fell on the Autistic spectrum. So they asked me a few questions. Did I like talking to people. I replied I did not. Was I enjoying talking to them? I replied, probably getting a little bored, that they were people… (therefore…)

So it’s probably apparent that my grasp of the emotional meaning of what other people say has always been a little… sketchy. I presume I’m in no way the worst affected by this sort of thing. There are probably thousands of people with even worse social skills than me, probably even hundreds of thousands. The only trouble is, most of these people probably aren’t even aware of what they’re doing wrong. I am; painfully so. What to do.

What makes it even worse, isn’t the fact that people are complex and weird and a bit unusual and strange (and all of those words mean different things. amazing). It’s that somehow, a person can spout a meaningless string of babble, which I am somehow supposed to combine with that mythical thing called sign language, interpret their facial expression, assess their mood and then not only respond to their statement, but also adjust my own emotional state, body language and facial expressions. At the same time? Are you kidding me? I can’t monitor myself like that AND monitor someone else AND interpret their speech AND come up with a valid response AND make that response, not if I want to do it within a reasonable time frame. It is unbelievable the number of times I have been told off due to this processing time. Or, I suppose, I could do this all without that internal feedback system. A dangerous place to go though; inevitably leading to stress, headaches, and general grumpiness.

And that leads me, quite nicely, back to the title. Emotions. They’re a tricky thing, aren’t they? Well, you might not agree, being a perfectly well-rounded neurotypical individual. That’s what they call you in the autistic community. Not normal. Neurotypical. Like, you’re what the brain is, generally. You’re average. And people with learning difficulties… well, they’re individuals. They’re unique. That’s all very nice and lovely, but it doesn’t change the fact that I frequently have trouble interpreting even my emotions. Forget other people’s for a moment. I have trouble with my own emotions. Happiness is obvious, as is sadness, anger in small doses is tolerable, but once an emotion gets beyond the stage of vague contentment or even general misery, it becomes incomprehensible. Intolerable. Emotion overload, I can’t handle this. And that’s not even mentioning the other, more confusing emotions like love and hate and envy and rage and… well, you’d know all about those. You’re neurotypical. This kind of thing is easy for you. And yes, yes, I know, you’ll surely protest something along the lines of “it’s not easy for me either, it’s difficult for all of us” or “we all sometimes get a little overwhelmed”.

Damn. Even talking to a hypothetical person about their emotional normality is getting me worked up. You know when you get irritated? Well, when I get irritated it’s like, like there’s something heavy in my limbs and back, like its achy and heavy and dense and generally uncomfortable. It makes it very difficult to type anyway, because my shoulders decide they don’t really want to move, and with the best will in the world you do need your shoulders to do things in life. Like picking things up and putting things down.

Of course, for all I know, that’s completely normal. For all I know, it’s normal to be rendered speechless by small things. Not with upset (or I assume not with upset), but with anger. Or it could be joy, for all I know. Maybe it’s all three.

That’s where I stopped. So, that’s that, really. It’s amazing how much of that still rings true. Pretty much all of it, I’m afraid. Although tumblr now informs me the PC term is ‘allistic’ rather than ‘neurotypical’, I’m pretty sure it’s all the same thing. 

Now, what does this show? Well, that the emotional constipation is hardly anything new. Buggered if I know what it proves beyond that though. 

Don’t be embarrassed to have an opinion

Today was my first Contemporary Debates in Music lecture. Apart from the pure 100% unadulterated joy I felt in finally getting a tutor with the same sense of humour as me, I also took some time to perfectly solemnly reflect on the different cultural expectations placed on different types of music. Fortunately, this was the topic we were discussing in the lecture.

The interactive task the lecturer set for us was as follows:

  1. Zie would play for us a sample of music
  2. We rated the music on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is ‘meh’ and 5 is ‘great’
  3. We also wrote down a few reasons or explanations for our rating

Some of the samples were less obvious than others, but the first one we heard was pretty obvious to everyone in the room. (Not just because it was on youtube and had the name on the screen right in front of us) One Direction’s ‘The Best Song Ever’. Ok, it’s not the greatest song in the world, but it’s not a pile of shite either, right? I gave it a fairly sturdy 3. 3 for average, good to listen to but not amazing. 

(1: meh. 2: fairly shabby. 3: averagely good. 4: not bad. 5: great. You might notice that I tend to be fairly unenthusiastic about my ratings.)

The funniest part of the tutorial/seminar aspect was this: we had to discuss why we gave the music the rating we did. Most people gave ‘Best Song Ever’ a 1 or a 2, with the reasoning that it was bland, average, very generic. However, some other people also gave it a 3, and the best part of it was them trying to justify it. a) you don’t have to justify your taste in music, idiots. b) “I like it, but I mean, I know it’s not good music, but it’s catchy and fun to dance to, I mean, the lyrics are rubbish, but I enjoyed it” (It’s weird how the phrase ‘I mean’ sprang up so often, but hey, I’m no expert on linguistics) I don’t know why they were so angsty about admitting they liked it. It’s not like it says anything about them as a person. Ok, so you like fairly generic average pop music? Ok, me too! I’m pretty sure everyone in the room secretly liked it and just didn’t want to admit it.

The trouble with trying to compare ‘Best Song Ever’ with the 1812 Overture, for example, is that they’re not doing the same job. The function of those two songs is completely different. I mean, when was the last time you were dancing around the kitchen and put on Handel’s Water Music? Or Les Mis? And you don’t go to concert halls to listen to Bastille perform with the intention of sitting in rapt silence as they play. They’re just not really comparable in that sense.

My favourite metaphor that I made up was a clothes metaphor. Think of pop music as being hats and classical music as coats. You might walk home with a brand new hat and be all “guys, check out this cool hat!”, only to have them respond “yeah, but it’s never going to keep you warm. Not like this coat.” “Well, of course not, it’s a hat.

Hats and coats, people. It’s the next thing in the musical community.

Isn’t it ironic

Sometimes I can’t get over the irony of me having a blog. “What’s so strange about that?” you might say. Hopefully you did say that, otherwise this is just going to be me saying things you already knew. The strange part about that is the part where a person with a communication disorder (if you didn’t already know that, now you do! Yay! Why not celebrate with brownies?) has a communication blog. maybe that’s why it’s not doing so well

Sometimes when the verbal words aren’t coming out it’s nice to be able to just type things and reassure myself that I can still say things if I want to, just not out loud. 

Even if no-one’s listening.

Actually, to be honest, it’s almost easier if no-one’s listening. That way, when I say things, it’s like talking to myself but on the internet.

Emotional Brilliance

No relation to the makeup of the same name by lush.

Emotions are tricky beasts, aren’t they? Like wildebeests; they stalk the dark passages of your mind, lurking about dangerously and assaulting passing neural impulses.

But seriously, you can’t trust an emotion. They’re practically feral. Say you’re reading a book on a train. Ok, fair enough. It’s a funny book. Ok,that’s fine. It’ll keep my attention for longer. So funny I’m sitting there giggling weirdly. Er, right. Setting aside the obvious issues inherent in a society where laughing in public is an action worthy of death, that’s the fault of emotion, right? If you could just keep a lid on that humour, the woman in the seat across the aisle wouldn’t be giving you such a dodgy look.

Dodgy looks are the worst, aren’t they.

I’m reasonably certain this isn’t normal. I mean, most people don’t look like they’re wandering around internally screaming “is this joy or am I just experiencing wind?!” (Not that I’ve ever wondered that in particular). But then again, I wouldn’t know. It’s all so tricky. And what are you supposed to say when people ask how you’re feeling? I don’t know seems to make people worry more, like maybe you’re suffering from a lack of feeling and might be about to pitch yourself off a roof or something. I don’t think a phobia of heights counts as an emotion, so it’s ok that I know I have it.

And then you get the whole different degrees of emotion thing. Wrath versus anger, joy compared to exuberance; I’ve studied them, with somewhat limited success, and I’m pretty sure at least 75% of it all is nonsense.

C’est la vie. I’m off to hunt down a few wildebeests.