Paint Your Wagon

Paint Your Wagon is worth watching for the music. It’s definitely got a large cast, but most of the characters are generic interchangeable people that you won’t be missing out on. Will you miss out on some things? Yes, but not plot significant ones. It has a few really wonderfully distinct characters, excellent music, and an interesting story line.

 

Actually, the weakest part of the film is probably the story line. It wraps up it’s subplot (the fate of no-name city) quite well, but the relationship plot, which relies upon character development, comes off as contrived. That’s probably due to a lack of character development. It’s as if the characters sort of all miraculously decide to go along with the ending because it’s socially expected of them, which is decidedly out of character.

 

Even so, give it a go. It’s a good yarn, and excellent music. Your experience might be enhanced by a friend that can recognize people, but it’s not a requirement.

 

All Socks are not Equal

As it turns out, socks are objects to recognize, or visual ID. It’s always difficult to decide which particular classification of problem applies. At any rate, there is a problem, and it is socks.

 

Actually, there are two problems, and one of them is me. I want my socks paired properly. The same length. The same color. Elasticity. Texture.

 

All black socks are not created equal. They do not even look equal, not really. Different lengths, slightly different shapes. This being the case, pairing them should still be relatively simple.

 

It took watching someone else to realize that taking each sock, placing it next to each other black sock and making a likely guess, is not the normal strategy. This has been my life, long enough now, that it has become normal. A frustration, to be sure, but a normal one.

 

I haven’t hit a solution yet, but my sock purchases in future will be of very distinctive pairs. I can get to a broad category, “black socks”, or “red and white stripes”. If the socks are distinctive enough that each pair gets its own category, well, getting down to the individual ID level (never something I can do) isn’t going to be a problem. It is a solution, in that I still won’t be able to pair my black socks easily, but it is solution enough. I will be able to indulge my need to have my socks paired properly, and not have it become an exercise in frustration and futility. It is enough.

Hope is a Poison

Hope is a poison. No, that is not quite right. Hope is a poison depending upon the dosage. Most things are harmful in sufficient quantity, and hope is no different.  I resent people who suggest I should be hoping for a miracle. I resent people who tell me that I should not give up.

That sort of hope, in the face of odds that are impossible, is a cruelty. It is a cruelty because it a paralyzing thing. It catches the victim, and freezes them in “If only”, and “Someday.”

That’s fine enough, for a time. But we are human, and time passes, and we cannot stagnate, frozen in time, waiting. Hope is a paralyzing thing, because it keeps you frozen on the edge of anticipation, dreaming.

There is a time for dreams. But there is a time, too, for planning. For accepting. For improving. I cannot better live with the challenges I face if I am frozen, hoping for them to fade away.

Do not ask me to hope, or to pray for a miracle, when I have moved onward, past hopes and dreams, and into acceptance. I have done my grieving, do not ask me step backwards into denial. I do not need hope, as you would feed it to me, that things will disappear and obstacles will vanish.

I want no miracles. But I want the quiet victories, of learning new ways to do things, to experience things, of finding new and different joys. I want to explore the world that is left to me, to find its limits, and surpass them. And I will. Perhaps it not hope, this calm, accepting and dauntless confidence. Perhaps it is. Some things are only toxic, when mixed with others. And perhaps hope is one of those.

If you tell me to pray for a miracle, I will tell you that I have had all the miracles that anyone has a right to ask for, and more. I will tell you this, and it will be true. It will even be polite.

I am not certain, though, that it will be right. But how do I say that this medicine of hope, which you are trying to provide is a poison, in the mix that you are handing me is not a balm but a poison?

I’ll thank you kindly, for something well meant. And maybe someday, I will find the words that will stop you offering this poison-laced kindness to anyone else.


Note: No, it has not been that kind of day. But I’ve been searching for the words for a long time, and the thought crossed my mind that I might be closer to finding them now.

Sight Words

As it turns out, words and letters are visual things to ID. Visual ID is very difficult for me now; I can get down to the category level, but not to the individual (individual ID is guess work. Deduction). This complicates life in all sorts of interesting ways. The latest adventure has been in language learning.

 

Auditory memory remains an area of strength for me. My language abilities are pretty much intact. So, I like languages, I find them intuitive, and it’s fun to play with things that are still as easy as they are supposed to be.

 

Spanish? Italian? No real problems. I’ve enjoyed duolingo, a handful of dual-language books, some Opera. It’s been fun. So when I recently fell in love with an odd Russian Subtitled Urban Fantasy television series, deciding to read the books it was based on was sort of natural. They’re in Russian, naturally.

 

So, I got my dictionary. I got my book. I got out duolingo and added Russian, figuring that it would help me get a feel for the language. It was, at that point, I hit the first problem. Duolingo works on helping people to make connections between words (print), images, and sounds. Essentially, it requires you to learn to recognize words.

 

Suddenly, I learned that I can’t recognize words. Why hadn’t this been a problem before? How had I not noticed this problem?

 

In the romantic languages, I am familiar with the letters, and with the sounds they make. I don’t recognize the words, I read them. Duolingo’s beginning section for becoming familiar with Cyrillic relies upon sight words. Since that doesn’t work for me, I set out to learn to read Cyrillic…

Practice Memory

One of the challenges of not recognizing people is in keeping their details straight. How many kids? Related to whom? This, of course, is another way for the face-blind to easily (and inadvertently) offend people.

 

So, assuming you know precisely who it is that you’re speaking to, how do you keep the details straight? Practice. But- what to practice? Practice remembering.

 

Sometime after you’ve spoken (sooner is better), take the time and write down everything you can remember about the person you spoke to. What was the name? Characteristics (Height, hair color, age, etc.)? What did you learn? The practice of writing things down will help you to remember it, but it serves a second purpose as well. The idea is to form a habit of paying attention to, and remembering, the details. Also, keep the paper; then you have a reference page to review before you see them next.

 

Paying attention to detail is a skill. Practice.

Making Observations

How do you describe something you cannot recall? How can you remember what something looked when the image is gone the instant you look away?

For me, the answer is in descriptors, in turning what I have seen into words. To do this well and thoroughly requires two things. The first is observation, the second is vocabulary.

We see the world before us, but we seldom observe. Observation requires active attention. How often do we notice eye color? Do we make conscious note of body language, clothing styles, of the little details that make up the composite? If you cannot form the image later, you must notice, must observe, these details in the moment.

This brings me to vocabulary. The idea that language influences thought is hardly new. Can you describe a thing you do not have words for? Can you even observe a thing you do not have words for? (I’m referencing the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which is described here in detail, and here in somewhat less. )

Thought experiments aside, it seems quite obvious to me, that, should you be unable to picture it later and also lack the words to describe it with, you would be hard pressed to recall the detail. In order to recall visual information, I transform what I see, or rather what I observe, into words. If I do not have the word, I am unlikely to have the recollection.

“You can’t bring her in here.”

I have two major issues when someone tries to separate me from my service dog. There is the insult (liar, they say, without the words), and there is the attempt to re-inflict the injury. The second is more complicated, less obvious, so I’ll discuss it first.

I have a disability. I will never recognize my loved ones again, never know a face in the crowd. The grief that I have for that loss runs deep and I can only assume it will last my lifetime.

I have a fragment of recovery. She is not like my glasses or contacts, which let me see as clearly as I would without the myopia. I refer, of course, to my service dog. She gives me knowns from unknowns, tells me the faces I should recognize (Other things, too, but of all the things I cannot do, it is the inability to recognize my family that grieves me most).

“You can’t bring her in here.” The implication, of course, is that I am welcome enough without my ability to recognize people. Separating me from her is stealing my recovery. It re-inflicts the trauma and the loss. That it is done of ignorance, rather than malice, does not make it any less cruel.

The first aspect I mentioned is the insult. When I am turned away, as if she cannot possibly be a service dog, as if I cannot possibly have a disability, then the implication is that I have lied with the service dog tags that she wears. Such a casual assertion that the disability I cannot forget does not exist. No more forgivable an insult for the casual, careless nature of it.

And then- then, because this is not enough, I must remain, and calmly, reasonably, tolerantly clear up the misunderstanding. I must forgive the insult, ignore the injury, lest I make a bad impression. I will not know them should I see them again but by my actions they will judge every other individual with a disability accompanied by a small service dog.

Dichotomous Keys

A dichotomous key is a tool for identification. It uses a series of yes/no questions in order to guide the user to a proper ID. The tricky thing about dichotomous keys is that they only work if the thing you’re attempting to ID is included in the key.

I have prosopagnosia (face blindness), which means that I cannot make a correct ID based simply on facial recognition. I must, therefor, observe and then deduce. The problem, of course, is that I cannot, alone, make the most important observation. Is this someone I know? Yoshi’s responsible for that portion.

So. The Dichotomous Key that I use, every time I enter a room, every time someone speaks to me, every time I step outside my door. It begins something like this:

  1. Is the subject known?
    1. If yes, go to 2
    2. If no, stop.
  2. Is the subject male?
    1. If yes, go to 3
    2. If no, go to 4
  3. Is the subject younger than me?
    1. If yes, go to 5
    2. If no, go to 6
  4. Is the subject younger than me?
    1. If yes, go to 7
    2. If no, go to 8

 

Common Courtesy is an Uncommon Virtue

I improved someone’s day today. Not by being especially kind, or nice (as I was described), but simply by being polite. She was tall, thin, and rather frazzled. A cashier at a gas station. She apologized for having me repeat myself, explaining that she was somewhat deaf.

I simply smiled, and told her that it surely wasn’t a problem. I spoke louder, of course, because that is a consideration we show our fellow humans when they need it. I repeated that several times, as she apologized for things that were neither inconvenient, nor problematic.

At the end of our brief interaction, she told me I was nice, and suggested I should come by more. Yet I was not especially kind. When the simple consideration we show our fellow humans, the simple politeness, is considered nice, it says something about the rest of the world. That I was considered kind today says nothing good of the rest of her customers.

We make the world better or worse by our presence in it. We make other people’s lives better, or worse, by our presence in them. And I think, even in the little things, the actions of moments, we should still strive to make things better.

I see common courtesy far less often than I would like, for it is one of those simple, easy gestures, by which we improve the world. And, perhaps more importantly, by which we avoid worsening it.

Journey Quest

For something that comes off very strongly as a trope heavy comedy of errors, it actually handles serious issues in very interesting ways. It’s also a very good fit for prosopagnosia movie night.

Small Cast: There’s a handful of characters to pay close attention to. An increasing handful, as the series progresses, but all quite distinctive.

No Laundry: There is no laundry in journey quest. In spite of the amount of time that passes, it seems evident that the wizard, Perf, owns only one robe and seldom washes it. His companions aren’t all that much better in terms of hygiene.  The wizard’s also nicely color coded- he’s yellow.

The affectations of the characters are their own clues. For example, the viewer very quickly knows exactly which character is speaking, if a sword is brandished and “Onward!” expressed. The series does have decent subtitles, as well as oft repeated names.

Worth watching? I think so. The underlying moral dilemmas of the quest are definitely worth consideration. What are we to make of Glorion, who obviously considers himself to be honorable? Or of the way Carrow handles his transformation?

This particular series can be found on youtube. There are obviously some genres that are easier to follow with prosopagnosia than others, and some sources as well. Older films, tend to be easier. I’ve also done well with subtitled foreign language films, for the most part, and I wonder if indie films aren’t going to be better on average as well.

 

Faceblindness, Disability, Small Service Dogs and the General Complications of going through life on a "higher difficulty setting".

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