Friday, March 25, 2022

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Whitehorse is back with a new album, and that's always a reason to celebrate. Here's their video for "Sometimes Amy," which emulates the late 80s/early 90s pop/rock radio sounds I listened to so much back in the day to near perfection.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... MonaLisa Twins.

Now Playing: Arthur Lyman Bwana A

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Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

What more is there to be said about Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine that hasn't already been said? Every misgiving I had with Putin decades ago as he rose to power as an ex-KGB operative has proven true. There's some degree of shadenfreude with how much pain the Ukrainian defenders have inflicted upon the Russian invaders, but that's cold comfort for the thousands of dead civilians and millions who are displaced and suffering. Ukraine's collective courage is inspiring, so it seems apropos that Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "Great Gates of Kiev" carry us through the weekend.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... MonaLisa Twins.

Now Playing: Arthur Lyman The Legend of Pele
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Tuesday, March 08, 2022

A Moment of Tiki: Ritual Rum Alternative and Tiki Drinkware

A Moment of Tiki
Episode 39 of A Moment of Tiki is now live amongst the interwebz! Despite my love of rum and tiki cocktails, I firmly believe that any good host (and good tiki bar) should have a solid selection of non-alcoholic beverages available for guests. It doesn't matter why someone isn't drinking at any particular point in time--what matters is that the host is ready to accommodate. So when a friend recommended Ritual Rum Alternative, I was intrigued. How did this rum substitute taste? Was it truly a replacement for rum? Would it work well in traditional cocktails? I tracked down a bottle and put it through its paces, reporting my thoughts here in this video.

Then in episode 38, I survey the state of tiki drinkware. Tiki is known for elaborate ceramic tiki mugs when it comes to imbibing the legendary tiki cocktails. But are tiki aficionados limited to this particular style of drinkware alone? Absolutely not! In this episode of A Moment of Tiki, I explore some of the options available to the home tiki bartender, including (but not limited to) tiki mugs, zombie and mai tai glasses, Siesta Ware, carved monekypod and Japanese sumi-e bamboo cups. There's a lot of cool stuff out there, and I know I'm barely scratching the surface. If you know of some great tiki drinking vessels I'm leaving out, drop me a note in the comments below!

Now Playing: The Killer Bees All Abuzz

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Friday, March 04, 2022

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

The talented MonaLisa Twins from Austria are back with a new song and video, "Questionable," a clever, wry observation of the modern "swipe left or right" online dating culture. The women are heavily influenced by the Beatles--that's their whole thing--but in this case, I feel their songwriting is more evocative of the great Ray Davies. What do you think?

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Wig Wam.

Now Playing: The Beachcomber Trio Live at the Kahiki 1965
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Wednesday, March 02, 2022

A Very Special Episode, or, We Shall Never Speak of This Again

I am almost certainly on the spectrum.

I've never revealed that publicly before, and it is only with great hesitation I do so now. I've never been formally diagnosed as autistic, but I'm 99% sure that I am. I'm painfully aware of people who preemptively use autism self-diagnosis as an excuse for boorish behavior both online and off, and have witnessed it firsthand. So yeah, that makes this somewhat akin to pogo-sticking my way through a minefield.

Yesterday was a bad day for me. There was an issue at work that, although it absolutely had nothing to do with me, was internalized by Yours Truly as an attack on me. Intellectually I knew that was absurd, but that didn't stop it from taking root and gnawing at me. Following shortly was an--incident isn't the right word, but will have to suffice for lack of something better--incident that triggered a wholly unexpected bout of PTSD in me. While I have enough self-awareness to recognize these reactions individually, I did not recognize them collectively, that is, working in concert to amplify and intensify each other. As a result, when I encountered a series of unexpected and increasingly stressful situations after work, the metaphorical ground shifted under me and I spiralled out of control.

I had a meltdown.

I am deeply ashamed at this. It's been almost 10 years or so since I experienced a full-blown meltdown. None since I've become aware of my probable autism. That loss of control is troubling, since I've become fairly apt at recognizing the signs and de-escalating myself. None of this is due to any brilliant self-actualizing insight on my part, mind you. I have a child who was diagnosed with autism, and somewhere along the line, as we were visiting an endless parade of teachers, doctors, couneslors and learning all the signs, symptoms and strategies for coping with autism, The Wife turns to me and says, "This is you. You are absolutely on the spectrum." I rolled my eyes at the time, but she was right.

I was a weird kid. Not "weird" in the way society celebrates today. Weird in the "so socially awkward everyone around is uncomfortable and/or frustrated" way. I was verbal and hit all my developmental milestones, so none of those red flags alerted anyone to my issues. But there was something off about me. There's some old Super-8 home movie footage of me at my grandparents house when I'm maybe 5 or 6 years old. My cousin's running around, playing and having a great time. I'm standing there awkwardly, staring at the camera. "I don't know what to do." I don't mean that I didn't know how to perform for the camera or act silly or what was expected of me. I was frozen in the social situation. I didn't understand the social cues. I didn't realize there were social cues. I was adrift until the film camera turned off and the attention moved away and I was able to emerge into a more familiar, safer context. I remember that feeling, a vague, inarticulate version of "I don't know what to do."

I was not a popular kid in school. I was weird. Other kids zeroed in on this and, well, you know how cruel kids can be. I learned very quickly that advice my parents offered was counter-productive at best. I won't go into the gory details, but life got pretty bleak.

"But Jayme," you may be saying right now, "I've known you XX years! None of that's true! I've seen you at science fiction conventions. I've seen you host tiki parties. You're comfortable, relaxed and socially at ease." To which I say, thank you. I appreciate that. This is by design. You see, my freshman year of high school was a trainwreck. I was a social pariah. I was as close to being George McFly as one could possibly be without recieving a cease-and-desist letter from Universal Pictures. I'd discovered girls, and suffered some spectacular, painful rejections (with good reason, I may add. "Hello! McFly!"). The summer between my freshman and sophomore years of high school I was determined to reinvent myself. I absolutely did not understand social cues and know why some people were more popular than others, but I could look and listen. I became a voracious consumer of the most popular music and television shows. What were the current fashions? What hair styles were in? What shoes were cool? How did the popular kids act? I didn't understand any of it, but I could pretend. I didn't know it at the time, but I'd discovered masking:

  • forcing or faking eye contact during conversations
  • imitating smiles and other facial expressions
  • mimicking gestures
  • hiding or minimizing personal interests
  • developing a repertoire of rehearsed responses to questions
  • scripting conversations
  • pushing through intense sensory discomfort including loud noises
  • disguising stimming behaviors (hiding a jiggling foot or trading a preferred movement for one that’s less obvious)
That helped me survive high school, although I never achieved popularity. I did develop depression/dysphoria, but I was too naive to recognize that for what it was. My masking improved in college, albeit with some spectacular failures. My continued inability to grasp social cues led to some unintentional acts (or inactions) of cruelty on my part, which I only recognized as such years after the fact. I still have deep regret. That also led me into toxic relationships that I didn't have the knowledge or willingness to extract myself from. I'd say my interpersonal skills were terrible, except that I didn't have enough of them to even rate that highly. Most of my life I've felt stranded alone on an island, and this was probably the most isolated I'd ever felt in my life.

"But you were a working journalist! And you're in media relations now! You're great at communication." Right. That was probably the worst possible career choice I could've pursued, outside of sales (which career counselors kept pushing me toward and I kept pushing back on. Now I understand why I had such an aversion to that career). The only reason I'm able to function in my chosen profession is 1) the bulk of my job involves writing, which is one thing I'm marginally competent at, and 2) I have a shit-ton of scripts and rehearsed conversations that get me through the average workday, along with "in case of emergency break glass" scripts used when interacting with media. If you're an old, old-school computer nerd, it's like the "if-then" subroutines in BASIC. If you're a science fiction/fantasy reader, it's not unlike Prince Corwin's pre-cast spells he hangs, ready for use at a moment's notice, in Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber. If you've ever spoken with me at a convention, at least 50% of our conversation was scripted. Likewise at a tiki bar. This is how I get by, 24/7, 365.

What about eye contact? This one I learned as a child, before anything else. Focusing on the other speaker's forehead or nose is a relatively common trick, but I've done it so long that I've trained myself to look other people in the eye instinctively. This still feels uncomfortable and can be distracting, so I've developed a secondary trick where I'll look away into the middle distance, ostensibly to collect my thoughts on a particularly profound train of thought. I look positively contemplative, but in reality I'm just avoiding eye contact. Mimicking gestures? Oh, I still do things I copied from my father. I used to have a few things I copied from Burt Reynolds, but I phased those out. Imitating smiles and other facial expressions? Check! Hiding personal interests? Check (yes, I know I come off as obsessive. You have no idea what I'm like when I'm not dialing it down). Pushing through sensory discomfort? Kinda. Mostly. Avoidance is key. Certain sounds are awful, and I have serious issues with certain textures and visual stimuli. Disguising stimming behavior? Not so much disguise as suppress. People in my personal orbit find it problematic, so, yeah, I don't do it. Much. On occasion, when nobody's around, it can be comforting. I think, mostly though, rituals have taken the place of stimming. I can craft rituals so that they're hidden, invisible to outsiders looking in, disguised and unobtrusive. So I got that going for me.

Elizabeth Moon wrote a fantastic book some years ago, The Speed of Dark, about an autistic man doing his best to navigate life in the near future. At the risk of oversimplifying a heartfelt and lyrical novel, the crux of the story comes when the protagonist is faced with the choice of undergoing an experimental medical procedure that has the potential to alleviate his autism (I hesitate to say "cure" because autism's more complicated than that). The decision is stressful, because while the elimination of the autistic traits will allow him to fully integrate into society and promising career, he worries that removing the autistic elements with rob him of his identity. In short, "who he is" would die, replaced by somebody else on the other side of the treatment. I know that in real life, there is a strong advocacy of autistics who opposed research into such treatments for just this reason--autism is part of their identity, who they are, and any research into treatments is an inherent attack on their individual worth as human beings.

Fuck that shit. If a safe, effective treatment were available, I'd take it in a heartbeat. I'm so tired of pretending. I'm so tired of coping. I'm so tired of guessing, then second guessing when I trigger the wrong script and say a well-articulated non sequitur that results in coworkers staring at me like I'm a lunatic. I'm tired of being, God help me, neurodivergent. You know what "neurodivergent" is to me? It's a self-important neologism that all the cool kids use that, in about 15 years or so, will be branded abelist or condescending or some other unforgiveable insensitivity and forever labled a slur, replaced by some phrase even more pretentious and unwieldy.

I may be on the spectrum, but that doesn't mean I don't have opinions.

I've never really liked Pinnochio. The morality play aspect is annoying, but puppet's the reward at the end just felt trite. Yesterday was a wakeup call for me. Maybe it was my version of Pleasure Island's jackass makeover, or maybe the cold, wet night spent in Monstro's belly (I haven't though this part of the metaphor through, so give me a break). Regardless, yesterday's meltdown is why I'm writing this (although I may delete it later). This isn't a cry for help or a plea for sympathy. It's mainly for myself, self-therapy so to speak. I've fought and struggled and failed but mostly, improbably, carved out a successful life and career for myself without any of the external supports that exist for my autistic offspring. I doubt a formal diagnosis is ever in the cards for me. First, it's damn expensive to go through the process. But secondly, what's the point? I'm a middle-aged white dude who's a few years away from retirement. What's the point at this point? My meltdowns as a child were met with swift and terrible punishment, but these as an adult only result in shame and self-recriminations. I have a splitting headache and my entire body aches from the stress of yesterday. My eyeballs hurt. I'm exhausted. But nobody will know, because I've got kick-ass masking skills I've damn near perfected over the past 40-something years.

I only really exist when I'm playing the role of Jayme. And I can't say, "Fuck it," and drop the masking and revert to all the unsettling, socially unacceptable tics and quirks that I've been hiding all these decades, because honestly, I don't know what they are anymore. I struggle to even form words when I'm trying to speak as myself, rather than the public projection of myself. I don't really know who I am, beyond this deeply flawed, imperfect construct I've pieced together over the years.

And that's what separates me from Pinocchio. No matter how hard I try, I will never, ever be a real boy.

Now Playing: Robert Drasnin Voodoo!
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