Thursday, 10 November 2011

Follow that Link

I would like to take the time to draw attention to some of the blogs I follow, and to recommend that you check them out. My favourites are Slushpile Hell, Pub Rants, Motivation for Creation and Iron Bess of the East.

Iron Bess is an old friend of mine, who has recently moved from western Canada to the east coast, and she is chronicling the adventures of home-building, road-building, renovating, and much much more. She writes opinion essays as well, often with a lot of passion and humour, but what I like best are the glimpses into her new life out east. It's almost like a pioneer woman's journal, only more high-tech and smart-assed. It's also incredibly inspiring to witness just how much Iron Bess and her handyman husband accomplish when they get to work. Nothing is going to slow down this hard working pair.

Motivation for Creation is a blog for writers, but I think it has applications for any artist or craftsperson, anyone putting their hand to "creative" work. She often poses questions that help you sort out your own creative issues, and thus creates an interactive blog with lots of discussion among writers and artists. This blog also features a beautiful layout and a really nice little fishtank where you can feed the colourful fish by clicking your mouse button. Try it, it's fun and relaxing.

Pub Rants is a literary agent's blog, and there is a lot to like about it. She is smart, funny, honest, to the point, but always, as she says "a nice Midwestern girl." Meaning respectful and polite. The blog features numerous agent links and resources for writers, and insight into the mysterious world of successful query-letter writing.

Slushpile Hell is a jewel. It is an anonymous blog by a literary agent venting his/her rage and frustration at the stupendously dumbassed queries that show up in the "slush pile" of his/her agency. I'm assuming the blogger is a man from certain statements appearing in past postings, but I'm not committing to that. In any case, it's one of the funniest things I get to see on the internet. Better than Awkward Family Photos. Recently I was going through a depressed phase, and couldn't stop crying and moping. Then I opened up Slushpile Hell and just started scrolling through all the old posts, until I ended up laughing so hard my cheek muscles were like rocks and I almost peed. So there you go, one man's misery is another person's remedy.

Enjoy these blogs while they last, people! And hope you enjoy mine as well.

What's So Great About Eye Contact, Anyway?

Avoiding eye contact is disrespectful. It shows dishonesty. It shows respect. It’s polite. It is defiance of authority. It respects authority, and expresses an appropriate submissive attitude toward authority. Direct eye contact is honest and open, shows you have nothing to hide. It’s aggressive, a challenge to authority, invasive, impolite, a threat.
These statements about eye contact are contradictory because there are so many different things that can be communicated through eye contact, and there are so many different cultural/natural responses to eye contact. For numerous human cultures and animals from baboons to polar bears, direct eye contact is a display of aggression and/or disrespect.
How do you feel when someone is staring at you for a long time, and not trying to hide it? Do you interpret their stare as aggressive, hostile, defiant, invasive, or disrespectful? Or is the person caressing you or adoring you with their eyes? Romantic poetry and pop songs are full of the imagery of drowning in the lover’s eyes, getting lost in his or her gaze. The intimacy of the gaze or stare may be appropriate or inappropriate; neurotypical people seem to have an inborn ability to make that distinction.
There is a point of view that suggests that people with autism are not deficient in empathy but are in fact flooded and overwhelmed with it. It’s too much, and they have to turn away from others, and shut out the barrage of information and emotion. To look into someone’s eyes is far too personal and intense; not only the long, penetrating gaze, but the brief, day-to-day forms of eye contact. Many people on the autism spectrum can learn to tolerate some direct eye contact, which is essential in certain situations such as job interviews. But the interpretation of eye contact is subjective, and most people with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome are not keen on subjectivity; there are no grey areas, just black or white.
With my daughter, I’ve certainly seen a lot of stormy weather around the issue of subjectivity, and we talk a lot about “fact” versus “opinion.” She takes pride in having the skill to point out that something is an opinion rather than a fact. We talk about eye contact as a social skill, a part of good manners, something we use along with other tools like a nice tone of voice or a smile or polite words. It’s something to be learned and practised, but really only used in a limited way. We know it doesn’t come naturally, as for neurotypical kids, and we know it’s uncomfortable. The need to take in and interpret “eye” information also seems to distract from processing verbal information. By insisting that a child look at you when you are speaking, you may actually be shutting off their ability to hear you.
The neurotypical world assumes so much about a person and about the nature of the interaction, based on a narrow view of “eye contact.” Fortunately we live in a diverse culture that demands tolerance and acceptance of difference; and families affected by autism are at the forefront of challenging narrow views about thought processes, communication, and relationships.