Thursday, January 31, 2008

My summer-fall schedule is shaping up

I’ve received a number of queries about my upcoming schedule and appearances . . .

First of all, my actual blog (many of you read the Amazon feeds or other syndications) is at http://jerobison.blogspot.com/ and there’s a schedule on the right sidebar. I also have a schedule on http://www.johnrobison.com/ but the blog is updated first.

And an aside for you Amazon readers . . . I encourage you to join the conversation and leave comments, but please follow the "read more posts" link on my Amazon page to reach the actual blog. That way, everyone else sees your comments . . .

Ebury releases Look Me in the Eye in the British Isles week after next. The Times of London did a nice story last Sunday, and more stories are in the works. Those of you in the Old Country media can write Charlotte Cole, Commissioning Editor, Ebury Press at
ccole@randomhouse.co.uk

Crown is releasing the paperback of Look Me in the Eye this summer to allow time for schools to integrate it into fall 2008 programming. I’ll be doing a bookstore tour to support the paperback in July and August. If you are a bookseller you can contact my publisher’s publicists for more details:
Christine Aronson, Crown (hardcover) caronson@randomhouse.com
Annsley Rosner, Three Rivers (paperback) arosner@randomhouse.com

I encourage booksellers to work with local book clubs, parent groups, schools and Asperger/autism societies to put together good events. I’ll be doing those through the summer, topping it all off with my appearance before the American Psychological Association in August.

The folks at The Lavin Agency are starting to book my fall speaking tour, and the slots are filling up fast. To my great amazement, I’m in considerable demand on several fronts. Business groups are inviting me to address them because my life story is funny and inspirational. Schools of all kinds are booking me because of Look Me in the Eye’s powerful messages of hope, tolerance, and understanding. And folks like the American Psychological Association and the Asperger’s Association are booking me to hear about my Aspergian mind.

Asperger’s and autism are topics of conversation everywhere these days, and groups of all kinds are booking me. With such diverse audiences I sometimes wonder if people see me as a serious intellectual, a freak, or a comedian. Maybe it’s a bit of each.

Here’s my page at The Lavin Agency
http://www.thelavinagency.com/college/johnelderrobison.html

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

It's Patry Francis day in the blogosphere

Last week I wrote about a fellow New England author, Patry Francis. Today her book Liar's Diary goes on sale in paperback. You can order yours here:

http://www.amazon.com/Liars-Diary-Patry-Francis/dp/0452289157/ref=pd_bbs_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1201628230&sr=8-1

The reason we are all writing about Patry is simple. She was supposed to be starting a promotional tour today, but she got sick. And she's in the hospital instead. So several hundred authors have joined up to tell the world about Patry and Liar's Diary.

And it's working. As of this writing, her Amazon rank has surged from 80,000 to 2,000. And it's still climbing. Do your part - buy her book now. Buy mine too, while you're at it.

You can read my story about her here
http://jerobison.blogspot.com/2008/01/liars-diary-by-patry-francis.html

And her own blog is here:
http://simplywait.blogspot.com/

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Your correspondent visits the big city (Boston) sees ships and rides a subway

I spent Friday and Saturday in Boston, doing Q&A after showings of Billy the Kid at Coolidge Corner Theater. Last night we had members of the Asperger Association in the audience. They're online at http://www.aane.org/ Actually, I should say "we" because I myself am a member.

Here we are on the marquee at the cinema:


Director Jennifer Venditti and I did Q&A after the shows on Friday and Saturday. Producer Chiemi Karasawa filmed us, and may make the best of the Q&A into a little segment for the DVD. But I won't spoil that or bore you by repeating questions when I have pictures.

Saturday morning I had a few hours to kill before meeting Jennifer and Chiemi, so I headed to the Port of Boston (where else?) The MSC BANU was coming into port as I arrived:




The burst of smoke from Banu's stack is the last burst from his propellor. After that, the tugs took over. In this shot, you can see the tug Vincent Tibbetts working the ship up to the container pier with the travel crane towering over all:



Once the ship was tied off I cruised over to the fish pier, where they were getting ready to head to sea:




Later on, between movie showings, I took a walk. I went to Brookline Booksmith and signed all their books. Then I headed down toward the big Citgo sign at Kendall Square, and I signed my books at the B&N.


After that, I decided to try something new. I decided to ride a subway. Seeing a set of stairs in the sidewalk, I headed down. Leaving the daylight behind, I entered a world of harsh flourescent light, damp slimy floors that smelled of urine, and pools of liquid with glittering soggy trash.


I walked down a hall into a large underground room, where a machine took my two dollars and spat out a ticket. Putting the ticket into a turnstile, I was able to walk down another hall, deeper into the earth, wherupon I ended up at a platform next to subterranean train tracks. I looked around. There were quite a few people, and none seemed alarmed or dangerous, so I relaxed.

A female in a red jacket stood near me, and I decided to ask her for advice:


"Is it safe down here?" I asked. "Or do I have to guard against attack?"


"It's usually safe," she said. But I noticed her furtive glances. As a practical matter, though, I realized I was bigger than her and most other deinzens of the platform, so I figured they'd go for easy pickings first if it came to that.


"Do people live down here in winter?"


"I don't think so," she said. But there was a certain uncertainty to her voice, and she edged away from me, as if I'd confronted her with an unpleasant truth. It was considerably warmer in the tunnel than on the street. If I were homeless, I'd consider a train tunnel.

I'd also consider a tunnel if I wanted to rob passengers. After all, it's well lit with plenty of dark places to hide, and there was no law in evidence. But is it safer up top, in the street?

She was saved from my further curiousity by the arrival of a train. I stepped aboard and pressed close to the glass while holding the rail in case the door popped open. As the train gathered speed, I felt sure I glimpsed the flicker of a campfire just beyond the reach of the station lights. And I saw movement in the dark more than once. Luckily, the train was moving fast.


Are they predators, I wondered, picking hapless victims from the subway access tunnels? Or are they themselves prey, hiding from the real predators up above in the street. The answer was not clear. There's a lot of space in Boston's subway tunnels, though. There's probably a mix of both down there.


The train emerged into evening just before my stop. I photographed it for your viewing pleasure:






As I looked around at street level, I was struck by the realization that most of those around me probably have no idea what lives below, thirty feet beneath the streets. The only giveaway is the occasional smell of roasting meat and burning garbage, wafting from the ventilation grilles in the sidewalks.


Zipping my jacket tighter, I headed toward the theater.

I left for home at midnight, after the last Q&A.

* * *

And on a brighter note, it's time to welcome the British to the Blog. Here's the first British review of Look Me in the Eye, in today's Times of London

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/non-fiction/article3246320.ece

LMITE is on sale in England in ten more days.

Here's the Amazon UK link
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Look-Me-Eye-Life-Aspergers/dp/0091924693/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=gateway&qid=1201470146&sr=8-1

Friday, January 25, 2008

I'll be at Coolidge Corners in Brookline tonight and tomorrow - stop by

We'll be screening Billy The Kid in Boston, and director Jenniffer Venditti and I will be discussing the film. We're doing this with our friends at the Asperger Association of New England.

Q&A is set up for after the 4:45PM 7:15PM and 9:30PM shows on both Friday and Saturday

Also . . .

I'm a finalist for the Books for a Better Life award, given out February 25 in New York City. I'll be attending the award ceremony and you're welcome to join me. http://www.bookreporter.com/features/awards-books-better-life.asp

And in other news . . .

Look Me in the Eye has found an Indonesian publisher. Look for my book there in 2009. I'll also have editions for China, Brazil, Portugal, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy next year, plus the foreign editions that appear this summer.

Look Me in the Eye's British edition is on sale in just two more weeks.

And there's a separate mention for Australia, where I'm hanging on to #6 on Random House's non-fiction bestseller list, four months after publication

NON-FICTION TOP TEN
CHILDREN'S TOP TEN
1.
ERIC CLAPTON: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY by Eric Clapton
2.
THE GOD DELUSION by Richard Dawkins
3.
LIFE AND TIMES OF THE THUNDERBOLT KID by Bill Bryson
4.
THE 4- HOUR WORK WEEK by Timothy Feriss
5.
SALVATION CREEK by Susan Duncan
6.
LOOK ME IN THE EYE: MY LIFE WITH ASPERGER'S by John Elder Robison
7.
A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING by Bill Bryson
8.
DOWN UNDER by Bill Bryson
9.
AWW: KITCHEN by Women's Weekly Australian
10.
TAKE 5 INGREDIENTS by 5 Magazine Take

And for all who complain about the cost of books in America . . . my Australian edition costs $35 (Aus) in paperback, which is $31 (US) at current exchange rates. And that's typical for books like mine. Despite that, Australia has more avid readers as a percentage of population than the USA and many other countries.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

How to make Shrump Roast

I had a great day here in Washington. Malik from Airport Sedan Services collected me in his new Cadillac for the 1-hour drive to Silver Spring. We listened to classical music and talked of Pakistan, which he'd left behind 18 years ago. It was a fine way to spend an afternoon traffic jam.

I arrived at the hotel just in time to walk next door to Borders for my 4PM appearance. There wasn't much of an audience, but I ate a donut and the store management went out into the street to rope 'em in, and within a few minutes we had a modest but usable crowd.

I spoke, answered questions, and drank tea until five, when the crew from Ivy Mount School arrived. They were gracious enough to take me to dinner, where I ate a crab meat omelette and talked kid management with a crew of trained professionals. And then it was movie time.

Jennifer Venditti and I had an excellent Q&A following Billy the Kid, and I signed a bunch of books and talked to a bunch of people. Jennifer pointed out that my previous blog entry is wrong . . . we do Q&A at Coolidge Corner Friday and Saturday, not tomorrow and Friday.

And before I go . . .

One of the champion moms from Ivy Mount gave me this story, which her son Gabriel wrote. He's a 12-year-old Aspergian with a fondness for shrump roast. Perhaps when he's bigger, he'll get a girl that likes to cook shrump roast, and they can enjoy it together. . .


To make shrump roast, take one banjo full of humper-flump leaves and teach them to tango. Then catch several shrump and spank them to see if they are ripe. If they are, throw them back and get some unripe ones. After that tie the shrump and the humper-flump leaves into a ball made of the hide of a were-gerbil, hang it from a pole, an duse it to play tether ball with a cross dressing male wolf.

If you followed the directions perfectly you should have a large ball of what looks like moldy, purple and white striped McD's triple whopper with sneeze. Prod this foul-smelling thing into an electric wood burning oven with the door on top. Sprinkle with flea powder and cook till it re-enacts Hamlet. If it's at the duel scene, hit with a fly swatter and it should turn into a large shrump roast.

And that, folks, is how to make shrump roast. Compliments of Gabriel Leder. Personally, I would not mess with were-gerbils, but I guess he's OK with them. We had a were-bear up here in the woods when I was a kid, and he was no end of trouble.

I'd substitute a regular food-grade gerbil.

And now, I must crawl under my rock and sleep so I'm ready for my departure for Boston tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Come see me in Washington DC and Boston

If you’re in the Washington DC area, come see me tomorrow. At 4 PM on Wednesday, January 23, I will be at Borders Books, 8518 Fenton Street, in Silver Spring, Maryland. You can call them at 301 585 0550

After that, don’t miss Billy the Kid, at AFI Silver Theater. It’s at 8633 Colesville Road, and the phone number is 301 495 6720. Director Jennifer Venditti and I will be doing a Q&A at 8:30 immediately after the film, and I’ll be signing books at 9:00 in the lobby.

http://www.billythekiddocumentary.com/

On Thursday and Friday, January 24 and 25, Jennifer and I will be doing Q&A after the 7:00 film at Coolidge Corner Cinema in Brookline, Massachusetts.

And that’s not all!

I’ll be appearing at Houston’s Monarch School in March, and this Thursday, I’ll be doing a radio show with John Barone, Director of the Monarch Learning Center. Listen for me on Houston Public Radio after lunch. Call John at 713 933 0568 for more info.

And I’d like to extend a thank you to all the MetLife financial planners who welcomed me to your kickoff meeting in Albany today. You were a great audience. And for those of you who asked . . . The Asperger Association of New England is online at http://www.aane.org/

Sunday, January 20, 2008

And some photos for a cold winter night

This first shot is another UMass basketball game. I know some of you ask, "Why UMass?" Well, it's my father's school, it's where I got educated, and I endow scholarships there today.

If you want to practice sports photography, colleges are good because they have the facilities and the action, and you have freedom to use the images pretty much as you wish. For example, if I went to Boston and shot at a Celtics game, I would not be able to put up and discuss the shots as I can here. There would be issues of who owns the copyright, where they will be used, etc. I used to have the patience to deal with that, but not any more. Now, I only shoot for my own editorial use.

What I'd like to illustrate with this shot is shutter speed. This shot was taken using the natural arena lights at 1/80 second, so there's some motion blur. I could have raised the ISO, or used flash and gotten the shutter speed to 1/250 or 1/500. If I'd done that, the picture would have had a harder, sharper quality to it. Many images published in sports magazines today illustrate that. I feel the blur makes for a more alive and natural shot, but that's just me.

You'll also note the perspective and my "down low" viewpoint. The shot was taken from near the base of the basket with a 135mm lens at f2.8. That's the best place to sit for photographing basketball. I prefer to be out near the edge. Other photographers want to be right near the basket.






















This next shot shows the result of lots of practice, an essential thing for good action photography. Every basketball game has foul shots, where the players stand still for 1,2, or 3 shots. I try and hone my shutter reflex by shooting the balls as they hit the basket. Try it yourself . . . you have a few millisecond's of window to hit the shutter if you want to catch the ball mid-basket.

Some people try and accomplish this by brute force, by using a camera that shoots 10-12 frames per second and machine-gunning a lot of frames hoping to hit the right moment. That seldom works. First, it wastes a ton of pictures. You have to sort and toss 99% of your work and that's very time consuming. Second, it doesn't work at all much of the time. With a shot like this, the key is hitting the shutter as soon as the ball comes into the frame. If you do, you'll have the result I got. If you miss, you'll have 25 frames of empty basket.

My camera actually has a high frame rate, but like many sports shooters I use it in single shot mode and rely on reflex.






Finally, I have some tropical images. It's 15 degrees here in Massachusetts, but it's 70 and foggy in the Smith College plant rooms.

These wide angle shots were taken with a 14-24 zoom lens at f8










































Liar's Diary, by Patry Francis

Some people think Aspergians don’t read anything except dictionaries and encyclopedias. That’s not true. I recently read a novel, the Liar’s Diary, by Patry Francis. I heard about it on Backspace, an online writer’s forum, www.bksp.org I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately anyway, struggling between 550 pages of the Greenspan book, and the 1,005 pages of Volume II of the 1771 Britannica.

It was a welcome, though unsettling interlude. I encourage you to order your own copy of Liar’s Diary from Amazon, right here:

http://www.amazon.com/Liars-Diary-Patry-Francis/dp/0452289157/ref=pd_bbs_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1200874685&sr=8-1

The link I put up is for the paperback. Click “other editions” if you’d prefer the hardcover.

The story is told by Jeanne Cross, a secretary in the office of a New England school much likes the ones my brother and I flunked out of long ago. She’s married to Gavin, a local doctor, and they have a storybook life. Or so it seemed. It all takes a turn when Ali Mather comes to the school as a new music teacher.

In the first fifty pages, Patry has painted the scenes with enough realism that I am becoming unsettled. Jeanne’s life isn’t what it seems. As I read her descriptions of romance, desperation, and small town life, I wonder if the same things are going on around me. I worry more with each turn of a page.

Her words made me feel profoundly unsettled. Her scenes are eminently believable, and I realize they could be happening right now, anywhere. All Aspergians are self-centered, so I naturally wonder . . . is it happening here? To me? Are things going bad right on my own street?

I become more anxious the more I read. I can see all she describes, unfolding right here. And the worst thing . . . I understand it when reading her words, but I don’t know if I have the social sensitivity to pick it up if it were to occur for real right under my nose. Her book makes it real for me, in a way that experiencing it for real probably would not.

It’s like reading a book about poisonous snakes in the heating ducts. You watch the grilles warily for days or weeks after the book is done. This book is even scarier, because it’s not snakes in the grills. At least the grilles have covers. No, it’s the wives and kids that go bad. Even the dads. They all go bad. And the thing is, they are already loose. In her book, in my house, and in your house.

My brother and I already know that seeming good families can have dark secrets. I guess Patry knows it too. In the end, the truth comes out, but only after considerable torment and destruction.

I do enjoy books like this but they disturb me, because they show me how different we Aspergians can be. If I were living Patry’s story, most of it would have gone right over my head. So much relies on subtle visual cues, nuances of speech, things I am blind or deaf to. And the worst part is, I know real life is like that, and yet I go on, half-blind and half-deaf. What am I missing? In my own dysfunctional family, I think my Asperger’s protected me. Would it have protected me in hers? I don’t know.

Patry has a blog, which you can see here: http://simplywait.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Psychologists and me

The American Psychological Association is having its annual convention this August in Boston. And I’ll be there, as a keynote speaker.

http://www.apa.org/convention08/?imw=Y

I hope to see some of my psychologist friends there. And if you are not a psychologist but you’re close, there’s still seven more months to change that situation. And if seven months isn’t enough, you’re out of luck with the APA but there are still other chances.

I’ve got a bunch of school appearances booked between now and August. I’ll be adding them to the blog schedule as they get confirmed.

Now, I know what some of you are worried about. You’re afraid that a whole roomful of professional shrinks may see what’s wrong with me and fix me. And if I’m fixed, I won’t be entertaining any more.

Well, don’t expect miracles. I doubt I’m fixable, at least not in the space of a few hours.

But if they invite me to the secret-month-long-psychologists-retreat, then you better worry.

And there's more . . .

Read about me here, in this month's Business West http://www.businesswest.com/details.asp?id=1399

And here's what the local newspaper had to say about the whole White Brook spectacle:
http://www.masslive.com/springfield/republican/index.ssf?/base/news-12/1200298815174400.xml&coll=1

Friday, January 11, 2008

A visit to White Brook School

I spoke to the students of White Brook Middle School today. They’re in Easthampton, about 15 miles from my house. I was a little apprehensive, because I knew there were over 600 kids. Individually, a middle school kid is no match for a guy like me. But 600 of them in a swarm? Savage. That would give anyone pause for thought. What if they turned?

But most kids like me, I reasoned. I squared up my shoulders and trudged inside on a rainy January morning. As soon as I got there, the auditorium filled. Sam, the 13-year-old who’d invited me, did the introductions. And then it was time.

I remembered the advice of Dick Buesing, my speech teacher so long ago. Blow your nose, and spit out your cigar, he said. Talk slow and loud and clear. Keep one eye on the crowd, and the other one on the door. And never forget the crowd is like a pack of feral dogs. They can smell fear, and they’ll tear you to pieces.

Good advice for anyone speaking in public. Would I survive the day?

First, I talked with the fifth and sixth graders. I read them the tale of petting Chuckie from the book, and I told them the story of testing holes with my little brother. I talked about life in the music world, and how I learned about Asperger’s. I showed them how the conditions they thought were disabilities could actually turn out to be gifts later in life.

When the time came for questions, they weren’t shy. At least 50 hands went up, all at once. “We’re going to be democratic about this,” I said. “The first kid to show me a ten dollar bill gets his question answered.” Their enthusiasm made me sorry I’d left the cash register home. I took a full 20 minutes to answer their questions, but it wasn’t enough. When the period ended, there were still 20+ kids with their hands in the air.

Many of the questions were practical in nature. How did you dig a five foot deep hole? What’s a post hole digger? Why didn’t your brother’s neck break when you put him in the hole upside down? What did he do to get even?

There was talk of cats, and pranks, and drunken parents. Why didn’t I use drugs? They wondered.

Some questions were universal: What did you do about bullies? Did people call me names too? Did I get into fights often? What did my teachers think of me? Did life get better when I got older?

I had a short break, and then the auditorium filled with seventh and eighth graders. They were bigger, scruffier, and a tougher looking bunch by far. But I knew I could handle anything they threw my way. “I’ve got eggs under this podium,” I said, “And I know how to use them.”

I told them about growing up, my tricks and pranks, and how I learned to fit in. I told them about my first job, collecting the trash. Like the younger kids before, they seemed captivated. And they too were full of questions. Bullies and name calling came up right away, and to my surprise, several kids rose to the microphone and announced that they had indeed bullied others. I was amazed that we’d created an atmosphere where they’d feel comfortable saying such a thing.

Will the principal have the bullies shot after I leave, I wondered? But at the end of the day, they got on the buses and rode home.

I had brought my friend Bob Jeffway along, and I pointed him out to both groups. The bigger kids were thinking of getting boyfriends and girlfriends, and I knew they feared geeks like us would never be able to attract mates. I was particularly pleased to show off Celeste, Bob’s mate, as an example of girls geeks attract. And I know the students were pleased too, seeing what happened to us as we got older.

We talked a long time, and once again, the period ended too soon. I spent lunch with a group of kids. I ate the same food as the other inmates, and pronounced it tasty. After that, I cruised around the school and dropped in on three classes, where we talked some more. It seemed like minutes and the day had ended. I’d been there all day.

Before I left, they gave me this gift basket they’d made:


I had a wonderful time, thanks to all the students and staff at White Brook Middle School.


And now, a word from our sponsors:


My speaking engagements are booked by the Lavin Agency, with offices in the United States and Canada. You can find them here:


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Three things: come visit me tomorrow; picture taking secrets; and a webcast

I just did an interview for The Good Life, Sirius 114. It was broadcast live, and will also be replayed later. Check the Sirius schedule for times.

Friday Morning:

I'll be speaking to kids, staff, and parents at the White Brook Middle school in Easthampton, MA tomorrow, from 8-1. The public is welcome. They are at 200 Park St in Easthampton. You can call guidance counselor Ann Marie at (413) 529-1530

I'll be revealing the true story of Santa, what it's like to be a misfit, and telling tales from my strange life. I will also answer questions from the audience, provided they are good worthwhile questions.

Admission is free but there may be an exit charge. It depends on audience behavior.

At noon today, I was on Dallas Public Radio, Think with Krys Boyd. You can find the webcast here:


http://www.kera.org/think/


You may have to look around as they are just doing the links now.

And now, the moment you have been waiting for. Secrets of photography. Today's secret is about perspective.

Folks today are accustomed to cameras with powerful zoom lenses, and it's easy to think that a photo taken with a zoom lens at 50 feet can the same as one taken at 5 feet. Well, it ain't so.

This first image is taken from the stands:



















The problem with this shot is that everything mixes together. It's hard to make sense of the image. Can we fix it by zooming in? Here's another shot from the stands, zoomed in for a closeup:






















That's actually not much better, because all the people (which our brain is programmed to pick out) are the same size. Now look at this last shot:























In this picture, the people stand out because of perspective. That's what you can't get with a zoom lens. With a zoom lens, the people are all the same size. By using a shorter lens, and getting close, we cause the players we're interested in to "pop out" in the scene. Interestingly, photo #3 is how most people think they saw the game. However, photo #1 is actually how they saw it.

This highlights the difference between actuality and perception in terms of what we see. Pictures that look "just the way I saw it" are usually quite different in perspective and composition from what was actually visible from the spectator seating.

A good rule of thumb when photographing events is that you can't get too close. Most of my best concert and performance shots were taken from very short distances. Here are some other examples.

This shot of Barry Goudreau, Boston's guitar, player was taken from a distance of about ten feet. I don't think that message could be delivered from greater range.
http://www.pbase.com/robisonphoto/image/88831655

Now look at this shot of John Sebastian of the Lovin Spoonful. It's a wide angle shot, not a close up, but the range and perspective gives it a certain intimacy:
http://www.pbase.com/robisonphoto/image/88831694

The lateral viewpoint gives it a "you were there" feel, even thought the audience never sees the show that way.

Finally, here's Journey's guitar player
http://www.pbase.com/robisonphoto/image/54998898

As you can see, there is no substitute for proximity. And that applies to animals, too. In this shot, note the position of the cage bars. You see I am inside, with the lions. And once again, people say "that's how I remember" even though I was in the ring, and they were 100 feet away safe behind bars:
http://www.pbase.com/robisonphoto/image/54873123

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

News of the Flutie Bowl

Last night, Martha and I went to Boston for the fifth annual Flutie Bowl for Autism. I can recommend this event very highly to any of you sports fans with a connection to autism. Actually, you didn’t really need a connection to autism. You just needed $150 and Doug Flutie would make the connection to autism for you.

I met Doug, and he’s a very nice guy with a real mission.

Before going to the Bowl, we went to dinner at the Legal Seafoods in the Prudential Center. It’s one of my favorite places to eat in Boston. I was joined by Tom Murphy, a prominent attorney and one of the board members of Elms College (I work with their autism program,) our event person Jan, and her friend Bob, who works for the Sisters of St. Joseph in Boston.

Tom deserves special mention, because is a real gentlemen. He’s the exact opposite of a manner-less Aspergian like me. He even held the chair for Martha. He’s very polished, and was quite impressive to watch. There are times I wish I had 10% of those skills. He is a bit older than me, though, and it’s possible I will have 10% of his skills when I am his age. Luckily, he sees redeeming value in me thanks to my book. Otherwise, I would have been dismissed as an ill-mannered boor and booted out the side exit.

I ate an order of shrimp wontons before the others arrived. Martha insisted I eat the seaweed, too, which I did.

After dinner, it was off to the bowl. The event was held at Lucky Strike Lanes by Fenway Park. It’s an upscale bowling alley, the kind of place Western Mass hicks like us just gaze at in wonderment. I was glad we arrived by car, and not by mule. The event was sold out with almost 500 people

I learned a few things . . .

I was very uncomfortable when I arrived, because the place was full of people milling around and making noise, and it was all seemingly random. The place was packed with glittering people, sports figures, and people with cameras. It was kind of a sensory overload thing.

I cast my eye about for something to thing of as a distraction.

It sure looked like there was an over-abundance of females at the event. I pondered how I might determine if that was actually true, or if they simply stood out as a result of their attire. So here’s what I did: I looked out at the room, and began counting every head I saw from left to right. I kept two counts. One I incremented for each person. The other I incremented by one for each girl, and decreased by one for each guy. I counted a total of 100 people as a sample. At the end, my up/down counter stood at 14, meaning the female/male ratio was 36:64. There were almost two girls for every guy. Of course, I only looked out over the bar area. It’s possible other areas, like the bowling lanes, were biased in favor of males, but it didn’t look that way.

Clearly, if one was looking for a female, Lucky Strike Lanes was a good place to be. However, I was just an observer, having brought my own female to the event. Since there were two of us, one male and one female, we did not shift the balance either way.

There were many sports figures in attendance. I would have thought the football players would have stood out by their size, but many were no larger than me. I was surprised at that. There were Patriots, Red Sox, and Celtics in evidence, according to comments I overheard. I felt a bit foolish, not knowing anything about professional sports, and being unable to appreciate all that.

The Elms College sent a contingent of people and they actually sponsored a lane, which meant that they engaged in the bowling competition. I found myself drawn in, and to my surprise, they said I had a knack for throwing a large heavy plastic ball. If you knock down all the pins with one ball, they refer to that as a strike. I did that three times in six or seven turns, and someone said “three strikes and you’re out,” so I retreated to the main floor.

I try and watch what goes on in social settings like this, to better figure out how to act. One thing I’d always heard was, “Let the important people win.” Well, we had the President of The Elms there, and no one gave him any special treatment at all. In the lane to my right, there were some real Patriots, and some aspiring football players. And the aspiring players whupped the Patriots. Of course, they woke up this morning and the Patriots are still Patriots and the others aren’t and maybe that’s why.

I later discovered the comment about the strikes was untrue, and returned to the floor, where I got one more strike and then proceeded to largely miss several rolls, after which I wandered off again. I became much more comfortable when Doug’s band started playing. I could follow the music, and even though it got louder, I actually felt a lot better with something to follow.

Everything was donated for this event, including the bar. As best I could tell, the drinks were free. And yet, I did not see a single fight break out. There was a fellow with whipped cream cake in his face, but he was not violent at all. Perhaps there’s a lesson there for other saloon keepers. . . when things get edgy, give them free drinks, and they calm down.

Speaking of the bar . . . they had the most remarkable array of flat screen televisions arrayed for fifty feet down the bar. Betting professionals would love a place like that, because they can show all the games, all the time. I saw some money on the bar last night, but I believe it was tips, not wagers.

It’s amazing how small the world can seem at times. As I was tossing balls, the fellows in the next lane introduced themselves. One played for the Patriots, and the other turned out to be the son of my neighbor here at work in Springfield. Who’d have thought I’d see the neighbor’s kid in a bowling alley, 90 miles from home? And he lived out there.

They also had an auction, where sweat stained articles of clothing fetched thousands of dollars from frenzied bidders. That was a remarkable sight to see. I wondered if the prices went higher because the actual sports figures were there to establish a provenance. Could two entrepreneurial kids in a garage in the Ukraine make a career selling signed sports jerseys? It sure looked like they could.

When we left near 11, things were still going strong. As we passed westbound on the Turnpike, the lights still glittered.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Come see me in Boston Monday, and some thoughts for a Thursday night

I have two thoughts to offer you tonight . . . .

My first point this evening is one those of you who’ve heard me speak already know. I believe Aspergian’s are responsible for creating many of the technological marvels that make today’s life comfortable and indeed even possible. And of course it’s not just me who thinks that; Tony Attwood and many other professionals feel the same way.

Bill Gates is frequently described as Aspergian, as is Isaac Newton and many other prominent scientists and inventors (Attwood et al.)

My own book would not have existed if not for Asperger’s. If I’d been normal, there would have been no story. I’d have been singing in the church choir instead of hammering out electric rock’n’roll with KISS. And who would want to read about that?

OK, having established Aspergian creativity . . .

My second point is that technology drives style. For example, “pretty girl” is defined by today’s fashion magazines. “Stylish car” is what’s in the latest ads. The “hot new gadget” is most always a technological marvel, like the iPhone.

In every case, technology is what makes the new style possible. Even the new fashions . . . they rely on state of the art fabrics, laser cutters, and sophisticated machines. Cars depend 100% on robotics and computer controlled production equipment to make things humans alone could only dream of.

Technology even underlies things you'd think are totally natural . . . Pretty girls . . . today’s “pretty girl” is tall, and tall people are another result of technology. The food engineering that raised farming efficiency made taller people a reality, and society defines the result as pretty.

Examples of technology driving style are everywhere, though they are not always obvious.

So, putting those two points together, what do you get?

Aspergians drive (indirectly) style and fashion.

Ironic, isn’t it? The idea that a bunch of Aspergian geeks who don’t know style from a hole in the wall (or so the neurotypicals say) actually create the underlying technologies that make the “pretty things” in today’s world.

Kind of an interesting circle.



And there’s more . . . .

Monday, January 7, I will be appearing with Doug Flutie and company at the Flutie Bowl for autism, at Lucky Strike Lanes, 145 Ipswich St., in Boston, MA 02215. I’ll be there from 6PM – 11PM. I am donating some signed first editions of my book, and I’d love to meet any of you who stop by.

This event is a $150/person fundraiser, with proceeds going to the Flutie Foundation.
http://www.dougflutiejrfoundation.org/events_current.html

I’ll be there with the folks from Elms College. As you know (at least I hope you know) I am working with them on a graduate program in autism and Asperger’s.




And now, in closing, I'll leave you with some shots from tonight's Umass-Houston basketball game, which Umass won in the last minute of play. For you camera buffs, these are handheld images from my new Nikon D3 with natural lighting.