Andy Gainey
Group photo of the Watchmen:  The Comedian, The Silk Spectre II, Dr. Manhattan, Ozymandias, Nite Owl II, Rorschach

Watchmen, the 2nd Generation of Masked Crime Fighters

Watchmen, a 2009 movie directed by Zack Snyder and based on the graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore, is without a doubt my favorite super hero movie, and easily ranks among my top movies of any genre. The action is good, the cinematography is well done, the script is compelling, and the acting is effective. But what really draws me in are the characters, as is true for most great stories. In particular, how strongly I could relate to so many of them in a variety of ways. Each character reflected a different facet of my own experiences in a profound way.

Dr. Manhattan, with his highly rational thinking style, suppressed emotions, and somewhat alien perspective; I only wish I had his powers. Rorschach’s dedication to principles and to authenticity, and his willingness to take action even if he does so alone. The Comedian, with his absurdist outlook on life, though not the extreme cynicism and impulsivity which accompanies it. Both the second Nite Owl and Silk Spectre for their struggles figuring out who their true selves really are, and how they can fit with society, or not. As for my relation to Ozymandias, I wouldn’t want to be that much of a narcissist and I won’t claim to be the world’s smartest person, but I take great pride in what intelligence I do have, and value it deeply.

Since last years’ undertaking of research and reflection around the subject of autism, and my consequently more nuanced self-understanding, I decided to re-watch the movie again, this time paying close attention to some of the themes that really impact me. The following is likely to make more sense to those who have watched the movie (or read the novel), but it should still be moderately coherent even if you have not.

Note: Vague spoilers included, along with the occasional bit of strong language and mature subjects.

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I recently watched the movie The Imitation Game, about the computer scientist Alan Turing and the defeat of the German Enigma encryption machine during World War II. (This post isn’t really about the movie, but I’ll take a quick detour to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it, and was emotionally moved throughout; I highly recommend it.) It has been posthumously speculated that Turing had Asperger’s syndrome, and this speculation seems to me to have had an obvious influence on the direction, writing, and acting of the movie. While I don’t want to get bogged down in controversies over historical accuracy, cliche methods used to win movie awards, or any attitudes or comments of the director, writer, or actor concerning autism, there is one facet of how Turing was presented in the movie that I do wish to discuss. I came out of the movie having strong but mixed and confused feelings about the portrayal of Turing in relation to his possible autism. It has been a little tricky to sort out those thoughts and feelings, but here’s my best shot at it. (more…)

Turkey meatballs with a tomato/pineapple sauce on pasta, with a side of dumplings

Turkey meatballs with a tomato/pineapple sauce on pasta, with a side of dumplings

Earlier this year I acquired a small slow cooker from my mom, but it just sat in the kitchen for many months. Eventually I decided to get experimental with making meatballs, and it turned out quite well, especially after a few iterations and tweaks. Here is my approximate recipe for anyone who would like to try replicating or improving on them. Keep in mind that I’m not all that highly experienced in the kitchen. If anything seems off or less than ideal, feel free to adjust; I’m sure I didn’t get it perfect, but merely close enough. (more…)

Since July, when I started to truly become aware of the autistic elements of my nature, I have been rewatching a lot of movies that include characters exhibiting some of the outward traits of autism, or who are otherwise socially awkward or social outsiders. These have often been the characters to which I could relate the most, and I wanted to re-explore these characters and plots from the perspective of my new self-understanding. I was initially motivated merely by a desire to extract a little extra comfort from watching something relatable, but it turned out to be a great method for assisting with personal reflection. Not only were there nuances to the characters that I had never noticed before, but by thinking about the characters and plots, I began to discover nuances in my own thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors that I had never noticed before, or of which I had only dimly been aware. This process has also helped me think about and refine my understanding of how I relate to society around me, the expectations that are subtly placed on me by society and myself, and my reactions to those expectations. (more…)

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The Daily Routine

As I noted at the end of my previous post, my next phase of designing routines focused on the structure of a full day. After two weeks, the effect seems to be impressively positive. My days have been more consistent, more focused, and less frustrating. Productivity has roughly doubled. It is possible that this new schedule is unsustainable, a form of crunch that will eventually burn me out, but right now I’m optimistic that it can be maintained indefinitely (with the aid of occasional days off, of course). Allow me to describe the daily structure, and why I have adopted various features. (more…)

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New Attitude Toward Routines

I have noticed routines frequently mentioned as a trait common among autistic people.  Reflecting on my personal experiences, I initially had a difficult time figuring out my mental association with routines.  I did not perceive that I had a stronger attachment to routines than an average person, nor a larger number of them, nor more intricately detailed routines.  And that perception may have been entirely accurate and the end of my investigation; variation among autistic people is significant, and few are going to exhibit every single classic trait of autism.

But I had a nagging suspicion that there was more to this than was immediately apparent.  I had a subtle feeling that although I presently had few well defined routines, and did not have aggressive attachments to them, that might be due to suppression of a tendency toward routine, rather than simply not having such a tendency.  Of course, avoiding excessive reliance on routine can be healthy.  Especially in a highly social home life, school life, and work life, situations that benefit greatly from flexibility.

But this year is the first time in my life that I’ve lived on my own, without family or roommates, am not going to school, and work by myself from home.  What if my avoidance of routine, which was previously necessary for healthy living, is now limiting my quality of life or my productivity?  I had already noticed that my focus on flexibility had often made it difficult for me to commit to activities that required concentration, out of a desire to remain mentally prepared for the unpredictable.  And in general, I found it hard to develop healthy habits like good dental hygiene, because I simply lacked the appropriate scheduled framework and attitude to do so.  I decided it was time to switch it up:  Instead of practicing my skill of remaining flexible in any situation, a skill which had already become reasonably honed through years of exercise, I would shift my focus over to practicing the development of constructive routines.

I’m only three weeks in with my experimentation, but I’m impressed with the results I’ve already achieved in such a short time.  This definitely supports my suspicion that I was suppressing my desire for routine.  Allow me to describe some of the aspects of the routines I’ve developed so far, my reasons for designing them as I have, and some of the benefits I’ve noticed. (more…)

Self-discovery has been a focus of mine ever since I can remember. And over the three decades of my life thus far, I have indeed learned much about myself. Yet despite all my efforts and focus, and despite all of my progress, both major and incremental, it took until the thirty-second year of my life to make what might be the biggest single leap in self-understanding I’ll ever achieve. (more…)