Pixel Scroll 2/20/16 It’s Like My Body’s Developed This Massive Pixel Deficiency

(1) CROTCHETY GOES TO TOWN. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson gets his Boskone report off to a fast start with a post about Day 1.

I’m at Boskone this weekend, hanging out with the fans, loquaciously displaying my intimate knowledge of arcana  on several panels and availing myself of various perks offered by this long-running (53rd year) convention that was launched as a bid for the 1967 Worldcon.

It’s operated by the New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA), one of the longest running fan clubs in the country.

One of the things NESFA does is clear out their library and make the clearances available on a freebie table.  Last year, someone snagged a bunch of large-size Analogs out from under my reaching hand (‘sigh’).  This year I was one of the first ‘gleaners’ to hit the table and was rewarded with:

several D series Ace Doubles; a good-sized stack of early Locus fanzines;  same for File 770; a handful of Groff Conklin paperback anthologies (filling in a couple of gaps.  The paperbacks are shortened versions of the hardback anthologies Conklin produced over the years.); a couple of Lee & Miller hardbacks; a NESFA anthology of Lester Del Rey shorts (edited by our own Steven H. Silver); the remaining issues of Galileo magazine that I didn’t have (complete run now!). (Galileo was a “semi-prozine” from back in the late 70s); a few issues of Infinity digest magazine, and a smattering of this and that interesting looking items.

I’m thinking a loquacious displayer would be a great subject for an Audobon drawing.

(2) HARTWELL REMEMBERED. Boskone ran a David Hartwell memorial panel.

(3) THE NEW WAY TO BE HAPPY. Authors shared their excitement over the Nebula Award announcement.

(4) WOULDN’T YOU LIKE TO PWN IT TOO? David Brin leads off “Science Fiction and Freedom” with  this book deal —

While in San Francisco for a panel on artificial consciousness, I had an opportunity to stop by the headquarters of the Electronic Frontier Foundation — dedicated to preserving your freedom online and off.  As part of their 25th year anniversary celebration, EFF released Pwning Tomorrow, an anthology of science fiction stories by Bruce Sterling, Ramaz Naam, Charlie Jane Anders, Cory Doctorow, David Brin, Lauren Beukes, and others. You can download it for a donation to this worthy organization.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

UPI-Almanac-for-Saturday-Feb-20-2016

  • February 20, 1962 — A camera onboard the “Friendship 7” Mercury spacecraft photographs astronaut John H. Glenn Jr. during the Mercury-Atlas 6 space flight.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 20, 1926 – Richard Matheson

Matheson

(7) MUSICAL MISSION. In San Diego on March 31, the Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage 50th Anniversary Concert will be performed by a symphony orchestra.

Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage brings five decades of Star Trek to concert halls for the first time in this galaxy or any other.

This lavish production includes an impressive live symphony orchestra and international solo instruments. People of all ages and backgrounds will experience the franchise’s groundbreaking and wildly popular musical achievements while the most iconic Star Trek film and TV footage is simultaneously beamed in high definition to a 40-foot wide screen.

The concert will feature some of the greatest music written for the franchise including music from Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek: Insurrection, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, Starfleet Academy and much more. This never-before-seen concert event is perfect for music lovers, filmgoers, science-fiction fans and anyone looking for an exciting and unique concert experience.

(8) PERCEPTIONS ABOUT DISABILITY. At The Bias, Annalee Flower Horne covers a lot of ground in “The Geeks Guide To Disability”.

I want the science fiction community to be inclusive and accessible to disabled people. I want our conventions and corners of the internet to be places where disabled people are treated with dignity and respect. I’m hoping that if I walk through some of the more common misconceptions, I can move the needle a little–or at least save myself some time in the future, because I’ll be able to give people a link instead of explaining all this again.

What is Disability?

This may seem like starting from first principles, but a lot of the misconceptions I’ve encountered within the science fiction community have been rooted in a poorly thought-out model of what the term ‘disability’ means….

(9) THE “TO BE HEARD” PILE. Escape Pod has done a metacast about the stories they ran that are eligible for the Hugos.

(10) LONG FORM EDITOR. George R.R. Martin, in “What They Edited, The Third”, posts an impressive resume from Joe Monti of Saga Press, the new science fiction imprint of Simon & Schuster/ Pocket Books.

(11) PRIVATE LABEL. From the Worldcon in the city where everything’s up to date….

(12) FINNISH SNACKS. Things are up to date in Helsinki, too, but there’s a reason you don’t see reindeer roaming the streets….

(13) AND SPEAKING OF EATING. Scott Edelman says a second episode of his podcast Eating the Fantastic has gone live, with guest Bud Sparhawk.

Bud Sparhawk

Bud Sparhawk

I chatted with Bud—a three-time Nebula finalist and Analog magazine regular—about how Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions anthology inspired him to become a writer, what it was like to write for three different Analog editors over four decades, the plotters vs. pantsers debate, and more.

Edelman ends, “If all goes well, Episode 3 will feature writer, editor, and Rosarium Publishing owner Bill Campbell.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Rose Embolism, and Gerry Williams for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

158 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 2/20/16 It’s Like My Body’s Developed This Massive Pixel Deficiency

  1. It’s a matter of what details you are used to paying attention to for recognizing individuals. Exposure to diversity helps with the “they all look the same” problem.

    I had a (white) college professor, originally from California, who said he never had problems telling Asian students apart. But when he taught for a while in the Midwest (Minnesota?) he had lots of problems because the classes were full of fair-haired, light-eyed kids of northern European descent, and they all looked alike to him, to a degree he found embarrassing. He was relieved to move on to an East Coast university with a more ethnically diverse student body. (this was early 70s.) I suspect the body-language was off from what he was used to, too, which made it harder to figure out what patterns of differences were meaningful.

  2. @emgrasso Exposure to diversity helps with the “they all look the same” problem.

    Yep and the younger you are when the exposure happens the better you’ll be. I was exposed to many different groups as a child and in the private schools I went to 1-3 and 10-12 which has helped me a lot. My parents had friends from all over the world who were in the US for a variety of reasons. Some for school, some for operations, some were recent immigrants.

    I understand the same problem of they all look alike happens to other racial groups at cons (all black women for example). One thing that would help is if congoers would read name badges. It’s very hurtful to be treated like your interchangeable. I’m careful to confirm via badge if it’s someone I’ve recently met or only know from pictures.

  3. @RedWombat:

    Holy cow, there really are conventions that stiff the “lesser” GoHs on food and hospitality? That’s horrible.

    Where I come from if someone is a guest, they are a GUEST. All guests get fed, and no one is to be told they have to sit out while the “better” guests get better food. If there isn’t enough food to go around the HOSTS are supposed to go without, no?

  4. @Peace: About mean movie books…it helps to remember that a bunch were written by people who hadn’t actually even seen some of the movies they were slagging on, and some by Michael Medved, who’s gone on to be a classic right-wing hate mongering blowhard. These things make it easy to dismiss a bunch of them.

    Roger Ebert’s Your Movie Sucks, on the other hand, is informative and sometimes downright kind and enthusiastic, along with being very funny and sarcastic when it’s earned. But then it’s the work of someone who took his responsibilities as an adult seriously.

  5. Frankly, I can’t tell a whole bunch of young white blonde (and some brunette) actresses apart. I can watch a dozen episodes of a TV show and not recognize them as anything other than “Uh, the blonde? Or, there’s two. Um, the taller one?” I’ve always had that problem, and now it’s spreading to young actors as well. “The white pretty boy with brown hair. Er. The one with hair longer than his collar? Oh crap, they both got haircuts, now I’ll never know.”

    I don’t even suffer from face-blindness (though I’ll often forget what your name is, I’ll remember where/what we did). But man, casting directors need to have more diversity just so I can know who the hell is doing what. Different races, ages, and such would really help me follow.

    It doesn’t even scare old people! Hawaii Five-O has the tall brunet white guy, the short blond white guy, the Asian lady, the hunky Asian guy, the dorky Asian guy, the black guy, the Hispanic guy, the white lady (if there’s more than one, they have different color hair), the big Pacific Islander guy… If they can manage that on a network TV procedural with an audience that’s well over 50, I think everyone can.

  6. @lurkertype But man, casting directors need to have more diversity just so I can know who the hell is doing what. Different races, ages, and such would really help me follow.

    I hear you. #AllWhiteKidsLookAlike

  7. Heh, I actually do have face blindness, though not the total apocalyptic who-is-this-person-in-my-house kind, but bad enough that I didn’t realize until a year or two ago that normal people don’t have to memorize faces the way they do coffee mugs or cars or other inanimate objects–apparently there’s a part of the brain that’s supposed to recognize faces differently! And some people can’t do it!

    This was a revelation. I’d spent my life apologizing to people for not being able to remember who they were. And the thing is, if they were distinctive–very tall or very large or very short or whatever–it was much easier, but faces are rarely that distinctive for me.

    Now, I can learn a face, I know perfectly well who my husband is, but it takes work and a lot of reinforcement. I once didn’t recognize my mother after about six weeks away, and when my first husband went to China for two months, I was at the airport frantically running through my fieldmarks because I was afraid I wouldn’t recognize him.

    I hate when people get haircuts. Or hats. Hats are black magic. And I hate book tours because I have to learn a new media escort every day and by the second week I can’t actually do it any more and I keep mixing up who’s with the book store and who’s with the school and who’s supposed to drive me somewhere and I start to get panicky.

    But–to get back to the point–the race doesn’t seem to matter that much to my face blindness. Of the few actors I can spot, a couple of them are Asian. (Jackie Chan, Chow Yun Fat, and the guy with the killer cheekbones from Crouching Tiger.) It’s WAY harder to recognize actresses–women seem to have much less of a range of faces that get cast. If Hugo Weaving was a woman, I don’t know if she’d get any gigs. So I can spot…oh, Sigourney Weaver and…uh…the one woman who was in Dances with Wolves, with the amazing jawline. And Angela Lansbury. And Gillian Andersen as long as she doesn’t change her hair.

    (I suspect this is part of why I enjoy birding–I’m already good at memorizing fieldmarks and birds are far more uniform than humans! Except red-tailed hawks. Screw those guys.)

  8. I probably wouldn’t be able to tell apart a cast where the young folk were all Asian, all Hispanic, all black, etc. either at this point. It’s easier IRL because people come in a much wider variety of types than performers are allowed to (esp. young women), and have different voices, clothing style, and so forth. But I probably couldn’t tell you the difference between anybody under 35 on the CW if they were the same race and gender. It’s all a mass of PYT to me.

  9. RedWombat: I didn’t realize until a year or two ago that normal people don’t have to memorize faces the way they do coffee mugs or cars or other inanimate objects – apparently there’s a part of the brain that’s supposed to recognize faces differently!

    I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to spend so many years struggling to recognize people, and not even knowing that it shouldn’t be that way. I tend to remember names and faces pretty well — and I know that my ability to socialize easily, even with strangers, comes in large part from that facility. I think I would dread being around people if I had face-blindness.

    Knowing this about you, I think you are absolutely amazing for having managed all of the public interaction required of you, especially within the last few years. You’re a pretty remarkable person in terms of intelligence and humor, and it would be a sad loss for the rest of us if you weren’t able to come out and see people in person.

  10. RedWombat: I’m not real good at remembering ALL faces, but there must be something to what you say. I have had several experiences where, within a few moments, I recognized somebody at a con after going through this process: (1) Hm, why does that person look familiar? (2) How would they look if they didn’t have gray hair? (3) Oh…. that’s so-and so. Wow, so-and-so sure looks old! (4) Y’know, I think I last saw so-and-so at a con in the Nineties…. (5) Geeze, I wonder how old I must look to THEM?

  11. Oh, Ghu. I can remember faces, and I can remember names (that takes longer), but putting the two together, so the name and the face are correctly paired – that can take up to a couple of months. And I’ll forget the names long before I forget the faces.

  12. My husband lived in Kenya for two years or so in his teens. One of the white girls they knew, raised in Kenya, travelled to England (where her family was from) to visit some relatives, and got lost and panicked in a mall because she couldn’t find her mom. Because, she cried, unlike black people, white people all look alike.

    So yeah. it’s all in what you’re used to. (And Hollywood really really doesn’t help by casting such a narrow range of types.)

    Someone said on the radio once that facial recognition seems to borrow the same part of the brain as language recognition, and that it tends to be earlier and more frequent readers who are most likely to suffer from face blindness. I can’t recall whether I was ever pointed to the study they talked about. It makes a little sense to me – the sometimes subtle and sometimes huge differences between fonts are also a kind of micro-cue as to the exact identities of letters, and you need to be able to ID them all on a deep instinctual level to read. But hearing that, I also thought of my father-in-law, who didn’t start reading more than a book a year for fun until the last 3 years (He’s turning 80 this year) and who has travelled extensively. He has the best facial recognition skills I have ever seen; so much more than his almost as well travelled spouse or his kids, all of whom are or were readers.

  13. I have similar issues with faces, and teaching was hellish.
    I would make cheatsheets, putting descriptions beside the names on the course sheet.
    And the guilt – students deserve to know they matter, and they did.
    I just couldn’t recognize them, or tell you the their names off hand.
    I could tell you all the stuff about the papers that went with the name, just putting that history and those grades together with a face wasn’t happening.
    Oh, and running across them randomly on campus -yikes.

  14. Lauowolf: I have similar issues with faces, and teaching was hellish. I would make cheatsheets, putting descriptions beside the names on the course sheet. And the guilt – students deserve to know they matter, and they did. I just couldn’t recognize them, or tell you the their names off hand. I could tell you all the stuff about the papers that went with the name, just putting that history and those grades together with a face wasn’t happening.

    Gods, it just rips my heart out to read this. I knew that face-blindness existed; I guess I just never stopped to really think about what it must be like for the people who have it.

  15. I’m not great with names/faces at first, but not horrible and certainly fine in the mid- to long-term. But what throws me is seeing people outside their usual context. Like who is this person staring? waving? saying hi? … oh it’s Fred from Accounting! WTF, Fred, what’re you doing outside of Accounting, expecting me to recognize you?! 😉

  16. @Lenora Rose: Do non-literate people suffer from face blindness? What about deaf people, whose first language is gestural? Does it matter whether the written language is alphabetic or glyphs? Someone look into that and get back to us.

    @Kendall: People out of context is the WORST. Cons are great because everyone has their name right there, visible. Back when buttons were the thing at cons, a very popular one read “Hi! I can’t remember your name either!” in a friendly-looking font.

  17. I have similar issues with faces, and teaching was hellish.
    I would make cheatsheets, putting descriptions beside the names on the course sheet.
    And the guilt – students deserve to know they matter, and they did.
    I just couldn’t recognize them, or tell you the their names off hand.
    I could tell you all the stuff about the papers that went with the name, just putting that history and those grades together with a face wasn’t happening.
    Oh, and running across them randomly on campus -yikes.

    One class I taught as an early adjunct had 24 students in it. Nine of them were women whose names started with “K” – Kat, Kit, Kate, Katie, Katrina, Karen, etc.

    Of those, one was a petite Japanese-American woman, one was a tall blonde. The other seven were medium-height, smallish build, white brunettes between about ages 22 and 27. I was in hell. Every time I had to return papers, I had to make like an auctioneer. “Kat? Kat? Is Kat here? Oh there you are!” (and of course she’s sitting in the same place she sits every week but I thought she was Katie, now where is Katie… no WHO is Katie…)

    Now I just tell students up front “I’m a little face blind, it’s not me, it’s you, and I’ll do my best but it will take a while and if I see you out of context I may be all ‘hey there… YOU!’ so just remind me.”

    It’s still hell sometimes.

    (The mid-American brunettes are the worst. There’s also a certain type of clean-cut white guy who all look the same to me. Yes, I work harder to distinguish my colleagues and students of color because it hurts them more when I fail.)

  18. You terrestrial lifeforms wouldn’t have to worry about things like face blindness if you’d bothered to evolve proper fgarn organs like the rest of the galaxy. This peculiar allergy you have to high-energy EM signals doesn’t exactly help matters, either. I swear, it’s like you’re all made of meat or something…

  19. Bruce Baugh on February 22, 2016 at 5:39 pm said:

    @Peace: About mean movie books…it helps to remember that a bunch were written by people who hadn’t actually even seen some of the movies they were slagging on, and some by Michael Medved, who’s gone on to be a classic right-wing hate mongering blowhard. These things make it easy to dismiss a bunch of them.

    Roger Ebert’s Your Movie Sucks, on the other hand, is informative and sometimes downright kind and enthusiastic, along with being very funny and sarcastic when it’s earned. But then it’s the work of someone who took his responsibilities as an adult seriously.

    Yeah, I remember watching Michael Medved’s show in the old days and slowly getting more bewildered. Wasn’t there some rumor that his brother Harry did the actual movie watching / intelligent reviewing?

    We kept all our Ebert books. Now there was some intelligent reviewing.

  20. Yeah, there’s a joke I read ages ago, to the effect of

    “You know you’ve been living in Japan for too long when — all the Japanese look different and all the westerners look the same.”

    And it’s true… well, apart from the“too long” bit. The pattern recognition bit really is adaptive. (And yes, it really does lead to loss of differentiation of previously-differentiated patterns… at least in my limited experience.)

    Luckily I’ve never been “face-blind”, however that only extends to remembering that someone exists — I’ve had quite a number of interactions with people who I knew that I knew, but could not remember the context. Occasionally very perplexing… but usually not a problem.

    Perhaps more humorously, this extended to actors. So I’d recognise some actor in a film as being “familiar”, but this rarely translated into connecting them with their other roles. So a friend would say to me “what did you think of so-and-so in that film, better than in [some other film]?”, and I’d go “huh? – he was in what film?”. At least this aspect has improved a bit over the years…

    My sympathies to those for which this kind of this was more than merely an occasional embarrassment.

  21. I hadn’t heard a rumor that Michael Medved might have taken credit for work he didn’t do, but it surely wouldn’t surprise me. 🙂

  22. I’ve been thinking of donating most of the Gold Turkey-type books (all Medved) for a while. The mean-spiritedness and obliviousness was funny for a while, but they’re dead weights on a bookshelf now. There were indications all along, like when he confidently tore into a Miyazaki feature, but inertia (and the discovery of Ed Wood movies) played their part in keeping the books where they were.

    The story Medved tells is that he wrote them all, and the first book was credited to his brother and somebody’s roommate for reasons. I can easily believe he wrote them all. The editorial voice is pretty much the same in all of them, and if you look at the things he picks on, the targets are really pretty much the same, too.

  23. I call myself face-nearsighted. <wry> I’m not faceblind, exactly, but it takes me a long time to figure out how to distinguish people. And if they’re out of context, I’m toast. I went to see “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” last week (silly campy movie, not bad for what it was) and my husband started poking me in the ribs when Reverend Collins came on screen. <poke-poke-laugh> <whispered> “what?” <poke-poke-laugh> <whispered> “what?” “Don’t you know who that is?” “No….” “Fezzes are cool!” “OH!”

    This is not helped by the fact I have an identical twin sister. Sometimes when I’m trying to figure out where I know this perfect stranger from… it turns out they ARE a perfect stranger….

  24. Face-nearsighted might be a more productive way for me to think of myself, but it always feels to me like I’m suffering the consequences of being self-absorbed to a point nearing solipsism. Early reading? Well, it’s an appealing thought. Also, I spent a lot of time by myself (not necessarily by choice) and still do (ditto), so maybe there’s that too.

    Sometimes I can learn the names of people in my class, especially if they will stay in the same place a lot of the time, but once the class is done with, they fly away. The names, not the faces. People I was in a play with, who were important daily personages to me, become nameless a short time after.

  25. I remember when they came out that I liked the Golden Turkey books, but that was in the days before home video (and long before the internets) when your choices of movies was often limited to what might be shown on late night TV on the local channels. Often the description of something described as bad is more entertaining in your mind than when you actually watch the same movie. Looking at the books now isn’t as much fun now that I have some more background.

    When they started Sneak Previews, Siskel and Ebert had Aroma the educated skunk who would show up for the week’s stinker. At the same time, they would highlight guilty pleasures like Infra-Man and Master of the Flying Guillotine. So they weren’t just being snobs.

    In my wasted youth, I used to page through Leonard Maltin’s film guides just looking to see if any of the movies he rated as BOMB were movies I liked or might light to see. Probably before I had ever heard about psychotronic films.

  26. The Psychotronic books are a lot more enjoyable, because they love these movies and it shows. They’re real consumer guides, that tell you what you want to know.

    Favorite description from the larger of the two volumes (so large, I can never find the entry when I look for it), to the effect: “It’s poor etiquette to spoil the ending of a decent movie, so: The uncle did it! He killed them both while he was supposed to be at a ball game! He covered it up by doctoring the video!” (Totally made-up paraphrase from faulty memory for a movie I don’t remember the title of.)

  27. Joe Bob Briggs’ movie reviews were a delight for the same reason. He was having fun, and he wanted to share the fun. And his “I’m surprised I have to explain this to you people” went into my lexicon.

  28. I’m not usually bad at faces but I’m having a terrible time learning the students’ names in one of my larger classes this semester. It sort of helps that half of them (not really, maybe six of ’em) are named Emily. I generally love teaching at a women’s college but it makes it so much harder when there isn’t even gender to sort out the people who aren’t Emily.

  29. I had a (white) college professor, originally from California, who said he never had problems telling Asian students apart. But when he taught for a while in the Midwest (Minnesota?) he had lots of problems because the classes were full of fair-haired, light-eyed kids of northern European descent, and they all looked alike to him, to a degree he found embarrassing.

    This was precisely my experience when I moved from California to Edinburgh. I was working in a company with five or six guys whose families had been in Scotland pretty much forever, and who had basically the same face shape, basically the same glasses, basically the same hair color and cut. I simply could not get them straight in my head.

    Every now and then I’d manage to shave one off of the undifferentiated mass of Scottish blokes: one whose hair was a little darker, one with a slight cleft in his chin, like that. It was a marker of my growing familiarity with the new population I was trying to distinguish. But when I left that company after four years, there was still a hard “core” of three blokes whose names I would never use. Because I couldn’t reliably use them with the right person.

  30. Hmm, I wonder if something I once got in argument with one of my college professors might actually be a thing. As a kid I didn’t notice normal markers: hair color, eye color, skin color. I look for things like facial structure, the way someone dresses, glasses/no glasses, stuff they normally do with their hair (stripes of color, bald, wears hats, ponytails, etc.), the people around them, context. I notice markers now because I’ve forced myself to but it’s hard. A diversity class where I was mocked numerous times because I had to be making up my lived experiences really helped in forcing me to notice skin color and other superficial racial markers.

    The first time this caused me problems my mother remembers: we had a Pakistani man living with us awaiting heart surgery, a couple of the neighborhood kids walked home with me after school, they pointed at him and said black man, I ran into the house telling my mother we had a medical emergency as something had to be seriously wrong with his heart he’d turned black. I was under 10 what did I know about biology?

  31. Heh! It’s not that bad–or, I guess it’s that I’ve learned all the tricks. It got so much easier in the last few years, though, when Radiolab popularized that Face Blindness Is A Thing, and suddenly people understood that you weren’t just a self-absorbed dickweasel. (Which, uh, I can be, too, don’t get me wrong.)

    Now they overcompensate, and I have to say “No, it’s okay, I’ve known you for ten years and you’re covered in tattoos.” (I love the rise of tattoos. I have a friend I know primarily because she’s skinny with green foo-dogs on her upper arm. She can dye her hair any color she wants, as long as she keeps the tattoos visible.)

    I am actually much better at spotting people I know well from far away because they move in a particular way. And I actually LOVE cons because of nametags! Those make my life so much easier! (Parties are hard. I do the “…hi…you! How have you been doing?” and pray they drop a clue.)

    I could never remember most of my classmates, but I only had one really bad incident, where I was on a week-long science camping trip and the camp counselor was determined that I would learn everyone’s names and recite them back by the end of the trip. Which was…not the best. It was about fifteen people and I spent about five days basically locking onto each one in turn and memorizing and then moving on the next one, and then having to do mental refreshers, and then he made me recite them all at the campfire. That’s the only time I think it’s really been deeply miserable. Otherwise it’s mostly just awkward–I worked retail and a cop came in once to ask me about a guy passing bad checks, and he was going “He was here yesterday! Don’t you remember what he looked like?” and I’m going “…no? Is that a normal thing someone could do?”

    Speaking of context, though, I was at a burlesque show once and one of the dancers was really quite good, so I went up to her after the show and said “Hey, great set!” and she looked at me and said “Ursula, I’m your PHARMACIST.” And I said “…oh. So you are. Um.” (She wore a white lab coat at work! She had on a feather boa and pasties! C’mon!)

  32. I was interested when the BBC talked about aphantasia last year:
    http://www.bbc.com/news/health-34039054
    because they said a form of faceblindness accompanies aphantasia, and I am totally aphantasic… and had never realized other people weren’t.

    But what I have isn’t a lack of ability to identify faces so much as limited ability to map names to the faces. I can remember both kinds of data fairly well, I just don’t attach items in one category to items in the other.

    I often apologize about it in advance saying that I think the part of my brain that should be doing that mapping was repurposed for something else. (The info about aphantasia makes that seem even more likely.)

  33. @emgrasso But what I have isn’t a lack of ability to identify faces so much as limited ability to map names to the faces. I can remember both kinds of data fairly well, I just don’t attach items in one category to items in the other.

    Oh thank you, thank you.

  34. RedWombat: Oh, my. I thought having one of my first SCA contacts also be a nude model at the U of M art school was a whiplashing case of “Why do you look familiar? OH.”, but you have seriously won.

    lurkertype; I think illiterate people were discussed (they tend to have better memories for a lot of things, face and name linkages being the one focused upon), but I don’t think anyone went as far as studying gestural vs. written language.

    My husband always said one thing he loved about the SCA is that, if he met someone out of context, he could say, without as much need to be discreet, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m blanking on your mundane name.” That he was also totally blanking on their SCA name was irrelevant.

    His dad, the one I mentioned above, on the other hand, had no problem with context — and in the rare case he doesn’t know where he knows you, he’s never afraid it’s socially inappropriate to ask. But the story his family tells to demonstrate his superpower: They were in a game park in Zimbabwe, and saw another vehicle heading back out, so they went to meet the person to find out where the animals were (a common thing, when on a safari; the animals have a lot of territory and don’t stay put). And E looks at the man, the only other human for miles and the only other white person likely for an even larger distance, and says,”You look familiar…”

    The other man had gone to the same one-room schoolhouse in BC in their elementary school days.

  35. My dad was a doctor, so everywhere we went people would stop and greet him. They would make a little small talk and we would go on our way.

    Once, this happened as we were leaving a restaurant. As we were walking to the car, I asked “who was that?”

    His reply: “I have no idea.”

  36. My husband is super-gregarious and knows everybody, so he’s my backup brain for muttering in an undertone “Am I supposed to know them?”

    LoL@Lenora Rose’s story–I’ve got a friend where I’d expect that to happen. If we dropped him in the jungle in Borneo, the first person who came along would go “Badger? What are you doing here?”

  37. Guessing people by context is pretty hopeless for me:

    I have been involved in active fandom (cons, etc.) on and off since the 70s, was in the SCA in the 70s and again since 2010, have attended assorted technical conferences and worked software engineering jobs and consulting gigs all over the country and spent a lot of time on planes and in airports, and I spent over 15 years helping sell veggies at the Boulder Farmer’s Market on Saturdays…
    about half the population of North America looks vaguely familiar, regardless of whether I ever knew their name. (which I probably didn’t)

    That guy over there looks familiar… I wonder where I know him from? Tech? SF? SCA? Or just local?

    If it’s local, I default to assuming I sold him lettuce or hot peppers or squash.

  38. @RedWombat, yes, I use my husband, who is a photographer and has a really, really good face-memory, as my backup brain. Which is great, if he’s there to ask….

    He’s not always good on names (although he’s still ten times better than I am), but he can at least reliably give context. “She’s the one we saw playing Snoopy in that community theater play of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”. At which point, I can at least not look entirely clueless. “Gotten any good roles recently…?”

  39. I just talk to people and avoid the name thing if I can. A number of people haven’t realized I never recognized them beyond “vaguely familiar”. If it comes up I remind people I’m awful with names and it’s gotten worse since I was hit by a truck. Being hit be the truck has made people more understanding of forgetting names. One of the good things to come out of the accident.

    My cognitive and speech therapist remarked that I had a number of the skills they normally need to teach people who’ve had the kind of brain damage I’ve got.
    1. Asking people about themselves
    2. Not being afraid to admit you don’t know someone/something
    3. Being able to talk around a word/concept when you can’t remember the exact word/phrase needed
    4. Asking leading questions
    5. A willingness to apologize

  40. Tasha – It’s very handy when one’s experiences or previous medical issues help prepare one for new stuff. Doesn’t necessarily make them worth it, of course….

  41. @Tasha:

    Meh, I scratched that item off my list years ago. Before I could drive, I’d walk about a mile to work (each way), and one day a van’s side mirror clipped me. Nothing too serious – busted the mirror and bruised my upper arm – but it counts! 😀

  42. It takes me a long time to connect names and faces.

    Names, I’m very good with. Once I have occasion to write down (or type) a name, it is mine forever. I will go to my grave knowing how to spell Sienkiewicz, and understanding the difference between Straczynski and Strazewski, and who they are.

    Recognizing faces and connecting them to the names, though, not so easy.

    Going to comics-industry social events in this area can be tough — I probably know 80% of the names of my fellow pros and 40% of the faces. But I can only attach face to name for about 15%.

    I work at home. I communicate by phone and e-mail. It’s all words…

  43. @Kurt: “Recognizing faces and connecting them to the names, though, not so easy.”

    Right there with ya. I freely admit to anyone I meet at a con that I’m horrible with connecting names to faces, but it usually clicks after a few years. If I’m lucky.

    Also, I’m in the same boat as far as working at home. Not only is it all words, but I’ve never met most of my coworkers. I mean, I live near one, and he’s a friend, but otherwise… I think I’ve met three of them and talked to another once in a while on the phone if an urgent matter came up. I’ve seen a couple of others on videos, but I have no idea what the people I work with most frequently look like.

  44. @Rev. Bob
    Poser. I said hit not tapped. But there is no need to try harder or one up manship 😉

    All spelling errors are either autocorrect or hit by truck brain damage it’s not because I can’t spell honest officer.

  45. Oh, and even with the face thing and all, paradoxically I ended up being a useful witness in an armed robbery.
    A guy in a mask pulled a gun on the clerk in the video store – which dates the story – just as I was about to pay.
    So I’m standing there being as inoffensive as possible, because GUN, but still trying to collect a list of things I could expect to remember.
    I managed to get his height, his ears (small, flat, with attached lobes), his build, and the details of a scrap of plaid shirt that showed between his mask and the collar of his black jacket.
    A madras-style plaid with five colors and an intricate design: a tan base with a broad pumpkin stripe, thinner white, two much thinner dark browns, and just threads of red, same on the horizontal and vertical axes.
    So I described the plaid to the officers, and it ends up the guy was wearing it in a mug shot.
    Which wasn’t enough to identify him – lots of shirts in the world – but it did pull him in for a line up where other victims of his mini-crimewave – there were like 20 people there – all picked him out, presumably some of them by his face.

  46. Lauowolf: So I described the plaid to the officers, and it ends up the guy was wearing it in a mug shot.

    I’m sort of shaking my head at the idea that it was his Lucky Crime Committin’ Shirt and he continued wearing it whenever he committed a robbery, even after he’d been caught and mugshotted while wearing it.

  47. JJ on February 23, 2016 at 4:39 pm said:
    Lauowolf: So I described the plaid to the officers, and it ends up the guy was wearing it in a mug shot.

    I’m sort of shaking my head at the idea that it was his Lucky Crime Committin’ Shirt and he continued wearing it whenever he committed a robbery, even after he’d been caught and mugshotted while wearing it.

    Note to self: Do not wear favorite shirt for crime committing.
    This whole master criminal thing is more difficult than it first appears.
    And it was really a lovely bit of madras plaid.
    I’d totally wear it, though perhaps not while gun-totting.

Comments are closed.