Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gene Weingarten - Losing Face

Ask my husband G, this conversation has taken place during most every movie we have ever watched. This is why I do not like to watch movies alone, there is no one to clue me in.

This is an old post, but just came to my attention.

From the Washington Post,  Gene Weingarten - Losing Face:

'via Blog this'

Losing Face
Gene gets no recognition
By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, March 16, 2008 

This is what it is like to be at the movies with me.
Me: Is that the same guy who was in the last scene, with the girl?
Wife: Yes. Shh.
Me: But he had a beard in the last scene.
Wife: No, he didn't. Shhh.
Me: Are you sure?
Wife: Shhhhh.
Me: (Sulk.)

Wife: Listen, you idiot. It's Tom Cruise. The same Tom Cruise who was in the previous scene. It's the same one who will be in the next scene. It's the same one who had Renee Zellweger at hello in the last movie when you forgot who Tom Cruise was, and, yes, by the way, that was Renee Zellweger, not Kirsten Dunst, who looks nothing like Renee Zellweger and would not be confused for Renee Zellweger by anyone but you, okay?

Stranger in next seat: Shhh.

I have trouble recognizing and remembering faces. It is a mild form of a disorder called prosopagnosia, which in its most extreme form can cause you to look in a mirror and not recognize the person looking back at you.

My face-recognition dysfunction is pretty minor, but it is severely tested when watching a movie, a circumstance where you are suddenly presented with many unfamiliar people interacting in complicated ways, and you must learn to quickly tell them apart. I'm okay if a character has some dramatic distinguishing characteristic, or speaks in a distinctive way -- I was just fine with the Wicked Witch of the West -- but if the characters seem to be random assemblages of run-of-the-mill noses and eyes, lips and ears, I am in trouble.
In men, there is a certain intense, generic look that particularly confounds me. I cannot distinguish Liam Neeson from Ralph Fiennes from that guy who played Ingrid Bergman's goody-two-shoes husband in "Casablanca." All the same fella, far as I can tell. Also Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper.
With women, my problem is blondes. Renee Zellweger and Loretta Swit and Kirsten Dunst and Gwyneth Paltrow and Lana Turner. Same lady.

When watching the Oscar-winning film "The Departed," I could not reliably distinguish Matt Damon from Leonardo DiCaprio, which proved to be a significant problem, because one was a good guy masquerading as a bad guy and one was a bad guy masquerading as a good guy. By the end of the film, many people were deceased, but I had no clear idea about who had done what to whom, and why.

Outside of the movies, I'm mostly okay, though I don't believe I have ever in my life, once, been able to recognize someone out of context, and that can be an embarrassing problem. Do you know that risque two-people-meet-in-a-supermarket joke with the punch line, "No, I'm your son's math teacher"? Well, I am that guy. Feel free to Google it.

Here is the worst thing that ever happened to me because of my condition:
Sometime after being hired as an editor by The Washington Post, I realized that a certain writer at the paper -- one of the people whose work I most respected -- detested me. I never talked to him about it because there didn't seem any point. It wasn't until years later that I learned from a third party what had happened. When I was being interviewed for the job, this man had gone out to lunch with me. We had talked deeply and richly about subjects of mutual interest, and he had given a glowing report back to management. I was hired, at least in part, on the basis of his recommendation.

But when I arrived at the newspaper a month later, I passed him in the hall -- many times -- and never thanked him or even acknowledged him. He concluded, with ample justification, that I was a total jerk. The fact is, I had no recognition of who he was, and by the time I figured it out, the damage was done.
To the guy in question: I'm really sorry, and I hope you recognize yourself from this anecdote. If it helps, you're the one who looks kind of like Sean Connery. Or, possibly, Dustin Hoffman.

Gene Weingarten can be reached at weingarten@washpost.com. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

MApping Charlie: A Mystery Novel

A great new book has been published by author Jane Meyerding. Its called Mapping Charlie, and it features a character who is Faceblind. While the book is fiction, it gives uncommon insight into the life of someone who is Prosopagnosic. Below is an excerpt from a fascinating interview with the author Jane on the Washington Times website:
Meyerding has been a writer for many years, although she has mostly written non-fiction essays, some of which you can find on her website at http://www.planetautism.com/jane/index.html. In 1994, a small press published a mystery novel she wrote, in a process that Meyerding describes as "exceedingly painful," which is one reason she chose to self-publish Mapping Charlie.
Face blindness is obviously a personal subject for Meyerding, considering that she experiences it daily. She's never pursued a diagnosis ("I guess it's just too obvious to require confirmation," she comments.) for her prosopagnosia, but she says that learning about it was a revelation.
"Other people really could recognize each other right away," she says about her wonderment in learning of face blindness. "They weren't just pretending better because they had better social skills, and there really is a part of the human brain to handle that function—except that my brain simply doesn't."
She goes on to say  that knowing about faceblindness helps because, "You realize you don't have to choose between 'I'm lazy' and 'I'm crazy,' and you can meet others online or elsewhere and share strategies for dealing with the face-sighted majority.
Meyerding's character Kay has to do exactly that in Mapping Charlie. Her faceblindness leads to her becoming a suspect when a college classmate of hers is murdered. Unbeknownst to her, because she didn't realize he was the same person, Kay is the last person known to have spoken to him, after running into him on a city bus.
This is not only a good book for prosopagnosics and those wanting to understand more about how they function, it is a fantastic read in general!
Mapping Charlie is available from Amazon and Lulu.com. Keep up to date on Meyerding's work and publishing schedule on her website at http://www.planetautism.com/jane/index.html