Friday, December 31, 2010

Googling around with synaesthesia

I've only just discovered Google's Ngram Viewer

I believe it shows how often particular terms appeared in a shitload of books, by publication date of the books. I'm no expert - do check this for yourself. I've found that the search limits can be altered to search through stuff as recent as 2008.

I have done some searches on the terms "synaesthesia" and "synesthesia". The results have been interesting, but probably not a firm basis for conclusions. I found that both graphs are a long, steady increase from roughly around the beginning of the last century, but are also quite different for each of these terms - one the American term "synesthesia" with the simplified spelling, the other with the quaint old spelling "synaesthesia" which is associated with British writers and researchers. Another point of interest is that I found little evidence of a resurgence of interest in synaesthesia as a subject of study in the 1980s, for either of the spellings. A big upswing in interest appears to have happened much later, in the mid 1990s in the UK, spreading later to the US, so I can only guess that British researchers or authors deserve the credit for the most recent upswing in interest in this scientific subject.

I did find a definite peak in the graph for "synaesthesia" (but not for the US spelling) around 1960, probably something to do with monkeying around in the UK with LSD for fun or under the banner of "therapy". Perhaps Syd Barrett and company deserve some "credit" here. I also found a decline in the graph after the year 2001 for the term "synaesthesia", not sure why. I have read some online comments on a recent UK media story about synaesthesia in which readers complained that they are bored with synaesthesia as a subject, so perhaps synaesthesia has not been the flavour of the month for a long time in the UK.

Many things need to be kept in mind about my searches using this tool - I don't think the viewer covers journal papers or other non-book publications, so I don't think it should be seen as a general reflection of scientific research. One also needs to remember that synaesthesia has been researched and written about under many different terms over a long period of history (see my article cited below), and searches on the modern terms will not retrieve those items. Sir Francis Galton was an early synaesthesia researcher, but I don't think he ever used the term "synaesthesia" (correct me if I am wrong). Boris Sidis, the psychologist and researcher father of the child prodigy William James Sidis, was also an early writer on the subject of synaesthesia, but he used the term "secondary sensation" in his writing.

Words that have been used as terms for synaesthesia in popular, scientific or clinical literature

And another New Year's resolution

I think I might let my subscription to New Idea magazine lapse and get No Idea magazine instead.

The Bouba and Kiki Effect in Music

Why is it that Axel F is such a spiky, star-shaped song, while lush orchestral music with lots of strings is billowing and bulging and round, like a fat white storm cloud on a humid summer's day?

As a stark contrast this is a YouTube music clip of Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis by Vaughan Williams. Note the choice of image for the cover art!

Another New Year's resolution

I think I might let my subscription to Time magazine lapse and get Waste of Time magazine instead.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lili's thought for the day

All of our children have lined up their toys, including a daughter who also loved to arrange her teddy bear's and dollie's tea parties around a square-shaped rug, with the table setting in a perfect four-sided rotational symmetry pattern.

New Year's resolution

I think I might let my subscription to New Scientist lapse and get Mad Scientist magazine instead.

I like this quote

“We don't have to talk. We can just share energy to be social.”

- Ellen, regular attendee at AACT, "a group run for and by adults with autism", described in this journal article:

Nancy Bagatell (2010) From Cure to Community: Transforming Notions of Autism. Ethos. March 2010. Volume 38, Issue 1. p. 33-55.

Article first published online: 11 MAR 2010
DOI: 10.1111/j.1548-1352.2009.01080.x

Lili's thought for the day

Can autistic behaviours tell us something important about the origins of human spoken language? I've had a short discussion on the subject of ancient hominids today, as you do, and a thought came to mind. Some experts believe the thing that brought about the sudden leap from hominid type creatures to human type creatures could be spoken language. But how did spoken language start? There are many theories floating about, no doubt. I think there is one involving synaesthesia. Could autism give a clue as to how or why hominids started speaking? Obviously the basic anatomy is needed, but that doesn't evolve into anything fancy without already having some basic utility, so what started the process? Do we need to ask the question of why would a hominid start talking, in the absence of an established culture of talking and language? Wouldn't this be rather like talking to one's self? That's a bit eccentric, isn't it? Autistic people do this. Why do autistic people do this? Go ask and autistic person. So were the first hominid speakers a bit autistic? Now that's a novel thought!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Daryl Hannah in G magazine

It's lovely to see actress and committed environmentalist Daryl Hannah on the cover of the latest G magazine, Issue 29, November-December 2010.

The virtuous and attractive Ms Hannah is one of the amazing people who are in my big list:

A referenced list of 174 famous or important people diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition or subject of published speculation about whether they are or were on the autistic spectrum

Monday, December 27, 2010

Lili's thought for the day

I am so going to read Julian Assange's autobiography as soon as it hits the shelves! Get typing, Mr Assange!

Amygdala / psychopath theory of autism not travelling well at all

So sorry Professor Baron-Cohen, here is evidence that the amygdalas of autistic people work just fine, "at the perceptual level". And it appears that autists aren't emotion-blind psychopaths either. As the year comes to a completion and dies, so does another grand theory of autism. Let's hope that 2011 brings a better theoretical framework. And I believe in miracles too.

Eve-Marie Quintin • Anjali Bhatara •
He´le`ne Poissant • Eric Fombonne • Daniel J. Levitin

Emotion Perception in Music in High-Functioning Adolescents
With Autism Spectrum Disorders

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
DOI 10.1007/s10803-010-1146-0

Published online: 22 December 2010

"The ability to recognize musical emotion as belonging to one of four categories(happy, sad, scared or peaceful) was assessed in high-functioning adolescents with ASD (N = 26) and adolescents with typical development (TD, N = 26) with comparable performance IQ, auditory working memory, and musical training and experience. When verbal IQ was controlled for, there was no significant effect of diagnostic group. Adolescents with ASD rated the intensity of the emotions similarly to adolescents with TD and reported greater confidence in their responses when they had correctly (vs. incorrectly) recognized the emotions."

"Thus, emotion recognition in music among individuals with ASD differs from that in patients with damage to the amygdala, in the sense that individuals with ASD can recognize some musical emotions that patients with damage to the amygdala cannot recognize such as scary and peaceful music. This observation, combined with the lack of group difference for ratings of emotional intensity, cannot be reconciled with the amygdala theory of autism at the perceptual level.
Emotion perception in music in ASD does not seem out of norms."

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Our Christmas - some things never change

Hubby and I have had some all-autistic Christmas Days, and also some Christmases in the company of non-autistic people (or to be completely correct, non-autists and an autist who has unsuccessfully devoted her entire life to trying to be normal). This year we were among pretty much neurotypical people (they can't be completely normal, being blood relatives). There was a big elephant in the room, the same elephant that has been haunting every home that I have shared with my family of origin. We are not all the same. Some people are different. Some people are autistic. Some people can't just step out into the world and find a great job just by being determined. Some people don't have friends or family that can help out. Some people can't be much bothered with socializing that is all about trivialities when there are important issues to be faced. Some people can't pretend to be fascinated with every idiotic fad that comes along, just because other people like it and are doing it. Some people just don't care what the herd is up to, or what the herd thinks. I was only there for the sake of the kids. Christmas is for the children. It isn't about adults. So f*** off and leave me alone, I can't be bothered in this infernal heat.

I remember the Christmases when one could discuss an issue that one is really passionate about and interested in, and then give someone else a turn at doing the same, a very long turn, and it didn't matter if there were some odd-looking movements, or a temporary loss of the ability to retrieve the correct words for speech. One wasn't excepted to mutilate one's thoughts into teensy-weensy sound bites to slot into a conversation that suffers from an attention deficit. If this all took a lot of time, that didn't matter, we have time, our engagements book isn't full. We aren't going to try to visit a dozen different homes all in one day. We aren't in demand, and we don't care. We are here, and we are settled in for the day, and much of the night if that's what we feel like. As long as it takes - that is our motto! Do you need something repaired? Let's see if we have the necessary tools at hand. Quite likely we will.

Escaping from discomfort and stress was a top priority during these Christmas celebrations. If there was something to stress us out, it just wouldn't be happening. We know our limits. It isn't stubbornness, or attention-seeking. It is those neurotypical people who don't understand.

These autistic Christmases weren't perfect by any means, I have no time for Utopian fantasies, but they were interesting, and I think they were full of potential. Maybe we could have gotten better at it if we'd had more time, and more courage. But these Christmases came to an abrupt end when we buried the only other proud fully-autistic in our family. Now it's only us, and our kids, who fit into the fabric of society with much more ease than we ever will. The experiment is over.

An amusing quote that I stumbled upon

Retired at last! Retired at last! Thank God Almighty, retired at last!- Theodore Dalrymple, author and retired prison and hospital doctor and psychiatrist who worked for the NHS.

They say when you love your job you don't have to work a day in your life. It appears this was not the case with this moderately famous political author!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Val Lewton movies on the box, again

I've been raving on in this blog quite a bit about old movies produced in the 1940s by Val Lewton. If you are interested, I thought I'd let you know that the ABC is repeating them in the wee hours of the morning, this week, again. If you are not interested, too bad!

The movies are:

I Walked With a Zombie (2.50am Sun-Mon, not as bad as the title suggests)
Youth Runs Wild (2.55am Mon-Tue, not a horror movie)
The Body Snatcher (12.25am Wed-Thu, with the legendary Boris and Bella) and
The Ghost Ship (2.50am Thu-Fri, psychological).

ABC TV National Guide

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What are they calling Julian now?

I friend has kindly let me know about a most interesting blog post about the WikiLeaks thing, Bradley Manning and Assange. I'd be a whole lot happier with the piece if the word "sociopathic" was replaced by the word "autistic". It matters to me and it also matters to other people. For Pete's sake, the author of the piece is comparing Assange with "programmers, mathematicians, potheads and science fiction fans"! That does not sound like sociopathy to me. It does however sound like another well-known type.

The Blast Shack
Bruce Sterling

December 22nd 2010

Our Unique King of the Geeks

Did you catch what Dr Karl said on the episode of Sleek Geeks that aired tonight (during his eye examination)? Did you know he's also got prosopagnosia? I find this stuff interesting.

About Dr Karl Kruszelnicki

Dr Karl’s web site:

About Dr Karl and Prosopangosia (face-blindness)

Molitorisz, Sacha (2008) Guinea-pig geeks get their revenge. Age. January 10th 2008.

Sleek Geeks. ABC1 Series 2 Episode 1 2010 Superhuman. broadcast November 11th 2010

Sleek Geeks. ABC1 Series 1 Episode 2 Mind Games.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A sure sign that you are autistic ....

When some pretentious political commentator affixes you with the label of "narcissist" it's a sure sign that you are on the autistic spectrum. Today on The Drum on the ABC's news TV channel Tim Soutphommasane told the viewers that Julian Assange is a narcissist, which pretty much confirms what I'd been thinking all along.

Narcissist is evidently one of Mr Soutphommasane's favourite words. I Googled his name along with the term, and got a results page with no less than 11 different articles by Mr S published in The Australian that included the term. This bloke seems to think the whole world has a personality disorder! I hope one day he will be able to find a planet inhabited by intelligent beings who are not generally cursed with an intractable mental illness with which he can share his philosophy.

I'm so glad I'm writing this post and not saying it.

Christmas scene from Tommy

Some autistic people don't love Christmas, with all the noise, the crowding, the colour red, the being misunderstood, the being disliked, the being felt sorry for ....

It is illegal to discriminate against autistic students in Australia - believe it baby!

Congratulations to Mandy and Andrew Mason of Perth, Western Australia, who took the Methodist Ladies College to the Federal Court and won. This exclusive private girls' school failed to renew the contract of an education assistant, preventing the Masons' autistic daughter from attending school for nine months. I am sorry that an Australian autistic girl's education has been disrupted because the people who run a school think their school can evade the responsibility that all schools have to meet the educational needs of all students, neurotypical and autistic, disabled and ordinary.

Private school loses autism discrimination case
ABC News
December 21st 2010.

Monday, December 20, 2010

What was the deal with van Gogh?

Blumer, Dietrich (2002) The illness of Vincent van Gogh. American Journal of Psychiatry. 159:519-526, April 2002.
[does not mention autism or AS]

Campen, Cretien van (2008) The hidden sense: synesthesia in art and science. The MIT Press, 2008.
[evidence that suggests that van Gogh was a synaesthete on p. 54]

Erickson, Kathleen Powers (1998) At eternity's gate: the spiritual vision of Vincent van Gogh. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1998.
[author argues that van Gogh had psychomotor epilepsy/temporal lobe epilepsy, rather than schizophrenia]

Fitzgerald, Michael (2005) The genesis of artistic creativity: Asperger’s syndrome and the arts. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
[includes a chapter about van Gogh]

Gayford, Martin (2006) The yellow house: van Gogh, Gauguin and nine turbulent weeks in Arles. Fig Tree (Penguin Books), 2006.
[Author argues that bipolar was the explanation for van Gogh’s troubles and mentions other theories put forward by others. Also discusses van Gogh’s diagnosis of epilepsy at St Remy Asylum. Van Gogh’s synaesthesia described on p. 190, and Gauguin’s synaesthesia discussed on p. 191, the author incorrectly describing synaesthesia as a type of madness. No mention of autism/AS found]

Gogh, Vincent van and Bernard, Bruce (editor) Vincent by himself: a selection of his drawings and painting together with extracts from his letters. Time Warner Books UK, 2004.
[evidence of van Gogh's synaesthesia to be found in his choice of words in some of his letters]

Grandin, Temple (1995) Thinking in pictures: and other reports from my life with autism. 1st edition. Doubleday. 1995.
[Einstein, Wittgenstein, van Gogh, Bill Gates mentioned in connection to the autistic spectrum]

Grinker, Roy (2007) Unstrange minds: remapping the world of autism. Basic Books.
[Bobby Fischer, Vincent van Gogh, Leo Kanner mentioned in connection with the autistic spectrum]

James, Ioan (2005) Asperger syndrome and high achievement: some very remarkable people. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
[includes a chapter about van Gogh]

Maur, Karin von (1999) The sound of painting: music in modern art. Prestel, 1999.
[van Gogh quoted on page 22 "Painting...promises to become more subtle-more music and less sculpture-in short, what will come is color."]

About Julian Assange

See my most recent post about Julian Assange here:

"That is my temperament. I enjoy creating systems on a grand scale, and I enjoy helping people who are vulnerable. And I enjoy crushing bastards."

"I'm a combative person. So I like crushing bastards. So it is deeply, personally, personally, deeply satisfying to me."

"Real bastards are people who have power and abuse their power to afflict people who are weaker than they are.”

Barrowclough, Nikki (2010) The secret life of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Sydney Morning Herald. May 22, 2010.

Cadwalladr, Carole (2010) Julian Assange, monk of the online age who thrives on intellectual battle. Scot Network. August 5th 2010.

Dreyfus, Suelette & Assange, Julian (researcher) (1997) Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier. Reed Books Australia.

Hosenball, Mark (2010) Special Report: Julian Assange versus the world. Yahoo News. Reuters. December 13th 2010.
[includes a claim that Assange has described himself only partly in jest as somewhere on the autistic spectrum]

Kenber, Billy and Whitworth, Damian (2010) Pied Piper Julian Assange brooks no dissent in land of WikiLeaks. Times. December 18, 2010.

Rintoul, Stuart, Parnell, Sean, Elks, Sarah, Rout, Milanda & Owens, Jared (2010) Julian Assange, wild child of free speech. Australian. December 11, 2010. Weekend Australian. December 11-12 2010. p. 1, 8.

Wikipedia contributors (accessed 2010) Julian Assange. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Almost a news story about Julian Assange

I really do wonder about the motivations behind the writing of journalism like this story about Julian Assange. I guess everyone is curious about the man and his motivations at the moment, and an article like this seems to offer some clues, but it just seems to raise more questions than it answers. I've got to wonder about the role of words such as "eccentricity", "dictator" and "idiosyncratic" in this article, when there is little in this article to explain why such labels might be applicable to Mr Assange. Some people don't like the man, and he has had disagreements with people he has worked with. So? Enough insinuation.

Kenber, Billy and Whitworth, Damian (2010) Pied Piper Julian Assange brooks no dissent in land of WikiLeaks. Times. December 18, 2010.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Request for advice

Please help, I am only a humble housewife, and I can't figure out how to search the WikiLeaks database. I can't find a thing about Australia among all the diplomatic cable documents. I have no trouble finding stuff about Azerbaijan, but I'm not interested in Azerbaijan, (no offence, Azerbaijan). What am I doing wrong? I tried asking a teenager who is obsessed with politics, and even that didn't help. Help!

Lili's thought of the day

I spend much of my waking hours these days driving kids to and from parties. In that respect, they are not chips off the old blocks.

Cheap Christmas gift toy ideas for the young autist

Here are some ideas:

Spirograph - a toy that makes perfect and precise and repetitive geometrical patterns, the technical mathematical terms for which are hypotrochoids and epitrochoids. I've seen a basic set on sale at Toyworld (Australia) for $15.00. One word of caution - this toy is a bit fiddly and tricky to use well, maybe not the best toy for a child with fine motor issues, but if they are keen and persistent, it might be good training.

Hopper / Space Hopper / Hopper Ball / Bounce Ball - The perfect gift for the young child who has lots of bounce but has no trampoline. A day full of bouncing is a good day, I say! I've seen this toy on sale recently for only $8.00 at K-Mart.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lili creates new blog for all to ignore

I'm going to try to limit much of my carping on about politics to my newest blog, and I also plan to republish the odd thing or two there as well.

Blond Ambition

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Whatever happened to Leo Kanner's Donald T.?

I have only just discovered the rediscovery of the story of the first person in the world to be formally diagnosed with autism. This man is still alive, and is apparently living a decent life, independently, within a community that values and respects him. I haven't read the full story yet myself, but I'm officially fascinated. Donald Triplett was the case "Donald T." written about in 1943 in the first ever scientific description of the autistic spectrum, by the paediatrician Leo Kanner, titled "Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact". A year later a Viennese Doctor Hans Asperger would write his separately-conceived journal paper about "'Autistischen Psychopathen' im Kindesalter", or in moderm terminology, Asperger syndrome.

Apparently Donvan and Zucker from the Atlantic magazine were not the first people to rediscover the story of Donald Triplett. A prominent member of the anti-vaccination movement apparently wrote about Mr Triplett in 2005, and his case has been written about in a book written from that viewpoint.

The Atlantic article has a nice a photo of the 77 year old autistic golfer, and his face reminds me of a much-loved and long-deceased grandfather of mine, as he looked decades ago. Mr Triplett walks with his arms out to his side like a letter A, and there is a lot of sideways movement in the upper part of his body. This sounds a bit like the way my grandfather walked. I had always put the side-to-side thing down to arthritis, but I have recently noticed that in one younger, non-arthritic autist that I have seen, side-to-side movement of the head and shoulders is one of the slightly odd movements that he does when he is making a joke or excited. It's peculiar but also rather endearing.

The description of Mr Triplett driving in the magazine article stunned me; "After pressing on the gas pedal for a second, he lets up briefly, and then presses back down again. Down. Release. Down. Release. The tempo doesn’t vary." Many years ago when I was young and worth a second glance, I had a taxi ride in which the taxi driver did this for the whole trip. I wondered "What the hell is this?", but I was too meek to ask. This pedal pumping was most irritating, and I wondered if this was some kind of method for fiddling with the taxi meter, but there were no other problems with the trip. The taxi driver, a middle-aged man, made no small talk - which I didn't mind at all. I had thought at the time that it would have been the perfect taxi ride if not for the weird pumping thing. No, the taxi driver didn't look like Jerry Newport, and this happened in Australia a long time ago. I had assumed that there was something wrong with the taxi's carbie, but now I'm left wondering if I have been honoured with a taxi ride with a profoundly autistic driver. One thing that I learn over and over, usually in hindsight, is that we are unknowingly in the company of the most amazing and different and fascinating people. I have met wonders of nature, but never realised at the time. These people don't wear labels on their foreheads. Many of us actively hide, or we take pains to disguise our peculiarities and our strange gifts. But we are everywhere.

Autism’s First Child
John Donvan and Caren Zucker
October 2010

‘Autism’s First Child’ Gives Clues About The Disorder
Here & Now
December 15th 2010
[radio story well worth a listen]

Kanner and Asperger articles at
[many thanks to Kathleen Seidel for making this and lots of other important documents available]

Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact
Leo Kanner
Nervous Child 2:217-50, 1943.
pdf version
[Quote from paper: "Before the family's arrival from their home town, the father sent a thirtythree-page typewritten history that, though filled with much obsessive detail, gave an excellent account of Donald's background." Looks like evidence for the Broader Autistic Phenotype! I'll bet the anti-vaxers didn't mention that in their book!]

a story about another autistic golfer, who looks a lot like an autistic man that I know:

Selcraig, Bruce (2004) Golf’s purest striker rarely missed a fairway. USA Today. September 28 2004.

Very famous Australian to be added to great list of famous autistic people?

Which one will it be?

Nice recent photos of Bram Cohen

Here are some nice recent photos of autist Bram Cohen, a computer programmer and businessman who has changed the world.

"Techies in Time Mag"
Robyn Twomey
December 13, 2010

the story in Time magazine:

Time frames: The Men Who Stole the World
Lev Grossman
Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010,28804,2032304_2032746_2032903,00.html

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A timely quote

Consumption today consists of people spending money they don’t own, to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like.
- Dr Clive Hamilton

I have a collection of favourite quotes here:

Monday, December 13, 2010

What kinda bloke is Julian Assange?

See my most recent post about Julian Assange here:

I saw an interesting portrait of the world's currently most famous Australian, the Wikileaks whistleblower Julian Assange, in the Weekend Australian. It appears that he is an unconventional bloke who hasn't had a lot of luck in relationships, the son of an unconventional mother who hasn't had a lot of luck in relationships. Assange had a childhood that was apparently partly itinerant and partly an idyllic lifestyle, unsullied by schools and institutional education on Magnetic Island off Townsville. I have visited this island, and I was utterly enchanted by it. Heaven. Moments to treasure forever. I recall this island was also a favourite haunt of the ill-fated Michael Hutchence and Paula Yates.

Assange is very obviously intellectually gifted, and was also homeschooled for a lot of his childhood. I thought the comments by the author Suelette Dreyfus about Assange and the hacker set that he used to hang out with in his younger years were particularly interesting with regard to gifted young Australians not fitting into the education system and society in general. Assange used to hang around libraries and study without much regard for graduating. That's a lifestyle that I am most familiar with.

In Australia we have a proud history of outsider whistleblowers, with notable Australians such as our autistic Deborah Locke, formerly known as Debbie Webb, who's scary career in the police force was a feature of the very popular Aussie TV series Underbelly.

"Julian Assange, wild child of free speech."
Stuart Rintoul, Sean Parnell, Sarah Elks, Milanda Rout, Jared Owens
December 11, 2010
The Australian
December 11-12 2010. p. 1, 8
Weekend Australian

Watching Deborah Locke watching the detectives

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas makes me want to scream!

I guess the festive season isn't all bad, but the crowds, the cost, the rushing to wind up the year, the consumerism, the stodgy, fattening food everywhere you look, the retailers flogging boxes of chocolates that are going to melt in the summer heat before they get given as gifts, the the second-rate crap on TV and the radio, the everyone important being unavailable till January, the suspension of important services, the being expected to work at Christmas and New Year if you are a casual worker (voiding the essential meaning of the word "casual"), the absurdly unsuitable European traditions and the lack of time for the things in life that really matter, I don't need. Sometimes I just feel like chucking the shits in a style that only an autistic person can achieve, like these guys....

Mono by Courtney Love

Get Free by The Vines

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Stop the Press!

I can't believe that the TV news broadcasts in Australia today have had as a leading story Wikileaks revealations that Kevin Rudd is a control-freak. This is news? We need to discover this through leaked diplomatic cable messages?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Lili's thought for the day

It's such a great thing to have a technical mind - it makes one so popular.....when people have a car or a computer that doesn't work.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

I love this quote

“This is another man I can never know because I can never talk with him, for I am a mute and cannot speak. I am cut off from other men, but in my own silence I can hear things they cannot hear, know things they can never know.”

- Finn the Mute, a character played by Skelton Knaggs, from the 1943 movie The Ghost Ship, produced by Val Lewton.

Memorable fictional characters portraying autistic traits or themes

(unfinished article) Val Lewton, producer of classic horror movies - have I solved a mystery?

Just as I suspected

Some recent Christmas-related socializing has confirmed my suspicion. Sometimes one finds out more about a person when that person is not present at a gathering. Just as I thought - the person that I find the most instantly likeable, the only one that I feel as though I could really belong to the same tribe as, is to a degree disliked and disrespected. It's not as though the other normal, savvy, sensible folk are not nice and polite to me - they are all polite to my face, and some are very friendly and genuinely decent and good people. I don't hang out with rubbish people - a misanthrope like myself is especially choosey about who I hang out with. I don't like people in general, so if I do spend my time in the company of homo sapiens, they have to be fine specimens of the species. The sensible, moderate nice folks are good people, no doubt at all, but they aren't my people. I always feel instinctively as though, of the nice people, it is the rare autistic among the other smart altruists that I would most like to have as a friend. Yep, I'm a completely f***ed-up individual. So if you ever get the feeling that I really like you as a person, it's time to get worried.

Poor Hillary!

I've read that Hillary Clinton is currently as busier than a one-armed taxi driver with crabs, issuing apologies to all and sundry about stuff that is coming out of Wikileaks. She is reported as saying that after her term of office expires she will leave politics, and she is speaking about her career in the past tense. I am bent double with laughter. Couldna happened to a nicer curebie.

Clinton says no more politics after State Department

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

Was I right about Hillary Clinton?

Creepy, creepy, creepy. That is my opinion of Hillary Clinton.

"Hillary Clinton ordered US envoys to spy: WikiLeaks documents"
Times Staff Writers
November 29th 2010

"Hillary Clinton in Australia - how creepy"
Lili Marlene
Incorrect Pleasures
November 6th 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010

More additions to Syd Barrett article

I have just added more bits and pieces to this popular article:

The Interesting Case of Syd Barrett

It's quite a monster of a thing. You might want to brew up a nice big cup of tea before you tackle it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Lili's thought for the day

Obsession forces one out into the world, against one's better judgement.

Coloured Aura and Coloured Emotion Synaesthesia in an Autistic Person

I had to laugh when I read a recent article from New Scientist about coloured aura synesthesia. In an effort to try to make the boy more normal, a mother of an autistic boy asked him to reflect upon his emotions (autistic people are believed to be unable to understand emotions), and assign a colour to each of his emotions. She only succeeded in provoking the genesis of two different types of synaesthesia - coloured emotion synaesthesia and coloured aura synaesthesia. What is the moral of this story? Attempts to remake autistic people as normal people are futile and will often have the opposite effect.

"Is this proof that spooky auras are real?"
Helen Thomson
Short Sharp Science
New Scientist

A Disturbance in the Family

Who are they? Where did they come from? Where did they go? Was there something not quite right about that level of involvement of siblings with each other’s lives? Did they find whatever it was that they were looking for? Do they drink? Where do they worship? Some mysteries are perhaps better left unsolved.

The Deranged Cousins, by Edward Gorey. Music by Erik Satie, Piéces Froides.

Psycho Killer, performed by The Kransky Sisters, written by David Byrne, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth of the Talking Heads.

About Edward Gorey

He “found almost everything about human nature absurd. Politics, sports, trends and fads. International news. He was a born isolato...”
– Alexander Theroux, a friend of Gorey’s

Baxter, John (2010) Primal scenes: Tim Burton: the exhibition. Monthly. July 2010 p.52-55.
[includes a quote from Alexander Theroux about Edward Gorey]

Gorey, Edward (2001) Ascending peculiarity : Edward Gorey on Edward Gorey : interviews. (selected and edited by Karen Wilkin). Harcourt, 2001.

The Edward Gorey documentary

Theroux, Alexander (2000) The strange case of Edward Gorey. Fantagraphics Press, 2000.
[a book about Gorey written by a friend]

About Erik Satie

“Whatever was orthodox, Satie hated … his chamber pieces were designed to make the chamber uncomfortable.”
-Clive James

Fitzgerald, Michael (2005) The genesis of artistic creativity: Asperger’s syndrome and the arts. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
[includes a chapter about Erik Satie]

Fitzgerald M. (2003). Erik Satie: An autistic musical brain. In: Proceedings of the Social Brain Conference, Goteborg, Sweden, 25th – 27th March, 32.
[unchecked reference]

Gillberg, Christopher (2002) A guide to Asperger Syndrome. Cambridge University Press.
[Satie mentioned]

James, Ioan (2005) Asperger syndrome and high achievement: some very remarkable people. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
[includes a chapter about Erik Satie]

About David Byrne

“I was a peculiar young man — borderline Asperger's, I would guess.”

Purcell, Andrew (2007) Imelda: the nightclub years. Guardian. January 29 2007.,,2000888,00.html

Seed (magazine) editorial staff (2007) David Byrne + Daniel Levitin: the singer/songwriter and the neuroscientist meet up to discuss music. April 30 2007.

Memorable fictional characters portraying autistic traits or themes

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Die Ärzte - Nichts in der Welt

The Germans invented the word "earworm" and they also invented music that gives me an earworm.

Wikipedia contributors (2010) Earworm. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Wikipedia contributors (2010) Nichts in der Welt. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Quote for the day

"You know, if it weren't for the caffeine, I'd have virtually no personality whatsoever." - David Letterman

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Vines in second line-up for Big Day Out 2011

"THE VINES feel their story is only half written. Wanting to make it up to their loyal fans for a cancelled Big Day Out slot in 2009 the band are all set for BIG DAY OUT 2011."

And guess who has tickets? HA HA HAAhahaha!!!!!!!

Just in case you are interested - there will be one diagnosed autistic in the line-up - Craig Nicholls from The Vines, and (at least) one synaesthete as well - Justin Chancellor from Tool.

Big Day Out

(I love Paul Schaefer's comment at the end of this clip.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Stalker or Savant?

One might think that having an exceptional memory could only be a great asset, but I've recently read about some situations in which having a savant-like memory ability can get one into a bit of trouble socially. In a 2007 journal paper about synaesthesia and memory can be read an account of the experiences of A. J. M., a synaesthete study subject with an exceptional memory. A. J. M. has been written about under an abbreviated name to protect his identity, as is the convention in science journals. He has found that casual acquaintances have become a bit uneasy when they discover that he has perfectly retained their birthdays and mobile numbers from a long time ago. The poor bloke was probably thinking they would be impressed by his super-human mental powers. There is no pleasing neurotypical people! M. R. is a male computer programmer with an exceptional ability in face recognition who was written about in a 2009 journal paper about super-recognizers. Super-recognizers are people who have outstanding abilities in identifying and remembering faces. They are the opposite of prosopagnosics. Hapless M. R. has made people feel uncomfortable by revealing that he has recognized them from fleeting contacts made a long time ago, and he has found that it can be easier socially to pretend that he doesn't recognize people, to avoid being labelled a stalker. Sometimes its just easier being average.

Yaro, Caroline and Ward, Jamie (2007) Searching for Shereshevskii: what is superior about the memory of synaesthetes? Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. 2007 May;60(5):681-95.

Russell R, Duchaine B, Nakayama K (2009) Super-recognizers: people with extraordinary face recognition ability. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. 2009 Apr;16(2):252-7.

Whatever happened to Dr Hans Asperger's patients?

Thank you to Michelle Dawson at her blog The Autism Crisis for informing us about an interesting and important recently-published study that has investigated a particularly nasty myth about autistic people - the unfounded idea that we are more likely to commit crimes. This baseless belief most likely has its origin in the many stupid but popular ideas about loners - that bunch of old cobblers about loners being serial killers and serial killers being loners. Its a crock of crap, but simple folks love these stories. Never mind that a fair number of serial killers have been husband and wife teams (hardly loners who are unable to form relationships). Some examples of husband and wife serial killer teams that come easily to mind are Fred and Rosemary West and the Birnies. Ivan Milat has been incorrectly described as a loner despite not actually having a personality that is anything like a loner, and he had and still has a charismatic influence over some people, and many believe he killed in company. Being a serial killer clearly does not have to be a lonely lifestyle.

Anyway, in the land of rational scientific thought, some researchers from Austria and London have done a study following the original patients of Dr Hans Asperger in Austria. They have checked the penal register for the records of these patients who were diagnosed as autistic when they were children. This is what the researchers found:

"In this original cohort of Asperger’s patients, convictions were no more common than in the general male population."

And the nature of the crimes that were found were not different to the norm. No serial killers. No sex offences either. Very boring.

Kathrin Hippler • Essi Viding • Christian Klicpera • Francesca Happe (2010) Brief Report: No Increase in Criminal Convictions in Hans Asperger’s Original Cohort. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. (2010) 40:774–780. Published online: 19 December 2009.

The Autism Crisis

Jani Schofield is not the only victim

I've been reading a not-particularly-good mass media article from the US about synaesthesia. As is often the case with articles that are on the internet, the comments from the public are as interesting, if not more interesting, than the piece itself. This one has over 200 comments, many of them personal accounts of synaesthesia. One of these comments stands out as not quirky or funny or simply interesting. This comment is an account of a terrible case of medical malpractice involving misdiagnosis and synaesthesia.

Take a look at the comment by someone named Zoe. Zoe experiences (or experienced) the type of synaesthesia in which people appear to have a halo or aura of colour. There is nothing supernatural or flaky about this synaesthesia, it is just colours associated with things. That's not to say that people wont or can't interpret this type of synaesthesia with a supernatural explanation - I know one person-colour synaesthete who comes from a deeply religious background and who interprets this experience in religious terms. For some, maybe most people who experience person-related colours, the colours are associated with a perception of some quality that people have or are percieved to have - "bad" people might have a particular colour, or sad people might have a colour etc. For me there is a small group of unusual people who all share the same colour, which I "see" in my mind's eye when I see or imagine their images. For me everyone else lacks colour.

Anyway, poor Zoe has written that as a result of telling others about her synaesthesia, she was "was falsely diagnosed with early onset skitzophrenia" and was messed up for years by large doses of a completely unecessary psychiatric drug. Zoe's story is worryingly similar to the very tragic treatment of the young intellectually gifted, probably autistic American synaesthete Jani Schofield, who has had most of her young life blighted by heavy psychiatric intervention following a highly questionable diagnosis of child-onset schizophrenia. I have been advised by a professional in psychiatry that this diagnostic category itself is controversial.

What has happened to Zoe and Jani should never have happened, and must not be allowed to ever happen again. There is no excuse in the world for any psychiatrist or doctor to not know about synaesthesia and ordinal linguistic personification, and mistake it for psychosis or symptoms of psychosis. Scientists have been studying synaesthesia at least since the 1800s, and have been writing up descriptions of the various types of synaesthesia in science journals since that long ago. In 1881 a paper titled "The Visions of Sane Persons" by Sir Francis Galton was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Institution. It was a paper about one type of synaesthesia. Scientific knowledge of synaesthesia and knowledge that it is not insanity are most certainly nothing new. When you call yourself a doctor and claim to be a highly educated professional, ignorance is no excuse at all.

On the Brain: When numbers have color: Synesthesia
by Elizabeth Landau Health

One of my articles about Jani Schofield:

Galton, Francis (1881) The visions of sane persons. Proceedings of the Royal Institution. 9 (May 13) : 644-55.

A recent article from New Scientist about coloured aura synaesthesia:
Is this proof that spooky auras are real?
Helen Thomson
Short Sharp Science
New Scientist

Old Val Lewton movie on the box late tonight

I've noticed that another movie produced by Val Lewton is scheduled to be broadcast in the very early hours of tomorrow morning on ABC1. Bedlam is a 1940s horror movie starring Boris Karloff, one of the greatest horror flick actors. It's not the best Lewton movie, but it has its moments. Fifty-nine years after his death Lewton's clever psychological horror films are being broadcast often, because they are still just as special as they ever were.

As a long-time Lewton fan who experiences ordinal linguistic personification (OLP), a fancy-sounding sub-type of synaesthesia that is often found along with grapheme-colour synaesthesia, which I and some of my kids also have, I was delighted to discover evidence on page 55 of the book Val Lewton: the reality of terror by Joel E. Siegel that suggests that Lewton had OLP himself. Along with the nice pile of evidence that I've found in my reading that also suggests that Lewton was on the autistic spectrum, its making me wonder if I've got more in common with one of my horror movie heroes than I had realised.

My unfinished piece about Val Lewton:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Lili's thought for the day

We are the people who society casts aside with a joyful flick of the wrist.

Lili's thought for the day

When the rubbish tip smells like a jar of kalamata olives, does that say something good about the tip, or does it say something bad about kalamata olives?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lili's thought for the day

If you are so weird or original that people do not know how to hold you accountable, marginalisation cannot be too far away.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Still obsessing over list of fictional characters

I saw a repeat of the delightful classic French movie Amelie the other night, and I really like the way that the obsessive, detail-oriented collecting hobbies of the character Nino are very original and do not fit the stereotypes about the hobbies of autistics. Nino's odd forensic hobbies seem to be scientific enquiries into the lives of people, they are not just cold, impersonal systemizing, and I found them similar to many of the most eccentric research projects that were undertaken by the obsessive Victorian oddball scientist Sir Francis Galton, who could well have been on the spectrum. A lot of the cultural products in fictional genres that are foist upon us by Hollywood and the big publishing houses are nothing more than a collection of stereotypes, but now and then there comes along a special book or a clever movie that helps us to look beyond the stereotypes and the dry textbooks.

I have been doing more work on my list of fictional characters who have autistic traits. I've been adding stuff from Val Lewton movies, and other bits from here and there. Lewton is a current interest. I have an ancient copy of The Reality of Terror by Siegel in my hot little hand. It cost a fair bit second-hand and it looks like it has been to hell and back, but its nice to have it.

Memorable fictional characters portraying autistic traits or themes (fictional characters who have Asperger syndrome, nerd fictional characters)

Lili's thought for the day

The fusiform gyrus is the part of the brain that is most likely to harbour ghosts.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lili's reflective thought for the day

It is a sad and creepy thing to witness autistic people playing games of social exclusion, because these are people who know full-well what they are doing. Reasons or justifications can always be found, but it still looks ugly in my eyes. I know what a beautiful feeling it can be to be a member of an exclusive group; it is most seductive, but for me a seat that someone else should be sitting in never feels very comfortable.

Lili's thought for the day

Atheism does not guarantee immunity from a crisis of faith, because we all have stories that we live by, or crusades that we live for.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Still working on Val Lewton article

He was a control freak and he had the habit of taking over the roles of people that he worked with. He had a bad temper and (at least) two different personalities. He often worked strange hours. Details were important to him. He has been described as a "chronic dawdler". There was a lack of empathy in some of his working relationships, particularly with women. He was arguably hard done by in his career. It has been observed that his paranoia had a basis in truth. And he had absolutely nothing to do with Australian politics! Such an interesting man. Val Lewton. I hope to one day complete my article about him.

What's on Lili's Bookshelf

Lloyd, John and Mitchinson, John (2009) The QI book of the dead. Faber and Faber, 2009.

Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Babbage, Jeremy Bentham, Salvador Dali, grapheme-colour synaesthete scientist Richard Feynman, Henry Ford, Buckminster Fuller, Francis Galton, Oliver Heaviside, Howard Hughes, Alfred Kinsey, Ada Lovelace, Isaac Newton, Nikola Tesla and H. G. Wells are some of the unusual people discussed in this book. Newton is identified as a possible case of Asperger syndrome, based on his obsessiveness, on page 14. Tesla is identified as autistic with OCD on page 344. An entertaining and interesting book full of eccentricity, but not a work of great scholarship. Recommended for informative fun.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Good letter about giftedness in New Scientist

I'd like to congratulate Merrilyn Watson for having a great letter published in the latest edition of New Scientist magazine. The letter is a necessary criticism of a poor and often-misleading article about giftedness in children and education that was inexplicably published in New Scientist a few weeks ago. This article was an interview with some psychologist who I have never heard of, despite my fairly broad reading on the subject of gifted kids, gifted adults and the education of gifted kids, including the Australian government report that Ms Watson made reference to in her letter. Perhaps I am being unfair on the supposed expert who was interviewed for the article, as Ms Watson and my family are in Australia, while the interviewed psychologist of the article is British. But still, negative stereotypes about giftedness are surely just as wrong on one continent as they are on another.

Curse of giftedness (letter)
by Merrylin Watson
New Scientist
November 3rd 2010
published in Issue number 2785, November 6th 2010, p.28.

More possibly useful links about giftedness

The education of gifted and talented children
Parliament of Australia: Senate

Gifted Education Professional Development Package (downloadable)
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations

Vulnerability of young gifted children
Dr Kerry Hodge
Early Childhood Education Conference, Melbourne, June 2006
[interesting article by Dr Kerry Hodge listing indicators of giftedness in young children, possible indicators and also non-indicators, and child and family characteristics that can mask giftedness]

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Ari Ne'eman interviewed

"...not everything that is autistic is bad and not everything that is normal is good..."
- Ari Ne'eman, Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee

This quote is taken from this recent article:

Autism Diagnoses Increasing, But So Are Questions
Sheryl Rich-Kern
November 8th 2010

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Lili's thought for the day - number 3

When a tornado rips the roof off an empty church atheists have a jolly good laugh.

Lili's thought for the day - number 2

When the eccentric nun of the family wears a strange and exotic habit to a wedding, she runs a serious risk of upstaging the bride.

Lili's thought for the day

When someone asks for a CD by Portishead for a birthday present, you've got to wonder how happy a birthday it could possibly be.

No rest for the obsessive

I've done some more work on my old list of autistic fictional characters, giving it a spruce-up and adding stuff. I hope it now looks a little bit less ancient and neglected. This list of mine features many Australian fictional characters. It also boasts a varied range of characters of both genders from a broad range of media and genres, including but not limited to stand-up comedy, a vulgar Aussie TV comedy show, literary novels and short stories, detective fiction, hard science fiction, not-so-hard sci fi TV and film, foreign cinema, a chick lit novel, horror movies, kids' movies, children's literature, a 1970s rock musical, an animated comedy TV series for teens, British TV comedy, a violent action movie, a Jane Campion movie, a Mel Brooks movie, and more. This list is not complete, my lists are never complete and I always have a back-log of more material to add, but it ain't bad, and there's nothing else like it on the internet.

Memorable fictional characters portraying autistic traits or themes

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Hillary Clinton in Australia - how creepy

Hillary Clinton has been recently given a warm welcome to Australia by Australia's Foreign Minister and self-identified nerd Kevin Rudd. Just in case any of my Australian readers are getting all excited about the US Secretary of State visiting our nation, below is a link to a reminder about why I'm not pleased or happy or chuffed about this visit. In the past Hillary Clinton has apparently declared her intent to "prevent and cure anything along the autism spectrum." Sounds like genocide to me! Does "anything along the autism spectrum" include nerds and geeks? Does this include nerdy former prime ministers? The irony isn't lost on me.

Are you impressed by Clinton's much-publicised feel-good feminism-inspired ideas about "it takes a village to raise a child"? Well, let me ask you, do you like the idea of having your child raised by the village idiot? Whenever you drop your child off into the care of incredibly lowly-paid child care centre workers, or government primary school teachers who could be the end-product of decades of incredibly low entry standards for teaching as a profession, that is exactly what you could be doing. Do you think this is good enough for your kids? I know it isn't and wasn't good enough for our kids. When you leave the raising of your kids to "the community" you expose your children to all of the flaws and dangers of inept, ideological, one-size-fits-all and fad-based child-raising and education, and it definitely doesn't work for a large minority of children.

I simply can't stand this Hillary Clinton and her stupid ideas, and I wouldn't trust her as far as I could throw her. When Clinton was going against Obama as the potential president of the USA, I believe neurodiversity activists were generally all on the side of Obama. So please get back onto your broom and go home Hillary!

Hillary Clinton's Final Solution
April 26, 2007
Whose Planet is it Anyway