Thursday, July 29, 2010

I've lost my focus

I've lost my focus

You will have to excuse me, I’ve been out of sorts lately. The tide has gone out and I’m feeling all washed up.

As I wait to pick up the kids in the car I slip into sleep-deprived but not tired drowsiness, and an exquisitely sad, shimmery, mauve-coloured emotion washes in, in gentle little waves. It seems to be about longing for some pleasure permanently denied, and a vision is evoked of a tiny, dry, airless, browned and bare windowed room that has been sealed for many decades. The music on the car stereo becomes subtly louder and my mind focuses with a strange intensity on every single note as it is played. Let me look inside at the floor. I’m curious, are there any dry, disintegrating bodies of dead insects in there, or has the room really been properly sealed for all of these years? Emotions can be places when you have synaesthesia.

I’m smiling kindly to strangers (Do you feel as lost as I do? Poor thing if you do.) I almost enjoy the company of another Mum, chatting as we wait and watch in the playground. Knowledge that there are so many things that we don’t have in common does not evoke the cold resentment that it usually does. I don’t consider her motives. I almost feel like talking with people my age rather than silently staring in at the innocent and beautiful world of the children playing. I have no special access to any special world. I am nothing special. My proper role in life is to be a nobody, and suburbia is a safe hiding place. People rest happily inside boxes in the suburbs. People rest peacefully inside boxes in the cemetery. But why am I feeling so restless? Why do I have to be different?

Attractive people have lost their charisma, and the misshapen take on a beauty that simply cannot be accounted for. I’ve noticed two people in two days who have the same physical deformity. I’d never noticed this before. I feel compelled and revolted by the human race.

The myths that we live by are exposed for what they are. I re-examine the fact that important relationships can be held together as much by shared fears and shared horrors and shared hatreds as they are held together by nice things. It’s a grim reality but it’s certainly not without virtue, or beauty. In my mind I unforgive people in my family, again.

The low tide has exposed what lies beneath, and I can see some gaping holes where important things are missing. I’ve come to the realization that one of the few things in my life that seemed so easy has grown up weak because it didn’t need to fight for existence, and I fear that the harm can never be undone. I felt so smug for so many years. Why did I never see that coming? Why do I have these ridiculous problems that no other person ever has? Oh yes, I remember, it’s because I am a freak.

Husband is trying to be kind. Do you mind if I don’t cook anything much for dinner again tonight? I’m not that hungry. I’m living on coffee made with a harsh and potent brew of robusta beans, and paradoxically my usual heartburn and stomach irritation has disappeared. I cannot comprehend the currently popular obsession with cooking and sharing food. From where I’m standing, it makes no sense at all.

Purple hardinbergia creeper is starting to bloom, and clicking frogs are calling. Please, stop, I’m not ready for a springtime surge of energy. I have no plans, no direction, but I feel that maybe things will never be the same again.

Please bear with me. I’m just not myself today.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Creation – a movie about Charles Darwin that Lili Marlene can recommend

I’ve managed to find the time to escape the domestic scene and go see a flick. The movie is Creation and it is about the life of the world-changing scientist Charles Darwin, and his family. I’m not into Hollywood movies and I have little time for popular screen entertainment or smushy dramas, but I thought this movie was pretty good. It’s not quite sensational or extreme enough to rate as a favourite movie of mine, but it was good. A bit sad, definitely not a movie to see to cheer yourself up. Maybe a good film to see with a person to cuddle up to, should you be so lucky to have such a person in your life. I would recommend this as a movie to take thoughtful teenagers to, if they will sit still long enough. This is a movie about big ideas and conflicting world views. It might appeal to teens going through that stage when they are figuring out what they do and don’t believe in. There are scenes of intimacy that nicely convey the mood of intimacy but aren’t sexy, so it’s OK for family viewing in my opinion. There is one point in which this movie is not entirely realistic - the actor who plays Darwin is considerably better looking than the real Charles Darwin, who had those great brow-ridges (a fine example of testosterone-created sexual dimorphism in the face of an adult human male) and those great bushy eyebrows growing off them. Not a Hollywood look. Great minds don't always come in pretty packages.

Charles Darwin was of course one of the famous people who are thought to have been autistic who are in my big list. I have listened to a discussion of the movie Creation from the Science Show on Radio National. Darwin apparently had an eidetic memory – further evidence to support the case that Darwin was on the autistic spectrum.

Creation - the screenplay, the issues, and the big idea for the 21st century
The Science Show. ABC Radio National July 24th 2010

About Charles Darwin

Brilliant minds linked to autism. (2004) January 8th 2004.
[about Prof. Fitzgerald’s book Autism and creativity]

Coghlan, Andy (2010) Darwin dynasty’s ill health blamed on inbreeding. New Scientist. May 3rd 2010.

Creation (movie) (2009) Director – Jon Amiel
[Biographical feature movie about the life of Charles Darwin, who is played by Paul Bettany.]

Fitzgerald, Michael, and O’Brien, Brendan (2007) Genius genes: how Asperger talents changed the world. Autism Asperger Publishing Company, 2007.
[Newton, Henry Cavendish, Jefferson, Charles Babbage, Darwin, Gregor Mendel, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, Nikola Tesla, David Hilbert, H.G. Wells, John B. Watson, Einstein, Bernard Montgomery (of Alamein), Charles de Gaulle, Alfred Kinsey, Norbert Wiener, Charles Lindbergh, Kurt Godel, Paul Erdos and other famous people discussed in this book. Parts of this book available to read free through Google Book Search]

Fitzgerald, Michael (2006) Autism, Asperger’s syndrome and creativity. Autism2006: AWARES Conference Centre. October 4th 2006.
[Stanley Kubrick, George Orwell, Andy Warhol, Charles Darwin, Albert Einsten and many other famous people discussed in this conference paper]

Hooper, Rowan (2009) Back to the beginning. New Scientist. February 7th 2009. Number 2694. p.49.
[This brief review of The Young Charles Darwin by Keith Thomson mentions the fact that Darwin has been subject of the suggestion that he had Asperger syndrome, but it is not clear whether Thomson addresses this possibility in his book.]

Houston, Muiris (2009) Darwin is the origin of new thesis on Asperger's. Irish Times. February 24th 2009.

Ledgin, Norman (2002) Asperger’s and self-esteem: insight and hope through famous role models. Future Horizons, 2002.
[Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Orson Welles, Marie Curie, Carl Sagan, Glenn Gould, Mozart, Thomas Jefferson, Bela Bartok, Paul Robeson, Gregor Mendel and other famous people mentioned in this book. Parts of the book available to read through Google Book Search]

Lyons, Viktoria and Fitzgerald, Michael (2005) Asperger Syndrome - A Gift or a Curse? Nova Science Publishers Inc.
[Kinsey, Kubrick, Patricia Highsmith, Charles Darwin, Bertrand Russell, Robert Walser, Joy Adamson, Enoch Powell, William James Sidis, Kurt Godel]

Pickover, Clifford A. (1998) Strange brains and genius: the secret lives of eccentric scientists and madmen. Plenum, 1998.
[Charles Darwin and many other famous people discussed in this dated but entertaining book. Darwin not identified as autistic in this book.]

Smith, Rebecca (2009) Charles Darwin had autism, leading psychiatrist claims. February 18th 2009.

Wikipedia contributors (accessed 2010) Charles Darwin's health.
Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Another name added to my MONSTER list

The total number of famous names in my list of famous people who are or might be or were or might have been autistic has grown to 173 with the addition of the Austrian poet and dramatist Franz Grillparzer, who was a favourite poet of an Austrian paediatrician named Hans Asperger. Dr Hans Asperger was one of the two first people to scientifically describe autism/Asperger syndrome, and he had the insight to observe that "autistic people have their place in the organism of the social community" and "the autistic personality is an extreme variant of male intelligence". The wise Dr Asperger was possibly on the spectrum himself, and his possible place on the spectrum was discussed in 2007 in a two-page letter to a scientific autism journal.

Many incredibly fascinating and/or powerful and/or sickeningly wealthy and/or ridiculously smart and/or important people are included in my massive list. It would be a dull old human race for sure without those autism genes working their magic!

A referenced list of 173 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 (have you got that?)

The Musical Brain

Tonight on SBS2 a repeat screening of the documentary The Musical Brain is scheduled. This was the documentary in which the famous musician Sting briefly described his quite interesting music-triggered synaesthesia. If you are interested in Sting or synesthesia and you didn't catch this first time around, it might be worth a look.

Friday, July 16, 2010


It appears that a member of the famous Australian Chaser comedy team has borrowed one or two of my ideas. I guess I should feel flattered.

The Rise (and Fall) of the Ruddbot: Annabel Crabb with Julian Morrow (video)
SlowTV July 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Caution – lefthander at work



tinkle tinkle tinkle tinkletinkletinkle

What is that noise? It sounds like things falling onto a lino-covered floor.

Oh yes, that’s the sound of our family’s left-handed genius working in the kitchen.

I think Lili Marlene might have some cleaning up to do.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bullying and misinformation of an Australian anti-vaccination group exposed on national television

"The New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) has compiled a damning report into Australia's most prominent anti-vaccination group, the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN)."

I've checked and the AVN are one of those anti-vax groups who suggest that there is a link between autism and vaccination. This is, of course, nonsense.

"Anti-vaccine group accused of harassing, misleading parents"
By Steve Cannane
ABC News


"Autism has been here all along. Considered as an evolutionary condition with far-reaching social implications, its full presence and impact remain hidden in plain sight, unrecognized and uncredited."

- Mark Stairwalt at Shift Journal

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Shrink on the Box

Shrink on the box
(this post edited after watching repeat)

When Lili Marlene finds time to watch the tube in the daytime, she doesn’t waste a moment on tripe like Oprah or Dr Phil or that other rot on the commercial stations. I tuned in to the National Press Club of Australia address today on the ABC, and the guest was Prof. Patrick McGorry AO, the current Australian of the Year, a psychiatrist and an advocate for early intervention in psychiatric care for young people who have “emerging serious mental illness”. I believe this will be repeated in the small hours of tomorrow morning, if you wish to record it. Transcripts are only available for a fee, I believe. If you are familiar with my writing you might know that I take a dim view of the psychiatric profession, and I’m also sceptical about the value of imposing more psychiatry on Australians, as Prof McGorry advocates, and which the last Prime Minister apparently did not support.

I was quite amazed that during the session at the end of the speech when the guest speaker answers questions, one journalist, Simon Grose from Science Media, asked the psychiatrist Professor for comment on the personality and mental health of our former PM Kevin Rudd. Prof McGorry had the good sense to explain that it would be unethical to make such a comment, and then he went on to make some fairly general and suitably vague statements. It’s nice to know that if you have a high profile in Australia, and are also known to have a hot temper and a few generally harmless eccentricities, sooner or later people will be asking if you are batshit mad, behind your back. Australians are such a tolerant and wise people.

If I had the opportunity to ask the Professor a few questions I just wouldn’t know where to start. I am but a humble housewife who thinks too much, so I’d never get the chance anyway. I can think of a list of questions that I’d love to ask the Australian of the Year Professor Patrick McGorry. I feel a list coming on.

Question 1 The psychiatric profession in Australia and in the United States has for many years been aggressively and very successfully promoting the widespread use of a group of medications for the treatment of depression, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil and Seroxat, that according to the best scientific evidence do not have any positive therapeutic effect beyond that of an active placebo, but have many undesirable side effects. Why should Australian taxpayers give even more funding to a profession that has already demonstrated such deplorably low professional standards?

Question 2 You are an advocate for the early identification and psychiatric treatment of emerging psychosis in young people, and your message has been that it is best to do this early rather than to wait until the signs of mental illness are well established. You ask us to trust your professional colleagues to be able to correctly identify genuine mental illness in young people before they manifest the full effect of psychosis, while it is a fact that your profession has a long history of misdiagnosing autistic people with psychosis-related labels such as schizophrenia and “cluster A” personality disorders, even during times when a rush to early intervention has not been an explicit goal of psychiatric practice. It isn’t difficult to identify some well-known cases of such misdiagnosis. Wendy Lawson is an autistic Australian advocate for autistic people who spent 25 painful years on inappropriate medication after being misdiagnosed with schizophrenia. The famous New Zealander author Janet Frame ONZ CBE was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia when she was young and endured years of institutionalization and electroconvulsive treatment before her diagnosis was overturned. She came close to being lobotomized. Frame has posthumously and controversially been diagnosed with high-functioning autism. The enigmatic American diarist Opal Whiteley spent the last 44 years of her life at Napsbury Hospital in the UK, the same hospital in which the English artist Louis Wain had spent the last 15 years of his life, both diagnosed with schizophrenia. According to one source Whiteley may have been subjected to a lobotomy in the early 1950s, and was given drugs and electroshock. Both Wain and Whiteley have been posthumously diagnosed as autistic. Jani (January) Schofield is an 8 year old girl living in the US who has been given a highly questionable diagnosis of "child-onset schizophrenia", and apparently no other diagnosis, despite much evidence suggesting that she has autism and synaesthesia, including the ordinal linguistic personification form of synesthesia, two neurological conditions that could potentially explain her behaviour. Jani has reportedly been given heavy doses of powerful psychiatric drugs, which appear to not be working. Anecdotal and clinical evidence exists that suggests that many autistic people have been misdiagnosed as psychotic or schizophrenic. Why should the Australian people trust psychiatrists who have a zeal for diagnosing psychosis?

Question 3 Will you give a public apology to autistic people who have been misdiagnosed and/or mistreated by the psychiatric profession, as a representative of this profession in Australia?

Question 4 Can you give an assurance that the professional staff working in the network of mental health clinics that currently exist and are planned, which you are associated with, have a full and up-to-date understanding of the autistic spectrum and synaesthesia, in all of the manifestations of these conditions, as presented in both sexes, and are able to easily and promptly tell the difference between these neurological conditions and mental illnesses?

Lili Marlene does not expect anything resembling an answer to any of these questions from any practicing psychiatrist. I don’t know why I bother really. Must be mad.

National Press Club of Australia

Misdiagnosed, miscategorized, under-investigated, mistreated and misunderstood: diagnostic, administrative, research, informal and historical labels that have been given in the past and/or in contemporary times to people on the autistic spectrum (another list by Lili Marlene)

More criticism of Prof McGorry and other mental health reform advocates:
"Dodgy facts no path to mental health reform"
by Jon Jureidini
Weekend Australian. August 7-8 2010

Monday, July 05, 2010


Finally I find time to sit down after the guests have left, and do a bit of reading at home, in between being jostled and landed upon by a hyperactive youngster doing acrobatic flips from pouffe to sofa, and there it is, in print, speculation about a famous person with regard to the autistic spectrum, written by people who call themselves journalists. I guess that means I have another name for my list, my five-year obsession, my wacky hobby, the thing that I don't discuss with too many people, my referenced list of 172 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 (got that?). But you know, sometimes an obsession wanes. I think it will be a very long time before I get around to adding this name to my list. Don't hold your breath, but do take a look at my always incomplete list. If someone compiled a list of the most fascinating 172 people who ever lived, that list would surely overlap my list to a large degree. Every name a legend. Check it out.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

"The assassination of Rudd makes a final decision all too easy. After 50 years of membership, through thick and thin - mainly thin - I'm resigning."

"Rudd goes, so I go too."

- respected Australian broadcaster, columnist, film producer, writer and left-wing pundit Phillip Adams AO, writing about his recent decision to not renew his membership of the ALP, reported in his column in today's Weekend Australian magazine

"Why I quit the Labor Party" by Phillip Adams
The Australian June 30th 2010

More of the same from The Australian

It's not at all surprising to see that a feature article about our former PM in today's Weekend Australian has misquoted a quote by former Queensland Premier Wayne Goss on the subject of Kevin Rudd, omitting the end of the quote which gave a positive spin to the content of the first part of the quote. A number of authoritative people have accused The Australian newspaper of anti-Rudd bias. With the notable exception of the column written by Phillip Adams, I'd say that criticism is well-deserved.