Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lili's thought for the day

It has been three months and a week, or ninty-nine days since Australia had a stable federal government with a genuine majority led by a non-caretaker leader. Today I heard a journalist on the ABC posing a question about the legitimacy of Gillard as Prime Minister, even after all this time. Let's hope nothing too challenging happens that might affect Australia, like a housing bubble bursting or a major international economic crisis. (Lili crosses her fingers)
I've been posting things out of order again. Go back two postings to read something new.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What's on Lili's bookshelf - very good book about hoarding

Frost, Randy O. And Steketee, Gail (2010) Stuff: compulsive hoarding and the meaning of things. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010.

This is possibly the best book ever written about the problem of compulsive hoarding (also known as cluttering), a problem which I believe is associated with the autistic spectrum and also hyperthymestic syndrome, although I am not sure if any of these conditions are mentioned in this book. This is a fascinating book about a many-faceted and little-understood but potentially most troublesome personal problem, which is possibly related to OCD and to shopping addiction. Both authors are professors who have studied hoarding and OCD, and interesting and detailed case studies are featured from their work.

Andy Warhol is one famous autistic collector of prodigious amounts of stuff who is discussed in this book, as is Sherlock Holmes, a famous autistic fictional character who hated discarding documents.

Why do people hoard? Executive dysfunction causing an inability to make sensible decisions about possessions? Or is the problem some type of excess of some mental process? Is it a type of addiction? Or is it art? Is it an unpleasant side-effect of an interest or an obsession? Is it simply a consequence of increasing land values and smaller dwellings, or social inequity? Or is pleasure at the heart of this problem? Do these people simply love objects more than they love people, who are displaced from the homes that are filled with possessions? Or do these people love objects as if they are people? Are these people unable to discard objects because they wish to avoid negative emotions associated with loss? Is anxiety the heart of this problem? Is hoarding an excessive reaction to past material deprivations? Or is it a reaction to unrecognized emotional deprivations in the present? Or could hoarding be a side effect of some issue to do with a sense of self, of personal identity? Do these people feel that their personal identity is held within their possessions? Is it all about accessing memories using objects as triggers for the retrieval of old memories that might not otherwise be accessible (links to hyperthymestic syndrome and synesthesia seem very relevant here)? Are hoarders simply suckers for an out of control consumer culture? Or is it an impulse-control disorder? Or do hoarders have minds that process the aesthetic and physical qualities of objects differently to the way regular people think? Or could it be a manifestation of a type of mental inflexibility or stubbornness? Once a decision has been made to collect items, is it really the idea of collecting or saving that hoarders cannot let go of? I’ve no idea what the answer is, but I can tell you for sure this book looks at this complex issue from many different angles.

Does the abundance of explanations for hoarding in this book constitute a form of hoarding? Do the authors need help? Is this book review getting a bit excessive? Do I have a problem? The great thing about blogging and the internet is that one can dump a complex abundance of text and stuff and ideas into a blog, onto the great, vast, endless internet. If I weren't doing this I could be stuck with a house full of junk, who knows?

Perhaps hoarding is becoming a more high-profile problem. I have noticed that an Australian celebrity, comedian Corinne Grant has recently released a book about her hoarding. I have yet to read that book.

Stuff: compulsive hoarding and the meaning of things book excerpt and radio interview on NPR

New York Times book review

Salon book review

Details of Corinne Grant’s book:

Lessons in letting go: confessions of a hoarder. Allen and Unwin, 2010.

Interviewed on radio show Life Matters:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Lili's thought for the day

I cite the statistical phenomenon of regression toward the mean as the explanation for why our kids appear to be more normal than we ever were.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Still can't be arsed

I'm still thinking about finishing that article about Val Lewton. Probably won't be worth the wait when it's done. There's always the weekend.

Just resting my eyes .....

Life is full of odd coincidences to note, if one has an eye out to spot them. As the youngest child was busy burning off some hyperactive energy at a playground in near-perfect weather in the company of other delightful little cherubs, I took the chance to settle down to looking through a newish book titled Shitstorm, about the Rudd government's timely and effective response to the global financial crisis during 2008-2009. No Women's Weekly or New Idea for Lili. Life is too short for reading a lobotomy on glossy paper. One amusing detail to be found in the book was an account of Australia's leader at the time nodding off during a meeting at the US Federal Reserve Bank with some American bloke named Ben Bernanke. Some notable characteristics of our ex-PM include a brilliant mind, a long history of working at odd hours, a reputation for not getting along terribly well with some other people at work, and he reportedly sleeps very short hours. The label of "Asperger syndrome" has been applied on the odd occasion.

Having expended a great amount of energy, at the end of a busy morning it was time to nag and harangue Mum to visit our favourite kiddie-friendly fast-food restaurant for the same meal that we order every time we visit. I sat down to browse through one of the free grease-smudged newspapers on offer and noticed that Larry Summers is quitting his top-level job as an economic advisor for the Obama Administration. The US President reportedly relied heavily on Summers' advice during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009. The report suggested that some people might not be too heartbroken to see Summers leave, even though he has a brilliant mind, as he has a reputation for not getting along too well with some of the people that he works with. The label of "Asperger syndrome" has been applied to Summers a few times by various people. Later that evening I looked at press stories about Summers on the internet and I found that he has a reputation for falling asleep during top-level meetings. Google images retrieves quite a few amusing shots of Summers visiting the land of nod during work-type situations, including a meeting in which a bloke named Barack Obama is yacking away.

So now I'm wondering - is this all just coincidence? Or perhaps is there a certain type of brilliant person who finds meetings as boring as batshit, and is therefore at special risk of lapsing into unconsciousness at the meeting table? Or is there a certain type of person who is very smart, not terrifically good at working relationships and also likely to have insomnia? (Can't think what that might be.) Or is it simply the case that powerful people who have a flair for making enemies are especially likely to have embarrasing moments at work, such as nodding off during meetings, reported to the media? Or did the GFC simply suck the life out of people who took it all very, very, very seriously? Don't ask me, I'm just a housewife.

White House adviser Summers stepping down
Caren Bohan and Ross Colvin
Reuters Sep 22, 2010

Obama's finance guru Larry Summers resigns
Andrew Clark
September 22nd 2010

Taylor, Lenore and Uren, David (2010) Shitstorm: inside Labor’s darkest days. Melbourne University Press, 2010.
["Shitstorm assembles a gripping picture of a rookie government facing the worst economic crisis in seventy-five years."]

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

Short article about synaesthesia and art in New Scientist

I've noticed that there is a brief article about synaesthesia and art in the September 18th 2010 edition of New Scientist magazine, number 2778 on page 39. It is part of the larger article "Windows to the Mind" by Jessica Griggs, or in the online magazine it's titled "Six ways that artists hack your brain".

There is one bit in this article that I think could be a bit misleading - "Since the brain can't tell whether a signal was generated within the brain or externally, synaesthetes see the shapes as if they came from the eye." This is a reference to music to colour/shape synaesthesia. I experience colours and forms evoked by listening to music, and I do not "see" the synaesthesia as if it came from the eye. I see such stuff in my mind's eye. Generally the difference between "real" sensations and synaesthesia sensations is very clear to me. I cannot speak for "projector" synaesthetes who "see" their synaesthesia visions "out there" and not in the mind's eye, but I do believe that they are also able to distinguish between sensations from the outer world and sensations originating from synaesthesia. But having said this, I guess I should point out that today I found myself holding a photograph against a backdrop of a brown fence, just to see whether my subjective sensations of a very particular shade of brown could be attributed to the objective appearance of the subject of the photograph, or instead could only be attributed to a newly acquired synaesthesia association between what was in the photo and that exact shade of brown. I've concluded that it is most likely that I've now got a new type of colour synaesthesia for a most odd and obscure category of things. Every day my life takes on a new form of subjective weirdness. It's a good thing that mindreading is only fantasy. I'd like to keep this stuff to myself!

"Brain-hacking art: Getting your wires crossed"
New Scientist

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lili is the laziest gal in town - list of famous synesthetes

I've been thinking about adding a couple of new names to my list of famous synaesthetes for months now, but thinking and doing are two different things. An interesting pair they are for sure: novelist and mirror-touch synaesthete Siri Hustvedt and the Swiss/German painter and all-round odd duck Paul Klee, a possible case of personification-type synaesthesia. "Degenerate" and "schizophrenic" are two labels that have been attached to Klee, (the latter not a clinical diagnosis but a disputed speculation). Geniuses always get more than their fair share of flack. Review of autobiographical book by Hustvedt from The Observer Feb 2010 Book that includes chapters about 2 synaesthete artists, Kandinsky and Klee: Weber, Nicholas Fox (2009) The Bauhaus group: six masters of modernism. Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.

Lili's immature thought of the day

If you've inherited the gene for male pattern baldness, and you've also inherited a gene for having an oddly-shaped head, and you've also inherited a Y chromosome, you're outta luck buddy!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lili uncovers more fundamental laws of the universe and novel words

The First Law of Silence and Inconvenient Truths - The person who has the most to lose personally from the acceptance of the truth of the correct answer to a question will be the person who is the least likely to respond properly, if at all, to the question. (Ignoring my emails again professor?)

The Second Law of Silence and Inconvenient Truths - Questions that have the most disturbing answers will be the ones least likely to attract a proper response. (Journalists who interview politicians will be very familiar with this law.)

Mushroom Cloud - the catastrophic chain reaction and massive explosion that results when two or more autistic people direct their "meltdowns" at each other.

More Useful Definitions:

Lili Marlene’s Glossary of Useful Terms

Friday, September 17, 2010

Wholesale misdiagnosis of Aussie kids as autistic?

There's a very interesting article in today's Australian about autism misdiagnosis, particularly in Queensland, Australia. This article throws the whole idea of a genuine modern-day autism epidemic into very serious doubt by highlighting how some government funding policies have caused some serious distorting effects upon autism rates. Get this - Queensland in Australia apears to be the most autistic place in the world with a whopping incidence of autism there of 1 child in 50 (compared with a reported rate of "ASD" of 1 in 160 in the Western world).

Apparently kids in the sunshine state who aren't autistic are being formally diagnosed as autistic. They say this is happening because an autism diagnosis attracts funding which would otherwise be unavailable. If this is true it is a very bad thing for a number of reasons. It will give people a misleading and distorted idea of what autism is if all types of kids with differences and problems that aren't autism are dumped under the label. If this misdiagnosed population are at some time used as research subjects by autism researchers, the resulting studies will likewise be misleading and distorted. The misdiagnosed themselves will become victims - of unecessary stigmatization associated with being labelled as autistic, and victims of confusion about who they are and where they fit in. This is sad indeed. And I also don't like to see people misdiagnosed as autistic because I would like the autistic spectrum to be the exclusive reserve of true-blue, genuine misanthropes, single-minded obsessives, extreme nerds and the genuinely strange. Standards must be upheld.

The situation in Queensland sounds like a similar story to what was happening in WA 10 or so years ago with the diagnosis of ADHD. The rates of ADHD in WA were ridiculously higher than in other Australian states, and there has been much speculation and hand-wringing about why this was happening. It's a pity to see that the futures of Australian children are being treated with such a lack of care and disregard for professional standards by bureaucrats and health professionals.

Disorder in the classroom on the rise
Jane Hansen
The Australian
Inquirer, September 18-19th 2010, p. 5.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New book out by Greg Egan

Australian science fiction author Greg Egan's latest novel is titled Zendegi. According to a review that I have read Egan's new book is very cerebral, bursting with ideas, but not over-endowed with warm and touching characters. No surprises there!

Greg Egan has the distinction of being one of the first (maybe the first for all I know) authors to write a novel with an autistic main charcter. I refer to Egan's novel Distress which was released way back in 1995. This book has two autistic characters, one explicitly autistic (James Rourke) and one who seems to be on the spectrum (Andrew Worth). It is one of the very few works of fiction that I have read that features characters that I can in any way identify with, but that's not saying a lot as I rarely read fiction. Chick lit it was not! (Who reads that shit? One can write a novel about shopping for footwear? Get a ****in' life ditzy girlies!). I'm quite proud that I managed to wade my way through that novel from cover to cover. I've not even contemplated reading other Egan novels. There is a good reason why Egan's works have been labelled with the tag "Hard Science Fiction". My brain has come close to slipping a cog, seizing up and overheating just from reading the blurbs on the back covers of some Egan paperbacks in bookshops.


Reissued Distress at Orion Publishing Group

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Synaesthesia in radio program

Synaesthesia, colour and race are some of the themes that have been explored in a recent episode of Night Air, a late-night radio show that is broadcast and downloadable from the ABC's Radio National.
Night Air.
ABC Radio National 810am
broadcast August 29th 2010

Monday, September 06, 2010

Still grinding away at my grand obsession - more info and a new name added to my MONSTER list

I've added former UK Prime minister Sir Edward Heath to my list of EPIC proportions, and I've done a bit of work in the sections for royalty and politicians, along with filling out more info about lots of the more obscure notable people who have been included in my list, and I've also added more references to the GARGANTUAN references list.

I happened to notice an art documentary on the tellie the other day, and the narrator was discussing the tragic Hapsburg/Habsburg dynasty of horrifically inbred but extremely powerful Spanish royalty. I've been meeting quite a few men lately who happen to have noticeable Habsburg lips, like the strange-looking jaws of the Hapsburg kings. I don't go out looking for the company of such interesting people, interesting people seem to be attracted to me. That's fine with me, I like interesting people (well, most of them). Years ago I worked briefly for a bloke who had quite a striking Hapsburg lip, and he was also quite a mad dictator, but perhaps not quite as offensively bonkers as his powerful relative, who also has a bit of a funny look about him. Is there a link between horrific underbites and megalomania in men? I've got to wonder, I really do. So what has this got to do with my list of famous autistics? Well, when I saw this documentary about art and the Hapsburg kings, I wondered if I had one of these Spanish kings in my list. I did - King Philip II of Spain (1527–1598) - more fascinating information to delve into and share around. What a dreadful mess the Habsburg dynasty ended up in, as the result of repeated inbreeding generation after generation. Being all good religious people in the times before scientific knowledge of genetics and such matters, these Spaniards thought the many maladies of the last Hapsburg king were the result of some evil spell. I'm so grateful to live in the age of science.

There are actually a few people in my list who were a bit inbred, and also some who married their cousins. There is one world-changing autistic genius in my list who was from an inbred family and who also married a first cousin. I don't think I'd be quite so daring. I chose to not muck about with any of my cousins, a number of times actually. My advice is just say "NO!" firmly, or if you are from a nice middle-class family say "No thank you dear cousin".

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