Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Greetings

I do hope my readers have a lot of fun this Halloween. We have tried pumpkin pie for the first time, and hmmmm, it's an interesting taste, but maybe not on the menu for next Halloween. Maybe it just needed more brandy and cream. I might try that. It still isn't dark, and I'm feeling too lazy to do much. How about lollies for dinner kids?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lili's thought of the day

Control-freaks are born, not made. I've just been told which skirt I must wear to a party, by a four-year-old (and I must say, it was a very appropriate choice). This kid has more fashion-sense at four than I had at 24 years. It's easier to just do what the kid says.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

List updated

I've just updated and added stuff to one of my popular lists. Enjoy.

Clever, Creative, Controversial: A referenced list of 37 famous living people who have been identified in any way as autistic, to any degree, during any period of their life, including famous people diagnosed with Asperger syndrome (AS)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lili's thought of the day

In the story of our family there are lots of characters, not a lot of action, and we lost the plot many years ago.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ari Ne'eman interview article in Wired

I've just found out about a fantastic interview article at Wired magazine, in which
Ari Ne'eman from the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network is interviewed.

Exclusive: First Autistic Presidential Appointee Speaks Out
by Steve Silberman
October 6th 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Give a nerd a break! - what Lili thinks about the Quarterly Essay David Marr Kevin Rudd saga – as if anyone really cares what a housewife thinks

I’ve been having a read of the latest Quarterly Essay, not for the essay itself, but for the correspondence and author’s response to correspondence about the essay in the last issue, David Marr’s controversial piece about the career, reign and character of the former Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd. I’m interested in this stuff .... because it is interesting. Rudd was always an interesting politician and PM, and the political assassination of Rudd as PM has been described as “one of the four big stories in Australian politics in 50 years” along with The Dismissal and Harold Holt’s big swim. It is also true that the spectacle of a large group of people conspiring against one person is a theme that will have a lot of resonance with any person (like me) who is on the spectrum. From the school playground to the workplace, this scenario is all too common.

It was easy to predict the tone of some of the letters about Marr’s essay. Annabel Crabbe’s letter is sympathetic towards Rudd and light-hearted in one part. The piece by Chris Uhlmann, political editor of the ABC News 24 channel, gives a most negative view of Rudd, not a surprise to me after I’ve been viewing the condescending Mr Uhlmann on the new publicly-funded news channel, with his apparent fondness for tut-tut-tutting political figures who have fallen from popularity on display during the recent federal election when the former ALP leader Mark Latham was getting a lot of news coverage. Laura Tingle’s piece is interesting and fair, in my hugely unqualified opinion. Was that quote from a frontbencher on the bottom of page 77 serious or a joke? Laura Tingle is the reason why I don’t feel too peeved when the Australian Financial Review is the only grease-smudged newspaper left to read at Maccas.

The letter that perhaps offered the most new insight into Rudd as a person was the one by James Boyce, who wrote about Rudd’s Christian hero Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer apparently argued that Christians should follow their faith wherever it may lead “in the world beyond the safety of the church”. I find this interesting considering that in Rudd’s family there are a couple of people who considered a life away from the mainstream of society (one took the first steps towards a life as a nun), but they thought again and chose otherwise. I couldn’t form any opinion about the possible significance of all this without first reading Rudd’s essay in the Monthly about faith in politics.

One letter that did surprise me in QE39 is the response to correspondence from David Marr. A few things made me wonder. About David Marr. Marr has clearly not learned his lesson. He’s dredged up psychiatric term as an explanation for the peculiarities, greatness and weakness “of leaders like Kevin Rudd”, and to make matters worse, he’s fixed upon one of those quaint, antiquated, unscientific Freudian concepts; “narcissism”. Marr explains that he is a critic of Freudian biography, then three sentences onwards he drops a Freudian term as an explanation. Marr should take his own advice and stay away from this psychoanalytic nonsense. A quick check of the Wikipedia page for the term “Narcissism” and the first thing one reads is that it is supposedly a “personality trait”, but anyone who has studied the real science of psychology will know that “narcissism” has no place at all in any modern, scientifically accepted model of personality dimensions or domains, such as the “Big Five” or Cattell’s 16 personality factors. To quote a writer recently published in New Scientist magazine, psychoanalysis “is the psychology of those who have not bothered to learn psychology”.

Putting aside any reservations about Freudianism and other obsolete theories of the mind, one could ask whether narcissism a fitting label for Rudd. I don’t know if it is, but I doubt it. Maybe one needs to meet Rudd in person to understand where Marr might be coming from. I would think a tendency to behave like a narcissist could well be an occupational hazard for any politician, as this job is, more than any job, all about building up a spiffy image and trying to win everyone’s admiration. I’ve found that people’s personalities are often very much shaped by a job that they have been doing for years, sometimes in unhelpful ways, and I’ve often wondered why psychiatry and psychology have apparently nothing to say about this important mental phenomenon. I know a person who has spent all of a long career teaching, and who has the unfortunate habit of speaking to adults as though they are children, and being thoughtlessly-prescriptive in their dealings with others. I know a person whose job description for many years has included rescuing people, who also rescues in their private life. I once met an old lady whose anti-individualism appeared to have been shaped by her national service during the war, in which orders were not to be questioned. I know a former librarian who can’t stop recommending books to people. It’s sad. What does a long career in politics do to the mind or the personality? I hate to think. Of course, it is always possible that people pick careers (and religious philosophies and political orientations) to fit their pre-existing personalities and motivations. Scientists should study this. Why aren’t they?

My big objection to Marr’s suggestion about Rudd and narcissism is that it is simply not the right thing to do to drop a label like this without giving supporting evidence or argument to back it up. No matter how much one might dislike a person or know about them, a decent person who expects to be taken seriously does not casually drop the name of a supposed personality disorder like a bomb without taking pains to immediately justify one’s use of such a term. That is the type of caper that I might expect to find in the ethics-free atmosphere of a playgroup session among a clique of gossipy mums sipping coffee together in the kitchen, but I expect rather more from a journalist and a biographer. Mr Marr seems to be unable to include a description of personal oddities and a label for such personality traits within the same piece of writing. Maybe there is some legal reason why Marr can’t seem to follow through.

My other surprise about Marr’s letter is that he has, for at least the third time, written about his puzzlement at Rudd’s demeanour “on the night he won office”. Marr claimed that Rudd showed a peculiar “inwardness” and lacked rapport with the crowd. Presumably Marr is referring here to Rudd’s victory speech at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on November 24th 2007. I have had a look at all three sections of Rudd’s 2007 victory speech that are available for viewing on YouTube, and I thought Rudd’s performance was completely appropriate and a near-perfect political performance. I do not think this was an edited version. As far as I can tell, at no point did Rudd lose the audience during this speech. One of his ministers was moved to tears. Rudd made a joke that went down well. The only fault I could find was his slightly preachy comment that “... without family we are nothing.” This is offensive to people who don’t have family for whatever reason. Rudd said stuff to please his Queenslander crowd and he said lots of things to please members of his own party and the union movement, and he thanked all the people one would expect him to thank. Before and after the speech there was much smiling and kissing, as is expected of politicians.

Even if we take seriously Marr’s assertions that Rudd’s demeanour was not celebratory or extroverted enough, we would not need to resort to any explanation about personality flaws to explain such a thing. While finalizing his preparation to make this speech, Rudd texted a final reply to a message of bad news from journalist Matt Price, who was apparently some type of friend, who was dying of cancer. Rudd attended Price’s funeral in Perth a few days later. Such a thing could kill a celebratory mood. Rudd also mentioned Bernie Banton AM in his victory speech, who was also dying at the time, of asbestos-related diseases.

A careful re-reading of Marr’s Sydney Morning Herald article dated November 26th 2007 suggests that Marr’s negative view of Rudd as a public speaker was formed on the basis of a reportedly lacklustre press conference held on the afternoon of November 25th 2007, the day after the big victory speech and mass celebrations. I dimly recall viewing a media appearance of Rudd (was it on the Rove TV show?) in which he came out from his home to meet a euphoric crowd and the TV people on a night sometime around the time of his election victory. At the time I thought Rudd’s demeanour was oddly subdued and insulated from the mood of the crowd, in a way that mirrors the accusations that Marr has made. But Rudd’s performance during the election victory speech I can barely fault. So Rudd was not a sparkling performer on the day following what must have been a thorougly exhausting election campaign, and is not constantly in connection with the emotional tone of whichever crowd he is amongst. So what? Give a nerd a break! It is clear that Marr’s bias against Rudd goes back a long way.

I would still recommend, with some reservations, Marr’s essay in Quarterly Essay Issue 38 as an interesting piece about the interesting and controversial former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, but it is also clear that much of what Marr has written about Rudd says more about Marr than it does about Rudd.


Kevin Rudd speech – part 1 of 3

[Check for yourself - are Marr's criticisms baseless?]

Macklin, Robert (2007) Kevin Rudd: the biography. Viking, 2007.
[see pages 45 and 72-73 about Rudd’s family members]

Marr, David (2010) Power trip: response to correspondence. Quarterly Essay. Issue 39 2010 p.100-102.
[This short response can be read in full through Google Books.]

Marr, David (2010) Power Trip: The Political Journey of Kevin Rudd. Quarterly Essay. Black Inc Publishing, Number 38, June 2010.

[A biographical and political essay]

Marr, David (2010) We need to talk about Kevin ... Rudd, that is. Sydney Morning Herald.
June 7th 2010.

[an edited extract from Marr’s Power trip essay]

Marr, David (2007) Pray the passionless Messiah is not channelling brother grim. Sydney Morning Herald. November 26th 2007.

[Marr’s negative comment piece about Rudd’s 2007 victory speech]

Price, Matt (2008) Top Price: the Australian’s Matt Price on sport, politics, music and life. HarperCollins, 2010.
[includes a chapter about Kevin Rudd with an introduction by Steve Lewis]

Quarterly Essay.

White, Hugh (2010) Power shift: Australia’s future between Washington and Beijing. Quarterly Essay. Issue 39 2010.
[Correspondence on pages 75-102 includes seven letters about Marr’s controversial essay about Rudd in the previous issue, and also Marr’s response to correspondence.]

copyright Lili Marlene 2010.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Lili working on her quotes again

I have just once again added more stuff to my page of favourite quotations. This collection includes a huge range of quotes; quotes that are thought-provoking, quotes that tell us something about the speaker, quotes from famous people who are included in my list of famous autistic people, quotes about the autistic spectrum including Asperger syndrome, quotes from autistic-seeming fictional characters, quotes about not conforming, some gems of misanthropy, and lots of plain funny quotes.

My collection of quotes has become so big that I'm wondering if it is of much use - I can't imagine too many readers would have the time to look through the whole thing, and I've thought of sorting it into categories, the most sensible division being separating the stuff about autism from the stuff that isn't explicitly about autism, or separating the quotes from autists from quotes from non-autistic folk. But I thought again - in the real world autistic people are everywhere, and are an integral part of society. And how can we be sure about sorting autistic quotees from the non-autistic ones? We aren't born with labels on our foreheads saying "AUTISTIC". Well, not yet. The gene scientists are still working on that project .....

Quotes That Caught Lili's Eye

Australian anti-vaccination group loses charity status

The story from ABC Online

The story from The Medical News

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Lili's somewhat depressing thought of the day

In the uncanny valley the distance between being fascinating and inspiring terror is not far at all. So you would be well advised to avoid venturing too far into the depths of the valley, if at all possible, because you could find yourself stuck down there, alone, forever.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Strange droning sound ....

What is that strange droning sound coming from the direction of teenage offspring's bedroom? Could it be the singing voice of the late Joe Strummer? Or perhaps the voice another much-missed punk rock legend who had the nickname of Joe, Joey Ramone?

"The opposite of Michael Buble: I am very unaffected to be here: famous actors and singers with or who had monotonous or rather droning voices"

Friday, October 01, 2010

Our kid has interesting friends - how unsurprising

I've noticed a pattern, an interesting pattern, a pattern that possibly indicates something. I like patterns, always have. Once again I have driven somewhere to pick up one of our fascinating offspring who's been spending time with a good school-friend, and I look at the home of our child's equally fascinating friend, and I observe that this is quite possibly the scariest-looking place in a street of old houses that are bursting with "character".

It looks like it should be haunted. If I were a movie director I'd use this place as a set for the home of the weirdo recluse neighbour character that all the kids in the neighbourhood are afraid of. This house has an attic, some weird little rooms up top. Bats in there? That's probably why the window is left open, so the bats can come and go. There are ageing materials lying all about the place that appear to have been collected for renovations, but sadly the process of the house falling apart has won the race against a procrastinating handyman. I'd feel defeated too, looking at this vision of chaos and decay. It's kind of interesting to look at, with the garden of ancient trees casting a dappled light, long-abandoned children's play things and lots of scenes here that might catch the eye of an artsy photographer. Everything here looks old and f***ed; faded, dusty and sad. It's as though they have intentionally gone for the "faded and f***ed look". Once again I fought the impulse to laugh or make a rude comment about my child's friend's parents' home, a thing I've had to do a few times before.

I remember the time, years ago now, when I went to collect our child after an after-school afternoon spent at the home of a friend from primary school. The kids had walked there straight from school together. I went to the address that I was given to pick up child. Surely not! This must be the wrong house number. But I guess I'll have to knock on this door. I'm afraid. I have no choice. My child has spent the afternoon at this place? I've driven past here and wondered what kind of people must live here. What kind of people sit in a house and raise a family in a house that is surrounded by nothing but sand and weeds? Quite nice people actually. Husband will not be happy when he finds out where child has been.

Years later, child arranges to travel to the home of a new best friend after school, with friend, to spend time socializing with friend, as normal-enough kids do. I call child on mobile phone. What street did you say? What? Do you have the suburb right? What? I'll try to remain calm, there are indeed a handful of nice-enough-looking homes on that street, it isn't entirely inner-city slums. I go to the house of that number, and I become very worried. I thought it was only prostitutes and drug dealers who live in these places. Parents seem dodgy. Oh my God! They have a child? Our child stayed here? Oh my God! We have gotten over this. We have worked through it. We have become more tolerant people, but our nerves are now shot to shit.

I guess we shouldn't be so judgemental, after all our home in no way resembles home beautiful, but at least we have made some attempt to make this place look somewhat respectable from the street. It appears that our child likes to hang out with friends who have parents who have given up on keeping up appearances of nice normality, or never had much chance to fit the image of suburban respectability. Maybe they aren't so different to us. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised at all.

Lili's depressing thought for the day

A relationship in which one must frequently explain one's self is no relationship at all.