Wednesday, March 30, 2011
I've recently had another insight which I think might be an important clue about the origin of another brand of autism, after considering an interesting incidental finding discovered during the process of the medical investigation of an autistic person, and then considering that observation along-side information that I know about an inborn abnormality of a famous autistic person which I recall from reading a biography. The thing that really excites me about this latest insight is that it involves a system of the body that to my knowledge has never before been linked to autism in any way, which is saying something, because just about every system in the human body has been the subject of some quack theory about what causes autism. What can I say? I can say nothing more, because this is a piece of knowledge that could be used in the worst way. Sorry.
Lili Marlene discovers the cause of autism in between bringing the laundry in off the line and washing some dishes (2007) http://incorrectpleasures.blogspot.com/2007/03/lili-marlene-discovers-cause-of-autism.html
Monday, March 28, 2011
Julian Assange: the most dangerous man in the world.
Fran Kelly interviewing Andrew Fowler
ABC Radio National 810am
29 March 2011 http://www.abc.net.au/rn/breakfast/stories/2011/3176256.htm
Book page at Pan Macmillan Australia: http://www.panmacmillan.com.au/display_title.asp?ISBN=9780522858662&Author=Fowler,%20Andrew
Sunday, March 27, 2011
The rules for this meme:
1. Take a picture of the books you are reading currently and add them to your post.
2. Describe the books and if you are enjoying them
3. For every book you are reading, you have to tag one person.
4. Leave the person a comment letting them know you tagged them.
Well, number one I might pass up. I’m not up with all that technical jiggery-pokery and uploading of data. Here goes for number 2:
I‘m an incurable botherer of librarians and booksellers, and many books pass over my desk each month. Sadly, this is not the same thing as having the time or the opportunity to read books. I recently bought a cheap copy of Daniel Domscheit-Berg’s new book Inside WikiLeaks, and I left it in the bedroom of one of our politically-minded offspring, at number 15 Credibility Street, but I’m not sure that any of us have had a spare moment to read a word of the thing. Yesterday I was wading through Robert Manne’s essay about Julian Assange in The Monthly, which is apparently endorsed by Assange, while waiting in a GPs waiting room, always a great opportunity to catch up on some uninterrupted reading for extended periods. The other day I found an uncorrected proof edition of the Australian political chick lit novel Campaign Ruby by Jessica Rudd, in a Good Sammy’s store. I doubt that I’ll be bothered to wade through this again to see if differs from the proper edition. I came perilously close to developing diabetes 2 while ploughing through it the first time, with the book’s many references to cheap confectionary and wines on top of some generous helpings of sickly-sweet sentiment. I’m just not that much of a sweet-tooth. I did notice that the copyright date is different in the different editions of this book, which became famous for appearing to anticipate real-life momentous political events in Australia last year. The copyright notice in the uncorrected proof says “Jessica Rudd 2010”, while the copyright date is left vague in the final edition. 2010 was a year to remember, or forget, or learn from, for Jessica’s Dad. I have managed to find the time to take a decent look at a couple of books recently, but I’ve not read either in full. This is one of them:
Cappello, Mary Swallow: foreign bodies, their ingestion, inspiration, and the curious doctor who extracted them. The New Press, 2011. http://www.amazon.ca/Swallow-Foreign-Bodies-Ingestion-Inspiration/dp/1595583955
This is an interesting new book that details the life of Dr Chevalier Jackson (1865-1958), “pioneering laryngologist”, “father of endoscopy” and a saver of many lives. The doctor has the enviable honour of having a collection named after him at the world-famous Mutter Museum of medical curiosities. This makes sense as the collection is foreign bodies that the doctor retrieved from the bodies of his patients and kept. Dr Jackson’s contributions to society are important and varied. His campaigning for proper labelling of poisonous and caustic substances led to Congress passing an act that saved countless people, including children, from death or horrible injuries. Dr Jackson was also responsible for the replacement of white clothing with green garb in operating rooms because green caused less troublesome glare. It takes an autistic, doesn’t it? This book is based in part on the autobiography of the doctor.
My main interest in this book is that the central figure appears to have been on the autistic spectrum. As a boy he was the subject of some serious, life-threatening bullying from other boys. At one time he was bound and blindfolded and dropped into a coal pit where he lost consciousness in the darkness. Fortunately for humanity, he was discovered by a dog and eventually saved. As an adult and the author of an autobiography, one of the issues that caused some conflict between Dr Jackson and his editor was Jackson’s persistence in referring to himself in the third person, and eccentric use of personal pronouns that could be seen as a sign of autism. Probably the most striking evidence suggestive of autism in this book are the descriptions of Jackson’s personality. Cappello found a revealing quote about Jackson in a professional periodical “He was a teetotaller, attended no social functions if he could possibly avoid them, was considered “cold” even by many of his admirers, and conceded that he had no friends in the usual meaning of the word”. The doctor wasn’t a completely cold fish; he did marry and had a son.
I would recommend this book but not without some reservations. I do not enjoy books that blur the distinction between literature and non-fiction. There are a number of reasons why the literary style of this book bothered me. I like my facts served plain and hard, but it is difficult to know where speculation meets fact in the many passages of imaginative prose about personal matters in this book. I understand that many people find this writing style interesting and evocative, so my opinion isn’t condemnation. The author’s literary style also seems to have psychoanalytic theory as a premise, and I despise the ideas of Freud and related evidence-free theories with a passion. I make no apologies for my opinion that Freud and his pseudoscientific colleagues distracted students of the human mind from the proper scientific study of psychology for so long and with such influence that it is nothing short of a tragedy for all mankind. What would we know now about the human mind and the human brain if so many decades of research and clinical practice in psychology and psychiatry hadn’t been wasted in the dead-end alleyway of psychoanalytic pseudoscience? Despite my enmities, I am happy to set aside these objections to recommend this book, subject to personal literary taste, as a fascinating story well worth telling. This book can easily be read “against the grain” as a biography of another heroic autistic high achiever.
Wikipedia contributors (accessed 2011) Chevalier Jackson. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Chevalier_Jackson&oldid=413776908
Another book that I’ve had a good look at recently is this one: Weber, Nicholas Fox (2009) The Bauhaus group: six masters of modernism. Alfred A. Knopf, 2009. http://www.amazon.com/Bauhaus-Group-Six-Masters-Modernism/dp/0307268365
I’ve enjoyed this book because I always enjoy reading about odd ducks such as the Bauhaus artists Wassily Kandinskii (Kandinsky) and Paul Klee. This book includes chapters about each of these neurologically eccentric friends. Kandinskii was most definitely a synaesthete. He wrote about his synaesthesia and saw colours all over the place where conventionally-wired minds apparently see no colours at all. I’m not sure exactly why some synaesthesia researchers have doubted Kandinskii’s synaesthesia in the past, but I guess they might have assumed that he made such a fuss of synaesthesia because he was more of a pretentious wannabe than the genuine article. The problem with this line of logic is that genuine synaesthetes can be just as pretentious as the best of them. Kandinskii was also possibly neuro-atypical in another way – a couple of writers including an Asperger syndrome researcher have identified Kandinskii as possibly on the autistic spectrum.
I found Weber’s book interesting because it also detailed the strange creative mind and personality of Paul Klee, and the friendship between Kandinskii and Klee. I believe the eccentricities of Klee described in this book are an indication that both friends were on the spectrum, and I also found evidence of an unusual type of synaesthesia in Klee. On page 152 Klee’s creativity in amateur cookery is detailed, along with one little line that told much about the way Klee’s mind worked “Klee was as enchanted by cooking ingredients as he was by tubes of paint, and he sometimes invested fruits or vegetables with human feelings, just as he did with lines or colors.” Klee is quoted: “The cucumber was lying there happily too.” This type of personal observation is very typical of the sorts of things that synaesthetes report (to other synaesthetes, who understand these things), and it is a type of personification synaesthesia. Personification synesthesia is more commonly described scientifically in the personification of numbers and letters of the alphabet (graphemes), the technical term being ordinal linguistic personification (OLP). I would like to propose that Klee’s mental quirk be named “Gastronomic Personification”. I’m reminded of those funny little painted metal sculptures of hamburgers with eyes that decorate the tops of bollards surrounding the driveways of drive-throughs surrounding McDonalds restaurants. Happy cucumbers! Happy hamburgers! So happy to be eaten! All is right in the world!
Klee wasn’t by any means the only famous creative thinker who saw personalities in odd places. As I recently discovered while viewing a travelling exhibition of some famous European paintings, the artist Mondrian ascribed genders to the spatial dimensions of vertical and horizontal, clearly a type of personification, and I believe the fact that a number of Mondrian’s paintings evoke sound synaesthesia (his Boogie Woogie paintings and Ocean 5) suggests that synaesthesia in a number of manifestations is a thing that Piet Mondrian had a natural understanding of. A while ago I discovered evidence that suggests that the legendary creative 1940s Hollywood movie producer Val Lewton experienced OLP, on page 55 of an old book about Lewton, The reality of terror by Joel E. Siegel “Later, in the sequence where Irena teaches the child arithmetic, she uses the courtly, enchanting number-stories that Lewton had invented to educate his own children. One was a tall princess; two, a prince who kneels before her on one knee, and so forth.” This is clearly a description of ordinal linguistic personification (OLP). I added to this the mass of evidence that can be found in Siegel’s important book, and also in the larger and more recent book about Lewton Fearing the dark by Edmund G. Bansak, that Lewton was an odd duck from his boyhood through to the premature ending of his life, in a pattern that is seen in the lives of creative autistic people, and then I concluded that Lewton had a mind that was at least as unusual as my own. I had always thought that the themes of many of Lewton’s unforgettable movies are about people who are innately apart from the mass of humanity. This explains my fascination with his films.
Siegel’s book about Lewton: http://www.amazon.com/Val-Lewton-Cinema-one-22/dp/0670742317/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1301206942&sr=1-1
Bansak’s book about Lewton: http://www.amazon.com/Fearing-Dark-Val-Lewton-Career/sim/0786417099/2
Lewton, Kandinskii and Klee appear to be three fascinating examples of creative minds that were powered by a syndrome that is both synaesthesia and autism. I don’t understand why there isn’t more research studying the relationship between autism and synaesthesia. As you would expect, this type of mind is often badly misunderstood by a society that loves to label different as insane. In the book The Bauhaus group Weber gave an account of the labelling of Klee as a "degenerate" and a "schizophrenic”. Why did the Nazis call Klee a degenerate? It could have been something to do with pictures like the one on page 158. The label “schizophrenic” was the subject of a thesis by a medical student who had studied at the Bauhaus. Even though his academic adviser disagreed with the non-clinical diagnosis of Klee, the student got his doctorate and went on to become a shrink. As far as I can tell from the evidence in this book, Klee never displayed the types of problems that would justify a clinical diagnosis of schizophrenia as it is defined today. Val Lewton has also been the subject of crazy labelling, one book reviewer describing Lewton as having had a “schizoid personality”, the type of label that appears to be given when someone wants to suggest schizophrenia in the absence of any hard evidence to support such a suggestion. There is much evidence that the late British rock star Syd Barrett was also an autistic synaesthete, and like Klee, he was given an amateur diagnosis of schizophrenia that had no professional credibility. Creative people have been routinely and publicly misunderstood in some very worrying ways. How much longer will we have to wait till science gives us a basic outline of an understanding of human mental diversity? We have already been waiting too long.
Now I have to pass this meme onto one person for each book read. Here are my choices:
Michelle Dawson at The Autism Crisis http://autismcrisis.blogspot.com/
Zygmunt at Kingdom of Introversion http://kingdomofintroversion.com/
Saturday, March 26, 2011
This weekend I've been reading Robert Manne's essay about Julian Assange in the latest Monthly, which was apparently described by Assange himself on Twitter as the best article about him, which then caused a wave of demand that crashed the website of the Australian The Monthly magazine. The essay can be read (it appears in full with comments) at the website of The Monthly, including revisions made "in light of a lengthy email exchange initiated by Julian Assange".
The cypherpunk revolutionary: Robert Manne on Julian Assange.
by Robert Manne
Monthly. March 2011. p.16-35.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
Lady Gaga & The Art of Fame
interviewer Anderson Cooper
60 Minutes (US)
February 13, 2011
This is the YouTube video in which Lady Gaga mentioned her coloured music at around 2.20 minutes into the clip during an interview in Singapore.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
The idea of wandering behaviour being categorized as a mental illness brings to mind a patently absurd and politically-motivated category of mental illness that was applied to black slaves in the 1850s in the United States. The name of this pseudoscientific diagnosis was "drapetomania" and it caused black slaves to desire to flee from captivity. No, truly, I am not making this up.
If you care about disability rights, you should read and consider this petition and the associated letter. If you care about the proper practice of science and medicine and psychiatry and you care about diagnostic categories having a proper basis in scientific evidence, you should read and consider this petition and the associated letter. This is an urgent matter with a definite deadline for action. Please take a look now.
Tell the CDC "No" on Abuse-Enabling "Wandering" Code!
Wikipedia contributors (accessed 2011) Drapetomania. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
Monday, March 14, 2011
Full transcript of Julian Assange's question to the Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard on Australian TV tonight
Julian Assange -
"Prime Minister, you just got back from Washington, but what Australian citizens want to know, is which country do you represent? Do you represent Australians and will you fight for Australian interests? Because it's not the first time that you or a member of your cabinet has been into a US government building and exchanged information. In fact, we have intelligence that your government has been exchanging information with foreign powers about Australian citizens working for WikiLeaks."
The shot then changes to a closer shot of Assange's head and shoulders. This is a pre-recorded, edited piece of video.
"So Prime Minister, my question to you is this; when will you come clean about precisely what information you have supplied to foreign powers about Australian citizens working or affiliated with WikiLeaks? And if you cannot give a full and frank answer to that question, should perhaps the Australian people consider charging you with treason?"
Assange delivered his question in the style of a threatening evil genius from a James Bond movie (pretty much his usual style).
PM Julia Gillard -
I did not take a full transcript of her reply. She had a rather patronizing smile while listening to Assange's question, and stayed cheerful while addressing his question. She said:
"I honestly don't know what he is talking about."
She denied exchanging information about people at WikiLeaks. She admitted that "we" do sometimes exchange information with foreign powers in matters such as following up "transnational crimes". She also said:
"No one in the US raised with me Mr Assange, no one."
When she made this statement she did her characteristic exposed palms patting downward gesture, rather like the gesture that one might make to a dog or a toddler who was jumping up and getting out of control.
Some thoughts that come to my mind after viewing this are:
Assange possibly intended to add to the many minor controversies about Australia's high-profile Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd in the part of Assange's question about people nipping into US government buildings to leak information. Would this be a big deal if it were true? I guess it depends on the information.
What information might our government be receiving in return for leaking information to the yanks?
Is Assange issuing a threat to Gillard or Rudd or some other party?
Is WikiLeaks transforming from a whistleblowing organization into a blackmailing organization?
Link to Australian press story about Assange's question:
Q & A
Q and A
Friday, March 11, 2011
56 famous synaesthetes or possible synesthetes: a list with references.
The tsunami is expected to hit Taiwan soon. It might be too dark to see it if it hits as it is getting dark in Taiwan now:
If you live anywhere near the Pacific Ocean, please stay informed and stay safe!
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Following the herd actually shifts your opinion
New ScientistMarch 4th 2011
I've found another story about a research study that is old (from 2009) but is a nice complement to the above story. It outlines a study of social conformity that used brain scan technology. The study was apparently published in the science journal Neuron.
Why so many minds think alike.
January 15th 2009
Monday, March 07, 2011
Never mind that in our midst we all see many people who don't or can't or won't fit the stereotypes. Tomboys, effeminate lads, same-sex attracted people, cross-dressers, nerdy ladies who love to write code, nurturing men who love to care and cook. I guess we can all go to hell in today's intellectual climate. The only type of diversity that we officially celebrate these days is ethnic diversity. So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that today the government high school that our child attends is holding an incursion that is promoted as a bit of fun, a visit from a fashion designer. This school activity is only for female students. This is certainly not the first single-sex school activity held at a co-ed high school that I have heard of. Such discrimination is apparently not at all frowned upon these days. Our politically-aware child asked me Am I allowed to say "sexism"? Well, if you can't say "sexism" on International Women's Day, then when can you say it?
I guess I should be grateful that poor old Sol still has a Wikipedia page, but weird things appear to have happened there too. His surname is given in his article title spelt in away that I wouldn't choose, but is spelt differently throughout the article. Strangely, the book that made Shereshevskii famous, The mind of a mnemonist, is not mentioned anywhere in Shereshevskii's Wikipedia article or in the references, it is only mentioned in the notes. The references list a Russian version of the book and "An amateur English translation" of the book. It looks as though someone is trying to hide the fact that this important book exists at all, or to hinder access to it. Very strange. It would be the easiest thing in the world to link to the book where it can be read at Scribd, but they don't. Bizarre.
The mind of a mnemonist by A. R. Luria
A referenced list of 175 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
Saturday, March 05, 2011
"The broken mirror hypothesis has so many holes in it and is nowhere close to providing an explanation of autism".
- lecturer in psychology Antonia Hamilton, quoted in this article:
'Broken mirror' concept of autism challenged.
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
3 March 2011
Thursday, March 03, 2011
Robert Manne interviewed about Assange and WikiLeaks by Phillip Adams
Late Night Live. ABC Radio National 810am
March 2nd 2011
Julian Assange: the unknown story.
The Monthly. March 2011.
Inside the brain of WikiLeak's Julian Assange.
The Australian. March 5th 2011
[extract from Manne's article in The Monthly]
Host: Jenny Brockie
Insight. SBS TV
March 1st 2011
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
You don't need to be a genius to figure out that if one wishes to meet a nice person, the smart strategy would be to hang out where nice people would hang out. Volunteer work is a nice thing to do. Nice people volunteer. So do some volunteer work, and you might meet someone nice! I've found that an especially worthwhile type of person turns up to events that involve volunteer or lowly-paid hands-on work to clean up or improve the natural environment. Intelligent people appreciate natural bushland and wild places, and altruists do volunteering. People who turn up to hands-on type work voluntarily are either hard-working or fit or genuinely trying to get fit. They sound like a tip-top bunch of humans, don't they? This Sunday March 6th 2011 is Clean Up Australia Day. You will need to bring your own gardening gloves, hat, water and sunscreen. I hope you get lucky.