the view from the tower

arcite's day

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Well, this is my last post from Singapore. No, I'm not going to post about work. I had a late night last night with the Double One and Brittle Lemon. We had Mexican food, couple of drinks, walked all around town until we reached chinatown, had a few drinks in Vincents which is the oldest gay bar in Singapore--nice bar with relaxed clientele--then we went to the Maxwell food centre where the Double One & I had a few more drinks! You know, goodbyes are horrible and I just hate them. I think the worst word in English is 'goodbye' and all three of looked drunk and somewhat subdued. But you have to go through goodbye and you don't have a choice and besides I really wnat to go back to NZ: I miss L, the lads, the city, everything. Still, I know that DJ Never Blog aka DJ blog Soon Boy has created a Brittle Lemon blog so we can keep in tough. Excellent.

Event images from the last days

a baby gecko, not one inch long, on the taxi stand rail
a taxi driver asking me 'what do you think of our laws here in singapore'?
the Double One noticing how the crescent moon lies at a different angle then when viewed in the home country--just like the flag!
the taste of the very one last guinness foreign extra stout (unavailable in NZ)
brittle lemon saying 'no need' into my recorder.

God, I am so bad at goodbyes


Hello L (whose been sick for a few days and has had to manage on her own for months), hello mr cheerful T (who is making dad a certificate) hello mr r (who wants to know just how many phone jacks we have in our house). My family, I might add, are currently living with my in-laws. Time to go back to enzone. The last land, the shaky isles.

...arcite at Sunday, November 30, 2003...

Saturday, November 29, 2003

I've just finished Simon Baron Cohen's book The Essential Difference: Men, Women and the Extreme Male Brain Baron Cohen provides a very succint summary of his argument in his article They Just Can't Help It. I think that anyone interested in gender and sexuality should pop over and have a read of the article.

Well, what do I think? I'm leaving the university today, plunging into 'unemployment'--but thankfully it's only unemployment as in 'unpaid' work as I still have two books to write on Asperger's with L. So my last post from Singapore is about my work.

I have a number of thoughts about this book. Let's start with the good points: it's good to question the notion that we are blank slates or that all differences are 'socially constructed.' If there are observable differences in the sexes in terms of systemising and empathy then provided we don't immediately jump to essentialism--which Baron Cohen doesn't do--we can accept a certain validity of these findings. In fact, one virtue of the book is that it proposes differences between systematising and empathy that correlate to sexual differences even though a male can have a female brain and vice versa. And Baron Cohen, unlike Pinker, acknowledges sexism and the dangers of stereotyping. But he also wants us to acknowledge than on average men are more aggressive, less caring, more prone to systems, rules, laws, more able to dehumanise others: hence all the rapes and murders that are committed by men.

There's no doubt that this book represents a turning point in writing about autism; that's why I had to read it in hardback. Baron Cohen is a brave writer, he's interested in what's 'going on' and he's not afraid to tackle some very fundamental assumptions and issues (issues which I think we haven't tackled as well as we could). He sees IQ as totally key to the autism debate as many of the features of autism all relate to IQ. Does the person have a high IQ or not? If they have a low IQ then many problems relate to this low IQ. IQ is a highly controversal subject in disability studies and my own frustration at many of the 'social construction' arguments was that they all seem to propose that we are all the 'same' and that the only power-knowledge-discourse 'produced imbecilic subjects': this is only half the story though. IQ really does exist as an evolutionary feature of our gene pool: some people are really more intelligent than others though there is not necessarily any evolutionary advantage in intelligence per se. Accepting this difference as a biological feature means you can't just play the Foucault card in the theory game: the measurement is a constructed but there are differences in what we measure. (And common sense tells us that some people are smarter than others!)

If autists have high IQ then what many of the many 'executive function' problems disappear as executive function relates to IQ! For Baron Cohen, autists have highly 'systematising' brains. He rejects the notion of 'stimming' as pointless behaviours (such as spinning a toy car's wheel for hours.) These brains are wired to finding patterns are not concerned with how others see them; they love structure, maps, directories, tables, slots, numbers, musical notes, etc. They are not concerned with the social so much as they love patterns and systems. Autism is an example of the 'extreme male brain.'

This is a startling argument and we can easily forget as we so easily jump into the nature versus nuture debate--what a radical departure this is for understanding autism. In his earlier work Mindblindess Baron Cohen proposed that the mind is composed of many cognitive modules. One of these modules performs the function of producing a 'theory of mind' (TOM). TOM is the cognitive processes by which I wonder what you are thinking. Or to put it another way, your ability to judge and speculate on what others are thinking and the what they might think of your behaviour depends on your 'theory of mind' module. As autism is characterised by poor social interactions and poor social skills, it seems reasonable to assume that autism must be a result of disfunctional TOM module. In proposing this Baron Cohen followed in the footsteps of his illustrious teacher, Uta Frith.

All this is rejected in the new book. Autism is not a deficit. Nothing is missing at all. People differ in how they empathise or systematise and the previous view of autism as disability is based on a flawed understanding of differences in brain function. There is no neutral measure of how 'social' or 'empathetic' a person should be. In fact, Baron Cohen proposes that less emphasis be placed on 'socialising' kids, especially boys, who don't want to play. He proposes a more holistic view of view of autism than simply 'missing modules' and his theory explains while more males than females are autistic. He implies that we should give up this hang-up about social skills: we should tolerate differences and be more flexible.

Now, briefly, the problems.

Well, aside for the simplicity of the theory I see problems in terms of having no good account for related issues and for not accounting for developmental changes. What about sensory issues? How do you account for these? Why are lights, sounds, textures, smells so often perceived at very intense levels especially by kids? There are other issues at work which aren't related to the empathy/systemising dichotomy. And there's little account of developmental changes here--can someone be born with a male brain and then find that male brain has become a female brain?

And my own anecdotal experience as a parent going to therapies and dealing with schools and support groups is that there are more young girls than Baron Cohen accounts for who are have some form of ASD (autism spectrum disorder) issue. What does it mean to say that they have 'male' brains?

But the patterning argument is a good one & I think that we should at least enteratin the notion that autism could be related to sexual difference rather than just operating on a 'bundle of modules' view of the brain.

So I think that the theory has some merits but it doesn't fully account for autistic diversity--autism, I suspect, is rather like human sexuality: at the heart of all the complexities that make us human.


Now, onwards to enzone!

...arcite at Saturday, November 29, 2003...
Well, yesterday was pretty frantic with me winding everything up at The Knowledge Factory before returning to Wellington, NZ. I live in a fully-furbished cell and the jailers came today to check that everythingwas OK now my parole from provost has come through: I was surprised at how they obsessed over bowls and glasses--a broken bowl means a new set of six must be bought; likewise for glasses. And then the key--every room of my cell has two keys (not including the padlocked gates). Each key must be the original, not a copy. Somehow, all the keys were there and the guard told me he'd let me know the price of the replacement glasses, bowls and coffee pot.

But what's odd is that he never once checked any of the appliances: tv, microwave, washing machine, drier, air con. Nothing. No need.

Is that odd or what?

I'm coming home I've done my time....


So I also know that soon I won't be seeing the Double One and so we go for a Mee Goring and a beer and I think that at least I met some nice people inside. And I know that the DJ whose going away compilation I'm playing now is really DJ Blog Soon Boy who is not just going to fade due to physical distances but is going to write to cross those distances. (And in the theme song for Brittle Lemon will be 'Suddently everything has changed' by The Postal Service. We live in the post-age & our blogging is never supplemental to our living on.)


...arcite at Saturday, November 29, 2003...

Thursday, November 27, 2003

I'm happy that L has been able to get tickets to the Bowie concert. But she was pretty shocked at just how many seats in the Westpac stadium in Wellington sold within hours of becoming available. She's been unwell and is now on another course of antibiotics.

I didn't get shortlisted for a web advisor for the ministry of education and I have to say that not being shortlisted knocked me back a little yesterday. Nevermind, yesterday was pretty shitty all around and I'm glad that it's gone.

I'm rushing around getting everything ready for the move to Wellington on Sunday. It's been tiring--especially with job applications--but it all seems to be going ok.

...arcite at Thursday, November 27, 2003...

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

I've been up since about 5am--just manic energy as I tidy, work out final grades, complete numerous red tape exercises for both the knowledge factory and the gumberment--wish I was more organised at managing paper--submit a job application, laise with L--who is unwell back in Wellington--about the revised chapters for book one on AS and keep on reading: Baron Cohen on autism as a case of the 'extreme male brain' (more on this later) and Jacqui Jackson on her family (our first book features Luke's life story). Anyway, I've tidied all the back room now and everything else has been shipped out to Enzone so I've basically finished. Except for writing all the comments.

It's a holiday here--the end of Ramadan, Stan--so I go to the office very early to send the job application. I'm listening to Tom Robinson's show on BBC Radio Six and he plays The Fall's X-mas song 'Protein Christmas.' It's an astonishing record unlike anything else I've heard. Tom Robinson says "I'm speechless. What can I say after that? Sheer genius." Later, I'm playing the Beeb World service & I catch the end of a singles review show. The editor of the NME describes Bowie's new single 'Never Get Old' as "dreadful, just dreadful" and I have to agree with him that it sounds like a hectoring minister trying to say something profound but reciting hallmark homilies on time and mutability. No, I wont be buying Reality but I will go and see the old codger when he plays Wellington.

...arcite at Tuesday, November 25, 2003...

Monday, November 24, 2003

For those of you interested in such trivial matters, Peter Jackson says that Saruman does not appear in The Return of the King. You have to watch those scenes on DVD. Now I have to go downtown to cancel my employment pass. Feels good--though I will miss The Double One and DJ Neverblog.

...arcite at Monday, November 24, 2003...

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Did you watch the rugby World Cup final? I don't watch a lot of rugby but I really enjoyed that match. A classic. I also enjoyed watching Hedwig and the angry inch with DJ Neverblog and The Double One. Very interesting film and songs.

Back here in the land of the pure, 6,000 kids have taken a purity pledge not to have premarital sex and not to become homosexual. For some reason they are planning to have a rally on Valentine's day. I wouldn't want my kids to take *that* pledge--how about a pledge to have safe sex, try to care for others, respect other people? I feel that these kids are just sucked in by all these manipulative churches: so much bullying and cajoling. And the churches get away with promoting homophobia and the kids just don't have the sense to see through the fantatsic lies. This is why I won't be visiting any temples anymore ever. Religion itself seems increasingly to be part of the problem not the solution.

...arcite at Sunday, November 23, 2003...

Saturday, November 22, 2003

You should also know, dear readers (all three of you or so in my lonely little blog world) that The Clangers supplement their diet with blue string pudding as well as soup from the kind Soup Dragon. The craters, in which they live like woolly hobbits, are covered by saucepan lids.

...arcite at Saturday, November 22, 2003...
A perfect music video for The White Stripes The hardest button to button. The end of Descartian reason: seriation. One plus one plus one plus one plus one. Increased intensity of the same. The fall of the family; the rise of insanity: "I have a backyard with nothing in it expept a dog, a stick..." Simply brilliant.

...arcite at Saturday, November 22, 2003...

Friday, November 21, 2003

Ever wondered what a Soup Dragon is? Remember that band? They got their name from a bizarre kids 60's UK TV show called The Clangers (Actually all 60s UK kids' TV was oddly brilliant.)

Here The Clangers, who live on lonely Planet Clanger, go to visit The Soup Dragon. Look familiar? You might have seen the opening titles to The Clangers in the movie East is East.

...arcite at Friday, November 21, 2003...
"Kepler knew only about our solar system. Moreover, he thought that the orbits of the planets should be circles in exact mathematical ratios. Today we don’t expect that. Our Earth traces just one ellipse out of an infinity of possibilities allowed by Newton’s laws–the exact shape is a result of its complicated history and origins. It’s orbit is special only insofar as it allows an environment conducive for evolutions (not getting so close to the Sun that water boils, nor so far away that it’s perpetually frozen.)

Perhaps our traditional perspective on the universe and the physical laws that govern it will go the way of Kepler’s concept of Earth’s orbit. What we have traditionally called “the universe” may be the outcome the one Big Bang among many, just as our solar system is merely one of many planetary systems in the Galaxy. Just as the pattern of ice crystals on a freezing pond is an accident of history rather than a fundamental property of water, so some of the seeming constraints of nature may be arbitrary details rather than being uniquely defined by the underlying theory.”

Our Cosmic Habitat. Martin Rees.

Which I finished today. By ‘seeming constraint’ Rees means the power of the weak and strong nuclear force, the power of gravity, the speed of light and other seemingly ‘natural limits.’ For Rees, our cosmic habitat is the multiverse.

...arcite at Friday, November 21, 2003...

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Song's of the day: "School Song." Black Box Recorder (So much fun) and the wonderfully playful "Stacey's Mom" by Fountains of Wayne--if corporate taste didn't always try to eat the market FOW would be megastars. Never mind. I'm also partial to "Plan A" by avant-pop gurus The Dandy Warhol's. (as in 'wholes/holes')

Site of the day? The fab Planet Quest which features great star maps. I can't remember now if I've seen Epsilon Eridani or not. We're in the middle of a major jump in Astronomy--patience, patience, only 10 years to go before TPF (Terrestial Planet Finder) will be ready to go. Mind you, my Christmas prezzie will be Beagle 2 not crashing onto Mars. I expect, though, that it will find no traces of life from back 4 billion years ago. Just a hunch.

...arcite at Thursday, November 20, 2003...
I was very happy this morning because I got an email from L telling me that Taran had come home from school, happy as Larry, as he'd won an virtue award for 'cheerfulness' from his teacher. I felt happy--when I read that the school in Wellington was running a 'virtue award' system I was a little cynical. It all looked very Barney. But the kids just love these awards and I'm delighted that 'cheerfulness' is seen as something worthwhile, as well as academic skills--and T. is extremely bright--that you would reward! I think this virtue scheme is a good idea. Why not reward virtues in kids, especially if these virtues are ones such as 'cheerfulness'? I haven't got a job yet, and that is a little of a strain, but it's great news like this that reminds me that my kids--and me!--probably have a lot more opportunities for being happy living in NZ. I'm looking forward to going back.

I can't tell you how happy and cheerful and cheeky T. is and how much I miss his warmth. Almost on a daily basis me and L. crack up laughing at something either T or R have said--the lads have a very healthy sense of humour. I really miss that and I'm beginning to really miss L now: her own humour, her face, the shared knowledge that only you and your loved one share. I'm looking forward to having a good long chat with her and also just sitting down one night and 'blobbing out'--that blobbing out that you have when you don't really do anything but relax together. I love that feeling. Not long now.

Bush in London. If I was there, would I protest? Probably not. It's too late now. I mean you've done it already. It's all very cleverly planned as a photo shoot--protesters and all--but really, in the words of The Smiths "what difference does it make?" It makes none.

...arcite at Thursday, November 20, 2003...

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Of course, the conversation at lunch didn't really follow the outline I've marked here--it's all a part of the Delany pastiche. (Which strikes my as somewhat priggish italics included, in tone.)

I have to say that my own views on the 'feminist' reading project have also waivered over the years. In NZ, I became somewhat cynical of the project and confess to finding it sometimes tiresome--but it's amazing how much you can learn from Singapore! But this tiresomeness was not just a 'man's experience' as it was also freely expressed by many women friends and was just really a sign of what I--and I am sure many others--see as an emerging maturity or urbane sophistication. (We also didn't trust some of the people pushing the critique as good people, you know?) It wasn't a backlash so much as a sign that we had moved forward and the ground or bedrock had changed: we wanted much more divergence in the orchestra. The 1980s, in NZ, saw a very dominant sort of puritanism and extremism--in all sorts of areas--at work at the university. The 'erotic' and the 'body' were very devalued. I think NZ moved out of that a lot in the 90s. Coffee bars and bistros helped.

And now? Any last words to blog on this subject?

As a critique, feminism is as central as ever to understanding my own micro-research area. I don't respect feminism to be 'nice' or 'pc': the simple fact is that feminism (as a reading concerned with exploring all the issues I have just outlined) contains a whole set of 'knowledges' on nature/nuture/cognition without which the project of 'reflecting on autism' would remain entirely bereft of theoretical ground.

Now let it lie.

I should really get on with my packing.

...arcite at Wednesday, November 19, 2003...

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

The danger is wanting to move to quickly away from any sort of reading that would throw into question power's own ground without also falling into a joyless, tireless game of revealing 'operations of power' in a most artless fashion: the antidote to this sudden call to 'go beyond' this sort of reading is to call for pleasure in reading and stylistics. Always amusing for me to see 'feminism' (what ever is seen or counted as being written in that name but which generally is a reading involved in focussing on representations or 'modelling', to employ's Delany's phrase, of gender, power, sexual relations, violence, desire, fantasy and other marginal concerns to all readers) as viewed as a tiresome necessity--a bit like paying one's taxes. And as if feminism was an orthodoxy or something which had already arrived, passed and could now be discounted in the United States. I almost laugh at this out loud! L. Cohen:"Democracy is coming to the USA!" I don't mean to be parochical but where is NZ now, I mean are we in 2020 yet and I'm travelling back in time, always back in time? Can't you see that unless you really are reactive a certain understanding of group identities, critiques and spaces of differences is exactly what is needed to stop the growing levels of global violence?The ground and the canon and the method was never neutral.But yes, granted, of course, a crude feminist reading can indeed be the most dull and horrendous reading but isn't this primarily a matter of stylistics & method? God knows, can't decon be boring as hell? I mean aren't many in the academy just shockingly dull writers? The guy I'm having this conversation with--for I have never had this conversation with a woman--sort of says "Yes, of course, there are crude readers but the women going on about gender--that must be all they can do --are of course the most shockingly boring of them all! To which I'm tempted to add "perhaps" or "do you mean shockingly boring to the men? or to you?" Or could it possibly be that many women undertake 'feminist' readings and research because they just happen to find it significant? Tell me, how significant is your research question? Identity politics--this term never applies to those who feel the ground of method belongs to them! This isn't the first time this thought has crossed my mind when I've heard a literary scholar go on about how a writer has been 'rescued' from some sort of relentless feminist reading that inflicted his place in the canon during the 1980s. Forgive me if I don't shed any tears! I know 'race, class, gender' can be just such boring anvils on which to forge and make a reading but my point is that this is a question of style not of research subject.

...arcite at Tuesday, November 18, 2003...
We would have to acknowledge, then, certain aspects at work in the constellations of power that govern our lives; constellations that already form the ground of any decision—conscious or otherwise—that would constitute complicity. In the face of desire, recognition of the yes, the affirmation, the simple pleasure of being and observing but also an astute reading that accepts that a certain discursive space must remain foreclosed: that fantasy, for us, here, now, cannot be written outside of narratives of slavery and oppression. Is there added to this an and yet that also seeks a futurity of a possible writing space but also an absolution or acceptance or even dream that the fantasy of this space lies beyond constellations of our own imaginings? History is the page on which our daydreams, should we choose to write them are written.

Bowie on Radio 6 today: talking about accepting the role God has in your life, accepting that certain choices are closed or that within the chaos there is some divine plan. Recovery, to be sure and an end to suffering-- but at what cost? At what end to living on or to a project of interminable readings? At what cost to the work? This recovery we would call recuperation.

...arcite at Tuesday, November 18, 2003...

Monday, November 17, 2003

Leaving Singapore

empty apartment, white outside
other walls and open windows seen through the filthy
mesh curtain you never wash; now the tiled grid of the floor,
thrown into relief says Welcome to Singapore. You look
over the remains: two chairs, a sofa, a wooden table, a cupboard,
a 16 inch colour television, plates, cups, cutlery.
You check the inventory. Outside the apartments declare their power
In the syntax of every wall and door, the set prescribed
variations engineered by the administration for your comfort.
A lizard screams and the morning speaks white, the white as aspirin
serial recombinations of the neighbourhood. Now you’re leaving
how did you manage to live only in their spaces: furnished room, voiddeck,
front lobby, car park, guard house, mini market, community hall?
How did you manage that face each morning? How
did you manage to read that headline
We’ve set the rules of the game & tuned the tv?
You told yourself it was expedience, a matter of contingency
A hand of Mah Jong dealt before you entered the room
Nothing to do with theft or treachery
After all, you have to look after your needs
People are relying on you. So you nod
& continue to play, you look for the keys.
You put yourself in the game for money, comfort, power
Some semblance of having choice, a life, some time to write
& try not to notice the floor until either they or you decide
that it's time for the players to change or leave.

...arcite at Monday, November 17, 2003...
“In our society, men have all the real power: men are society. Women, at best, are men’s viceroys in its administration. If some women think of this as freedom, few men will trouble to dispute them. Man has created the institution of womenhood, all to his own profit. And any woman who would move even slightly beyond the allowable margins of that institution is likely to become man’s hunted and hounded victim, economically threatened and jeopardized at every turn, jeered toward any slough of guilty and madness she can be shoved into: Man will commit any indignity upon those human beings he has set aside into that minimal social area he has reserved for women.”

“No person can deny another’s history; history comes into being as humans endure because all humans remember, and women’s history is remembered and broadcast by the mothers and daughters who have lived it.”

“Well, man is very quick to label his must brutal whim “God’s law.”

“Power in our society is overwhelmingly allotted to men; no matter how socially marginal a man is, the power situation is maintained in all ways when it is at the expense of women. Women are almost always society’s victims, when society deigns to consider them at all—which is rarely.”

Samuel R. Delany (1975)

Which brings me to the movie I saw this weekend Le Divorce or, more specifically, my mindless enjoyment of this movie. I took the film as highly ironic and self-parodic: we are never in France, we are are only in a cinemascape that masquerades as France or we are watching a perfomance of France. And I took this irony in the relations between men and women: St. Ursula is the subject of the painting by La Tour and the American fights against the constraints of the society in which she’s placed.

The massacre of the virgins. The virgins in the painting by Le Tour. The question of a certain game of choice in relation to a society that subjugates you: do you want me to slap you or to chain you? And even if you want me and even if I let you go this has always been my game and never yours. This is what i now think of as power: the rules of the game. Even if you want to play and even if you say the rules are fair and even if you trick yourself that the rules are even yours the story of the rules was always about command, control and exclusion.

History is the story of the specifc choices we are faced with when we walk out of the door each morning.

Delany reminds me that only I, as male, could idly enjoy this film or that nothing could be more dangerous, in a real sense, then my escapist fantasies when confronted with the prison of my daily life. Writing my desires and fantasies can never be a matter of whimsy or doggeral—such a writing can only occur in a future time, another world which has yet to arrive. I see that now. The reality is also a playing out of powerful fantasies—to rework Derrida, There is nothing outside the fantasy or we might say that the fantasy and the processes of exclusion and subjugation form the backdrop to our lives. You will not know nor can ever know that but you see the truth of this evaluation and the responsibility such a reading calls for.

What is the exit strategy for these fantasies and these narratives? The problem with a purely neurological or evolutionary psychology approach to desire is the forgetting of power: In le Divorce, the old politician desires the jeune fille but he’s also a fascist: his programme is death. How are we to leave these narratives of command and control?

First, to pose it as a question or to even allow for this to count as a question as real as any manufactured ‘crisis’ or ‘situation.’ When will ever even arrive at such a time?

...arcite at Monday, November 17, 2003...

Sunday, November 16, 2003

ok no more crappy doggeral. i know, i know, i should know better.

...arcite at Sunday, November 16, 2003...

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Molloy's article on Technopower has finally appeared at the EBR.

...arcite at Saturday, November 15, 2003...

Friday, November 14, 2003

do you remember when the cops arrested your name?

...arcite at Friday, November 14, 2003...

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Bummer that the kiwi is so high and the Sing dollar so low. The Double One has pointed me to the excellent x-rates site. I'll wait till Monday lest we get a rise but if there is no change then I'd better decide that it's just not going to get better.

...arcite at Thursday, November 13, 2003...

Another hot day in Kent Jail.

...arcite at Thursday, November 13, 2003...

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Hacking promises a lot but like many other analytic philosophers he delivers very little. He distinguishes between saying that natural laws and objects are socially constructed and saying that a group of people are socially constructed (autists, homosexuals). People respond to this construction as they are of an 'interactive' kind--they interact with this definition. Social identity theory seems to be on the right track here. All I've got from him so far is that the term 'socially constructed' is clunky (yea) as 'what other kind of constructed could there be'? He says that he has 'resolved' the dilemma but his approach is so abstract and divorced from what happens in the real world (that buzz word 'practices':--diagnosis, school, parent support groups, misery, re-evaluation of one's own identity) that it's of little use. With specifc reference to childhood autism--which he sees as posing the greatest problems and complexities for theories of social construction--he proposes that the meaning of autism be considered a 'vector': "In the vector for the meaning of 'childhood autism' we should include both the current idea of autism--prototypes, theories, hypotheses, therapies, attitudes, the lot--and the reference, if there is one, namely the pathology P." This reference is the biological cause, the causal agent, the material determinant. Well, OK, I buy this but it actually seems to say very little.

Still, I don't mean to slag him off--he rejects social construction, so he says, but ironically his book also shows exactly why these types of arguments make sense.

The packers have packed everything. I am in a barren apartment with my extremely opinionated father-in-law. Last night's dinner conversation: "but why do gays in Sydney have to have parades?" I wasn't going to get into that--he said that he supported gay rights (ok) but 'why do they have to have parades?' He was tipsy from two double scotches at happy hour (I had beer): so I took an approach: there are two issues here 1) gay rights 2) parades. We were at the Rendevous hotel and I felt myself shifting into the cinematic. I'm in some sort of independent channel 4 film about white Lancashire boys who shift to the antipodes, marry Indian girls and go and live in Asia. It's all horribly global and post-colonial and plagued by intergenerational misunderstanding and multiple constructed idenities and all projected on the canvas of history as the Iraq war plays out. Lots of TVs showing CNN and Fox. Endless blogging. But what's the soundtrack--Bollywood The Fall and The Smiths? I'm inside the film now. I have his face in my shot and I can see the words running along the bottom of the screen as I playing the film of this dinner conversation on DVD. I'm stimming on the traffic lights. I'm seeing too much, hearing too much, the shadowtraits are back in town. 'And these women going out at night in skimpy clothes.' He's acting the part, using the method you use to play your face when you wake each morning and are assembled in the mirror. What is that you see somewhere at the edge of the shot, just out of view, some other possibility, some outtake or rejected cut, another life you could be living or a fresh approach to the familiar part? Did he support 1)? He said he did. OK, well I have no idea "why they have to have parades"--I wasn't going to get into such a stupid argument--except to mention that it was probably in response to humilation (he'd been going on about how the Islamic world has been humilated which I totally agree with) "If you are told this about you and this and this then you might want some space. People think opinions and views are good but are they? He just has too many bloody opinions that he has to share with me. Oh, joy. Never mind.

...arcite at Wednesday, November 12, 2003...

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

The packers are packing so I'm up at the office as it's lunch hour. I didn't exceed my quota and everything is going smoothly. So far, so good. Excellent news: my friend the Double One has got a book contract with Routledge. They sound very keen to have that book.

I've been contacted by someone else working on AS and she recomemnded that I read Ian Hacking, so I started reading him last night and just got lost in the text. He's an analytic philosopher writing on all types of 'social construction' arguments: everything from quarks, to numbers, to gender, to autism. It's comprehensive but lacks a certain focus. Will he be able to answer my question?

What question?

How do we think beyond the essentialist/constructed dichotomy? This is what we've been wrestling with for years now. So much seems to fall on one side or the other: either autism is socially constructed in 'discourses' and 'practices'and 'regimes' (what would happen if we banned those terms?) or is 'performative' or else it's all the brain, the wiring, the 'modules' so beloved of theory of mind & medicine. Social group theory points to a way out as it touches on the dynamics of identity and difference.

Identity: I'm reminded of a conversation I once had with a good friend (and blog reader) about just this question. He was talking about some gay friends wondered about 'gay culture' as depicted in a particular film. 'I mean' said this guy "I don't know if I go along with all that, you know, this campy gay stuff--I wonder if I am gay?' To which his friend replied "Do you like to suck cock? If you like to suck cock then you are gay." I like this because unlike Foucault it involves recognition, acceptance of a certain group membership, identification but also the possibility of a space of reflection. Membership is not JUST socially constructed by the dominant group who might talk about 'those engaged in homosexual acts' but within the in-group everything hinges on 'do you like to suck cock?' First this question--the question first, the question that lies on the slope of essentialism ("I remember I could only walk that way home, no other way, and when the teacher talked loud here voice just cut through me. The first time I saw a computer, i just looked at it and understood the whole basic system.....") This isn't a 'discursive practice' it's an experience that the individual has...

This story I feel points to a way of sorts through the scylla and chabdris of 'either/or'. These desires are embodied, they are in a sense 'neurological': some of our desires may be 'cultured' but not all. It's like IQ--sure IQ is a measurement, part of the history of measurement, and is a practice of measuring and perhaps even controlling populations but just as 'some girls are bigger than others' some people are 'thicker than others' and this can be quite adequately explained by evolutionary processes such as divergence in the gene pool. In fact, I'm sure that you could formulate a pretty good theory of this variation in certain selected gene pools and that this law in itself is not just as 'narative' (although it could be appropriated and used as a narrative' but is in fact a law.) I'm reminded of Hardings comment saying that Newton's laws should becalled 'Newton's rape manual.' Well, there's Newton's narrative and mythology surrounding these laws--which are even interpretations of these laws--and then there are the laws themselves. These laws aren't culture bound they are evidence bound. These laws work for all cultures, races, classes of beings: same with Kepler's laws unless compelling evidence could be produced to show something else at work. But as Hacking notes, that's highly unlikely. It's hard though to argue through this middle. I'd like to be able to do that some day.

Back to the packers!

...arcite at Tuesday, November 11, 2003...

Sunday, November 09, 2003

News is coming in this morning of a very major bomb blast in West Riyadh in a foreign workers compound. Many people dead.

It strikes me as obvious that the invasion of Iraq did nothing to further the war against terrorism. Was this a personal vendetta for the Bush family? Or is it really about building contracts and oil? Bush has twisted this 'war against terrorism' so much that we can forget that the US, UK and many other countries do face a very real threat from fundamentalists. Thinking about 9/11 and that 'axis of evil' speech makes me realise just how far these objectives are from targetting the terrorists. The US missed the target. Why? What motives lie behind that speech and why that response? Now that the US is bogged down in Iraq, there are less resources to really work on dismantling this network and there's now very great distrust of US policy in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Turkey will not send troops and there is no way that the US is going to easily do this without international help. But there was little support for this invasion which never had UN backing. And nothing has been done to sort out a deal for the Palestinians. The whole situation strikes me as extremely dangerous. How did Bush bungle this so badly when 9/11 presented many opportunities for international cooperation?

I see a very uncertain future and increased instability. What will happen to Iraq? What about Saudi Arabia? Today's bombing and deaths show that the war against Saddam has hindered the war against terrorist fundamentalists.

...arcite at Sunday, November 09, 2003...

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Suede are to split! Now I really wish I'd seen them live even if it was raining that day! Thanks anyway for your music even if you did lose the plot sometimes. Bummer.

...arcite at Saturday, November 08, 2003...
It's Friday night and I feel like making a couple of ranty comments mercifully, for I am kind, without links so if you haven't seen what I'm commenting on, well, you have been duly warned:

Celine Dion's makeover. An easy target, I know, but have you seen the video where she rides into the desert sporting her new look as blond short cropped hair 'rock chic' wearing dusty Levis and a short t-shirt that sports her midriff? Nothing in the world could be less sexual than Celine's midriff than perhaps Celine naked. The horror, the horror...a very close second to this is Jodie Foster in her briefs. Gender studies freaks: 'what is negative sexuality?' Are they people that no-one regardless of persuasion or desire finds attractive? The paradox here is that they do not appear to be ugly. This is the great mystery: Jodie and Celine ain't ugly but their video avatars carry a negative sexual charge. Regardless of the viewer's spin no 'big bang' is likely to occur, indeed, a certain repulsive force emits from these bodies.

Evanescent's Ad Yes, Xtian goth rockers 'save me from myself' (and save me from you too) are now the soundtrack for that most god-fearing of corporations Mitsubshi dot fucking we hate the world dot com. The rich will enter the kingdom if they drive those cars through the needle's eye. Hypocrites, of course--but that goes with the territory. Now I know how vile they really are in all their beautific ugliness.

P.O.D Who the hell likes this band? I mean, really? I'm not opposed to people milking the music industry as such--what the hell. But this band is just so bloody dreadful-can't the patriot act be used to incarcerate them? I haven't felt such a two minute hate since Michael Bolton's last contribution to world culture.

...arcite at Saturday, November 08, 2003...

Friday, November 07, 2003

I have to get packing now: doesn't The Double's modification and tower picture look good? I just told her that I was a 'frivolous' poet--I kind of regret this phrasing. What I mean is that I find that I write best when I'm not thinking and then need to think and listen to try to get the poetry right. I'm not really trying to tackle any of the big love & death issues.

...arcite at Friday, November 07, 2003...
I had to purge the notebooks last being careful not to throw out anything scrap before it had a chance to scream for its life. This jotting from a tedious meeting was allowed to go free. I've given it a working title.

the old man's journal


by the window of his study
you take the soft approach

searching for key words
in the old man's diary

using character recognition
coffee & a bundle of hunches

it's a slow process
you have to know the meaning
of each word

he was a character
wasn't he?

how he sang the company song
"it cleans, as it sweeps as it vacs!"

at two o'clock in the morning.
remember what he said

to the inspector's daughter?
"madam im adam madam im adam"

over & over again
until she begged him to stop


how surprised you were
to find this file

with an obscure name
in an untitled notebook

you cruised down the drive
each folder a street, each file a house

until you came to the folder less taken
& finally found his secret diaries

clearing this folder was like
emptying his drawers

folding his suits
for the salvation army

seeing the old bugger's gone
you nosey, a vanity

keying command f to see
what he wrote about you

...arcite at Friday, November 07, 2003...
My friend The Double is helping me design the blog. Well, I'm very grateful especially as I'm in the process of packing, sorting out the book or books with the publisher, wondering about employment, reading student papers. She loves the net so much--as you say in American English "she's totally" Oh yea, I decided againt the Bowie concert--too expensive.

...arcite at Friday, November 07, 2003...

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Another new look as my friend The Double said she wasn't that fond of all that blue and I kind of agreed with her really.
Then the film maker helped me choose another template but it didn't seem to work so I'm going with this one for now. Once I feel comfortable with the template I'll start tweaking it.

...arcite at Thursday, November 06, 2003...
My brother just called. In for seeing Bowie in Sydney on the 20 Feb next year? Tickets go on sale tomorrow. My sister, in Melbourne, also coming. Last Bowie event in Oz sold out in 48 hours or so. Tricky, sounds like fun and it's years since I've seen him, my brother, or my sister...a concert. What a good idea. But what will my finances be in Feb?

...arcite at Thursday, November 06, 2003...

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

I've been reading this interesting blog Humming through darkness II: a poetic journal by Sam Pereira. I'll be watching and working my way through the blog over the next few days.

...arcite at Wednesday, November 05, 2003...

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

I'm reading a draft paper on Wikipedia & I can see why my student is so intrigued by the site. Fascinating project.

...arcite at Tuesday, November 04, 2003...
A new look!

...arcite at Tuesday, November 04, 2003...
The US Census figures on World Population Growth. Growth rates are way down but growth continues. I'm a little concerned that the last major report by the US government is dated 1998. I was sure that I had heard that the world population is going down--surely I mistaken as what's plunged is the growth rate.

...arcite at Tuesday, November 04, 2003...
I'm looking at the Cohen pastiche I've just penned and I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand it's direct, simple, powerful and maybe even moving. There's nothing added: like a hymn or a koan it points at differences in the thing itself. Say everything you can in just a few words. Stop thinking but try to see. On the other hand: the language is a little exhausted--that's why you need music. The poem doesn't explore any corner of language or grow a strange branch. It pertains to the condition of Hallmark. It deals in modalities and erects monuments: the drunkard, the junkie, the angel, the clown. It's really kind of too easy. Cohen is a fantastic artist because he saw that and moved into music--great idea and Leonard, though you'll never read this, I'm looking forward to exploring your work. (I've only heard 2 cds!) You escape the poetry rackett. I can't see myself continuing to write in this style for very long though She may have other designs. But it's also refreshing--I prefer Alice Walker and Cohen to Derek Mason. I've written too much shit trying to be clever and just simply enjoy a more direct approach unless stylistically you can play and orchestrate all the right complex notes. Actually, I want to just disown it now but that's also childish. It was written in 2 mins but that doesn't mean a thing--sometimes you wait ages and practice a lot just waiting for the right two minutes. Being able to write like this and grow language would be just perfect. (You can email me at hengest@excite. com if you have strong feelings or suggestions).

...arcite at Tuesday, November 04, 2003...

Monday, November 03, 2003

Too much leonard cohen again....

...arcite at Monday, November 03, 2003...

Give the drunkard his last drink

The junkie wants her needle
she's dying for a fix
that bitch wont stop her craving
give the junkie her last fix

The drunkard's feeling thirsty
he wont sleep without his mix
that bastard wont stop thirsting
give the drunkard his last drink

the stars and suns are burning
through the children of the town
the angels too are laughing
through the tears of every clown

...arcite at Monday, November 03, 2003...
Found myself wondering through the lovely Leonard Cohen Files I like the design a lot. Look at the way poems and pictures are offered. He's an interesting writer: never poetry with capital P and make that a degree--I'll take that and be brave enough to risk the twee. Most of our feelings border on the twee: that's the great truth of greeting cards & truth ain't worth a dime unless it's the naked truth. But it only works because it's always song. So it's all about music. How come I never paid attention to him for so long? Because I'm not stuck and my ears are growing. Older at least.

...arcite at Monday, November 03, 2003...
Well, Bruce Dickinson's great 'The Freak Show' on BBC radio Six played The Scissor Sisters' song Laura and then a couple of tracks later Suede's Attitude. He didn't say that they had ripped it off but....well are you deaf? I mean, it's not even a bloody sample.

...arcite at Monday, November 03, 2003...

Sunday, November 02, 2003

I just got an email from the publisher--she feels that there's a major hitch with our book: it's not one book but two and she'd like us to develop both. She's very encouraging and wants us to continue. There are no major hitches (eg. needing to do another life story or follow research) but I'm still stunned. I sort of see her point. I do. But I also want to continue on the 'theory mission' and I'm going to checkw ith her that she's not put off by the theory--and it's implications--per se. On the other hand *two* books. Maybe it's OK for me not to be working immediately.

...arcite at Sunday, November 02, 2003...
I'd better get a job when I return to NZ: food, payments, kids and of course money for a cable modem connection--no dial-up for me--so I can continue my chronic BBC Radio 6 addiction. There's so much there to listen to such as Tom Robinson's The essential mix

...arcite at Sunday, November 02, 2003...
Well, on a whim I went into town and watched Identity. I agree pretty much with the review I've linked to but feel that it's a little higher in grade due to the perfomances--I'd give it a B. But the review is on the button. The cast carry the film.

Before that I'd been reading a research project by the NZ Minsitry of Education on Research into Effective Practice for Children and Young People with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Good idea: I'd like them to examine their own assumptions. What literature are they reading? But the aim of the study is sound. I like the way they state what regions they need input from--God, there is so much work we have to do to build networks--a kind of ASD iwi if you like.

I was going to look at the Autism Resource Centre's work as I need to catch up with them but I started reading and cleaning and in the end finished Neil Gaiman's American Gods which I found altogether satisfying and worthwhile. On the back of the book there's this offer "As good as Stephen King or your money back!" Well, I've never been a King fan--I read The Shining back in the early 80s and while I found it OK I never wanted to read anyhting else by him. His sentences never worked for me--but this novel is tightly written--although some in the SF yahoogroup group centerville2 I sometimes read complained about the novel and found it tedious. I will certainly read more of his work in the future.

I also have to express disappointment at the new BBC science show Explorations which I tried watching before I suddenly felt this urge to leave the house. This is part sponsored by Duracell batteries. I'm not too miffed--a good show for my kids to watch, I guess. But it's sort of very soft science and coporate 'exploration' narrative. Don't get me wrong, I think the 'exploration' narrative is vital and should not be so easily dismissed but it's wrong, I feel, to simplify space exploration in this way: there are so many different reasons behind space exploration and this show is just too 1950s 'in the future we will live on the moon', 'better living through chemistry' for my tastes.

...arcite at Sunday, November 02, 2003...

Saturday, November 01, 2003

I also like Dido's White flag and expect that this song is going to be with us for a long time. Having "I will go down with this ship" just works--the whole song works as a poem for me. It shouldn't work but it does. Her voice avoids the histrionic so the song retains a certain dignity.

...arcite at Saturday, November 01, 2003...
The strapline for Matrix Revolutions is "Everthing that has a beginning has an end." Wow, that's inspiring. I mean, you promise? Honestly?

...arcite at Saturday, November 01, 2003...
It can surely be no coincidence that Justin Timberlake's new song "I'm Lovin' It" is also the new ad slogan for McDonald's Corporation? I think I just threw-up my Fillet O' Fish. (Yes, I do sort of boycott McDonald's and only go there with the kids. I don't want to be a fanatic.)

...arcite at Saturday, November 01, 2003...
I'm tired of the news format already. Watched Survivor last night: ludicrous. I mean, if they ones who get voted off an come back then the game could go on forever, right? Perhaps the contestants should have read the small print on their contract that says "the game may continue for an indefinite period." That's why Osten decided to leave rather than be voted out. This is Devil's Island Survivor--some of you will never leave the Island!


Suede's Attitude feat. John Hurt. Aside form being a very strong tune, this film is masterfully restrained. Such cool simplicity--and so English! There's more than a nod to Lyndsay Kemp and Anthony Newley as Mr Hurt treads the boards.

Tori Amos' A sorta fairytale is also interesting on many levels--is the guy in the video the block the star of The Pianist?

...arcite at Saturday, November 01, 2003...