My Stand at the First Friday Art Walk

My Stand at the First Friday Art Walk

October 2, 2009

On a gloomy day in the beginning of October, I decided to go ahead and appear at the Rancho Bernardo Winery for their First Friday Art Walk, which is an art fair that happens every first Friday of the month.  The previous First Friday I had cancelled due to the hundred and four degrees temperature and I did not wish anyone to die of a heat stroke.  This First Friday the forecasters had planned for rain.  Three drops of rain to a Californian is a downpour and in fact the average weather report from a local weather person is along the following:

Anchor Woman

“So, Weather Bob, what is the forecast like?”

Weather Bob

“Fine, back to you.”

A Place to Hang My Hat On

A Place to Hang My Hat On

With that weather state of mind I decided that since I live in Southern California there would be no rain.  The sun did not shine through the clouds and I parked in the farthest parking lot to unload my exhibit.  Setting up my tables and grid walls I could not help but notice the parking lot twenty feet from where I was setting up.  The first thought was that I would be the first booth to be seen and the second thought was why the hell did I not park there.

IMG_2382After re-parking and settling down for the evening around five in the afternoon, I noticed that the Art Walk, that went from five to nine that evening, had only four other booths with artists.  By six that evening I had bought a mocha from a nice man with a broken finger and then two shakes to fight off the heart burn from the anxiety that no one has shown up for this event.  By half past six the sun had gone down and still no one had appeared.  The Café Merlot is a very nice restaurant only it is stationed at other end of the Winery and only those that would be finished eating and that parked where I parked would be walking by.

The Sun Goes Down

The Sun Goes Down

The sun going down at six in the evening did cause a different problem; I had no lighting to shine on my work in the dark.  When I thought of my concept, I planned on being outside and using the sun for lighting or that the Winery would be slightly lit for the occasion however both theories were very wrong.

When no one else showed up for the event, we the artists discussed among ourselves what was going on in the art community.  A much larger art show was planned for the next day and it was decided that that show made everyone skip this show to go to that show.  Another reason was the three drops of rain that scared everyone indoors that evening.  The Winery employees remarked on the lack of artists that are normally watercolor painters.  The simple theory of their reason for a lack of appearance was brought up that rain and watercolor does not go well together.

Missed Opportunity by Phone Phobia

My Phone Phobia

My Phone Phobia

This mourning I had a costumer ask me in retrospective of my art showing at the Sorbe Gallery near the place of her residence was coming to an end why I never called her son in San Francisco about a job in the E.A. Games where he works.  Once again she explained that with my talent for imagination, writing and art I could go far in the gaming industry.  I have very little experience playing video games and I would be quite naive at any such endeavor however it is an artistic environment. After the guilt trip I had I began to think if why I did not call him four years ago.  It occurred to me why I did not call was that I was probably terrified of calling a stranger.  The phone can terrify me greatly at times,

At times, friends and family have called and I just stare at the phone as if it were a stun gun ready to fire.  What could be on the other end of the line?  Could it be bad news, a new social engagement or an order of doom?  My social phobia and panic attacks rush through my body as I shale and hyperventilate.  It is an aspect of my life I am at victim to.

When I came across this nice lady again I explained that I have Asperger’s and one of the aspects of Asperger’s is I am terrified of new or unknown social situations and that phone call counted as one.  In the past years since her first request, I have found that communicating through email and letters are an outlet of outreach.  This avenue of communication and adapting to Asperger’s is not new, Thomas Jefferson wrote his State of the Union Addresses and had them read by someone else to Congress.  Having my words down in front of me and able to be sure of what I have said will not be too upsetting or misunderstood helps me communicate.

The nice Lady said that she did not want to pressure me into this and I explained that I now have a better knack for this type of adventure forward.  I have no plans to move to San Francisco anytime soon however having new contacts always is a good thing.  Even if I only contact them via in letterform.

‘Meeting my father was a shock’

By Sara Parker

Producer, Adults with Autism

On first meeting, there is little evidence of the internal struggle Chris Goodchild faces daily as someone living with Asperger’s Syndrome, a high functioning form of autism.

“I don’t have the ability to put onto my face the distress that I feel,” says Chris, one of an estimated 500,000 people in the UK with autism spectrum disorder.

“Often we want to scream and shout, but most of us do so internally. The way we cope is to withdraw.”

Autism is a developmental condition characterised by problems in social communication with a lack of empathy towards others.

“We can get bombarded with stimulation and information and can become easily confused and overwhelmed”

People with the condition often engage in ritualistic and obsessive compulsive behaviours, as well as a very different way of thinking from the normal – that is neuro-typical – brain.

“The autistic brain is wired completely differently,” said Chris.

“We experience life with great intensity and have a very poor filtering system.

“We can get bombarded with stimulation and information and can become easily confused and overwhelmed.”

Autism was first identified in 1943 by child psychiatrist Leo Kanner in a group of boy patients.

A year later another Austrian psychiatrist Hans Asperger recognised a similar condition in children with special talents and high IQ.

This early understanding of autism meant that until recently, it was thought to be a childhood disorder.

Many adults went undiagnosed or were misdiagnosed with mental health problems, including severe illnesses such as schizophrenia.

“I had to adapt to what other people thought was normal, to survive.”

Long struggle

Now 43, Chris was diagnosed with Asperger’s only 18 months ago.

For years he struggled with depression and anxiety as he tried to conceal his autistic traits behind a façade of learnt, socially-acceptable behaviour.

“I hid my unusualness, those feelings of being bad, mad, crazy, deranged,” he said.

“I had to adapt to what other people thought was normal, to survive.”

Adopted at six weeks old, he describes a ‘hunger to be loved and a fear of rejection’.

But he would recoil from being touched or hugged, as well as alarming those around him with strange mannerisms and self-comforting behaviour such as rocking.

At school, he was isolated and unable to concentrate because he found the environment noisy and confusing.

Neither his adoptive parents nor his teachers realised what was wrong and at 15, he left with no qualifications and started on a downward spiral of depression, ending up in a psychiatric hospital for a year on anti-psychotic medication.

For most of his adult life, Chris has found it difficult to hold down a job or maintain close relationships.

He has a young son whom he sees regularly, but found it impossible to live with the mother because of the stress of intimacy and his obsessive need for an ordered life of rigid routines.

Shared traits

When he was 20, he traced his natural father and was shocked to discover he shared what he later recognised, were autistic traits.

“Seeing him was like seeing Asperger’s unleashed,” said Chris.

“The man looked like Rasputin with long unwashed hair, dressed only in a pair of underpants with a sheet round him and cobwebs on the sheet.

“He had no desire to wash at all and was a hoarder with things piled up around him.

“In many ways I saw myself without my façade or cloak of normality and it drove me further underground to be nothing like him at all.”

There is evidence from research, particularly with twins, that autism can be inherited.

On-going studies also indicate that hormones in the womb such as testosterone can influence development and MRI scans have revealed differences not only in brain structure, including increased numbers of nerve cells, but also in the way the brain works.

There are so many factors involved in autism that diagnosis is often difficult and needs lengthy clinical assessments and observation.

Chris only realised a few years ago that he might be autistic after meeting a boy with autism at his son’s birthday party.

Finally a diagnosis

After years of misdiagnosis with mental health problems, he had given up on the NHS and he turned instead to the National Autistic Society for help.

“I’d reached a point where I didn’t want to live any longer,” he said.

“I was depressed and self-harming because I couldn’t cope with this cloud of unknowing.

“Without a diagnosis, I would have killed myself.”

For Chris, diagnosis has been self-affirming.

“Having Asperger’s Syndrome is a gifted way of seeing the world,” he said.

“It can be a painful gift but I now have a framework to manage myself and the realisation that those parts of me, which I hid away, are not mad or bad.”

Adult autism is now high on the government’s agenda and a report is due for publication before the end of the year with the promise of a national strategy to improve the lives and opportunities for those living with something which Chris describes as “not a label or illness but a way of being ”

‘Adults with Autism’ will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday 29 September at 2100 hours, repeated on Wednesday 30 September at 1630 hours.

from bbc news

“Brothers:Robert F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy”

Robert Francis “Bobby” Kennedy (November 20, 1925 – June 6, 1968), also referred to by his initials RFK, was an American politician. He was a younger brother of President John F. Kennedy and acted as one of his advisers during his presidency. From 1961 to 1964, he was the U.S. Attorney General.
John Fitzgerald “Jack” Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963.
Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt – White House Press Office (WHPO)
After his election into presidency, his father, Joe Kennedy Sr., asked John F. Kennedy only one thing of his second oldest son and that was to have his third oldest son, Robert F. Kennedy be his Attorney General. Part of this request was to keep Joe Kennedy’s family in power as his youngest son, Ted Kennedy was to hold Jack’s Senate as soon as he was old enough and the second part of this thought was to keep F.B.I. director J. Edgar Hoover in check.
Robert F. Kennedy had a reputation to put up a good fight as he had in his experience as the chief counsel of the 1957–59 Senate Labor Rackets Committee under chairman John L. McClellan. In a dramatic scene, Kennedy squared off with Teamsters union President Jimmy Hoffa during the antagonistic argument that marked Hoffa’s testimony.[6] Kennedy left the Rackets Committee in late 1959 in order to run his brother John’s successful presidential campaign. In fact when Robert started helping his brother, many had a sense that Robert would appear to be ready for a brawl.
When acting as Attorney General, Robert Kennedy quickly proved himself by using his past experience handling organized crime.
Robert Kennedy’s tenure as Attorney General was easily the period of greatest power for the office; no previous United States Attorney General had enjoyed such clear influence on all areas of policy during an administration. Yet to a greater extent, it was President Kennedy who sought the advice and counsel of his younger brother, and it is to this extent that Robert Kennedy remained the President’s closest political advisor. Kennedy was relied upon as both the President’s primary source of administrative information and as a general counsel with whom trust was implicit, given the familial ties of the two men.
President Kennedy once remarked about his brother that, “If I want something done and done immediately I rely on the Attorney General. He is very much the doer in this administration, and has an organizational gift I have rarely if ever seen surpassed.”
Brothers: Robert F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy

Brothers: Robert F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy

Robert Francis “Bobby” Kennedy (November 20, 1925 – June 6, 1968), also referred to by his initials RFK, was an American politician. He was a younger brother of President John F. Kennedy and acted as one of his advisers during his presidency. From 1961 to 1964, he was the U.S. Attorney General.

John Fitzgerald “Jack” Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963.
Robert F. Kennedy at the White House, 1964

Robert F. Kennedy at the White House, 1964

After his election into presidency, his father, Joe Kennedy Sr., asked John F. Kennedy only one thing of his second oldest son and that was to have his third oldest son, Robert F. Kennedy be his Attorney General. Part of this request was to keep Joe Kennedy’s family in power as his youngest son, Ted Kennedy was to hold Jack’s Senate as soon as he was old enough and the second part of this thought was to keep F.B.I. director J. Edgar Hoover in check.

Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt - White House Press Office (WHPO)

Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt - White House Press Office (WHPO)

Robert F. Kennedy had a reputation to put up a good fight as he had in his experience as the chief counsel of the 1957–59 Senate Labor Rackets Committee under chairman John L. McClellan. In a dramatic scene, Kennedy squared off with Teamsters union President Jimmy Hoffa during the antagonistic argument that marked Hoffa’s testimony.[6] Kennedy left the Rackets Committee in late 1959 in order to run his brother John’s successful presidential campaign. In fact when Robert started helping his brother, many had a sense that Robert would appear to be ready for a brawl.

999p. Senator John F. Kennedy (And Bobby Kennedy)When acting as Attorney General, Robert Kennedy quickly proved himself by using his past experience handling organized crime.
Robert Kennedy’s tenure as Attorney General was easily the period of greatest power for the office; no previous United States Attorney General had enjoyed such clear influence on all areas of policy during an administration. Yet to a greater extent, it was President Kennedy who sought the advice and counsel of his younger brother, and it is to this extent that Robert Kennedy remained the President’s closest political advisor. Kennedy was relied upon as both the President’s primary source of administrative information and as a general counsel with whom trust was implicit, given the familial ties of the two men.
brothers_1President Kennedy once remarked about his brother that, “If I want something done and done immediately I rely on the Attorney General. He is very much the doer in this administration, and has an organizational gift I have rarely if ever seen surpassed.”

Robert Pattinson: Never Think

"Robert Pattinson: Never Think" Color Pencil on Card Stock Paper cut 8.5" by 11" July 9, 2009 - 6 hours

"Robert Pattinson: Never Think" Color Pencil on Card Stock Paper cut 8.5" by 11" July 9, 2009 - 6 hour

Coming to a dead end of any ideas for a title for another Robert Pattinson portrait, I had to reflect that the first was of a humorous editorial of Pattinson’s hair, however the second was thought at first to be of his glare or his snarl of a pursed expression.   The attention that “Robert Pattinson’s Unruly Hair” has had in an art showing has made me do another of him.   I find myself becoming a Pop Artist more and more these days and have yet to fully come to terms with it.

I just so happen to have picked up the soundtrack to the film Twilight .   That is, the album Twilight is made up of songs performed by various artists including Linkin Park, Collective Soul and a “Rob Pattinson.” Based on the song, “Never Think”, that Pattinson did for the soundtrack for his better-known appearance in, Twilight .   The song has a Jack Johnson feel to it and does show some talent on the side of Pattinson.

An Art Showing at a Place in August 2009

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"Robert Pattinson's Unruly Hair"

A week after missing a day of work I received a phone call from work and almost had a heart attack.  It was a friend, who just wanted to remind me that the next day was the art showing and I should arrive early for the setting up of the art exhibit.  The gallery is a hallway converted for art to be exhibited.  A row of stage lights lines the ceiling all along the passage way as well as a little bit around the corner.  Arriving early with two bags of art, I walked through the entrance area and was asked what I was carrying.  Decapitated heads was the snappy remark that came to mind, however I just said that it was a surprise.

The group that puts up the artwork at these displays are made up of six or eight women that each have a duty assigned to them and they all take part in hanging the artwork.  There is one man that helps out and happily does so.

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The sign design I did for Bob Sephens

The group was glad to see my loot and me as so far only three others had submitted works.  Incredible woodwork was already sitting at the base of the wall, woodwork of portraits of Picasso and the Three Stooges.  Three photographs of great caliber and photo-shop knowledge also were submitted.  A painting of a Chevy Impala was submitted, however I felt urped at the artist when he was asked what year was the classic car and he responded he did not know.

Ladies_of_the_Grey_Gardens-light-IMG_1329(tm)

"The Ladies of Grey Gardens"

My art was placed along the wall for spacing and the pre-made labels were dispersed.  When I signed up for the showing, I had put down a “Self-Portrait,” “Ladies of Grey Gardens” and about seven “Portraits” down in the forethought that I did know at the time which portraits I would submit.  When I did bring out the portrait of “Robert Pattinson’s Unruly Hair” it was labeled, by a resident, as a self-portrait.  I am not that full of self-disillusion.

Self-Portrait-2008-smallish

"Self Portrait Spring 2008 aka Lost in My Dreams"

The man hanging the pictures asked about the “Self Portrait” after I sorted the labels out and wondered which of the people in the portrait I actually was.  It was not the nude Billie Joe Armstrong and it was not the sleeping River Phoenix, however when I did say that it was the man sitting in the middle as the focal point he observed that I shaved a few pounds off.  Well, damn this is how I see myself.

a-snarl-01-preview

"A Snarl"

The actual portraits of Billie Joe Armstrong had to share a pre-made label as I over did my number of entries by one.

The-White-Sweater copy_jpg

"The White Sweater"

The “White Sweater” was a choice of a quiet portrait.  I left any explanation to none and I have not been asked whom the person was.  No one would know who the person in the white sweater was.

The “Ladies of Grey Gardens” were received well however I did have to correct many, as they are perceived as men.  I said that was going for a Michelangelo look to my women.  This illustration and the Self Portrait did give an impression that I was a fan of the Lord of the Rings.  This caught me off guard, as I did not do any intentional Lord of Ring art as a subject matter as I had five years prior with Frodo that still haunts the memory of many.  However, one morning a guest did ask if I was a Lord of the Rings fan and I said yes.  She stated that her son was as well.  The fact that I had just bought a book on the Lord of the Rings artist Alan Lee who draws like I do and I tried to incorporate his style into my works at the time.

Some-call-me-Tim-preview

“Some call me... Tim”

A last minute substitution was of “Some Call Me Tim” from John Cleese portrayal in Monty Python’s Search for the Holy Grail.  The original choice for the show was “The Morning Stare” as I wanted a humorous art piece, however I had written explanation to go along with “Tim” and I wanted the exhibit to make people laugh.

A few days prior to the exhibit, I did “It’s not the Years, Honey, It’s the Mileage,” a portrayal of Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones from his last film.  Done specifically for this showing, I did the portrait with the idea that most of the population from the

"It's Not The Years, Honey, It's The Milege"

"It's Not The Years, Honey, It's The Mileage"

area would know who Jones is.  In the end, it was Robert Pattinson’s portrait that caught everyone’s eye.  In fact I had a bid for it on the first day.

Three weeks later since the showing started and all I heard was mostly about Pattinson and not a word about Jones.  To quote the almighty Chuck Berry, “As for the old folks go / it just goes to show you never know.”

Showing in September and the State of my Mind

femme_dormir_IMG_2320-thumbAs of the state of my art and mind, the month of August has been engulfed in the Friday Nights Art Walk at the local Winery in which I shall be doing an art show and sell.  A meet and greet if you will.  This has been an all-consuming act in that I have not done one of these before and have had to start from scratch as I have done with the website.

However, I have learned a great deal in the past month by visiting other art exhibits and shows in places like La Jolla, where the average price of an original or print (Giclée) was from $300 to $6,000.  This was a shock do to the fact that you can now buy a car for the same amount.  As I stood among the works of a well known wild life photographer, I could not help but notice that among the easy listening nature music and the clean cut corners of the well established store, it had occurred to me that I could do roughly the same artwork of some the acrylics that sell for about $500 for about $50.  Time would be the only factor in that I seem to have none these days.  The life sized oil of Yule Brenner made me chuckle, if not for the novelty of the King and I but for the sequined toed shoes.  The giant paintings of Tina Turner, Janis Joplin and Johnny Cash giving the Jersey bird caught my eye but there again, the space to such an artwork made me pause in respect.

robert_pattison_never-thumbGathering the components for show has been tasking in that I have had to come up with smaller parts to connect and create a working show from larger parts that I had come across in a second hand store.  Recycling in a sense the abandoned attempts of a former artist to resurrect my future.  The showing that I went to on the previous first Friday was a surveying mission and I took note of how much money was asked as well what was offered.  I feel confident in that I am singular in my media and subject matter.  The basis of most of the artists there were of landscapes, still life and local post card artwork that might clash with my Robert Pattinson’s, Billie Joe Armstrong’s, I Love Lucy’s, Kurt Cuban’s and all be it peaceful portraits of rebellious youth.

The hope will be of that a younger crowd will come and will like the subject matter of the current pop culture as well as the older crowd will like the artwork for its calm and humorous feel.

devon_sawa_portrait-side-IIMG_2334-thumbIn hope that many will want to spend little for something nice for them selves or a familiar, I shall try to put out Halloween cards, Christmas Cards, limited addition small priced prints of current pop favorites as well as a few larger priced ($100-$200) originals.  The simple concept of placing a print or original in a nice frame and or matt has taken me back, so such that it has created a more respectful additude for the framing industry.  I am a child of hippies and funky is just fine by me however the more affluent sector of humanity has caught me off guard.

More and more I have heard the response from a current showing that I should have this and that and I can not help but say yes, however it is not in my immediate means nor do to the economy of the world,  the rest of the world is willing or able to spend cash on something like art when they need to pay for the roof over their head.

It has been an enjoyable experience venturing down this new road forward and I can only hope to come out even in the end and make a few people smile.

Autistic impressions

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Adam – a new film that portrays autism
By Laura Schocker

BBC News Magazine

Hollywood movies rarely deal with disability – except for autism, when characters are typically shown as having special intelligence. Why do we like to think everyone with autism is especially gifted?

In one evening, he memorised every name and number from A to G in the phone book. While waiting for a meal in a restaurant, he committed the entire tableside jukebox to memory.

A dropped box of toothpicks? One glance and he is certain that 246 have spilt on the floor.

His mind was like a computer and, for years, Dustin Hoffman’s Rain Man character has often been the first reference point for autism.

_46183365_rainman_226_ronaldgrant

Dustin Hoffman’s Raymond Babbitt – setting the mould for autistic savant characters

Other films since this 1988 release have depicted similar areas of brilliance that are sometimes associated with autism, known as savant qualities.

In 1998, for instance, Mercury Rising told the story of a nine-year-old autistic boy who used his savant abilities to crack a $2bn encryption code.

And in Mozart and the Whale, a 2006 film about two savants with Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning type of autism, Josh Hartnett’s character could glance at his watch and then calculate exactly how long he has had his job as a taxi driver.

The link between autism and savant skills in cinemas is clear, but does art really imitate life? Do people with autism always have an amazing intellectual skill?

“The simple answer is no,” says Dr Stuart Murray professor of contemporary literature and film at the University of Leeds and author of the book Representing Autism. “By far, the majority of people with autism do not have any kind of savant ability.”

‘Autism celebrities’

In fact, the current estimate is that one or two in 200 people with an autism spectrum disorder have a savant talent, according to the National Autistic Society, although the exact numbers are still unknown in the UK.

WHAT IS AUTISM?

A developmental disability that influences how a person communicates and relates to others

Often referred to as a spectrum disorder – because it affects people differently

Asperger syndrome is a type of autism at the less severe end of that spectrum

More than half a million people in the UK have an autism spectrum disorder

Source: National Autistic Society

Well known savants – including Kim Peek, who partially inspired Rain Man, Steven Wiltshire, a London artist who can recall entire cityscapes after brief observation, and Daniel Tammet, author of Born on a Blue Day, about living as an autistic savant – are the exception to the autism rule, Dr Murray says.

“These people are almost like autism celebrities,” he says. “It’s not something that crops up very much in the day to day life of living with autism.”

So if autistic savants are the exception and not the norm, why are they are they so over-represented in films?

“It’s a very sexy way of looking at autism,” says Jonathan Kaufman, president of Disability Works in the US and technical consultant for Adam, a new Hollywood film featuring a leading character with autism.

While his work with Adam, which went on general release in the UK at the weekend, was about capturing the day-to-day nuances of a person with Asperger’s – something he wishes would happen more often – he understands why many films have seized on savants.

“It focuses on the almost superhuman nature of the disability itself,” he says. “Somebody who is gifted has always had a place in society.”

They tend to be the stories audiences want, says Dr Murray. Films about disabilities typically focus on two types of story lines, he says. Either:

the disability provides some kind of incredible skill or quality that “makes up” for the negative, or

the person finds a way to “rise above” adversity

“It doesn’t seem to be as bad to be severely autistic if you’re also skilled at maths or music,” he says. “If it seems to be that with your disability comes an extraordinary ability, it takes away the worst aspects of being disabled.”

_46183463_wiltshire_226Artistic licence

This can be a comfort to audiences.

Stephen Wiltshire in a BBC documentary called Fragments of Genius

“Everybody who is not disabled is fundamentally very scared by the possibility of becoming disabled,” says Dr Murray.

But what about people who do have autism? While mainstream movies with autistic characters may increase awareness about the disability, how does it affect what the public expect of the condition?

“I have spoken to many families who say that they feel really depressed and devastated when they get this portrayal,” says Uta Frith, emeritus professor of cognitive development at the University College London.

While she understands films have artistic license to create compelling stories, the aftermath can be difficult for parents of children with autism.

“It seems almost like their fault that their child isn’t like that.”

And it can go beyond childhood. Robyn Steward, a 22-year-old in London with Asperger’s syndrome says some people still think she’s the Rain Man.

“People expect you, as an autistic person, to be really good at maths, or a walking calculator,” she says. In reality, she doesn’t care much for numbers. “Everyone is an individual and has their own interests and not everybody is a savant. So maybe people see it in Rain Man. But that’s not the full story.”

ASPERGER’S AND AUTISM

Many of recent films about autism have focused on characters with Asperger syndrome, says Dr Murray

People with Aspergers tend to have average or above average intelligence, but struggle to read social signals or understand jokes, metaphor or sarcasm

In Adam, for instance, Rose Byrne, who plays Adam’s love interest, asks him, “Could you give me a hug?” He says yes and stands there until she makes things a bit clearer – “Adam, I’d like you to give me a hug.”

Asperger’s syndrome

What type of story would Steward like to see on the big screen? Something a bit closer to her own experience, maybe with a character diagnosed later in life, she says.

Dr Murray agrees. As a father of two children on the autistic spectrum, he says he relates more to something like The Black Balloon, an Australian film released last year. The story focuses on a family living with an autistic son and depicts scenes with the boy running down the street naked or throwing himself down on the supermarket floor.

It may not be as romantic as the story of a maths genius, but it’s the reality, says Dr Murray.

“We’ve all had the supermarket thing happen. This rings true to us in a way that somebody doing the square root of a million and nine doesn’t,” he says.

The film was not a box office hit in the UK. It went straight to DVD.

Here is a selection of your comments.

My brother is severely autistic but we have recently found he does have a special ability – he can tell you what day of the week any day in history was. Ok, it’ll never make a Hollywood blockbuster, but hopefully we can entertain some people in the queue at Sainsbury’s rather than lying on the floor like he has done for the past 16 years!


Dave Howarth, Leatherhead, Surrey

My cousin is autistic and has an amazing ability to do jigsaws; she might start in the top left corner and completes the jigsaw row by row until she reaches the bottom right corner. She just seems to instinctively know exactly where each piece fits in the overall, 1000 piece plus, picture. So, it appears she has outstanding visual and spatial abilities but we cannot fully understand them, or her, as she cannot speak to us. I think this lack of verbal communication makes it difficult for people to identify with her, perhaps not making her, or other children with severe autism, ideal heroes for films.


Josie, Bristol

I don’t think there is anything wrong with portraying autistic people as being gifted. It may not be factually correct but offsets a lot of the otherwise negative information around about autism. It is possible for people with autism to live full and happy (if different) lives. When parents of children with autism find out that their child is autistic they are bombarded with scare stories about how difficult the rest of their lives are going to be. It is good to have messages of hope out there and important to always keep a positive perspective when dealing with autism.


Charlie Browne, Ireland

My son, aged six has Asperger’s Syndrome. He is of above average intelligence and does not have super human powers! However, like many on the autistic spectrum he has a “special” interest, in my son’s case in cars. From a young age he could identify most makes and models of vehicle, and I am channelling that interest to help him with areas of academic life that he struggles with, such as maths. People don’t see him as “autistic” they see this obsession as part of his personality. His school report described him as having a “charming personality” and “popular”. All I want is for my son to have a happy, fulfilling life, and romanticising conditions such as Asperger’s and autistic spectrum disorders does nothing to help this!


Rachel, Bristol, England

I am the father of a mildly autistic son who is now six years old, not Asperger’s but Classic Kanners. I am always searching for something that reflects the type of autism my boy has. The Black Balloon was a great film but shows severe autism. I would like to heartily recommend the Dutch film “Ben X” (with English subtitles) which portrays a socially functioning but autistic teenager. Please can we have more like films like this one with it’s realistic portrayal rather than Hollywood Glamour stories.
Paul Bruff, London

I have taught children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder for four years and while it’s true that some are quite intelligent (though hard to measure) very, very few possess amazing super-skills. It is an unfair expectation and one that actually hinders society’s willingness to grapple with the issue. The truly gifted have a chance of obtaining public support; the average get lost in the morass of official apathy and ignorance.


Keith Giunta, Camden, USA

Your article asks ‘if autistic savants are the exception and not the norm, why are they are they so over-represented in films?’ – that would be because if films represented real life then most of us wouldn’t bother to watch. You don’t walk down the street and see car chases, serial killers, and spies on every corner, but the day to day reality most of us live is simply not movie material. I suspect that the day to day reality of autism would be much the same.


Shiz, Cheshire, UK

Hollywood tends to avoid stories about physical disability too – except blindness. In “Scent of a Woman” Al Pacino plays a blind veteran whose sense of smell is greatly enhanced so that he can tell what perfume any woman is wearing. “Daredevil” has Ben Affleck’s blind superhero able to use his advanced sense of hearing almost as sonar that gives him the ability to “see” his surroundings.

There are exceptions of course, but with blindness too cinema tries to give people pleasing stories: “don’t worry, they may be blind, but by extension they get superpowers!”


Shane, Mayo, Ireland

I wish I had amazing skills with my autistic spectrum disorders! Sadly I just get problems with communicating, confusion with numbers and the added bonus of having walking outside be akin to an extreme sport.

Still, I’ve got lots of supportive friends and family, and a great job, so what more do I need. 


Sharon, London, UK

My son who suffers from the autistic condition Asperger’s Syndrome does not have super human powers. He struggled at school and at 29 still cannot add up or tell the time. Yet he can tell you everything you need to know (director/producer/date/music score etc) about a film he is interested in, and there are many. 


Sue Birch, Mont de Marsan France

I have Asperger’s and went to a special needs school for it. Most of the other people there had at least one thing that they were brilliant at, not at savant levels but certainly well above average. In addition to maths, science there was also experts in music, art, computing and stereo equipment to name but a few.

By the way, I’m 25 with a full time job (as an engineer) and a reasonably successful social life. Nowadays I just look upon my Asperger’s as just another part of my personality. 


Alan Munro, Inverness

There is another film that gives a more accurate portrayal of autism in adults and is also a fantastic film – Snow Cake starring Alan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver, which again never made it to cinemas in this country but is available on DVD.


Maggie , Wokingham UK

Asperger’s on the big screen

By Marc Settle

BBC News, Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme

The challenges faced by people who have Asperger’s syndrome have been in the news recently, highlighted by the case of the computer hacker Gary McKinnon.

He is facing extradition to the United States, but campaigners say his condition, a form of autism, means he should not be sent there.

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Adam – the new film portrays a man with Asperger’s syndrome

Now there is a new Hollywood film featuring a leading character with Asperger’s. 

Adam tells the tale of a young man who meets and falls in love with the woman in the flat upstairs.

Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme asked Robyn Steward to review the film for the show. Robyn has Asperger’s syndrome herself. She has also had personal relationships with other people who have the condition – and with those who do not.

I work as a self-employed trainer, teaching professionals about Asperger’s syndrome and mentoring young people with the condition in the hope that they won’t have to go through some of the same difficulties that I have experienced.

This week I saw a film called Adam.

In particular one incident in the film conveyed really well the emotional complexities of living with the condition.

Thinking it will be less stressful for him, Adam’s girlfriend Beth arranges to meet her parents and pretends to Adam they have accidentally bumped into them on a night out.

When he learns the truth he shouts she’s a liar and he hates her and starts pulling things off a cabinet. At the time Adam probably did hate her and she did lie.

An accurate reflection

People with autism often struggle to understand other people’s thoughts, feelings and motivations and in Adam’s black and white world, Beth has broken the rules. Everyone with Asperger’s is different but the condition often affects the way information moves around your brain, which impacts on sensory processing, social skills, and our ability to communicate with others. It can also cause you to be not so emotionally aware.

It is great that the film has avoided the stereotypical Hollywood ending

Robyn Steward

Throughout society whether it be teachers, police, employers or families there is a lack of knowledge of autism.

People react in all sorts of ways and I think Adam accurately reflects this through a series of incidents which demonstrate the daily challenges, misunderstandings and confusion that can arise from living with this complex condition.

Most notable of these is when Adam is waiting outside a school for Beth, who is a teacher, to come out of work. A policeman asks him what he’s doing and Adam responds in a literal Asperger’s way that he’s “watching the children”.

I was also struck by Adam’s panic attack and inability to move when he is told he has to leave the house he has lived in all his life due to his father’s death.

Many adults with autism rely on their family, due to a lack of support and when their parents die they can get a bit lost.

Johnny Cash covers my favorite Sting tune


Checking out Johnny Cash’s American IV: The Man Comes Around at the local library I took a listen and found two tracks down from Nine Inch Nail’s Hurt was Hung My Head.  When I would play Sting’s Hung My Head from his album Mercury Falling at a friend’s home, I would play over and over again.  My friend was patient with me however she did ask why I liked such a depressing song?  It was not the lyrics really, but the tune.  Sting’s original version had an electric guitar riff that resinated something in my brain that I just really enjoyed.

Cash’s version is of a country and acoustic based composition that thunders its way to a climatic end.  It has the same goose bump affect as his version of Hurt.

The whole album by Cash is of covers however Cash in his brilliance and tortured voice brings the songs to a whole new level.  Personal Jesus, for instance was done as an acoustic version of Martin Gore‘s song, which featured a simple acoustic riff that stripped down the song to a blues style.  This was an improvement in my opinion of Marylyn Manson’s version of Personal Jesus.

(from Wikapedia)

I Hung My Head” is a murder ballad written by the singer-songwriter Sting and released on the album Mercury Falling. In 2002, Johnny Cash covered the song in the album American IV: The Man Comes Around along with several other contemporary songs.

Theme

The song begins describing a young man who takes his brother’s rifle out onto the hill early one morning, with time to kill (an idiomatic phrase originating from The Bible foreshadowing the event of the rider’s death)[1] to practice his aim. As a lone rider rides across the plain, he takes aim at the rider as he moves to practice his aim (“I drew a bead on him; to practice my aim”) and accidentally pulls the trigger, killing the rider.

Without fully realizing the implications of his accident (“To wake from the dream”), he sets off running into the southlands of Ireland, throwing the rifle into the Sheen, a river that flows into Kenmare Bay. [Citation needed] Eventually he is discovered by a sheriff and in a moment of realization understands the implications of his actions even though he does not fully understand their meaning (“And all for no reason, just one piece of lead”).

He is brought before a Judge and jury and in front of his entire town to account for his actions and feels the power of death over life as the jury reaches their verdict; realizing that he had orphaned the rider’s children and widowed his wife, he wishes he were dead.

The preceding section of the song describes how, in the morning he is to be hanged for his transgressions; another morning with time to kill (referring to the actions of the hangmen, the courts and the appointment of the hanging). Before the period of his hanging, he imagines in a “trick of the brain” that he sees the rider he had killed return to save him from his fate and that he will ride alongside him “till kingdom come“. However, once the daydream is over, the man realizes that he will soon be dead and prays for mercy from God.

The device of escapism features at both the introduction and denouement of the song. In trying to escape the reality of the situation that faces him, he envisages that the events are merely dreams, both positive and negative. The former is illustrated more subtly than the latter; switching from the conditional tense to that of the present continuous when describing the events of his imagined rescue, and the swift progression to the personal realization before his ultimate demise (“I pray for god’s mercy, for soon I’ll be dead”).

The bridge that is repeated throughout the material is “I hung my head”, which, in its first invocations represents the grief and shame the man feels in reflection of his actions. The latter usage, which repeats the phrase until the end of the song suggests that the final act of the man hanging his head is not in shame or grief, but the act of him hanging in the gallows after being sentenced to death.