Using home movies from his neurodiverse family, Tom Murray made the remarkable documentary Dad's in Heaven With Nixon. It's intensely moving to see what I would regard as a typical-but-gifted autistic family: genius great-grandfather; bipolar gandfather and father; autistic son.
Christopher Murray is a charming autistic artist who lives on his own. He has a couple of jobs and is shy about girls. Wounded by his father's inability to connect his him, he has created since the man's death a version of him who is loving, and lives in heaven with Richard Nixon, a figure he hated in life.
Christopher creates huge paintings of buildings, mostly showing his love of New York. One of his fans was Anderson Cooper's mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, who helped find an audience for his work. His art sells well, but he keeps to his routine. Listening to him talk about his work, and how it fits into his life, made me very happy and gave me hope.
I was struck by how much elements in the Murray family reminded my own, perhaps most the tendency of parents to almost despise one child while loving others. Murray's great-grandfather seems to have hated his youngest son, Murray's father. My grandmother did not hate my mother, but she withheld love from her in an essential way, and I've seen that pattern repeated elsewhere in my family.
John Elder Robison's father does seem to have hated his other son, writer Augusten Burroughs, and those who have read Burroughs' harrowing book A Wolf At the Table will find much in Dad's in Heaven with Nixon that will remind you of the relationship that the Robison brothers' had with their father. In both families, fathers withheld affection almost completely from their younger sons.
But most memorable in the film is the intense love Christopher shows for his brother and his mother, and the feeling they show for him. Anyone who doubts the contributions that a person with autism can make should watch this movie.
Michael Emerson of Lost will play an adult with Aspergers on NBC's Parenthood. Photo by Danny Feld for NBC
Tonight's episode of Parenthood will feature Michael Emerson as "Amazing Andy," an adult with Asperger's syndrome (and bugs!), who will perform at little Aspie Max's birthday party. I'm very glad to see the show acknowledging that adults with AS exist, and Emerson, who many will remember from Lost and The Practice is an excellent actor. And Max is supposed to have a melt down tonight, so that should be fun.
After the high the show hit with the episode two ago, I was not surpised to be bored by last week's episode, focusing on Sarah's ex-husband played by John Corbett. Bleah. Also, annoying hippy Crosby had a fight with his nasty and controling fiance Jasmine. Bleah. And Haddie learned that you should never take your little brother with Aspergers with you unless you want your parents to know where you went, but shouldn't she already know that?
How was your Valentine's Day? Mine was not especially romantic, but pretty fun. I took most of the day off and went to the San Francisco Bay Aquarium with my boyfriend, Max. We walked around Fisherman's Wharf a little and went out to dinner at The Crab House. Very low stress. Nice.
Gavin Bollard's piece "Are Aspies Capable of Love?" was re-posted by Autism West Midlands. It's one of the things that best helped my understand myself and my emotions, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. A quote:
Aspies are very capable of loving but they often confuse the issue by adopting an altogether too rigid view of love. Despite popular mis-belief, aspies are generally fairly emotional beings. We have intense feelings of happiness and even more intense feelings of sadness. The smallest triggers can produce huge emotional responses in us. While a bad day at work may make an NT grumpy, it could make an aspie feel suicidal. Similarly, when something good happens an aspie may seem to be over-reacting or overly happy. Most aspie adults have long since learned to control excessive displays of happiness but it's very apparent in aspie children with jumping, shouting and singing.
Speaking of singing-- I thought the video below, with aspie musician Jerod Goodman playing a cover of Ray Lamontagne's "Jolene" for YouTube user Joleenlove was a pretty sweet Valentine.
Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour is helping British hacker Gary McKinnon after he was refused funding for mental care, according to McKinnon's mother Janis Sharp:
McKinnon, who has Asperger's syndrome, continues to fight extradition to the United States after hacking into Pentagon computers in 2001 and 2002 for information on UFOs. His doctors are concerned that McCkinnon will kill himself if forced to face trial in the US.
David Gilmour replaced Syd Barrett (who may have had autism) after this album.
Gilmour is famous for his philanthropic efforts, including work to honor Syd Barrett, the Pink Floyd founder he replaced, and who may himself have had some form of autism.
Brandon Strong has been punished for not looking his teachers in the eye. (Photo by Chapman for News)
The parents of a boy with autism claim his school is punishing him for behavior he cannot control:
Brandon Strong, 10, who attends fifth grade at Achievement First East New York Middle School, has been held after school and at lunch for fidgeting, talking to himself and failing to look teachers in the eye.
From his statement, the school's principal, David Harding, seems to lack both compassion and a basic understanding of ASD:
"The Strong family unfortunately is not partnering with us to get Brandon into college, and I think that is more of a hindrance in his development," said Harding.